The 5 Stages of Grief and Your New Tattoo

So I just got my first “real” tattoo.

All of my other 8 tattoos have been script/roman numerals. I’m a writer, ok? I really like words. (There seems to be some type of stigma associated with getting font tattooed on your body in tattoo culture.)

One of my other tattoos.

Anyway! So for my 9th tattoo, I finally got some real art done by a fantastic artist based out of Virginia. It was my first big piece of work and I’m a little surprised by how I coped with it.

The tattoo this article is about (one of my biggest pieces!).

Getting a tattoo is a weird process—after the fact, I might add. It’s saying goodbye to the skin on that part of your body forever. You’ll never see it again. You now have to see—insert whatever it is you got tattooed on your body—every day.

What I went through was a little like the five stages of grief with my new tattoo.

Denial: It’s Not Really There!

If you’ve gotten a tattoo before, you have experienced this.

Immediately after you get your tattoo, you love it. You show everyone. It’s fresh. It looks amazing!

You wake up the next morning and you’re like, “WHAT. IS. THAT.”

It’s not that you didn’t remember that you got it done. It’s just that… well, it’s a part of you now. Like really a part of you. For the first couple hours after I got my tattoo, I was like, “Whoa. What is that thing?” By the next morning, I remembered that it was there.

But while it was healing, it didn’t seem like it was a part of my body. It almost looked like a shiny new sticker that I could just peel right off. Despite the fact that while I was washing it and could feel the lines inked into my skin, I thought, “It’s not really there! Nothing’s different!”

Anger: Why Did I Get That?

Not everyone has welcome reactions to your new ink.

Mom: “IT’S HUGE! How much did that cost? What?? Why?!!!”


Fiancé: “Wow it looks sexy, you’re sexy, I love you.” *kiss*

Grandma: *insert slapping motion here* (Yes, she literally slapped my tattoo three days after I got it. I have not yet forgiven her.)

Regardless of people’s reactions (or on account of people’s reactions, whatever), you start to feel mad. Why did I get that? You think. You also see your credit card statement of how much it cost and, let’s face it, wake up the next morning feeling like shit because that part of your body is swollen and sore and red and you can’t wear clothes that cover it and you feel like you just hate everything.

Bargaining: If Only I Could Change This…

I saw a great YouTube video about tattoo regret and it really resonated with me, not necessarily because I have any tattoos I regret per se, but because she makes a great point.

You will always wonder:

  • What if I got it smaller/bigger?
  • What if I got it in color/black and grey?
  • What if I went to a different artist/shop?
  • What if I just had them change this little part of it?
  • What if I had gotten something different?
  • What if I didn’t get anything at all???

You bargain. You wonder what could have been changed. You think about changing it in the future. In my experience, the only reason I have wondered these things is because I am still grappling with my new tattoo.

I’m still processing it.

I don’t know what to think about it.

And, it’s not perfect.

Because nothing is ever perfect no matter how much we want it to be. Does my tattoo show imperfection? Of course. But, like me, it’s still beautiful.

Depression: I’ll Never Have Naked Skin Again

At some point, you start to feel depressed that you have this tattoo. You spent a bunch of money, spent hours in pain, and are now spending weeks taking care of it, resentfully avoiding the bathtub and wondering when you’ll ever feel normal again.

Me getting my tattoo done. That’s my leg ahhh.
I was freezing during this appointment! Next time remember to bring a sweater or a blanket, girl.

And then you realize that you’ll never BE normal again. Because you have this tattoo and you don’t know how to handle it. You know you’ll never see the skin on the other side of that tattoo again. What are you going to do??

You’re going to deal with it and you’re going to be just fine. Your skin is ruined, yes. But now you have this beautiful, imperfect tattoo as part of you, another mark of your journey here that you’ll hopefully grow to love and accept.

Acceptance: I Actually Like It!

Finally, once your tattoo heals a little more and it stops looking like a giant sticker, once your mom has stopped commenting on it and you can stop sleeping in weird positions to avoid rubbing it, you begin to accept and love your tattoo.

It’ll take at least a week or two, but you’ll realize that this tattoo is what you wanted and that it looks beautiful. It’s not perfect, but it’s you.

Side note: if you really hate your new tattoo or it has a major flaw you just can’t get over, you might not ever get to this stage, and instead you can seek out a tattoo artist who is experienced with cover-ups and get it taken care of. Laser removal is also an option, but I’ve heard it’s more costly and painful!

Do You Love Your Tattoo Yet?

It’s taken me a little while, but I love my new tattoo.

I’m grateful to the artist and his patience with my first big piece (thank you @tokatattoos), I’m grateful to have a beautifully designed tattoo, and I’m grateful it didn’t get infected while it was healing.

I’m also grateful that my rabbits didn’t scratch it, although Fiver did bite my leg ridiculously close to it, adorable little bastard. He’s literally never bitten me before and he chooses to bite my leg the day after I get a giant tattoo. I think it’s because the tattoo butter I used had lavender in it? Rabbits love herbs!

Don’t let this evil little thing fool you. I love him, though.

Give your tattoo some time, show it some love, and let your body heal. You’ll like your tattoo soon!

72 thoughts on “The 5 Stages of Grief and Your New Tattoo

  • Thank you for your words. I’m up to the tattoo regret part at the moment and have gone through many pages looking at removal options but then I thought, why not do a 180 and learn to love the tattoo instead, and stumbled upon your piece. I share your sentiments and appreciate your words. It’s comforting to know I’m not the only one going through or have gone through these emotions. Thank you.

    • Thanks for your comment Kimberley! If you are really having trouble accepting your tattoo you could always look into getting it covered with another design. I know it’s like paying twice for the same tattoo, but for some people, it makes a big difference and enables them to finally love their ink!

    • I got a tattoo a few days ago, and I absolutely am beside myself. I hate it, everytime I look at my new tattoo, I get anxiety and want to cry. Why? Because it’s huge and it’s absolutely nothing that I wanted. It looks like a tramp stamp and it’s super dark.

      The artist didn’t listen to what I wanted and did what he thought looked cool.

      I’ve been researching removals but my tattoo is so fresh I can’t do anything until it’s healed.

      For those who are adamant about removal and can’t love the tattoo what should we do?

      I feel miserable and unsure if I’m allowed to put makeup on it to cover it

      • Oh no, so sorry to hear this :(! What you decide to do is completely up to you. Removal is definitely an option, although as you said, you need to wait for it to heal first. I wouldn’t recommend putting makeup over it unless your tattoo artist says it’s ok. You don’t want to end up with an infected tattoo and an even worse situation. Whatever you decide to do, best of luck to you!

      • Breathe and don’t obsess over it. Take good care of it and allow it to properly heal. Once it’s healed you may feel very different. I have 9 tattoo. I’ve regretted every single one throughout the healing process but once it’s fully healed You see it differently and your skin looks better so you may actually really like it. I’m currently regretting my newest tattoo because I feel I got it in the wrong place and it’s too dark. But in two weeks I will check in with myself again and go from there. I recommend getting It covered instead of removal if you still decide you don’t like it. It’s just skin at the end of the day, when we’re old and wrinkled it won’t matter anyway and then you die (:

    • Thank you for writing this 🥰 you helped me through this journey .

    • I’ve been feeling these stages and my memory is crap so I need to be reminded I go through this with every tattoo. I’m currently working on a back piece and it has been a roller coaster of emotions because it’s not something I ever envisioned for myself, but once I saw the artwork I was drawn to it. Completely altering your self image in what you previously found “beautiful” is insane. Because it’s such a large piece I go through these stages after each new session haha. I’ll be happy when it’s done and I can see the full picture and see it as a part of who I am.

      • Hi Sarah, thanks for your comment! I too got a (larger) back piece that I never imagined myself having but felt so drawn to it. I love it so much and can’t imagine not having it now; getting it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I can totally get that you’re going through these emotional stages after every session with yours. Be patient and I hope that when it’s complete, you’ll love it and feel happy with your decision! Best of luck 🙂

  • I just got a tattoo on 20th, few days ago, I had been planning on getting one to honor my late father whom I love and miss dearly, and a trident representing his devotion to lord Shiva, I had been planning on this tattoo for the past 2 years, ( since his passing)) I also got my mom’s name tattooed as well its on my fore arm.
    I didn’t think I could feel this way once I got it, I was never a tattoo person so I knew why I didn’t want it before.
    after I got it , I loved it when I got home spoke to my mom and sister on the phone they didn’t say much. My other sister, friends and colleagues love it Now here I am, looking if I can get ti removed in future, what id people judge me, what if it goes ugly? I didn’t know that tattoos age and spread and dont look the same..
    is it just the stage? Iwhat should I so? feel so confused

    • You are only a few days in! It’s completely normal to have these feelings about your new tattoo. Have patience and give yourself some time to adjust. Tattoos do age just as skin does, you can get it touched up as recommended by your tattoo artist to keep it looking as good as possible. I wouldn’t consider removal just yet–it’s still very early and experiencing some regret is normal. I’m seven months out from this huge tattoo I got and I actually can’t imagine not having it now. I hope you come to love your tattoos as they honor your parents and are a part of you now. Remember, what other people think about you is none of your business. Love yourself; everything will be ok!

  • I just got a large tattoo on my shoulder and upper arm 5 days ago and i’m totally feeling the regret right now. It’s a beautiful tattoo and it’s almost exactly what I wanted, but now it’s overwhelming me. I keep wishing I could turn back time and not do it at all. But I can’t, and that’s rough on me mentally. I’ve got 5 others that are smaller and not as visible, therefore, I’ve never felt this feeling before this new one. I’ve been contemplating removal, but i’m trying to tell myself to chill and just give it time. Hoping like hell, that it’ll get better. I hope I end up with the mindset that you have now.

    • Hey Elise, thanks for your comment! Your feelings are totally normal–you’re fortunate that your new tattoo is beautiful as you say and pretty much just what you wanted. I bet once your tattoo heals and you have some time to adjust to it you’ll feel much better about it. As I found, it can be difficult getting a bigger piece after getting smaller ones and dealing with all the emotions that come with it. Take care of your new tattoo and be patient. If you really want it removed after it heals, you can pursue that option, but allow yourself to process this new piece and grow to accept it for what it is right now. I hope you come to love it!

    • My husband passed away last year I got a cross on my forearm along with sun rays shining Down on it from blue clouds I was in such a state of grief that i wanted something to hold onto now but im kind of sorry I did it the tattoo didn’t bring him back I’m going to give it some time if I’m not happy in a few weeks I’m getting it lasered Off

      • Thank you for your comment, Nancy. I can understand your regret about your tattoo, even though it was (is?) a tribute to your late husband. I’ve heard lasering is very expensive, painful, and will leave a scar. You might want to consult a tattoo artist who has experience with cover-ups to see if that might be a better option for you. My sympathies to you for the loss of your husband, and my best wishes to you on your journey in remedying your tattoo, whatever it is you decide to do with it. If it were me I might give it a bit more time (in the grand scheme of tattoos, a year is a pretty short amount of time to have it), but only you know what’s best for you. Good luck!

  • WOW I needed this. I got my first tattoo, after 2 years of thinking, and i got my second one out of a whim. Anyway, I love the minimalist look, but i see other peoples tattoos with more detail and then i look at mine, wondering, i should of added more. Then I see those small imperfections, where a line isnt straight, or the size isnt the same. (I am very OCD) and i am always tempted to go back and touch it up. But what is the point? No matter what I will find imperfections. I am going to accept my tattoos both of them. The imperfections and flaws are what make them beautiful, it’s what makes them my own

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Susanna! You are absolutely right when you say that no matter what you will find imperfections. In addition, getting touch-ups may just make more room for you to perceive imperfections with it. No tattoo is perfect. And I can promise you that no one is noticing the flaws you’re noticing! You are also absolutely right when you say the imperfections are what make them beautiful and make them yours–beautifully said!

      • Jenn thank you for your comments I am now very comfortable with my tattoo it took me a little time. It is a tribute to my husband and I’m now comfortable with it.

      • Tracie Humphries

        Such a great article and just what I needed to read after getting a big tattoo yesterday…….I’m having the most trouble with other people’s opinions and reactions. It always makes me question myself..

        • I know it can be difficult to not be affected by other people’s opinions! This is your life and no one else’s. They don’t have to live with the tattoo, you do. If the tattoo you got is what you wanted, all you have to do is love and accept it! Thanks for sharing, Tracie 🙂

  • I hate my new tattoo. I thought I wanted it and what it is does have meaning for me . But I still wished I had not gotten it. I have another tattoo that I love but this new one I skilling me and I see it everyday when I take my shirt off in the mirror. I have never had anxiety like this before .

    • Thanks so much for your comment Spencer, and so sorry to hear you hate your new tattoo. How long has it been since you’ve gotten it? I’m hoping time will resolve your negative feelings about it; however, if it doesn’t, would you be able to get it covered up? I know larger tattoos can be difficult to cover. I hope you have some peace about your new ink eventually, even if that means getting it removed or doing what you need to do to feel better about it.

    • I’m so glad I stumbled upon this! I’ve been dreaming about getting my arm tattoo’d for years now. I feel ill 3 years ago and nearly died from a tick bite that gave me a rare parasite that lived in my spine and brain, heart and nervous system. I realized a lot during those times, and it was the darkest days ever. I made a promise to God I would love life to the fullest if he let me live. Long story short, 3 years later, I’m a new person. Hence why I want to shout it to the world and be true to me. Insert tattoo….that of wild flowers and my grandmas writing from a card she sent me when I was sick. I wasn’t prepared for the “oh my god what I have I done to myself” feeling and absolute remorse. Like some other wrote, I feel such anxiety when I look at my arm!!! I wish it would go away !! Your article has helped me and so have the comments. I hope everyone is in a better place now!

      • Thanks for sharing, Leigh, and glad the article and comments have been helpful! I’m so sorry to hear about your illness and hope you’re in better health now. The wildflowers sound very pretty, and I’m a fan of handwriting tattoos (having one myself)! It can certainly be anxiety-inducing getting a new piece. I hope you come to love your tattoo and continue to live life to the fullest!

  • I’m so glad you wrote this article! I got my first ( beautiful ) piece yesterday… but it isn’t *exactly* what I pictured and I keep swinging between moods of ‘ i shouldn’t have done that’ sadness and ‘what if it just had *insert teeny tiny tweak here*’. After reading so many unhelpful blogs about people who feel AMAZING after and “maybe you should have thought more before you got it” , this was really refreshing.

    • Thank you, Sophie! It feels like nothing in life turns out exactly how we imagine. I love my tattoo but it’s not perfect and that’s ok. I hope you come to love and accept your new piece!

  • Just had a forearm tattoo 2 days ago n the line are way too thick, black n bold. I feel sick to the stomach n gutted. Another artist has basically said it’s a bit of a mess n its way too thick lined n black that the artist had made a few of that kind of messes lately… i was too hasty n am now really angry n upset with myself n so upset that i didn’t have the guts to stop the session n let myself get worked by the guy, who i know was shakey but trying to do his best to please… i feel weak n ashamed, withdrawn emotionally n ‘stuck’ in a loop if u get me? It’s a horrid feeling. My husband really likes it, for what it represents ….
    I’m 54 ….We’re on honeymoon n i saved his life 5 days ago n nearly lost mine in the process n i so wanted to celebrate the limb that literally stopped him from drowning in a rip tide hundreds of yards from the shore in NZ waters n hate that i now hate the art on the forearm that kept him above the water n towed him for enough in for us both to be reached by others who started to wade out without threat to themselves .I am a gold standatd life saver n ex under national swimmer swam…. i so hard with the rest of my 9st little body that i nearly ran out if energy in the pull n despite all my power kept getting swept further out n feared i would drow the tat meant to signify that but doesn’t . All i see now is my weakness, stupidity, folly n impetuousness n am worried about the finished product and my capacity to move beyond the emotional stuckness. It feels so crap. So sorry to dump this but i need to reach out….

    • Hi Sarah, I’m so sorry about your feelings regarding your new tattoo. It sounds like it all happened so fast (the rescue of your husband and then the tattoo). You are probably still processing everything. It sounds like the tattoo represents something so significant, yet the thick black lines you describe and the feelings you have regarding moving forward with the session even though you didn’t feel quite right about it sound awful. I’m really sorry this all happened. You can’t do much until the tattoo heals anyway, so give it some time. You can always pursue a cover-up (maybe one as an honor to saving your husband just better?) or a removal. I hope you find some peace and forgiveness after everything… after all, you did save your husband and you both are alive and married and hopefully doing well. Sending much love and healing vibes!

  • I have two tattoos one of a butterfly on my shoulder and another of a rose on my hip. I love them both and both are hidden. Now I have a third tattoo of a little cute tortoise on my left wrist. The tortoise has a smile and is quite sweet. I got it to remind me to Slow Down and not rush through life. I like it one minute and not so sure about it the next. It is because this will be seen more by people due to it being on my wrist. It is about an inch long and an inch wide and I only have it two weeks. I too am at the regret stage but laser and the time it takes to remove it plus the cost does not seem like an option. I hope acceptance kicks in eventually.

    • Thanks for your comment, Kimberley! I adore turtles and actually the huge tattoo I got that I wrote this article about was a sea turtle 🙂 In the last five months, I’ve gotten two more tattoos, both on my forearms and both very visible (one big one small). I can certainly understand what you’re saying about more people seeing your new tattoo. Your tortoise sounds very cute and I hope you come to love it. It can certainly be a shift going from having non-visible tattoos to very visible ones. This is your body and remember, what others think doesn’t matter!

  • Kim I lost my husband last December I grieved so much that I got a cross on my arm I awoke one morning seeing sun rays coming through the
    Clouds I believe it was my husband I had regret but it passed I live my tattoo now you will too give it time Nancy

  • Thank you for your article. I am regretting my tattoo I got on Friday. It was a cover up but the artist misplaced the stencil and then instead of free handing she just flat out didn’t cover my old tattoo! I tried reaching out and she won’t even return my calls. Now I feel like I’m not sure if I even want a tattoo on my skin from such an unprofessional rude person. Do you think if I got it fixed by another artist it would be easier to overlook the fact that I have art on my body from a jerk?

    • Hi Rachel! I’m so sorry your coverup went wrong 🙁 That sounds awful and the artist is not doing themselves or you any favors by avoiding the issue. (I’m wondering if the artist works at a shop and if so, you can contact the owner of the shop to discuss the problem or at least let them know what happened?) If you want to get it fixed by another artist, I would definitely go for it. It could help you feel better about the piece for sure. I wish you the best of luck!

      • Good evening! I am 45, just got my first tattoo yesterday. I am so glad I found this post and encourages me that I’m not the only one that is feeling this way as I am having regrets. I’m even at the point of feeling depressed. I have wanted a tattoo for a long time. Probably since I was a teenager. My husband (soon to be x) HATES tattoos. I guess I’m feeling guilty too. Anyway, months ago my mom and I decided to go get one together (her first too) so I’ve been researching tattoos daily! I kept on going back and forth, even up to the day. I originally had decided on an ocean wave with writing under it but I was scared it was too busy so in the end I opted for the word “FAITH” on my lower leg. I have been experiencing doubt lately with what I’m going through with a failing marriage and I’ve lost faith in God. I wanted the word “faith” to remind me to have faith in HIM and that he will take care of me no matter what I’m going through. Now I’m wishing I would of just stuck with a small wave more hidden. I have a job that it needs to be hidden and its on my inner lower leg. It looks big and the ink is spreading a bit/looks a little blurry. I was worried I was experiencing fallout but I guess this is part of the healing process. I’ve already googled removal. What is my problem? I hate this.

        • I’ve gone to a tattoo appointment and gotten something changed last minute too–with doubts afterward. In my experience, it’s normal to feel some depression/regret after getting a tattoo, especially if it didn’t turn out *exactly* like you pictured. It’s hard not to wonder if you would have been happy with the tattoo had you stuck with your original idea. It sounds like you need more time to process it, and you can always get it removed or covered up (although, in which case, the new tattoo would need to be even bigger than the old one, and that doesn’t sound like something you want). Regardless of what happens, I hope this tattoo–even with its imperfection and the doubt you feel–marks the start of a new journey for you after your divorce and a new life. I read something the other day that said, “Sometimes, when you’re in a dark place and feel like you’ve been buried, you’ve really just been planted.” I hope you grow and bloom!

          • I’ve had a couple earlier posts in this thread and I can relate. My most recent tattoo is something I’d wanted for a long time. I intended on doing black and grey and the night before my appt my daughter said she wanted it in color. Now, the tattoo is a rose, which was for her middle name, so I dedicated this to her. She was 8 at the time and I took her opinion to heart. I went in the next morning and asked if we could do color instead. I freaked after I got home. Wished I’d stuck with my original black and grey, plus the tat is huge and on my upper arm which freaked me out too. I have since accepted it, because it really is beautiful. I recently went in for a touch up and it really reinforced how nice it looks. I hope that you can come to love your tattoo as well.

  • I got a ghost tattoo around my birthday in October, and it’s really cute and I like it but the artist pressured me into getting a background on it. I’m still in the denial phase and it’s been over 6 months. It’s on my ankle too, so I can’t even cover it. When I try talking to my mom or sister about it they just tell me I should have never done it, but that advice doesn’t help me now.

    • Oh no! That’s certainly a tricky situation because I feel like people who get tattooed are always hearing “trust the artist” from professional tattoo artists. It sounds like you did exactly this but then ended up with something you didn’t want. It’s possible another artist could attempt to “fix” the background for you (or you could at least get a consultation with an artist you love to see what can be done). Family members can be critical of tattoos in my opinion, and you’re absolutely right, their “advice” doesn’t help you now. I hope that whatever happens, you’re able to feel some peace about your little ghost. Thanks for sharing, Kayla!

    • This article and the following comments have been helpful for me in the way that I can know that others are going through the same feelings as I am, so I dont feel so tramatized, because my tattoo ( A bare branchy Tree that takes up the space of my whole upper back, a picture which I had drawn myself 10 years prior to getting the tattoo, then one night a year ago got it tattooed on my back because it made me feel like I was a bad ass taking on the world at the moment. Then just like the rest of you, I realized shortly after getting it that I had made a big permenant mistake, and just wanted my innocent skin back, and still do every time I see it. Oh, and I still dont know if the things people were saying, and the looks on peoples faces when I caught there reflections from behind were reactions to my tattoo, or if I was in a state of paranoia and taking things out of context. This experience was coupled with having to also recover from shaving my head (I had long hair) and it was just weeks prior to getting the tattoo).. also very tramatizing. Still recovering. Never will be the same. But I will take the kind advise to try and find reasons to love my tattoo, and my now short mullet hair.. Because nobody else has to have feelings about my tattoos and hair. They just have opinions, and predjudice… which I guess is worse. I have a habit of guessing people are going to disregard or prejudge me before I have a chance to have a personality because of it. And so far I dont think Im wrong. I want to believe my husband, mom and sister who are very supportive, but the reality of how the public reacts to me seems to be undeniably surprized and uncomfortable. I think I will take some time to try and recapture the passion I was feeling when I made my mistakes and try to write down how I felt and try to connect more meaning to both the hair and the tattoo, so that I can make a conversation starter out of it.A way to let others and myself get to know me and understand…. WHAT NOT TO DO!! Ha Ha Im kidding.. understand what its like to be in my shoes, or even better, try to present it from an artists point of view. …Buuuuttt I hate tattoos, even before I got the first of my three tattoos, so I dont know why I do the things that I do, but most of the time I feel like I got issues.. Peace, and love your tattoos with happiness..

      • Thanks so much for sharing, Mindy. Your experience illustrates just how difficult it can be to not let others’ opinions affect us. The fact is that they can and they do affect us, and accepting that is important, but so is moving on from that acceptance and not focusing on it. It almost seems like others’ feelings (or your perception of their feelings/judgments/opinions) have eclipsed yours about your own tattoo, although I acknowledge that you say you want your bare skin back every time you see the tattoo.

        I too shaved my head 12 years ago and still have it shaved today… I love it! People, of course, judge me for it (I get everything from “Oh I’m sorry you have cancer”–which I don’t– to “You must be a lesbian”), but I love my hair and my tattoos and it’s a choice every day to live your best life and do you. I always feel like when I reach the end of my life, I will 100% regret every second I spent caring about what others thought or letting their perceptions hold me back from doing what I truly want in life. And so here I am!

        Thanks again for your comment and I wish you peace and happiness as well!

        • Margret Watson

          Thanks for your article! I got a beautiful black and grey rose in my shoulder two weeks ago. I absolutely loved it. But I’ve been really stressed recently which tipped over into anxiety directed towards my tattoo. Argh. I really hope this passes soon. But it really helped reading ur article and comments and knowing I’m not alone in this.

          • Thank you for your comment, Margret! You are definitely not alone. I hope your anxiety passes and you begin to feel some peace about your new tattoo! P.S I also have a few black and grey roses in my tattoos 🙂

  • I recently got a tattoo which has no meaning just to impress someone I love and just after getting it he ended things between us now I hate my tattoo and my entire body and all I think of is I need to get it removed as soon as possible sometimes I feel like cutting it off I have dark skin therefore I don’t know if laser won’t make it worse but it has to go because am really depressed about it and I can’t keep on leaving like this

    • Oh no, I’m so sorry Mumu! That sounds terrible. You are allowed to feel however you feel about your tattoo. I know it feels awful right now; all you can do is accept that you feel this way about it. Is it small enough that you could get it covered up? Maybe you can start researching artists/designs you love and begin planning a coverup, that might help you feel a little less negatively about the piece (and your body) and start bringing some positivity into your life. You can make the tattoo about you, not him. I have my husband’s nickname and name on me and two other tattoos that relate to him–I’ve always heard this is a terrible idea in case we aren’t together one day, although I haven’t had to experience that yet. My sincerest sympathies to you in this difficult time of having a tattoo you hate and going through a breakup 🙁

  • Just had my fifth tattoo. The guy worked really hard on it but I’m just not sure about it. The drawing and stencil was amazing and in some angles I’m ok. I flit between liking and hating it.

  • I recently got two tattoos done, never had any, never really wanted one or imagining having one while I grew up. I tattooed my guitar on the inner side of my forearm on Saturday, and Planet Earth on my right arm on Sunday. Sunday evening was the worst, I was very depressed and I was almost crying when talking to my aunt on the phone. She is no tattoo fan, but she listened to me and then started making jokes and saying that everything is fine, that this doesn’t define a person. She actually added that it might also be a lesson for her, not to judge people by appearances.

    Then I understood that those tattoos are right where they should be, and that I’ve chosen to do them for a reason. That they have deep emotional meaning to me at this moment in my life, that after years I will look at them and realize how I developed on the way. I will never look at them as ‘not want them anymore’ but as ‘I can’t believe I did it, me tattoos? i was so foolish – or – I was so crazy – or – It was such a good decision, it made me see things differently’. But it will be fine, no matter how I will think. I love myself with imperfections and tattoos, and I will never judge others by appearances, neither be afraid to be judged. I’d say that overall they made me a better man, even though it hasn’t been a long while yet. That is my feeling.

    I would add that my tattoos are big and colorful, and may look childish to say at least. Also, I’m 30 and I have a regular office environment job. Think about this, if now you suddenly have to live alone on an island, would you care/be depressed about having tattoos? No you wouldn’t, you would have completely other things , serious things, to worry about. Because tattoos simply don’t matter, it’s simply not a big deal at all compared to other things. But you do care now, because of society’s perception projected on yourself. I am not talking about all the situations, I am just saying what I’ve been through. Once you manage to make peace with yourself, you will not care about your tattoos. Like I said in the beginning, they are there for a reason.

    I wrote this comment because I thought if it manages to slightly motivate a person that’s going through something similar, then it’s time well spent.

    I also wanted to say what the tattoos mean to me, but this is already super long. Love, peace and success I wish you! There’s plenty for everyone, and tattoos have nothing to do with it.

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Vlad. You make a very valid point and your perspective on the matter is refreshing and could be a positive influence on many. I too feel that my tattoos are a part of me and that no matter what happens it doesn’t really matter 🙂 That being said, that doesn’t take away from those “in the moment” feelings that you, I, and others who are reading this and commenting have experienced about their new tattoos. Perhaps your words best reflect the place that some people will gradually come to about their new body art–one of acceptance and peace. Love, peace, and success to you as well!

    • Thank you for this! I just got my first tattoo (technically 2 as the quote covers both inner forearms.
      It’s what I wanted, the artist was great, all that jazz. But I keep feeling like it’s just too large and looks trashy and now I’ll never see the soft smooth skin on my inner arm again. I feel like my husband is just being nice when he tells me he likes it.
      I wanted it off a few hours I got it.
      Reading your comment makes me feel a little better. 🙂

  • Hi there,

    I’m reading you post with tears in my eyes
    I recently got a tattoo cover up just between my shoulder blades. The new tattoo is of a lotus flower and it covers an old aged tattoo that I had.
    The tattoo itself is pretty but I hate it, I hate it and everytime I think of it, I start having panic attacks and feel like something alien is on my back that I want to scratch off.
    It is bigger than my old tattoo and I got it only 2 days ago. I have already started looking at surgical procedures to remove it or how quickly I can get laser on the thing.
    I can’t understand why I’m reacting in such a way to this new tattoo, my husband is trying to calm me down and claims its prettier and more feminine than the old one and it’s not as big as it is in my head.
    I’m not coping very well at all with this new piece, im doing everything I can to hide it and even looked at my whole wardrobe as to which items of clothing I can still wear.
    I am not a depressive person but this really has me going in a downward spin and I can’t seem to stop the thoughts and feelings
    Any words of advice would be truly grateful.

    Many thanks

  • This is my second comment on this. I got my most recent tattoo Nov. ’18, and I was in a major depressive state for over a month. It is the biggest tattoo I have and it freaked me out to say the least. I survived the winter because long sleeves allowed me to keep it covered, but I was dreading upcoming warmer weather.
    Now that warm weather is here and I have since come to terms with my tattoo. I picked it for a reason, I had wanted to do it for a long time, my 8 year old daughter had input (it’s a rose and her middle name is Rose), and I was so happy the day I did it. So why the occasional regret? I’m still not sure, and once in a while I still look and wish I hadn’t done it at all. But I did do it and I feel I need to love it and myself.
    It is different for everyone obviously and this thread had a big part in helping me through the acceptance process. Even if I feel unsure at times, I find it much easier to just throw on that sleeveless shirt and show it to the world.
    It will be ok, I know this now. To everyone that is in a similar boat, I hope you can feel the same way eventually. I hope you can learn to not let others bring you down or be too hard on yourself.
    For me, in the grand scheme of things, if my tattoos are my biggest regrets in life, then I think I’ve done ok overall.

    • Thanks for this update, Elise! I agree when you say we shouldn’t let others bring us down or be too hard on ourselves. Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done! I’m so happy you’ve found some peace with your tattoo. I think as time goes on, you’ll come to love and accept it even more 🙂

  • Really could’ve used this article a few years ago when I was struggling with severe tattoo regret. I’m writing this in hopes of helping someone else in this situation. I did get laser removal and do not recommend it. Ended up with scarring, very limited fading, and it was torture every time I went for treatment -physically and emotionally. For my own mental health, I made the decision to have the original design reworked. The artist did an amazing job and turned something awful into something beautiful. Not all tattoo artists are created equal. Talented tattoo artists are capable of amazing things. Do your research and talk to them about what your expectations are. And make sure you find someone who has the same vision as you and find someone you are comfortable with. The artist who helped me was honest with me from the start and told me that my sad tattoo had the potential to become something beautiful with a few minor adjustments. And she was right. Living in the past and emotionally torturing yourself is unhealthy. I wish everyone in this situation peace and acceptance.

    • Thank you so much for sharing, Shanna! I too hope others will find something that resonates with them in your experience. I’m sorry for everything you went through, and am glad that you were able to end up with something that you feel good about. My best wishes to you!

  • I just got my first ever tattoo on the 5th. It does have symbolic meaning to me. Its a mountain range Ive spent alot of time on and did alot of work on. However its bigger then I expected, and is kind of in a place thats a little hard to hide (forearm)
    Its a good solid piece. A little more masculine which I am freaking out about but Im not sure if im happy with it yet. Im going in phases of “I love it, its me, it what I stand for” and “omg I will have to wear long sleeves at job interviews forever

    • I agree forearm is harder to hide! Your tattoo is super new, it’s certainly going to take some time. Hopefully the places where you work in the future won’t care so much about tattoos, it seems like more workplaces are becoming more accepting of them. Take some time to process your new piece!

  • I recently got a tattoo for the first time and at first I really liked it, but now I’m starting to have some regret. I know in the article it says regret is normal but I’m incredibly indecisive and a little OCD and feel like it might be actual regret. I like the design and had planned on getting it for a year, but then impulsively walked into a shop with a random artist and had them tattoo it on me.
    It’s only been a few days but the more I look at it the more I’m slightly disappointed. I had it drawn up very particularly but when the artist did it it ended up in kind of a different style (the exact style I was trying to avoid actually). I’m kind of upset because I don’t think there’s really any way to fix it and I don’t really know what to do about it.

    • Oh no, I’m so sorry Ericka! There’s always a way to fix it, even if you don’t feel that way right now. There are very talented tattoo artists who can take original tattoos and create something new that you’ll love. I can understand impulsively getting a piece after thinking about it for a year: having that “I’m finally going to do it!” attitude and then realizing you may have made a mistake. As you said, it’s only been a few days, so give yourself some time to figure out what you want to do. If you really want to change the piece make sure you do a lot of research when looking for an artist to fix it and ask questions, get consultations, etc. until you find one that you feel good about. Try not to be too hard on yourself in the meantime, everything will work out! Thanks for commenting!

  • I wish had found this last year ! I already had one small tattoo lower back so invisible unless on the beach! Following a traumatic incident I got a large tattoo on my upper back. I had instant tattoo regret which was overwhelming. I cried for weeks and couldn’t stop looking at it which in turn caused more pain! I felt it was too masculine, heavy black lines and worst of all placement too high to parts show under all clothing except a collar blouse . The part that’s shows looked like a crab claw when in fact it’s sun rays! 4 months later I went to a female tattoo artiste and she was able to feminize the tattoo. My family all agreed it looked really nice but it is not pretty as I had originally imagined and never can be !! One year later I have learned to accept my tattoo and even show it off locally which I never thought I would !! Some days I love it and have no regrets other days I still fret about the placement and the heavy line s… I thought about laser and redo but no guarantees so truly believe my original design which has symbolized the trauma I went through is the best. I hope this helps others going through this !

  • For me, my current “regret” (which I’m sure will pass) is placement. I love the piece, but the placement makes me look unbalanced. It is also by a different artist from my other visible tattoo, so they are in different styles…

  • Hi Jenn, thank you for sharing your story! Reading your article really hit home. I just recently got a big tattoo on my upper right leg exactly 4 weeks ago, and ever since then my emotions have been fluctuating like crazy. I’ve wanted tattoos for as long as I can remember, and I wanted this tattoo specifically for over a year – it is a black/white realistic sketch of the two national flowers of the countries I’m from put together. As meaningful as this tattoo is, I often go through feelings of sadness, regret and anxiety. I’m really shocked I feel this way as the tattoo is seriously beautiful, (of course there are minor things I would change/alter, but no tattoo is perfect). My family and boyfriend are in awe with it and are extremely supportive. They’re surprised at my reaction considering how beautiful it is, but they also understand why I feel the way that I do at the same time.

    I had two sessions for this tattoo – a total of 10 hours! After my first session when the outlines were done, I couldn’t get over how much I loved it. Then after my second session when all of the shading was completed, something changed in my mind. I went from loving it to having instant regret and thinking “what did I do to myself? I’m ruined!”. Because after the second session, the black ink was EXTREMELY dark, which was disheartening for me as I wanted it to be very lightly shaded. Thankfully, during the weeks in which it was healing the tattoo lightened up a lot more, just how I wanted it to look. I think that experience with my tattoo being finished messed with my mind, as it scared me that I didn’t like it straight away which made me intimidated by it.
    I think a lot of my anxiety has to do with the fact that this piece will forever be a part of me, and I can never take back what I’ve done. I can go back and forth all day thinking like this, and it literally makes me feel sick to the stomach. Of course I knew it was going to be permanent, but it’s like the reality of it hits hard once it’s really on you. I struggle to see such a big change on me, I sometimes feel as though I should’ve just left my skin how it was. Some days I adore it, and other days I wish I could just scrape it off and get rid of my anxiety altogether. But I don’t think I actually want my tattoo to be gone, I just want the feelings/worries that have come with it to disappear.
    Even when I’m stressed about other things, my mind tends to focus on my tattoo making me anxious all over again instead of facing what I’m truly stressed about, and I’ve been stuck in this ongoing loop that drives me crazy! It doesn’t help that I am someone who suffers from anxiety regularly.

    Reading this article has been a relief, as I don’t feel so lonely for having these thoughts and feelings.
    I genuinely hope everyone in the comments who feel similarly comes to peace with their tattoos, as I know this is not a nice situation to go through. 🙂

    • Thank you so much for your comment, Lexi. Four weeks is not a long time! Your tattoo sounds really pretty, and it sounds like so much work went into it. It almost seems to me as though your mind–which you say is already prone to anxiety–is using your new tattoo as a scapegoat. You are absolutely not alone in having these thoughts and feelings! I totally get that having a “forever” piece can make you feel trapped and anxious. I put “forever” in quotations because remember that everything is temporary at the end. You won’t inhabit your body forever, and you won’t have these feelings forever, and so while you’re here in this form, all you can do is have patience with yourself and maybe one day you won’t feel this way about your tattoo. I hope the days where you adore it will take over the days where you feel like you want to get rid of it!

  • This article made me feel a bit better. I just got a new tattoo today. I have had a couple so far and instantly loved them. They were with my mother’s blessing even though she hates the idea of me getting tattoos. Today I got the first one, without telling her. I am 22 years old and don’t need permission but I don’t want to see her hurt. My tattoo is huge compared to what I was thinking. And it’s not what I asked for. Still, I approved it because the artist thought it looked better. I can acknowledge that it’s a beautiful tattoo but I’m freaking out because I’m going to have it forever. What will my mother think? I know it’s stupid to say but I feel like she will never look at me the same if she finds out. I feel sick to my stomach. I hope I learn to love it more.

    • Thanks for sharing, Hope. It might be good to consider telling your mom about the tattoo before she just “finds out”. I would tell her how you feel about it too so that she knows you already feel self-conscious about it/have some negative feelings about it. I imagine expressing these feelings to her and telling her about the tattoo might help you find some more acceptance in your heart for this new piece. Our feelings are never stupid, I can understand that you feel this way, and know that you won’t feel like this forever. My best wishes to you!

  • Thanking everyone for their comments on here. I got my first tattoo yesterday and I’m over 50. I loved the design, it’s an edgy abstract face by an artist that I chose for that reason and it’s on the front of my shoulder. I made the mistake of sending a photo to an acquaintance/kind of friend who also has ink saying “I know it’s not everyone’s cup of chai latte” but I think I was hoping for some positive feedback and reassurance that it looked good Instead she just said “don’t worry about the haters” and now I’m really questioning my choice of design. I am dreading the “I wish I hadn’t got it” stage!

  • literally thank u sm i was having a fr panic attack bc i woke up today and didnt like my tattoo anymore. this article calmed me down and im glad that this is a normal feeling that a lot of people get. <3333

  • Thank you so much for this article. I just got my first tattoo two days ago. It’s a soundwave of a song my dad wrote. He passed away a few years ago and I had the idea of me and my two brothers getting the same tattoo for a long time. Now that we finally did it, I’m having regrets and getting really anxious about it. The meaning of it to me is very powerful. I’m ashamed to admit I did not foresee I would care about how others will look at it or judge me for it (it’s a small soundwave on my left forearm); But right now I can’t shake the thought of me having to hide it at work forever or wearing short sleeves (which I love to do). On top of it my girlfriend told me first she loved it and that made me look really sexy, but we just hung up and she said “she’s still shocked about it” and that she’ll need to get used to it. I guess after all, I do care about other’s people’s thoughts and want to feel accepted. I know I shouldn’t care, but deep inside I do. I hope this feeling goes away soon. You article and everyone’s replies are very helpful.

    • Thanks for sharing, Sam! Please accept my sympathies for the loss of your father. Your tattoo sounds really cool, and what a privilege to be able to honor your dad in this way. As many of us know and have seen, people don’t always have welcome reactions to our tattoos. Hopefully your girlfriend will come around, and in the meantime, the best you can do is to respect her honesty, because I’m sure she’s still processing it too. Your own feelings about the tattoo are only ones that matter, even if it doesn’t feel like that right now. I think deep down a lot of us care a lot more than we’d admit about what other people think; you’re certainly not alone there! And I don’t imagine you will have to hide your tattoo, at least certainly not forever. Your tattoo is still super new. I hope that as time goes on, it’ll begin to feel more normal, more a part of you, and more of the beautiful tribute to your father that it is. My best wishes to you!

      • Hi Jenn,

        First let me thank you for taking the time to reply to all those comments! Getting reassured by someone you know hits different somehow.

        Anyway, I got my fist tattoo 2 years ago on my wrist. My mother has the same one and never did I regret that one. However, the 15th of Dec I got a small (1,5 cm) lightning bolt on my outer wrist. It stands for Harry Potter which I adore. Thought it over for a year, had to change the location of placement quickly though due to the artist advising against inking my inner finger because it wears down more easily there. I think that is one of the reasons why I have trouble accepting the tattoo.

        I have generalized anxiety so I struggle with overthinking as it is. The first 2 days I loved it but then later that week I had a few panic attacks. Regretted the location, the actual shape, size (even though it is so small), and what people may think of me and my HP tattoo. I sometimes think of getting it removed and the next moment I sort of like it. I now try to see the tattoo also as a (pardon my French) f*ck you towards anxiety and that it can also be a reminder that I can be stronger than it.

        I hope I can love my tattoo in time. Looking forward hearing from you 🙂

        • Thanks for sharing, Chelsea! First, your little tattoo sounds very cool and adorable, although I know you don’t need my validation about it 🙂 Second, kudos to your artist for advising you against your original placement idea. The inner part of the fingers does wear away pretty quickly and you would have likely had to get the tattoo touched up a lot to maintain it over the years.

          Speaking as someone who has also changed placement last minute based on an artist’s suggestion, I know it can feel weird to initially try and accept your new placement after thinking about it so diligently for over a year as you’ve said and being so sure about it.

          I can certainly understand the feelings you have about it now despite its size. Your tattoo is small enough that you could easily cover it up in the future if you wanted, or even get it removed. But I think you’ll feel differently about it as time goes on, and I feel like the feelings you’re having about it now are part of the acceptance process. And I love your attitude of having it be an “f-you” towards your anxiety 🙂 And you are absolutely stronger than it.

          I hope this helps. My best wishes to you, and many blessings for your continued growth in the new year!

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