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Tattoo's: Why People Get Them

Updated on March 11, 2012

Tattoo's have been around for more centuries than we have calendars for, or records of. They have been a part of human culture for a very long time, and there aren't any signs that the culture of tattooing is going to go anywhere, anytime soon.

So why do people get tattoos?

There are many reasons, and since you asked so nicely, I'm going to provide you with every reason I've ever come across.

  • Right of Passage - In many cultures, getting a tattoo is a right of passage. Some tribes will have there women tattooed on the lips to prove they are fit to give birth. Other cultures will tattoo their young men to show they are ready for the hunt. In more western societies, tattoos are only allowed on adults, which shows that if you have a (real) tattoo, you have made it from youth to adult.
  • Test of Strength - this is partly why I seek my own tattoos. The test of making it through the pain is an extreme one, that keeps most people from getting tattoos. Why would you put yourself through that? If you're like me, it could be to help access parts of your mind that are often inaccessible without an extremely hightened state (that's right, I like to meditate when I get tattooed!). For others, it could be that they just want to see if they can take it, or it could be that they are trying to prove their strength to someone else.
  • PDA - This is a pretty obvious reason. Whether you're showing a love for your motha, or you're devotion to your lover, tattoo's have often been a form of PDA. A public symbol of your passion for the person or persons you care most about.
  • Art - Have you ever heard the phrase "my body is a canvas"? It's a phrase commonly used by those who seek tattoos as a form of self expression. They are probably very artsy in others ways. Maybe it's graphic design, canvas art or decorative designing. Or maybe they really don't have any artistic talent themselves, yet they have a keen eye for aesthetic beauty and want some of it with them where ever they go. Still other artistic folks might just find their plain old skin boring and want something to spice it up.
  • Semi-Sadomasochism - Even I will admit that the pain can be quite pleasurable. It's shocking as a bucket of ice water after a dip in the hot tub at first, though after a while, it begins to awaken parts of you that you've probably never noticed before. The burn becomes the blossom. I have a feeling this is where the saying "feel the burn!" came from.
  • Living Journal - Many people only go out and get tattoo's at points in their life that have great meaning for them. It could be when they hit a certain age or get into or out of very special relationships. Others will get tattoo's only during extremely positive or extremely negative times in their lives. A select few will get tattoos about larger events, in almost a chronological order, documenting history in their own way. Either way, it's not uncommon for tattoo's to be a form of living journal, that the bearer can use to remind themselves of times in their lives that once were and how they felt about them.
  • Spiritual Pursuits - In my most recent adventure to getting tattoos, I decided to get a very large tattoo that holds great spiritual meaning for me. I'm not alone in getting tattoos that symbolize my spiritual pursuits, and it is often said that spiritual tattoos are the ones that you'll never (or rarely) regret getting.
  • Virtuous Reminders - One of my oldest and favorite tattoo's is a simple cursive tattoo just above my heart that says "Death Before Dishonor". Even though it's no more than three words, and has no accompanying symbols, the small phrase holds big meaning, This is another common reason to get a tattoo, which I call the "virtuous reminder". It is often a tattoo with few symbols or short sayings, that remind us of the virtues we strive to have.
  • Cosmetics - It's not my cup of tea, though it certainly is the feather of fancy for some to use tattoos to improve cosmetic appearances. They might have tattoo eyebrows done or add a few beauty marks.
  • BioMedical - Nanosensors and temporary medical tattoos are gaining in popularity amongst medical professionals. I can't say the idea doesn't give me the creeps, though for some, it might bring peace of mind.
  • Scar Under Disguise - Some scars from our lives are hard to hide. They might be in an obvious place that everyone sees, or it might just be hard for our own minds to leave the scars alone. Either way, these are often driving reasons for getting tattoos. It's not a bad reason either. If it makes you feel better to cover up a scar with a tattoo, why not? In most cases, it won't hurt as bad to have the tattoo over scar tissue anyways.


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    • BizGenGirl profile image

      Bema Self 6 years ago from Seattle

      Glad I could help Thundermama! I've found myself having to explain myself to some folks as well, so I feel ya. Thanks for the comment =)

    • Thundermama profile image

      Catherine Taylor 6 years ago from Canada

      This was a well researched article and gave me some useful responses for people when they ask the inevitable question about why I have tattoos.