Skip To Content

    22 Women Share How Their Tattoos Changed Their Relationship With Their Body

    "My tattoos have helped me reclaim my body as MY territory."

    Recently, we asked the tattooed women of the BuzzFeed Community how getting tattooed has changed their relationship with their body. Here are their stories.

    DISCLAIMER: Some of these submissions mention tough topics like self-harm, eating disorders, and abuse. Please read at your own personal discretion.


    "I’ve always had extreme insecurity around my arms. I always felt they were too flabby compared to the rest of my body, along with having a mild skin condition. This led to me wearing long sleeves no matter the weather, and dread when shopping. After leaving a toxic relationship, I decided to invest in things I love and into loving myself. Starting (and completing one of) my sleeves helped me learn to love my arms. Now I don’t fixate on what I cannot change about them, but instead, love them for the works of art they have become."



    "After I had my kids, my body had changed pretty dramatically. I didn't recognize myself, and more importantly, I didn't like myself. Getting tattooed after becoming a mom means my body brings me joy again, regardless of size. I look in the mirror and I like what I see because I like my tattoos. I have plans to get a ton more and can't wait for my self-love to grow exponentially."



    "After breaking my back snowboarding at 23, I’ve had almost a dozen surgeries. Part of my healing process is getting a new tattoo after each surgery — I like balancing out a scar with art."



    "I got this gorgeous peony on my upper thigh not to cover up my stretch marks, but to remind me that my body shifts and changes to reflect the growth I’m going through. It’s one of many tattoos that have improved my self-esteem, and this tattoo metamorphosis inspired me to try becoming a tattoo artist myself! I’m still just an apprentice, but I hope to help others grow to like their bodies like my tattoos did for me."



    "Getting my first tattoo was a really liberating experience. It was a way of taking ownership of my own body and pushing past negative body image issues. It was a way of accepting that my body belongs to me, I'm the only one whose opinions on it matters, and that my body is worth spending money on to create art. It was also a way to work through the grief of losing two of my grandparents as it was a tattoo in memory of them."



    "To me, tattoos represent a new start. I was told they were weird growing up, but my tattoos make me feel sexy and complete. My tattoos are filled with my favorite things: Christmas, a Russian doll, tropical flowers, a pineapple, and my dog. Every time I get one, it’s like I’m adding a piece of happiness into my life and I feel sexier with it. It becomes part of me, and couldn’t imagine that part of my body without it."



    "I started getting tattooed to redefine beauty for myself. I didn't have great body positive role models growing up. Being chunky and large-busted, I felt simultaneously fetishized for a physical feature I couldn't control, and also plain and unattractive. Being tattooed has done a lot to change that. I feel strong for my hundreds of hours under the needle. I feel unique and strange and beautiful and otherworldly and slightly intimidating. I have 26 tattoos so it's hard to choose one to showcase, but here's one of my more playful ones. It reminds me that life and death are intertwined, and to enjoy life before it's over."



    "I had a preventative mastectomy last year due to having the BRCA2 gene. I decided before the surgery that I was going to get a piece to go across my chest to cover my scars and 'replacing' my nipples. I’m two sessions in and it’s horribly painful, but I’m so excited for the end result. Figuratively, I’m replacing the beauty that I lost with a tattoo that represents beauty to me."



    "I've always been a lover of dresses, but absolutely hated my legs — the shape of them, the way they wobble — but having them tattooed not only makes me enjoy wearing the clothes I want, but every time I look at them, they make me smile! It's always good when they spark conversations with people. They've also brought out my imagination and I have so much amazing and beautiful art all over me now!"



    "When I was about 19, I was extremely depressed and would self-harm. Thankfully I ended up getting some help and no longer self-harm, but because of the scar, I was too self-conscious for over a decade to wear anything that showed my arms. If it did, people’s eyes would immediately be drawn to it and they’d inevitably ask what it was. I hated it and I hated people looking at it and asking invasive questions about one of my lowest points.

    In 2019, my dad got me a gift certificate to an awesome local tattoo place. Nobody there judged me for the scar and were extremely respectful when I said I wanted it covered. The symbol I got is from one of my favorite video games, Final Fantasy XIII, and it was something I’d wanted for a long time but I also thought it would be the perfect cover because of the shape.

    Once I took the bandage off, I swear I burst into tears when the scar was no longer visible. You can only make out a lumpy shape in certain lighting, but for the most part, I can barely remember it’s there. And once the tattoo healed completely, it was SOOO liberating to wear a tank top out in public for the first time in over a decade and not feel like people were judging me."



    "My mom always complained about how self-conscious she was of her upper arms, so I grew up thinking I was supposed to be embarrassed by them too and so I covered them up. After I got my tattoo, I always wanted to show it off and was so pleasantly surprised by all the random people who would compliment me. It countered years of body doubt."



    "I have a massive birthmark on my back that I’ve never been fond of showing, so when my sister suggested we get matching tattoos for our papa along our spine, I panicked. But now, I'm so much more comfortable showing off my back knowing I have a piece of my papa always right there."



    "My ex-husband didn't want me wearing nail polish, dyeing my hair, getting another piercing, and he for sure didn't want me to get a tattoo. If I ever did any of the other things, he threatened he would leave me. I left him after being together for eight years, married for almost a year. About six months later, I got my first tattoo. It was a small token to confirm that we were, in fact, most certainly, never ever getting back together. To me, it's a symbol of having to go through some bad things in order to grow in life. I've learned to embrace the process. That was about four years ago, and I've never been happier since I left him."



    "I have an severe spinal condition that is very visible. I've had it since I was 10 and it was curable and highly manageable when I was young, but my mom didn't believe in modern medicine so I never got treatment. Now I'm a grown adult and my condition has gotten much worse — it's past the point of recovery. It's been extremely embarrassing and has shot my confidence. When I was 19, I got this beautiful tattoo of the planetary ellipses around the sun, and it changed my life. The confidence it's given me has healed so many wounds, even if my disease will never heal. Now I don't live in shame of people looking at my back negatively, as no one usually notices anymore now that this is there!"



    "I battled an eating disorder for nine years and celebrated two years bulimia-free when I got this tattoo. I got it as a reminder to myself that I am beautiful. It’s a lyric from a song that got me through my eating disorder, and every day I look at it and remind myself that I am beautiful the way I am, and that I deserve to eat."



    "I have chronic stomach pain that went untreated for years, and I got my first tattoo after my diagnosis. These quotes from Jane Eyre and Little Women remind me that my body is mine and not just a vessel for pain. I love them and they make me feel so empowered."



    "As someone who's had a lot of body issues including years of a severe eating disorder, it's done immeasurable good for me to have something about my body that I always find beautiful. I used to hardly be able to look in the mirror without starting to focus on the parts of my body that I wish I could change, but now, my tattoos are much more eye-catching and I can just look at them, love them, and get back to my day. My tattoos make me happy every time I see them regardless of how I feel otherwise, and it's amazing how much that has helped destress my relationship with my body."



    "I was always the chubby girl in school, but I really gained a lot of weight in high school. In college, I started to work on my fitness and I lost about 110 pounds. Within a year, I realized my life didn’t change just by me losing weight. I felt hopeless. I gained it all back and then some. When I was 26, I got really sick. Not weight-related, but a side effect was me losing 20 pounds in one month, so when I finally got better months later, I proceeded to lose another 60 pounds. I’ve been maintaining ever since but the severe weight gains and losses have left me with loose skin and a poor self esteem. My body has always felt and looked disgusting to me. I started getting tattoos to help me learn how to love my body. Each tattoo has significant meaning to me and I love them. This may sound ridiculous, but they allow me to keep my head up high and make me feel like I’m someone worth looking at."



    "I told myself that I would get my first tattoo both after college and after losing some weight, the first at the request of my parents. After a considerably large argument with my parents and reflection of that that led to me recognizing that I’m my own person and I can do whatever I please to my body, I decided I would finally get my rose. The placement of it also allowed me to see the weight I wish to lose in an uncomfortable setting, but now, it empowers me to understand that my body is just as good now as it would be if I lost the 25 pounds. My favorite flower did so much more for me than just add decoration to my body: it allowed me to recognize my own potential and gave me back my bodily autonomy."



    "My tattoos make me realize that my arms that I've always found to be 'too big and too flabby' are actually incredibly strong and lovely, made only lovelier with the addition of my art."



    "I got my first tattoo shortly after coming out of an abusive relationship, while battling with severe depression and suicidal thoughts. I chose the words ‘My World, My Life’ to remind myself that I'm in control of my life, and added my initials, B A C, in music notes above, for my love and dedication to my art! I re-did it after I got married and added my married initial to it, and every time I look at it, I can see how far I’ve come and how I'm still in control! I still battle my demons, but I have never let them get so far again!"



    "I have always felt disconnected from my body — not body dysmorphia so much, but more like who I saw in the mirror and who I felt I was inside just didn't seem like the same person. When I started getting tattoos, I felt like I could finally make my outer self more ME — that I could claim my skin as my own instead of what was handed to me in the genetic lottery. It really helped me bridge the gap between inner and outer self, and to start treating my body like a friend instead of an enemy. I am tall, blonde, and blue-eyed, and I've been objectified by men since childhood. My tattoos have helped me reclaim my body as MY territory."


    The National Alliance on Mental Illness is 1-888-950-6264 (NAMI) and provides information and referral services; is an association of mental health professionals from more than 25 countries who support efforts to reduce harm in therapy.

    The National Eating Disorders Association helpline is 1-800-931-2237; for 24/7 crisis support, text “NEDA” to 741741.

    Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

    BuzzFeed Daily

    Keep up with the latest daily buzz with the BuzzFeed Daily newsletter!

    Newsletter signup form