Human beings have the most complex brains on the face of the earth, so it makes sense that creativity and self expression flow naturally from us. We express ourselves in a myriad of ways like singing, dancing, writing poetry, playing an instrument, cooking/baking, drawing, painting...tattooing?
Nowadays everyone is using tattoos to express themselves. It's a way to show the world who you are without saying a word. If you love ladybugs, then you get ladybugs tattooed crawling down your back. If you love Jesus, then you get a cross plastered on your arm. If you love your kids, then you get their names forever painted on your wrists. Tattoos have become an outward expression of what is near and dear to you.
In theory, this makes sense. If something is important to you, then permanently placing it on your body would demonstrate your level of commitment to that person or thing. The only problem with this theory is that as you change, what is near and dear to you changes, and eventually you may just end up with a dreaded case of tattoo regret.
It's not a clinical diagnosis, but it's definitely real. Thousands of older adults (35+ years old) are affected by the passions that they held "back in the day" as younger adults. Interestingly, 18-34 year olds have the uncanny ability to believe that how I feel now is how I will always feel. It's actually a hallmark of their psychological development, and it's been that way since the beginning of time. So people haven't changed. However, our access has changed. Now, ordinary citizens have easy access to tattoo parlors and artists 24 hours-a-day.
Unfortunately, how you feel at 17 is most likely not how you will feel at 37. I know it feels like you will love Sarah forever, even if you break up, but you really won't. Just consider Johnny Depp who got a 'Winona Forever' tattoo. It turns out, she's not forever. As an aside, he has since changed the tattoo to read, 'Wino Forever.'
You may be thinking, but I will always love Jesus, so tattoo regret doesn't apply to me. Actually, you are only partially right. You may always love Jesus. However, by the time that you reach 50 years old you just might have learned that having a tattoo of a cross doesn't make you any more of a Christian than someone who doesn't have one. Furthermore, you may have read more of the Bible by 50 and know that God has actually addressed the issue of tattoos in the Old Testament. Leviticus 19:28 says, "Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord."
Let's hope that you always love your children. However, getting a tattoo isn't going to make your children feel loved by you. Memorializing a loved one with a tattoo isn't going to keep that person's memory alive. If you want to show someone that you love him/her, why not love deeply, forgive quickly and surprise often? Tattoos can't do any of these things.
It makes sense that young adults want to shout to the world, "I'm here and this is what I believe in." Every generation has done so. Young American women in the 40's went to work to support their families while their husbands were at war, an unprecedented move. Young blacks staged sit-ins in an effort to combat racial discrimination in the 60's, which ultimately changed the trajectory of our country. And, young women of the 70's burned their bras to protest the social inequity between genders.
Expressing yourself is a natural part of the psychological growth process. However, as you change psychologically, your priorities change...but tattoos don't. Also, your ability to deal with pain may decrease as you get older, so getting tattoos removed may cost you more than they were actually worth.
Psychology Is Everywhere!