Sophrosyne: My First Tattoo

A few days ago, I got my first tattoo.

I’ve actually been looking for the perfect tattoo for me since I turned 18 (the first ideas were all Harry Potter-related, obviously) and only recently did I find the perfect piece that embodied everything I wanted in a tattoo. At first, I just wanted a piece that represented something I’m passionate about. But over the past few months, I started looking for something to commemorate this important chapter of my life: the time I spent finally learning to love myself.

Half of 2013 for me has been a wonderful period of self-discovery and personal growth. I can say without a doubt that this is the happiest I’ve ever been in my entire life (excluding most of my time at M.U. Lujan Elementary School; sometimes I think I peaked at 5th grade). It’s exciting, beautiful, and scary all at once. At the same time, I’ve been exploring the idea and feeling of loneliness and how it affects me. As I’ve said many times before, I spent so many years searching for the perfect guy to magically make my life happier. Sliding from one failed, teenage committed relationship into another, serial monogamy was my life. Each time I was dumped, I was convinced again and again that there was something inherently wrong with me; I was just undateable. It comes as no surprise to learn that I didn’t end up finding some perfect person to heal my wounds and make me whole. It did come as a surprise, though, for me to find that I was actually the person I needed to make myself happy and whole.

So with the realization that I am enough for myself and that I don’t need anyone to fix my life (or to do anything for me, for that matter), I’ve been looking out for something to come my way that I could use to commemorate the incredible period of growth I’ve gone through this year. A few weeks ago, it came to me through my friend Franceska’s tumblr: sophrosyne.



The word spoke to my soul. The script was beautiful. The definition was even more beautiful. I immediately reblogged the picture but was left with the impression that there was something about this beautiful word that resonated with me deeply.

After I talked through the idea of the tattoo with a couple of close friends, I researched the word intensively for the next few weeks. I’ll write a post exploring the concept behind sophrosyne later, but here are a few other meanings I learned behind this word:

  • “A healthy mind in a healthy body.”
  • Sophrosyne was a Greek goddess (the spirit of moderation, self-control, temperance, restraint, and discretion).
  • This is a Greek virtue that was lost but is regaining popularity as people now try to focus on more self-realization.
  • Practicing moderation, but because you know you are sated, not because you want to limit yourself from anything.
  • “Know thyself.”
  • Healthy-mindedness and from there self-control or moderation guided by knowledge and balance.
  • It suggests that lifelong happiness may be obtained when one’s mental needs are satisfied, and it resembles the idea of enlightenment through harmonious living.
  • It’s a good virtue to practice in love/relationships; approaching love in with self-control instead of letting it consume you and ruin your life.

Instead of getting a Harry Potter-related tattoo as my first, I ended up with a word that was all me. I won’t rule out getting tattoos in the future to pay homage to books/TV shows/movies I love, but I’m glad that I made the decision to get one that was just about myself. I used to obsess over guys and celebrities/characters, but I’ve grown to the point where I am strong in my own identity, instead of only relying on the objects of my affection to define me.

Long story, medium-short, I impulsively (in my definition of the word, at least) decided to get the tattoo in downtown Santa Barbara with one of my best friends the week before finals. It hurt, but it was bearable, and very empowering. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made in my adult life so far, and I’m looking forward to a life full of living up to this virtue.


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