by Tony Steenson, Bricklayer, Goonellabah, Australia
I was seventeen when I got my first tattoo and I thought I was pretty cool.
But that one tattoo looked a bit lonely on its own, so I got him a friend and then another friend, and another. I wanted to look tough. To make me look a bit meaner I also decided to stop shaving and to stop combing my hair which was long at the time.
REBELLING OR HIDING?
I never considered that I was trying to hide behind my image. At the time I saw it as rebelling.
It makes sense, now I look back, that I was trying to protect myself because I was sensitive, but I saw sensitivity as a weakness and not manly so I tried to cover it up with tatts and hair.
At this point in life I was running away from a break-up from my first long term relationship so I was feeling a lot of hurt. By the time I got from one side of the country to the other my beard was coming along and I was starting to get dreadlocks… cool.
The beard came and went a few times but was there most of the time, and over the years my dreadlocks grew to the point where I could nearly tuck them into my pants.
I was so unapproachable. I didn’t look very friendly, I actually looked quite scary and not really someone most people would be comfortable talking to if I was a stranger to them.
The image I put up as this rough and tough guy worked; people weren’t attracted to me which was great as it allowed me to keep my real self hidden away. That real self is a deeply caring man, full of love.
TATTOOS – THE TOUGH STICKERS TO MAKE ME FEEL TOUGH
When I got my tattoos it wasn’t as trendy and as accepted as it is now: these days it’s quite weird if you don’t have one, male or female.
It’s now more seen as art than what it was for me, a rebellion, but it still comes back to the same question; why do we feel the need to drastically change the way we look?
Of course we change our appearance and can do so all the time by clothes, haircuts, make-up etc., but tattoos are lifelong (unless you choose to get them removed).
So why can we be so unhappy in our own skin that we choose to turn our skin and body into a colouring-in book by getting tattoos?
I know for me, part of it was I didn’t feel like I was tough enough to be a man so by getting some tough stickers, then that would prove how tough I was. So silly, because being a man isn’t about being tough.
For me a man is about being loving, tender, supportive and being able and willing to share my feelings. Those traits aren’t being weak. I now feel that they are strengths that I am choosing to embrace.
When I first got my tattoos and began growing my dreadlocks and beard, I wanted to distance myself from people. If I had tattoos and looked dodgy then people wouldn’t want to approach me and I wouldn’t have to show them who I really am. So I hid behind my tattoos, dreadlocks and beard for years… but no more.
THE REAL AND BEAUTIFUL ME BENEATH THE TATTS AND HAIR
A lot of my wanting to hide was from my lack of confidence within myself. So with low self esteem I created an image for myself so people wouldn’t want to be around me which is what I wanted at the time. It’s not that I dislike hair or beards, but I was using my beard and dreadlocks to stop people from seeing my real beauty that I didn’t even know existed. I now know this beauty is in us all. The beard and dreadlocks are gone: I still have the tattoos but I don’t wear them with the pride I once did and am not trying to put out the tough image.
Now I am a people person, I enjoy being around others, sharing me with them and vice versa. I don’t need an image to hide behind anymore because I am great just the way I am.
I am Tony Steenson. I am honest and loving and I have re-discovered how beautiful I am and I invite you to do the same.
Related Reading: Choices, I’ve Made A Few… Shockers!