33% of Adolescents Regret Their Tattoos, Study Finds
Revenue from tattoo removal services have increased 440% over the last decade. How can we learn to live with regret?
Caught in a whirlwind of passion, Justin Bieber tattooed Selena Gomez on his wrist—ink he now regrets. He’s not alone: Johnny Depp had to reimagine his affirmation to Winona Ryder on his shoulder. There are other reasons for tattoo regret. Demi Lovato needed a cover-up when her vagina tat no longer inspired, while Adam Levine can’t stand the “cauliflower sun” on his right shoulder.
Tattoo regrets are not only for celebrities. Revenue from tattoo removal services have increased 440 per cent over the last decade; this particular service is projected to hit $83.2 million next year. It is an especially incredible number given that exactly zero tattoos are mandatory. These are all self-inflicted wounds creating an entire business model based on regret.
According to New Yorker staff writer Kathryn Schulz, 17 per cent of Americans regret their tattoo decisions. One 2015 study in Colorado found that a third of tattooed adolescents would change their minds, though that number does appear to decrease as we age.
"Older respondents report less regret, and this part of the finding perhaps is more telling because at least some of these respondents got their tattoos when they were younger," write the authors of the 2015 study. "Men report more regret, and this finding most likely is due to their tendency to get larger tattoos and to get them in places that cannot be covered as easily as tattoos on women."
A brand new tattoo on a woman's back expresses her desire for revenge. In 2001, Addictions Tattoo in Midway City, CA, was giving away free tattoos that express the feelings of nationalism that swept the US in anticipation of America's retaliation for the 9/11 terror attacks. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Schulz certainly regrets her tattoo. Unlike Bieber and Depp, who probably only regretted their decision when the serotonin and oxytocin dried up, she felt remorse the moment she walked out of the shop.
Schulz uses tattoos as an entry point for discussing regret, which she defines as an emotion we feel when we believe the present can be better if only we’d done something differently in the past. While the quasi-New Age, quasi-hyper-masculine notion that humans should live without regret persists in our culture, she advocates for a more compassionate approach.
If you want to be fully functional, and fully human, and fully humane, I think you need to learn to live not without regret, but with it.
According to Schulz, regret requires agency and imagination. That is, we have to realize we made a decision and we have to imagine a different choice could have existed. The more we have of either of these, the more acute the regret will be.
Tattoos rank fifth in overall regrets. Parenting decisions rank fourth at 10 per cent; romantic decisions, 15 per cent; career is at second at 22 per cent; the winner is education, 32 per cent. Nearly a third of all regrets have to do with what we studied (or didn’t study).
The four psychological components of regret are denial, bewilderment, punishment, and perseveration, which is when you focus on the same thing over and over and over. Schulz recalls lying in bed the evening after permanently sketching a compass on her shoulder. In her bewildered mind she repeated a common mantra of the aggrieved: “Make it go away.” Saying it once is not unusual; having it play on loop is perseveration.
Instead of letting it fester, Schulz decided upon a different tack. She finds it healthier to expose yourself “to your own vulnerability in the face of an indifferent universe.” Staring at your regret in the mirror, painful as it seems, is better medicine than pretending it doesn’t exist.
Modern society makes it easy for us to avoid our problems. We simply need to unfriend or unfollow those we don’t agree with. Tech companies are even doing this job for us with filters that allow you to block words you don’t enjoy seeing or reaffirm your biases by repeating posts you enjoy. It's much harder to not only investigate opposing ideas, but to make peace with them.
Larry Happ, 68, raises his arms to show his tattoos as he competes for the senior man largest tattoo during the Los Angeles Tattoo Convention. (Photo MATHILDE DE L'ECOTAIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Schulz offers three avenues for making peace with regret. First, take comfort in its universality. Unless you’re sociopathic (or have had a lobotomy), you’ll regret something, or many things. How you react to your reactions is indicative of your character. A life of remorse is not ideal.
Laughing at yourself is her second remedy. This is often easier in hindsight, though some have trouble even entertaining the idea. A Buddhist approach—the simultaneous development of humility and compassion—is warranted in this regard. Laughter softens us, removes any perfectionist stain we’ve built up over time.
Which leads to the third: time heals all wounds, even permanent ink etched on your skin. These errant tattoos become reminders of a previous moment when that decision did in fact make sense. You learn how to chart progress based on your marks rather than dwell in their persistence.
I have over 60 hours of tattoo work on my body, which leaves a lot of room for error. Yet I long ago decided to never regret any of them, even those small Chinese characters I added at age 18 in a questionable New Jersey establishment. While I have had one cover-up that ended up working out—due to a terrible job, not at the idea itself—I’ve yet to regret any tattoo decision thanks to a mental reframing.
Would I have chosen some differently? Perhaps. But that wouldn’t have represented who I was at the moment I walked into the parlor. Each piece represents a stage of my life. I’m not alone in this regard: Pen & Ink is dedicated to narratives people build around their ink.
Schulz’s larger point goes beyond the repetitive punches of a tattoo gun. It’s a reminder to feel pain, to open yourself up to being vulnerable and remind yourself it’s okay to make poor decisions so long as they help you mature along the way.
The point is not to live without regrets. The point is to not hate ourselves for having them. We need to learn to love the flawed imperfect things that we create and to forgive ourselves for creating them. Regret doesn’t remind us that we did badly; it reminds us that we know we can do better.
Derek's next book, Whole Motion: Training Your Brain and Body For Optimal Health, will be published on 7/4/17 by Carrel/Skyhorse Publishing. He is based in Los Angeles. Stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live this Thursday at 1pm ET.
Scientists discover the inner workings of an effect that will lead to a new generation of devices.
- Researchers discover a method of extracting previously unavailable information from superconductors.
- The study builds on a 19th-century discovery by physicist Edward Hall.
- The research promises to lead to a new generation of semiconductor materials and devices.
Credit: Gunawan/Nature magazine
Students who think the world is just cheat less, but they need to experience justice to feel that way.
- Students in German and Turkish universities who believed the world is just cheated less than their pessimistic peers.
- The tendency to think the world is just is related to the occurence of experiences of justice.
- The findings may prove useful in helping students adjust to college life.
The world is just? That’s news to a lot of people.<p>The study is the most recent addition to a long line of work focusing on the belief in justice, our behavior, and our reactions to evidence that might suggest injustice occasionally occurs. This study focuses on a personal belief in a just world, (PBJW) rather than a general belief in a just world (GBJW). The difference between them must be highlighted.</p><p>GBJW is the stance that justice prevails all over the world and that people tend to get what they deserve. PBJW is more focused on the individual's social environment and their belief that they tend to be treated justly. While several studies show PBJW correlates with a higher sense of well-being and a variety of other positive effects, a high GBJW is associated with less life satisfaction, negative behavior, and callousness towards the suffering of <a href="https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007%2F978-1-4939-3216-0" target="_blank">others</a>. This study controlled for GBJW, and focused on PBJW as much as possible. </p><p>To assure that culture was not a factor, the study included students at universities in both Germany and Turkey. </p><p>The researchers gave students at the four participating universities a series of questionnaires that asked if they ever cheated in class, if they perceived the world to be just, if they though that justice always prevailed everywhere, their tendencies towards socially appropriate behavior, their life satisfaction, and if they felt like they were treated justly by their teachers and fellow students. </p><p>The answers were statistically analyzed for relationships. While some of the connections seem trivially true, others were surprising. <strong></strong></p><p>PBJW turned out to only be an indirect predictor of if a student was likely to cheat. Both a belief in a just world and a lower likelihood of cheating were mediated by the justice experiences of the students, with more of these positive experiences lowering the rate of cheating and improving their belief in justice. This was also associated with higher levels of life satisfaction. </p><p>These effects existed across all demographics in both countries. </p>
What does this mean? Is a belief in justice a self-fulfilling prophecy?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/6oMv-azHNCA" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p>In a way, it seems to be. People who have reason to think the world is just to them tend to interpret events in a way to sustain that belief and behave in a just manner. In a larger sense, the take away from this study is that experiences of justice, both from peers and instructors, is vital to student's wellbeing and understanding that the rules that exist about cheating are part of a larger, legitimate, system. </p><p>The researchers, citing previous studies on the perception of justice, note that "justice experiences (1) signal that university students are esteemed members of their social group, which in turn conveys feelings of belonging and social inclusion and (2) motivate them to accept and observe university rules and norms. These cognitive processes may thus strengthen their well-being and decrease the likelihood that they cheat."</p><p>The authors also suggest that if you want people (not only students) to act justly; consider treating them with "civility, respect, and dignity."</p><p>Sometimes, all it can take to help somebody act virtuously is to treat them well. Likewise, people treated harshly can rarely find reason to play by rules that don't protect them. The findings of this study will certainly add to the literature on how we perceive justice in the world around us, but might also help us remember that there are real consequences to our actions which can be much larger than we imagine. <strong></strong></p>
This could change how researchers approach vaccine development.
- The reason children suffer less from the novel coronavirus has remained mysterious.
- Researchers identified a cytokine, IL-17A, which appears to protect children from the ravages of COVID-19.
- This cytokine response could change how researchers approach vaccine development.
A member of staff wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) takes a child's temperature at the Harris Academy's Shortland's school on June 04, 2020 in London, England.
Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images<p>Experts don't want to place kids at the back of the line, regardless of how strong their immune systems appear. At least one company, Moderna, <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-vaccine-for-kids-moderna-plans-pediatric-trial-2020-9" target="_blank">hopes to begin testing</a> vaccines in pediatric volunteers by year's end.</p><p>Innate immune response is especially high during childhood (compared to adaptive immunity). This makes evolutionary sense: nature wants an animal to survive until its ready to procreate. Turns out the children in the study possessed high levels of cytokines that boost their immune response. The biggest impact is made by IL-17A, which appears to protect the youngest cohort from the ravages of the coronavirus. </p><p>While both age groups produced antibodies to fight off the infamous spike protein, adults that produce neutralizing antibodies actually suffer a <em>worse</em> fate. Herold says this "over-vigorous adaptive immune response" might promote inflammation, triggering acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). </p><p>This matters for vaccine development. As Herold says, </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Our adult COVID-19 patients who fared poorly had high levels of neutralizing antibodies, suggesting that convalescent plasma—which is rich in neutralizing antibodies—may not help adults who have already developed signs of ARDS. By contrast, therapies that boost innate immune responses early in the course of the disease may be especially beneficial."</p><p>Herold says current vaccine trials are focused on boosting neutralizing-antibody levels. With this new information, researchers may want to work on vaccines that boost the innate immune response instead. </p><p>With <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/science/coronavirus-vaccine-tracker.html" target="_blank">at least 55 vaccine trials</a> underway, every piece of data matters. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Researchers from the University of Toronto published a new map of cancer cells' genetic defenses against treatment.