Unlocking the Hidden Meaning of a Seemingly Meaningless Tattoo

Tattoos are increasingly becoming mainstream. Body art once considered the death knell of a career in professional sports, is slowly losing its stigma. It has now spread to all social classes and industries. From ankle chains and full-back tattoos to dainty ankle pieces, it’s impossible to tell who may be wearing ink.

Some tattoo enthusiasts are a bit judgmental. Some tattoo lovers emphasize meaning and are dismissive of art that is purely for aesthetic reasons. These tattoo snobs often sniff at pre-designed flash tattoos — even though they’ve been a staple of tattoo artistry for decades — and tend to say things like, “I just don’t want to get a design I’ll regret when I’m 80.”

There’s no harm in choosing something meaningful, but it’s entirely up to you. A carefully planned tattoo does not make it more valid than one with a frivolous theme. Even trivial tattoos are a powerful way to express yourself. There are surprisingly profound ways that a “meaningless” tattoo can mean many things.

You can experience uncomplicated happiness.

Smiling woman with arm tattoos
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These days, minimalism and discipline are often discussed. These qualities can be very helpful in managing your life. It’s essential to treat yourself to art you enjoy. Marie Kondo, queen of living simply and minimalist, uses the “Does this spark joy?” technique to determine whether an item is worth having. It is a great way to decide if something is worth owning.

The same rule applies to body art. If someone asks, “What is the meaning of your tattoo?” You can answer, “I like it”, or even “It makes me smile”. Times are tough for a lot of people right now, so hold on to happiness and beauty wherever you can — whether you’re moved by artful but meaningless floral designs, spooky Halloween-inspired tattoos that evoke autumn all year long, or the weirdly satisfying shallowness served by a good nostalgia tattoo. You do you.

Spending money, you do not have can put you and your budget in a precarious position. If you want to spend some money in a rewarding and fun way, you can’t do much worse than getting a tattoo. It may not be significant, but it will bring you joy.

You can do something for yourself.

Woman getting flower tattoo
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It’s not surprising that humans are social creatures. They take on a variety of obligations and responsibilities to maintain their careers and relationships. You probably spend a lot of time making others happy, be it your boss, best friend, or children. Being reliable or selfless is good, but it can drain you socially.

Self-care has been a growing trend in recent years. It encourages people to take care of themselves. You may see self-care experts promoting long walks, candlelit bubble baths or yoga. Healthy self-care can include a tattoo, but it is not the only option.

Even if you don’t particularly like the design, getting a tattoo is still a very personal experience. This is an excellent opportunity to indulge in some harmless selfishness and do something for yourself. You are the one who will be decorating your skin. Why not do what you want? Treat yourself to a tattoo, like a new haircut or manicure.

Your body autonomy is celebrated.

Strong woman flexing tattooed arm
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Similarly, a tattoo done just for fun can be a great way to gain control over your body. This can be particularly powerful for those who feel a lack of autonomy. The design of the tattoo is not as crucial in this case as the choice of getting inked. This adds an unexpected layer to what could otherwise be a frivolous tattoo.

Maybe you came from a strict background or family where tattoos were forbidden. But now, you are blazing your path. You may have escaped a controlling relationship in which you felt you had no control over your physical or mental existence. A random tattoo can serve as a symbol of independence and freedom.

It can also be a way to claim ownership of your body, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. If you have ever suffered from body dysmorphia or physical disabilities that limit your mobility, your relationship with the body could be rocky. And while tattoos are no replacement for therapy or mental health support, you may need to reach a better sense of self-esteem; getting any ink — even something silly, random, purely aesthetic — may help give you a concrete feeling of control over your physical existence. Don’t forget to seek additional support when needed.

This can be an obvious lesson or reminder

Handsome man with arm tattoos
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Fear of regretting the tattoo is one of the main arguments against meaningless ink. If you choose a tattoo impulsively and grow out of it later, your first instinct may be to feel ashamed. Even a negative outcome can be considered a positive when it comes time to get inked.

When a tattoo no longer fits your style or values, it shows that you’re growing and developing as an individual — hopefully, into a better and better version of yourself. It might serve as an effective reminder for you to resist similar urges. You’ve now had the chance to think about your tattoo design, and you know how important it is to weigh the consequences before acting. This will help you in all aspects of your life.

The lesson that a tattoo once had can be taken in another direction if it represents a time of carefreeness and spontaneity. A physical reminder of the playful side of you can help you feel lighter and more alive.

Your life story is immortalized beautifully.

Thoughtful woman with arm tattoos
Portra/Getty Images

Tattoos are often the result of a lot of thought. Many people carefully plan each design element and attach deep meanings. A tattoo does not have to be significant to serve as a reminder. Even the most silly or impulsive designs can be souvenirs that mark different phases of your life.

You may never forget the happy times you spent with your friends and family at that beachside resort where you had a flash tattoo done. A floral watercolour tattoo you got just because it may bring back fond memories of your hours spent on Pinterest looking for inspiration. Even a quick inside joke or a pop culture reference from your past can make you nostalgic for the days of your youth.

So if you’re covered in off-the-cuff tattoo choices — or want to get some casual ink in the future — you don’t have to feel judged or pressured to find the perfect, timeless piece of art. Meaningless tattoos may be as valid, beautiful and surprising as intentionally symbolic ones.

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