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Tattoos as self-expression

How my tattoos have become a central aspect of my identity

<p>Yasmin Teixeira is a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily.</p>

Yasmin Teixeira is a Life columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

I got my first tattoo six months ago — an abstract outline of a face with leaves growing from the head on my inner right bicep. I always knew that I wanted a tattoo, and I had planned on getting this one for over a year. I figured I would stop there, but after this first one I simply wanted more. Not only was the pain brief and tolerable, but I loved the idea of adorning my body with art.

I proceeded to get three more shortly afterward, all in the span of two months. I initially worried that I was going too fast. I got a pair of holding hands on the front of my left bicep, a small red heart on the inside of my left forearm and the number 58 above my right elbow. 

While I don’t believe tattoos need to have an intrinsically deep meaning, all of mine are personally significant to me. I wanted all of my tattoos to complement each other in some way. I also wanted them to be timeless and hold meanings that will remain important to me over the course of my life. 

The leaves growing from the head of my first tattoo represent growth, development and maturity. My holding hands tattoo is inspired by a mural in London of a pair of holding hands that signifies human connectivity. I’ve gravitated towards these ideas of connection during my time at the University, so I wanted to get a tattoo that symbolizes that.

Further, I was born on Valentine’s Day, so I wanted to get a red heart tattoo to commemorate my 20th birthday. I had been thinking about doing this for a while, so my friends paid for it as a birthday gift. My mom was born in 1958, so I got the number 58 tattooed in red at the same time as the heart as a dedication to her because she is currently battling brain cancer. Both of these tattoos are red and relatively small, but their joint meanings make them particularly special to me.

Tattoos have become more integrated into mainstream society, but they’re still considered taboo and unprofessional in the workplace. I took this into consideration when I got the red heart on my forearm — it’s my only tattoo that’s visible if I roll up my sleeves to my elbows — and it’s permanent. However, tattoos have become less stigmatized over time. I hold my tattoos and their meanings close to my heart, which largely outweigh any possible negative consequences in the future.

In terms of self-presentation, tattoos can communicate certain attributes about oneself. Clothes and jewelry function in a similar manner — they’re visible for the most part, and I enjoy explaining what they mean to anyone who asks. 

One tattoo became many. I think about the entire tattoo process — the countless hours scrolling through Pinterest and my camera roll looking for inspiration and the nervousness I felt days leading up to getting the tattoos.

Ultimately, the meanings of my tattoos have become a part of my identity. They allow me to express certain values that are important to me, such as growth, human connectivity and my relationships with others. 

When I look at my arms, I’m reminded of the different stories I visually represent on my body — my own personal development and my connections to my friends and my mom. For example, I hadn’t planned on getting the 58 tattooed at the same time as the heart, but the artist asked me if there was anything else I wanted to get since I was already there, and the heart was fairly easy. In that moment I knew I wanted the heart and 58 to be interrelated. I expect these stories to become increasingly important throughout my life, as my fondness for them grows stronger with each passing day.

My tattoos have become central aspects of my self-presentation — they’ve allowed me to freely express myself in a way where I feel more complete. They bring me an overwhelming amount of joy. I’m grateful that I’m able to feel more comfortable with my body and that I can express myself through art. 

Yasmin Teixeira is a Life Columnist at The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at


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