Physical Pain of Tattoos
We all know that tattoos hurt. One of the first questions most people who have never been tattooed ask is “Do tattoos hurt?” And yes. Yes, they do. But not all pain is equal. Certain points on the body hurt more than others due to nerve endings, layers of muscle or fat, and even boney areas like elbows. It also completely depends on a person's pain tolerance...for some, the physical pain of getting a tattoo isn’t a problem, while others liken the process to medieval torture.
Pain and Placement Tattoo Guide
If you're looking for more information about particular physical pain points, check out our guide: The Ten Most Painful Places to Get a Tattoo.
We’ll also point out that although there is physical pain...the endorphins that kick in during the tattoo process help minimize what you’re feeling. As WebMD puts it, “Endorphins act as analgesics, which means they diminish the perception of pain.” This is also part of why many people become “addicted” to tattoos: the endorphins, the feeling of bliss when you walk out of a shop with a new tattoo, the connection you may make with your artist. There are so many awesome reasons to power through the physical pain and get tattooed!
Emotional Pain of Tattoos
The one thing many people don’t talk about when it comes to the pain of tattoos is the emotional pain. Believe it or not, there are a lot of deep sociological and psychological currents that flow this particular art form.
If you think about the overwhelming societal perceptions surrounding tattoos, you may be able to pinpoint what may apply to you. Things are definitely changing...tattoos are more mainstream now than they ever were. However, there are still some judgments, stereotypes, and attitudes that may affect your life if you choose to get tattooed.
Our advice? If any of these issues below apply to you, definitely keep them in mind and be prepared to handle them...however, our opinion is that you should do you. If you feel you want a tattoo, go for it. They’re one of the best ways to express yourself and ya know what? YOLO.
Parents Not Understanding
Perhaps one of the most common issues for people who want to get tattooed, and haven’t, is pressure from parents. This is partly because the older generations are still clinging to societal perceptions. Most of the time, this comes from a place of caring. Your parents want you to succeed, get a good job, and have a peaceful life without drama. Because tattoos have been connected to gang affiliation and criminal activity, sometimes parents think your tattoos will become a signifier of the same thing. But don’t fret: because things are changing so quickly, hopefully you can show them articles about how jobs are becoming more accepting and how more people are getting tattooed than ever before. You can also just opt for a small tattoo to start with. Easily hidden, you can dip your toe in before making a big jump.
Partners Not Understanding
It’s actually overwhelming the amount of stories we hear of partners, girl friends, boy friends, husbands, wives...whatever...becoming upset at their significant other for getting a tattoo. Our advice for this is pretty simple: your partner should love you for you. It shouldn’t be about what you look like or what you have on your skin. If you ever have a partner who shames you for any reason, including getting a tattoo, just keep in mind you deserve better than that. They don’t call it unconditional love for nothin’.
That being said, keeping your partner in the loop about getting new pieces makes them feel included, understood, and leaves the doors for communication open! If you know your boo loves surprises, then maybe they won’t mind. But otherwise, maybe think about inviting them along for the adventure? Couple tattoos are some of the most fun things to get anyway!
Hand tattoo by Simon Gyllstrom #SimonGyllstrom
Strangers Judging You
Okay, this is a big one. You’ll definitely get sideways glances, people may stare, or say stupid things. This will for sure happen. Many women, in particular, need to be prepared to handle what has been coined as “tat calling”. Like catcalling, this is when dudes yell at you and say stuff like, “Hey baby! I could lick those tats right off you!” It sounds ridiculous...but it’s 100% totally a thing.
And stuff like this can definitely make you feel uncomfortable at times. However, the flipside is...who cares. Who cares what ignorant strangers think. People can try to denigrate you, embarrass you, judge you, or talk trash...but as long as you’re happy with your choice, your tattoos, and your body, no one can take that away from you. So stay strong, and focus instead on what the tattoo community can offer: friendship, solidarity, and an often positive place for you to express yourself freely. Another nice tip: good pair of headphones never hurt to keep haters at bay...
Difficulty in the Job Market
Many professions are known for being a bit uptight. If you’re a lawyer, accountant, or in the tech industry, these may be places where tattoos aren’t exactly welcome. Even the military across the world has very strict rules about where you can and can’t have tattoos. Most of the time, it just comes down to having visible tattoos...which means you can get around the rules by thinking about placement carefully.
However, again, things are changing very quickly and many job markets are starting to open their doors more than ever to tattooed individuals, especially because so many people are tattooed! About half the population in the US is tattooed...which basically means that jobs would be turning away about half the applicants! Not exactly a good way to keep a business up n running.
Keep in mind, also, what kind of career you’re looking to get. Many companies these days actually particularly hire people with tattoos because it reflects their brand identity or reflects a certain aesthetic that organizations want to be affiliated with. To be honest, this can be awesome because it may mean you have a higher chance of being accepted as you are at your job. The most obvious choices for jobs that fit in the category are creative jobs, younger companies like start-ups, sports industries, and similar.
Transforming into a New You
Transformation is a huge part of tattooing and getting tattooed. This may seem like it goes for people who get huge tattoos, and for the most part that’s true. But it also goes for people, in general, who get tattooed! Often, it opens up a whole new side of yourself that you may not have ever really seen before.
Many people get tattooed to overcome trauma, or to memorialize someone they’ve lost. These are extremely painful, emotionally, and although the tattoo process can be physically painful...sometimes that pain doesn’t even touch the depths of grief someone may be feeling. However, getting a tattoo can feel like closure, or relief.
The physical pain is for sure, but even further, evolving yourself as a human, both inside and out, can be painful. Changing things about yourself you don’t like, or acknowledging behaviors that are damaging to yourself and others can be hard! However, tattoos have shown to give people a lot of confidence in their skin. There have also been easily tattooable symbols created that signify everything from overcoming depression, to faith in a higher power, and even symbols that represent the long winding path that is life, like unalome tattoos.
These particular tattoos can give you a feeling of belonging, hope, and community. They can be reminders of past difficulties and the resilience you have that it took to overcome them.
Slapping on a tattoo doesn’t solve all your problems, obviously, but it can help open some psychological doors that you’ll want to explore. Pain is inevitable in life...it all just depends on how you handle it and perceive it. Everything is transient, however the cool thing about the pain associated with tattoos is that it passes...and then you’re left with a tattoo you’ll hopefully treasure forever.