What The "Self Love Club" Tattoo Trend Is About

by Sebastian Zulch

As someone who is committed to all things self-love, I'm constantly looking for new ways to remind myself that I'm worthy of good things, self care included. So when I came across the "Self Love Club" on Instagram in the form of a hashtag and a cute tattoo design, it felt as though I found exactly what I needed.

Having been on the search for a new tattoo for some time now, and as someone who is just beginning treatment for bipolar disorder, getting a tattoo that reminds me to stay committed to myself is exactly what I've been craving. After my partner direct-messaged me one of the #selfloveclub posts on the social media platform, we agreed that we'd be getting matching #SLC tattoos to honor our own commitments to mental health.

"Self Love Club" is more than a tattoo design, though. In fact, the hashtag and accompanying ink are being used to build a sense of community online, while also helping open up a more honest discussion about mental health. All these good vibes are thanks to Melbourne artist Frances Cannon (and her friend Gemma Flack's tattooing skills). Cannon debuted her own Self Love Club tattoo to her Instagram followers earlier in 2016, and the tagline has skyrocketed ever since.

Although the initial reasoning for getting the tattoo was to signify her own journey with self-acceptance, Cannon wanted to include others as well. "After I got mine, I decided to share it on Instagram and invite others to join the 'club' and spread the joy of self love," she tells me in an email. Many folks took her up on this invitation gleefully, repping fresh ink and Instagram posts of their own.

There are three simple rules for being part of the Self Love Club, which Cannon reiterates whenever she shares a new SLC member's tat on the platform:

  1. You must always show yourself respect, love, forgiveness, and understanding.
  2. You must show each other respect, love, forgiveness, and understanding.
  3. You must be kind to your body, and you must take care of your mental health.

Her concept was well-received among her followers, who were accustomed to the artist's body positive art and who closely identify with her messaging. Within a couple weeks, Cannon's mentions were flooded by individuals who got the tattoo as well.

As someone who has struggled with self love herself, Cannon was overjoyed to see so many people participate in the movement. "I love seeing and hearing about people getting the tattoo," she tells me. "[Recently], one of my friends who is currently in the U.S. told me she saw someone with the tattoo! That makes me feel so wonderful to have started such a happy and loving trend!"

Inspired by Cannon's message and the SLC community as a whole, French student Florence Fortuné got her very own Self Love Club tattoo in summer 2016, in honor of her own journey towards body positivity.

After finding Cannon among the #bodypositive posts on Tumblr, she quickly became enchanted by her and the body pos community's commitment to radical self love. It felt only fitting to Fortuné that she seal the body pos rhetoric through ink.

"I wanted to get a tattoo that would represent my journey with self-love and my recovery," she tells me in an Instagram message. "Being an Instagram addict has helped me so much and I've learned a lot from a couple of self-love advocates. So I had to thank them. I wanted that community to be a part of me, literally. The community that helped me be more me."

Belgian student Juliette Buki was also deeply inspired by the movement. "I've followed Frances Cannon for a while and I always loved her illustrations," she tells me in an Instagram message. "I discovered [the Self Love Club movement] thanks to Instagram and Frances' account."

Having struggled with body image issues, anxiety, and panic attacks, Buki had a hard time learning to loving her body as it was. "But one day, I realized it was possible and that I had to love myself because I will have to live with me until I die," she says. "So I decided not to be in a war against my body anymore. To love and cherish my body and my mind. That's why I decided to have this tattoo."

The fact that Cannon's work has had such a reach and is spreading body positivity from her studio in Melbourne to Buki in Belgium, Fortuné in France, myself in the U.S., and even more humans the world over is nothing short of amazing. Besides sharing SLC posts that she's tagged in, Cannon plans to unite all of this positive energy with more artistic projects to help further amplify the movement. "I'd like to eventually do an exhibition and a zine and include the photos of everyone (who wants to be involved) with the tattoo," she tells me.

The idea of the Self Love Club undoubtedly has the potential to resonate with many people who struggle with maintaining positive self image, particularly fat folks, POC, differently-abled people, and the queer community. "The [reason the] words 'Self Love Club' work [...] is [because they are] so broad and so inclusive! I don't ever want anyone to feel excluded from loving themselves," Cannon adds.

The longer this hashtag is circulating on Instagram, the more time it hopefully has to touch the lives of more and more folks who need it, including those living in more marginalized bodies. Based on Buki and Fortuné's testimonies, it seems like the simple message and accompanying ink make for pretty life-changing and worthwhile stuff.

Image: Courtesy smiling.unicorn/Instagram