Observing People Observe Me

topic posted Mon, July 27, 2009 - 10:07 PM by  Thomas
I've been heavily tattooed for a number of years, including the back and sides of my head. Recently I got the top of my scalp filled in, upping the ante even more.

I learned a long time ago to deliberately not look for reactions from people. I simply go about my business. If people strike up a conversation about my ink, which happens frequently, I'm happy to talk to them about it.

People staring comes along with the territory and I actually don't mind it. 99% of people who stare at tattoos are fascinated with them. I'll often have mostly women tell me they are looking at my tattoos.

Once in a while there will be someone who stares in a deliberate way, always men, without saying anything,standing right next to me, trying to stare in such a way I will notice them staring. When this happens, I deliberately ignore them. I don't know if they are trying to get me to react, or what sort of reaction they might expect by staring in such a deliberate way, however I really enjoy ignoring them. If they don't have the guts to strike up a conversation, ignoring their deliberate prolonged stares forces them into an uncomfortable psychological corner. Again, if they've got the guts to strike up a conversation I'm more than happy to talk to them. If they are trying to get me to notice them I'm having fun not doing so.

Don't take this post as a complaint. Again, eye-catching tattoos in non-traditional areas that can't be covered up are literally screaming for attention, so questions, comments and stares come with the territory. I'm having more fun than ever observing and analyzing the people who are observing me.

Overall it's an interesting reaction and I'm still in the process of figuring it out. If anyone has any ideas about this topic feel free to chime in.
posted by:
  • Re: Observing People Observe Me

    Mon, July 27, 2009 - 11:06 PM
    I don't have tats all over my body
    (yet); but I've always unintentionally
    been an outcast and people have always given me grief
    for it, so I understand basically what's going on.

    What's going on with most men (and there is some
    difference, based on age, and to a lesser degree
    geographic location) is that they are trying to let you one
    of two things: 1) You're in their turf, and they don't appreciate you
    being who you are; or 2) they're passive-aggressivly
    trying to communicate to you that they don't "approve".
    Always with men, and it gets *SO* very very very old,
    there is a quest for dominance; and most guys don't
    appreciate "freaks" being in their midst, for by simply
    existing, you are challenging them. If they don't actively
    "boot you out" then they appear weak.
    Again, there can be from some diversity to
    a great deal of diversity based on age.
    Older men tend to react this way more, younger
    guys tend to be more open.
    Even older guys with tats may surprize you;
    because getting a tat back then often meant something
    different than it can now.
    Irrational people with anemic minds
    (IE religious freaks) have dramatically less
    ability to deal with that which challenges the status quo.
    I live in the SF bay area, which is SUPPOSED to be
    one of the most tolerant places in the world, and even here,
    I've faced some grief because I don't convienently fit into
    a mold. This happens mostly with older guys, but there are always
    exceptions to the rule - some are very open minded.
    most people under 30 really dig people who show their true colors;
    to them it's a challenge to the system, and being your true self
    is cool. Even within the wider northern california area, there are
    subdivisions where people will either be more tolerant or less.
    and even within typically very tolerant neigbhorhoods, there can be
    certain thiings that are specifically not tolerated well.
    One would hope that people who were "different" themselves
    would understand that abuse of any kind, for any reason, is wrong;
    but sadly, even within northern california, there are people who
    are quite different themslves who are also intolerant of certain other
    "different" people.
    • Re: Observing People Observe Me

      Tue, July 28, 2009 - 12:19 AM
      Those are interesting observations. As an over-the-road truck driver I'm all over the country and these days rarely in California.

      I am really quite comfortable in any situation, whether people "approve" or not. By deliberately NOT looking for, or living out of the approval of others, disapproval therefore has no effect. I'm literally not aware of it. It's been my experience that people very rarely go out of their way to express to me deliberate disapproval. In the one or two cases where it's happened, it was liberating because I realized I literally didn't have to care.

      I believe that much of the discomfort that people feel in their own minds is imagined. When it comes to tattoos, 99% of stares come from people who are fascinated by them. Generally people who don't like tattoos do their best to ignore them.

      People do react to heavy tattooing. Again, I'm really enjoying observing in sort of a detached way how people react to my own non-reaction. I simply go about my business and never act as if I'm trying to make any sort of "statement" or have any sort of chip on my shoulder.

      By deliberately not looking for the approval of others, I am able to look ANY way I want and literally not have to care what others might think. It puts me in a rather unique situation. I can fearlessly insert myself into any situation and never have to worry about being accepted or rejected. Furthermore my own non-reaction forces people to become aware of their own potential prejudices, and I don't have to say a single word.

      I am having more fun than ever before just interacting with people and observing the reactions my heavily-inked appearance provokes.
      • Re: Observing People Observe Me

        Tue, July 28, 2009 - 12:43 AM
        Valid points;
        I have at times, been able to rise above the thoughts
        of others, but sometimes I lack the contfidence to pull it off.

        I have to disagree slightly on the point about the
        people becoming aware of their own prejudices
        I think that conservative people's minds tend to
        protect themsleves from feelings of being wrong,
        inadequate or guilt and tend to blame the "different"
        person rather than wake up and blame themslves for their own
        irrational thinking. To own up to oneself and imperfections
        takes backbone and a kind of fearlessness.
        most judgemental people lack this vertabrae.

        I'm getting more looks and reaction as I collect more
        tattoos - I'm slowly gaining strength....
        • Re: Observing People Observe Me

          Tue, July 28, 2009 - 5:02 PM
          I've come to the conclusion that the effects of prejudice -- the ability of perceived prejudice to affect one's thoughts and behavior -- reside largely in the mind of the one who thinks he or she is being targeted with preconceived, knee-jerk reactions.

          "Conservative" in your statement doesn't mean the same thing to me. I am politically conservative. I could care less what people look like, how they dress, whether they have tattoos, etc., yet I've got very conservative political ideologies.

          It is absolutely possible to make people self-conscious by NOT reacting to them. To get to this point, it's helpful to become aware as possible of one's own knee-jerk reactions. For example, if you are in a restauraunt or other public place and see a policeman in his uniform, if you are really aware, chances are you will find yourself reacting to the uniform and not the person wearing it. We have all sorts of knee-jerk reactions to people, places and things. If you are driving down a freeway and see a cop in the median, notice how people will start acting somewhat guilty and jam on their brakes even though they may not be speeding or otherwise breaking any traffic laws -- they are simply knee-jerk reacting to the form of the police car.

          I've found that if I act perfectly normal as I go about my business in public, and NOT have my own knee-jerk reactions, it frees me to simply and confidently be myself.

          Sometimes I am in public places where there might be a family dressed in some sort of clothing indicating they are wearing their religion on their sleeve. I still have the same non-reaction as if they were dressed like regular people, or like cops.

          The point I'm trying to get across is that by being aware of myself and learning to get rid of my own knee-jerk reactions, it's possible for me to look as absurd or extreme as I want, and NEVER have to worry about or care what other people that might be around me might think.

          In other words, by getting rid of my own knee-jerk judgmental reactions of other people, clothing, forms, etc., I am free from having to feel anyone else's judgment. As a result I'm having more fun than ever being able to observe people around me at the same time they might well be experiencing their own knee-jerk reaction to my appearance.

          Our own knee-jerk reactions cause us to lose our own self-confidence. Therefore, detaching from one's own knee-jerk reactions of others causes natural self-confidence to return.
          • Re: Observing People Observe Me

            Tue, July 28, 2009 - 5:23 PM
            I guess I'm just not at that level yet...
            I see what you're saying, and it has alot of validity;
            but I HAVE been the focus of so many negative things
            because of my diversity, and I continue to be so, even
            when I'm completely focused on other things,
            and not on people's potential reactions

            I have been on "the other side" when I just contfidently
            dealt with the world, and ignored any negative
            reactions from people...
            but when you have dealt with it all of your life,
            and continue to, daily, it is hard to rise above it
            when people continually blame you for their
            own issues.

            Still a work in progress...
            • Re: Observing People Observe Me

              Wed, July 29, 2009 - 6:21 PM
              There's a trap that virtually everyone ends up falling into. As kids, we naturally end up showing off with new toys, clothes, etc. and surrounding adults would make a big deal out of it. Therefore, we are all sort of addicted to living out of the compliments of others.

              It's equally possible to become addicted to the negative side of the same equation -- in other words, judging people, places and things around us. Therefore, it's possible for the wrong side of our ego to become just as addicted to being browbeaten and degraded. In the end, it doesn't matter one way or the other -- whether it's an addiction to other peoples' compliments, or being browbeaten, or browbeating oneself. It's all the same thing, and it all ends up with a negative consequence, literally forcing one to care about what other people think -- damned if you get it and damned if you don't.

              Breaking the pattern starts with honest self-observation combined with resisting the temptation to judge others in your mind. The reward for making the effort to break the compliment/judgement pattern is the ability to be who you are without having to care about what others might think, say or do. Resenting others or even resenting oneself literally lowers the mental drawbridge and invites in ever-increasing amounts of conflict. Resentment, upset, judgement, etc. -- all really the same thing -- seem like a protection, but are actually the way we lose the integrity of our original unique identities. Resentment, upset, judgement, frustration, etc. are all every bit as addictive as crack cocaine, and create an ever-increasing need to "fit in."

              I am having more fun than you can imagine simply being myself and literally not having to care what others may or may not think about me.
              • Unsu...

                Re: Observing People Observe Me

                Wed, July 29, 2009 - 8:18 PM
                I have to admit that I've fallen into staring at people's tattoos. I don't know about anyone else's reasonings, but for me, it's a bit of a mix between envy and actually wondering how I could build up the money to get those tatoos done for myself. (Not direct copies, but similar types such as fire.)
                So, in some cases, it may actually be due to people wishing they had the guts, or the money to do it themselves.
                Hope this helps.
                • Re: Observing People Observe Me

                  Wed, July 29, 2009 - 9:11 PM
                  I think that tattooed people can tell
                  readily when people appreciate tats
                  and are interested in them in that way;
                  versus negative narrowminded people
                  being judgemental.
                  People with tats usually like talking about them
                  with people who are open to them! Great chance to start
                  a conversation and gets answers to your questions about
                  cost, guts, etc.

                  Start small -
                  if you're like me, once you have one, you'll want more,
                  and it becomes self-fufilling.
              • Re: Observing People Observe Me

                Wed, July 29, 2009 - 9:06 PM
                I got into breaking the pattern perfectly
                in the late 80's, and, while there are off days,
                I'm still doing that.. I don't really care alot about
                what people think of me, and while positivity is
                always a wonderful thing, I prefer to meet
                my own needs thru internal processies for that...

                My problem is when people GET IN MY FACE
                and puposely (often forcefully) make me deal with
                them being negative and disapprooving...
                then I am more apt to get angry; lose my backbone, etc.
                Unfortunately, this has happened so often I often
                have my "guard up" and sometimes assess the likelyhood of such an
                event happening at a place I might be.
       becomes a sensitivity and a vicious circle.
                Fortunately, I am aware of it, and I am slowly trying to
                rid myself of the self-defeating patterns;
                and that, if someone gets in my face, I am perfectly capable of dealing
                with the situation when it arises and I don't need to scope out a situation
                before entering....but this is more difficult when you face negative
                reactions day in and day out, versus having positive reactions...
                I know the paradox - feel better, encites more positive circular thinking,
                being negative creates negative cycles.
                Still work'n on it.
  • bob
    offline 3

    Re: Observing People Observe Me

    Thu, July 30, 2009 - 8:10 AM
    Like you said 99% stare just because they are curious. The ones that give you the look of disgust are the ones that I like to mess with.
    • Re: Observing People Observe Me

      Fri, July 31, 2009 - 11:08 PM
      I don't know what's happened, but I just don't seem to be running into people who are negative or even give looks of disgust. Either way, it doesn't matter. I find that by deliberately not allowing myself to get any sort of ego boost out of the positive comments, the negative energy that people might put out in the form of looking disgusted somehow flips around and becomes positive. When people show disgust or disapproval, whether they realize it or not they are attempting to control and manipulate among other things.

      Let me see if I can explain what goes on from a different point of view. Let's say that someone gives me a compliment and I allow my ego to get a big boost out of it and it "makes my day." A sort of psychic vampirism is taking place -- I am feeding on their energy like a vampire. If the situation reverses and someone shows disgust and I therefore am forced to react to it by getting the rug jerked out from under my bloated ego, the person showing the disgust is feeding on my energy.

      It's best not to play the vampire game at all, because it leads in a descending spiral to increasing unhappiness.

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