Tattoos can either be a great way to express your identity and creativity, or a life-long regret left over from an irrational or confused time in your life. Getting a tattoo is a major life decision as, like a child or pet, they are long term commitments. If you grow tired of the ink, getting it removed can be very painful and expensive and will often leave other types of scars or marks behind.
Step 1: Pinpoint Why You Want One
Before getting a tattoo you need to figure out why exactly you want one. Is it to be cool? To impress other people? As a representation of something important to you? Because your boyfriend asked you to?
Understanding your reasons for wanting a tattoo will help you figure out if you really need one. For example, if you are doing it because you want the attention that showing off the new tattoo will surely bring you, then you can think of other less permanent ways to achieve that goal. Get a daring new haircut, adopt a puppy, or take up kickboxing.
Like most decisions in life, changing something physical will not get rid of a long-term emotional need. Only true introspection and internal change will.
Step 2: Make a List of Your Reasons
Sit down and write a list of reasons you want the tattoo, and see if other things will give you the buzz you are looking for. If you just want to experiment and do something out of the ordinary, then you could travel instead of getting inked. Perhaps you are looking for a way to show your commitment to your partner; buying them a ring could be just as effective (and in the long term, more easily removed).
Step 3: Think How it Will Change How Others See You
Take into consideration other factors that you may not have thought of until now. Think about your future potential employment, the effects of aging and body changes, and how others will see you as you mature into an adult, then a parent, then possibly a grandparent. Imagine if you gain or lose weight in the future – will that stomach tattoo look good stretched out? If the tattoo is on your ribs or belly, what if you become pregnant?
Although you want the tattoo to symbolize deeper emotions that you are feeling strongly right now, you should take into account the superficial effects of tattoos. Namely, you cannot escape the fact that it will permanently change how other see you. Instead of having a clean slate when you meet a person, if you have a large or very visible tattoo, they may see you a certain way or discriminate against you. For instance, an accountant with a tattoo on their neck will have to work much harder to gain credibility as a professional.
Most people go to the tattoo parlor and pick a design that symbolizes something significant in their lives; however tattoos are inherently for show. You want people to see it and be affected by it one way or another. Look at it from an outside perspective. Get the opinion of each of your friends. Even if the tattoo of a dragon on your lower back symbolizes your internal strength to support yourself through difficult times, to others it may seem like a representation of a lack of integrity (i.e.: a Tramp Stamp).
Step 4: Test Out the Design in a Non-Permanent Way
If you are still convinced that you want a tattoo after careful reflection, then you need to decide on a location and design. Before getting permanently inked, test out your tattoo by getting it drawn on you with Henna ink. This way you will get a feel for having the real thing. You might discover that it was a temporary interest, it looks bad when you are in a bikini or swimming trunks, or that you want to change the design or location.
If after all of this, you are still set on getting a tattoo, by all means go for it. We live in a free country and you have the right to make decisions concerning your body. However, try to be as patient as possible. The best tattoo artists will tell you to print out the tattoo of your dreams, pin it on your noticeboard, and wait one full year before getting inked. If you still love it and aren’t sick of seeing it after 12 months of looking at it every day, go get it done with confidence.