I was around 50 years old when I got a tattoo. It’s an Om sign with a decorative band that goes all the way around my arm. You might laugh and say, what took you so long, Or, what’s the big deal? But, when I was growing up there was a stigma about people who had tattoos. To my parents and many people of their generation a tattoo meant I devalued myself and my body.
Back in my parent’s day there was a belief only criminals, bad biker dudes or drunk people got tattoos. So I did not take getting my tattoo lightly. I waited to get this until I was sure about my reasons for doing it. I wanted to be certain I was not getting it just to fit in or to be seen as cool or as some act of rebellion. I did not rush out on impulse. I was not drunk or stoned. This OM tattoo is a positive symbol that reminds me of my focus (to spread kindness, acceptance, peace and love). It also serves as a badge of honor signaling I successfully faced and overcame some very tough challenges in order to grow into the person I am today.
I learned part of my self-love and respect comes from being clear on my motivations for doing what I do so I carefully choose the statements I make about myself to the world. No matter our age, each of us can choose what we say about ourselves by how we present ourselves. And we can skip trends that may be popular with our peers or in certain areas of society but do not represent who we are.
For example, I feel some of us need to question why we wear our pants low with our underwear showing. This look began in prisons. It’s an urban legend that this look was a way for gay prisoners to look for sex. Check out Snopes to dispel that. This look was born out of the often too large prison issued clothing prisoners had to wear because in prison there are no belts. It makes sense your pants will be saggy and hang down if they are too big and you have no belt. But, this look took on a more sinister association when it moved from prisons to become linked with other segments of society that are considered negative.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all people who wear their pants like this are bad people who do bad things. No way. I know some young people who wear this look because they want to fit in and think it’s cool. I’m saying, to create our best life, we don’t just blindly follow the crowd because what some in the crowd do may not be comfortable for us.
While I’m not a fan of saggy pants and seeing people’s underwear, I’m just asking all of us to know why it is we do what we do. I think, just like posting a naked butt shot or a topless Spring break photo on Facebook might come back to haunt you when applying to college or that job you want, this look may get you into some hot water too.
In my over 50 years I’ve learned the happiest most fulfilling life is created by our taking intentional and thoughtful action. So, while I certainly encourage us to be ourselves, to express our individuality and to be creative, I also encourage us to be clear about the reasons we do what we do. To love ourselves we need to make sure how we express ourselves is a good fit with the kind of life we truly want. Not only for today, but for our tomorrow too.