We all have our own journeys to self-love. And, many times throughout our lives, self-love is something we choose to put on the back burner, postpone or, worse, forget about. Even I am guilty of this. For Kate Mooney, a mom, yoga practitioner and lover of body modification, tattoos play a vital role in her personal process of learning to love herself again.
“For a long time, my body felt like it didn’t belong to me,” she shares. “I have a history of sexual assault and abusive partners which led me down a path of addiction and destructive promiscuous behavior. I was led to believe I was worthless.” Mooney lives in Wicklow, Ireland, a place she describes as “a small country village where everyone is friendly [to me.]” And, like most of us, she had a long journey to learning self-love and self-care.
The thing about self-love is that it’s so easily dismissed. More often than not, it’s at the bottom of our priority list. Sometimes, it doesn’t even make that list. And while that’s a hard pill to swallow, it’s necessary to be honest and admit we’ve been failing ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with looking at yourself in the mirror and acknowledging the fact that for some time, you have been treating yourself terribly because that is the first step to learning how to love yourself again. In one of her Instagram posts, Mooney shared:
“Sometimes, I feel like I’ve lived a thousand lives. I look back on the things I’ve experienced, and the stuff I’ve been through and wonder, how the fuck did I fit all that in?”
And this process of looking back at the things you’ve done, the choices you’ve made, relationships you’ve built and departed from – and then wondering how you’re able to push through the toughest, most painful parts, is a small yet strong act of self-love.
Aside from practicing to be more gentle with herself every day, she’s also on a journey of navigating the world as a heavily-tattooed mother. “I’m always conscious of how my tattoos might affect my son making friends or what the other kids think of me,” she says. “I live in a small country village and there’s no other heavily tattooed person here so I’m a bit of a black sheep. But thankfully everyone is friendly and I think they’ve just gotten used to me by now.”
Mooney is also honest about the strangers in her life. She shares how sometimes, people do a double-take when she and her son Noah are in a public place and he calls her ‘mommy’. But, as she puts it, “it doesn’t affect me whatsoever. I’ve met a good few mothers at playgrounds and skateparks who are friendly towards me and Noah.”
Today, she considers tattoos a major act of self-love. She describes her first ink as “awful. I got stars on my boobs. I was 14 or 15 and I needed to be able to hide them from my parents.” Today, after going through many storms and always coming back alive, Mooney says, “I definitely feel like getting tattoos is an act of self-love. I never felt like my body belonged to me but now I am in total ownership. It’s my temple.” She also highlighted how it taught her to be true to herself, and not care if people would find it pretty or not.
“Particularly in the last few years, I’ve got some life-changing tattoos. My forehead mandala done by Mark Anthony was a game-changer. As soon as it was done, I felt like it was always supposed to be there. I feel the same about my black sleeves done by Cammy Stewart, and my back and bum by McKenzie. They have been a huge part in elevating me closer to my ‘final vision’.”
But underneath all the ink and body modification, Mooney says she’s still the same person. “If all my tattoos disappeared tomorrow, I would be the exact same person. They don’t add or take away any part of my personality or character. I think it’s beautiful that we have the ability and freedom to do whatever we choose with our bodies.”
Related: How My First Tattoo Gave Me Autonomy Over My Body After Abuse