The meaning of a tattoo can take a heart-wrenching turn when the story of a person's dark times go deeper than the needle pushed into their skin. Here are the people who stepped forward and bared their scars for the world to see. This is how they took charge and reclaimed their bodies with ink.
1. You can never go wrong with a traditional rose.
2. A tattoo artist and her client's healing.
3. A heart-shaped scar.
‘I used to cut myself when I was younger and I cut this heart into my hand. Instead of letting it fade, I decided to memorialize and got it traced in white ink. It’s a reminder to love myself,’ said Tasha Le.
4. Under a starry sky.
5. A child's curiosity.
An innocent question out of curiosity from Alexis' 8-year-old brother — who looks up to her as his biggest role model — led her to finally get a tattoo and have them covered up to have her brother have something to look forward to rather than marks of her past demons.
6. Taking her body back.
Lyndsay was sexually abused by her grandfather when she was a child. For years, she felt disconnected with her own body which drove her to self-harm and rough episodes. She finally mustered up the courage to reclaim her body and finally headed to a tattoo shop to take her body back, ‘one flower at a time.’
7. This bluebird that holds on to its wearer's scars
An unfortunate trampoline routine accident left Rachel, then a sophomore in high school, with a shattered left arm that required eight months of surgeries, three years of physical therapy and rehab, and a series of infections and syndromes. It left behind an ugly scar that dispirited her. At 18, she decided to reclaim her body by turning her scars into something she'd like to look at every day.
‘I didn’t want to cover up the surgical scars because they were, and are, such an important part of who I am now, but I wanted to transform them into something I was proud of,’ she wrote.
8. I open at the close.
9. Grandfather's legacy.
“This is an anchor for my late grandfather who served in the Coast Guard, which covers a big ugly scar from an injury I got when I was 16,” shared Brittany.
10. Scars are the star of the universe.
“After several years of dealing with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, suicide attempts and self harm, I got my tattoo of the Leo constellation, my zodiac sign, around my self harm scars along my thighs,” said Izzy.
“There’s a quote that says, ‘stars are the scars of the universe,’ so I view my body as the universe and my scars as the stars. The tattoo really helped me to reclaim by body and learn to love it, scars and all.”
11. Covering it up with a stunning geometric piece.
‘I can’t put into words how good it feels to look down and see this beautiful design instead of the scars.’ a reader shared on Buzzfeed.
12. A positive reminder.
13. An autumn scene.
‘I know my scars are still visible but getting this for myself just made me feel like I’m finally leaving it in the past.’ a Buzzfeed user shared.
14. This majestic, multi-colored lion.
15. Grandma's note.
Noah started self-harming at 11. When she was 14, they made a deal with their mom if they could get a tattoo if they stayed clean for a year. They did it and chose to get their grandmother's handwriting after losing her just the year before. It serves a reminder to keep them grounded.
16. Like a phoenix.