Tattoo regret is a huge aspect of collecting, whether you have one tattoo or one hundred. However, it's something that is seldom discussed. For me, I went through a period of about six months where I got a bunch of small, stupid tattoos when I was 19. And for the past few years, I've been either covering or removing these mistakes. But I'm not the only one who's in this predicament. Model and YouTuber Morgan Joyce has recently come out with her experience having tattoo regret, posting a full video about her story online. I sat down with Morgan to learn about her experience collecting tattoos and why so many young people are experiencing regret as they enter their mid-twenties.
When did you begin to feel regret for specific tattoos or your tattoos as a whole?
I think the regretful feeling of being so heavily tattooed so quickly, is something I’ve been feeling for a couple years. I just couldn’t admit it or come to terms with it. Although I would never choose to NOT be someone with tattoos, I also feel if I was treated ‘normally’ in public, I’d feel much less self-resentment toward them as a whole. I love tattoos, I always will. But we can all take a moment to think long and hard about our permanent choices.
How has your identity changed since you first started getting tattooed and do you feel that your tattoos reflect who you are today?
When I first started getting tattooed, I was a teenager. I was insecure, I was impulsive, I was eager for change, and I wanted to do all the things the world told me I couldn’t do. Although I was an adult in the eye of the law, the fact of the matter is, I was a child. I thought I had it all figured out, that I was grown. I felt that regrets didn’t exist and that you learn from every mistake you make in life. And although that is partially true, I did not have the mental capacity to foresee me changing my interests, values, personality, growth and beliefs in the future. I don’t feel that most of my tattoos reflect who I am today, nor do they reflect most of my current interests. They are all part of my story, and I find many of them to be very beautiful, but most of them definitely don’t represent the person I am today.
Why are many people, including yourself, afraid to talk about tattoo regret?
I think can be hard for anyone to talk about poor decisions they made in life. I also think it’s ESPECIALLY hard to talk about it, when there’s not much you can do to change your mistake. And even HARDER when it’s something that you wear on your body for the rest of your life. It’s so much easier to deny any regretful feelings, than to look them in the face and come to terms with them. Also, it’s always been thrown in tattooed people’s faces that they will regret them one day, and no one wants to admit that those people may have been right.
What specifically do you wish that you’d done differently when it comes to your tattoos and if you could start over, would you?
I 100% would go back in time and start over if I could. I personally wish that I didn’t collect a bunch of small tattoos in a short period of time. The collection of nick-knack tattoos I got at random flash events etc. are meaningless to me, and are just a waste of space I could’ve used to put something larger, more well thought out, and just overall better. I would’ve loved to hold off on tattooing very visible parts of my body, like my hands, so I could go more incognito in public situations. I also just wish I slowed down in general, I don’t know why I was in such a rush. I used my ‘prime real estate' areas of skin at such a young age, when I really should’ve waited. I’d love to experiment with other styles of tattoos, but I simply don’t have the room left to do it.
How does the experience of being heavily tattooed weigh on your feelings of tattoo regret?
I have learned so much, not only about myself but about other people. I thought that by 2019, tattoos would be something that didn’t even phase others. I was totally wrong. Although they are more accepted than they were, being a heavily tattooed woman is shocking and unusual to MANY people I meet. I really think I lived in a bubble in that aspect of my life, and living several years as a very tattooed person has given me a reality check on the situation. I never expected to be looked at like I was different. That was naive of me. Also, I think tattoo regret is normal. I’m now learning that almost every tattooed person I’ve talked to has some regrets, or things they wish they did differently, and the discussion needs to be open. Too many people are repressing their feelings out of fear of others saying “I told you so.” But EVERYONE makes mistakes in their life. Every single person. And it’s OKAY!
Would you consider tattoo removal?
I have gotten laser tattoo removal on a couple smaller pieces, it’s a wonderful tool! However, it’s extremely painful. I know there are other less popular/less safe methods of tattoo removal, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable experimenting with something that’s not widely used and proven safe for tattoo removal. Like I said earlier- I only want to make educated decisions about my body moving forward. To me, and my very low pain tolerance, laser removal is not an option for my large pieces, or any of the pieces that cover a large portion of my body. Not right now, at least. It would be an impossible task to laser a lot of my tattoos to a point where they’d be invisible, or even light enough to cover up with something other than blackwork. I would consider doing other methods of tattoo removal, if there was something else that was 100% safe, effective and less painful.
Did social media have an impact on your feelings toward your tattoos?
If anything, social media has helped me in that aspect. In recent years, I basically received nothing but love about my tattoos! In the beginning there was a lot more negativity, but as accounts such as Inked (and so many accounts that showcase the beauty of tattoos) started to grow and reach so many people, I definitely think more people online were able to be introduced to tattoos. Tattooed influencers also had a huge impact on the movement, such as QCKND and I. I know for a fact people like us helped pave the way to people being more understanding of / interest in tattoo culture. My response online has been overwhelmingly positive in the last several years. People always comment on my photos saying they love them! I am so grateful.
What role does your scarification experience play in your tattoo regret?
My scarification was truly a nightmare. I learned A LOT. I don’t think it necessarily played a huge role in making me question my tattoos, but it definitely helped me jump start the whole thought process of me realizing how impulsive I truly was, and that I needed to make better, more educated decisions about what I put on my body moving forward. Body modification exists for a reason, there are so many beautiful aspects of it that we deserve to explore. But it’s taken WAY too lightly, these procedures can be extremely invasive and can go extremely wrong, yet people don’t seem to be having those discussions as much as we should.
Do you think the age limit for tattoos should be changed, if so, why?
I wholeheartedly believe the age to get a tattoo should be at least 21 years old. I feel the age limits for A LOT of other things should be changed, too. As a teenager, it’s almost ridiculous to be allowed to make a permanent decision that you have to live with on your external being, for the rest of your life. I thought I was an adult at that time, but I was SO so wrong. Even approaching age 27, I still have growing up to do. We never stop maturing as people. Having the legal age for tattoos be 18 almost feels like it’s setting people up for failure, and it’s really not fair. Of course not every teenager will regret their tattoos when they are older, but what’s the rush? Why take the chance?
What should young people know about being a visibly/heavily tattooed person before they modify their bodies?
Just know and remember that you will constantly change as a person throughout your life. Who you are now, is not who you will be in even one year, or five years, or ten, or more. And that’s GREAT! Changing as a person, growing, trying new things, discovering new interests, is all SO important. I’d never discourage safe self expression of any kind, do you boo! But my advice as a tattooed person would be, think long and hard about WHY you want your tattoo, and how you’ll truly feel as an adult when your interests inevitably start to shift. I did NOT believe anyone when they said ‘you may not like that when you’re older.’ I thought, it’s a part of my story, so I will always like it. But that is NOT true in a lot of cases. You may be extremely passionate about something for the rest of your life, but down the line, you may not necessarily want it displayed on your body. Also, don’t get tattoos solely out of bodily insecurity. The insecurities you have about your body as a young person, will NOT always be the same insecurities you carry with you through your lifetime. Finding self-love is a long journey for many people, you will get there. Also remember that if you modify yourself, you will always be a conversation starter and attention grabber. (some people love that aspect!) However, strangers will feel entitled to touching you without your permission, and interrogating you on your choices on a REGULAR basis. It may not seem like a big deal, but it gets very old, very fast. You may never be able to do simple tasks or errands without being stopped. If you want tattoos, go for it. Just take much more careful consideration than I (and most others) did, and don’t act on impulse. You’ll be so much happier in your future.
Watch Morgan's video on her tattoo regrets here: