Needle Deep Identity the Ultimate Personal Brand — Wearing your heart on your skin

 

Tattoos so often say everything you need to know about the society that births them. Modernity compels us to declare our identity with conviction, whether we’ve found it yet or not. Your body is a temple, but how long can you live in the same house before you redecorate? I'm interested in why people do it, what you'd call the anthropology of self-esteem and identity.

David Beckham’s skin fantasy.

David Beckham’s skin fantasy.

As people, we are regularly on the edge of an existential panic. If you were to see the world realistically, just how vulnerable and totally insignificant you are, in terms of the cosmos, you’d probably go crazy. So you constantly need stories that build up your self-esteem and make you feel significant, which is, of course, what culture provides.

People’s fears are growing in a rapidly changing and polarized world. We are witnessing a moment in history where people seem to be so hungry for approval that they're willing to say and do really bizarre, or silly things, because it makes them feel unique, significant and alive. 

"I dropped my pants in a tattoo parlor in Amsterdam. I woke up in a waterbed with this funky-looking dragon with a blue tongue on my hip. I realised I made a mistake; so a few months later I got a cross to cover it. When my pants hang low, it looks like I'm wearing a dagger!" — Angelina Jolie

"I dropped my pants in a tattoo parlor in Amsterdam. I woke up in a waterbed with this funky-looking dragon with a blue tongue on my hip. I realised I made a mistake; so a few months later I got a cross to cover it. When my pants hang low, it looks like I'm wearing a dagger!" — Angelina Jolie

No matter what your reasoning, tattoos are a personal thing and a great way to celebrate your individuality. Tattoos give people, millennials in particular, a way to prove to themselves and to others that a changing world is no match for them. One deeper answer is that we're incredibly social animals. 

You have to keep in mind that the self is not a thing. It's an event. It’s the process of mutual recognition we all crave.

When you're in deep sleep, the self doesn't really exist. The neurochemistry for being a self is not there. So from this point of view, we feel most real when other people are affirming us, and reassuring us, and reinforcing our identity. Many times each day we say constantly in our emails and in person to each other ‘‘hi, how are you”.

Justin Bieber recently unveiled his 52nd tattoo.

Justin Bieber recently unveiled his 52nd tattoo.

We define who we are by the elements that stick with us —people, stories, places, memories — and we measure ourselves in relation to them, patching the highlights together into what sociologists call a “personal myth.” These myths make sense of often-turbulent lives, integrating our remembered past, perceived present, and anticipated future. We like to imagine there's some special power in our symbols, in our tagline, in our brand, that somehow elevates our mood, makes us feel stronger, more capable, better about ourselves.

Tattoos are part of the ongoing narrative of this personal myth.

Unlike material objects, part of what makes them so meaningful is the degree of sacrifice involved in the process. A tattoo’s acquisition involves a painful ritual that may take hours. We're unique among the animals because we're burdened with an awareness of the future, futility, death, and so on. We're constantly devising defenses. 

Warrior tattoos — U.S. Military Special Ops, Afghanistan.

Warrior tattoos — U.S. Military Special Ops, Afghanistan.

Culture is one such defense. Cultures are full of values and beauties that can make you feel as if your life is significant and has lasting meaning even though you know it's going to be limited. So you could say that tattoos are cultural expressions of heroism or individuality.

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