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Why tattoos don’t have to mean anything

For many tattoo wearers it’s a must, for our editor Anna-Lena a long outdated concept: a deep meaning behind the permanent body art. Why she doesn’t think much of meaningful motifs and prefers to get tattoos without a deeper meaning – an attempt to explain.

Until about two years ago I didn’t have any tattoos at all, now my arms are adorned with eight more or less large motifs – tendency increasing. From one-line faces – to a pair of eyes to the obligatory fineline snake, everything is there. But in fact only one of my tattoos has the hint of a personal meaning, my first one. And exactly there lies the origin of my conviction that tattoos without a big message are the better choice – at least for me.

My first tattoo – rather meaningful than shön

I still like my first tattoo, but in direct comparison with the rest of my (more meaningless) tattoos I like it by far the least. Not because I generally quickly get fed up with the images on or under my skin, but rather because I found the tattoo from the beginning not as captivating as all those that followed. The reason behind it is simple: I was at the time of the firm Überzeugung, tattoos müssten some relation to my persönlichen life have, some meaning. I thought that if someone would ask me about the why behind my body art, I would have to have a conclusive answer. The look: secondary. For a long time I did not know what message or what experience I should pack into my first tattoo. That’s why it took 24 years until I entered a tattoo studio for the first time – although I would have liked to do it much earlier. And that’s why I had something tattooed that I associated with, but that wouldn’t have been my first choice in terms of style: a stylized Ferris wheel in a kind of mandala style.

Woman with tattoo
My first tattoo took 24 years to think about – and still did not make me completely happyPhoto: private

Admittedly, there is no extremely profound meaning behind the tattoo. It is simply a nice reminder of the countless festivals I visited before the Corona pandemic. The Ferris wheel was the unifying element in all those events. Reason enough I thought in the middle of 2019, when I was spontaneously offered an appointment with a well-known Tätowiererin in Berlin. After less than an hour, I had the motif under the skin. And with the first look in the mirror, my tattoo inhibition and this abstract meaning pressure behind it was blown away. Somehow the whole thing was not as spectacular, life-changing decision as I had imagined in advance. It was just a small image on my body, which I accepted within minutes as a natural part of my life.

You can also get sick of tattoos with meaning

Richer in this knowledge, I was only annoyed that I had not started earlier with the Tätowieren. And that I didn’t have a motif engraved right away that reflected my aesthetic and myself 100 percent. So I would have much rather had two big eyes on my arms. Simply because I thought that would be nice. Until my first tattoo appointment, however, the idea seemed nonsensical to me – for fear of not being able to justify the decision sufficiently and therefore regretting it at some point. Meanwhile, I feel exactly this thought off, because: A deep tattoo meaning is certainly no guarantee dafür that the motif für always gefällt – anyway not if you compromise only because of the message. My only claim to a tattoo motif is now "only" its look and with this attitude I drive so far well.

Stop asking about the meaning of tattoos!

Of course there are always critical voices here and there in the circle of acquaintances who can not believe that I make a – in their eyes – such a radical change in my appearance, without thinking much about it. Fortunately, I am able to ignore such (unsolicited) opinions. For me, the motifs under my skin are finally a kind of self-realization and that goes – like the rest of my optics – only me something. Anyway, I think that we should not always take ourselves and our appearance too seriously. Of course, you should über a tattoo in advance thought and roughly research what ür which motif stands, so as not to send the wrong messages. Also, you should be aware that the skin with a tattoo für always drawn. But in the end it is nothing more than a bit of color under the skin. No big deal and definitely no reason to rack your brains for years.

No tattoo is completely meaningless

Finally, a point for all those who I could not convince with my previous argumentation überzeugen: Despite everything, my tattoos are not completely meaningless. Although in my case no real intention is hidden behind it, each symbol says something – but that is a matter of interpretation and is not the focus for me. I associate each individual motif rather with my previous time in Berlin, with the time in which I had them engraved. With a Lebensgefühl and a lifestyle that I cultivated at the time. And I am sure that I will therefore love my tattoos for a long time. So far I regret at least none of them, on the contrary.