Getting a sternum tattoo – at a convention? |

Lucy Edwards writes about what it’s like to get tattooed in a sensitive place while at a tattoo convention… would you?

Body confidence is something I feel I have never truly had. For as long as I can remember, I have been very critical about the way my body looks and it’s only now, after a good few months working with a fantastic therapist, that I have slowly started to experience the odd uplifting day where I don’t think about my body image at all.

Last year however, I went through a lot of emotional distress because of my lack of body confidence. That summer I continued to wear long sleeves and trousers throughout the hottest of days because the thought of exposing any part of my body was absolutely terrifying.

Little did I know that one particular experience from last summer would be my catalyst for learning to appreciate my body that autumn. It was a moment when my passion for tattoos spontaneously interrupted my fear of exposing my body. I had (without thinking it through) went ahead and booked in to have my sternum tattooed at, of all places, a tattoo convention.

Tattoo convention

Anyone who’s been to a tattoo convention knows that they are public. You are basically being tattooed in front of potentially hundreds of passers-by and while it may be no big deal for some, for people like me it can feel really intimidating.

I booked a floral piece with @battag82 from @tattoosatdabs to be done at Tattoo Tea Party in Manchester. What I had failed to realise was that I would essentially be topless in front of lots of people. What I had done, was convinced myself that there would be a curtain for me to be tattooed behind and that once it was done, I would emerge, exhilarated from the new-tattoo buzz and ready to enjoy the rest of the convention.

It wasn’t until the start of my appointment that I realised there was no curtain and that the table was smack bang next to a walkway near the entrance to the whole convention. It was happening very quickly and before I knew it, I was being handed kitchen roll and tape to cover my boobs. As I walked to the toilets, I felt a wave of fear overcome me and my face started to get hot, what on earth had I done? So many people were going to see an area of my body that I wanted to keep private, how was I going to deal with this?

In a daze, I headed back to where Tag had set up. We began the process of stencilling and it was at this point that I realised I was very lucky. Tag was extremely kind, he acknowledged that I had unknowingly chosen to do something a little scary and made every effort to make me laugh and feel relaxed. If it wasn’t for his professional and relaxed attitude, the experience may well have become a horrible one, but instead, it was one of the most empowering moments of my life.

As I got comfortable on the bed and we started the tattoo, I noticed many people came to watch the process happen. People smiled at me and gave me a thumbs up, I even had a lady tell me how brave I was and that the tattoo looked great. They were welcome comments from kind strangers and I had never felt more weirdly at ease. Tag joked that I must have felt like I was sunbathing at a carboot sale, It made me laugh, this was the only sunbathing I’d ever experienced and it was teaching me that more people are kinder than we may first think.

When my tattoo was done, I was left with a stronger case of post-tattoo buzz than I’d ever felt before. Sure, I felt a little bit of post-panic shakiness, but I also realised that the happy emotion I was feeling, was actually empowerment. I had for an hour and a half, kicked my anxiety and body image issues to the curb.

Thanks to an amazing tattoo artist, I’d been able to feel positive about my body for the first time in forever and I realised that there was a possibility for my negative mindset about my body to change. I gained the confidence to attend therapy and I had a permanent reminder over my heart – a little bunch of flowers that let me know every day that appreciating myself, as I am, is possible.

Words: Lucy Edwards, a 20-year-old tattooed university student, cat mum and trying-new-things enthusiast. You’ll most likely find Lucy posting about mental health awareness and self-acceptance on her Instagram.

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