The Chinese Orchid - A Tattoo Story

Updated on April 6, 2017
The symbolic self-love tattoo.
The symbolic self-love tattoo. | Source

In a Hot Tub 7 Years Ago

“I’M GETTING A NEW TATTOO,” my oldest daughter, Nikki exclaimed as she burst up the deck stairs in an adorable, black Victoria's Secret bathing suit. “Oh, you are?” I asked less than enthused and knowing Nikki‘s tendency for random acts of absurdity. “Yes,” she gloated and it’s going to say, “To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance." Hmmmmm, an Oscar Wilde quote. I must admit, I liked it!

A humid summer rain fell as we settled into my friend’s lukewarm hot tub to nibble on strawberry-filled wheat crepes with whipped cream. Nikki, having spent the last 2 weeks fretting about yet another guy, had called that morning – “Going nuts”, she’d said. I urged her to join us.

The Dilemma

Nikki’s dilemma that morning, the one that brought her to the hot tub for “girl time”, was the question - “Why doesn’t he call me back?” The age old problem of my worth is based on YOU liking ME.

Like Nikki, we can analyze the heck out of people trying to figure out why they don’t want stupendous, tremendous, remarkable me, but we will spend a lifetime doing so if we first don’t love and accept ourselves.

Nikki stretched out across the tub with those mile long legs and drew a long line with her finger up her forearm. "To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance," she said “a tattoo - right here.” We winced.

Forget Self-Esteem

Self-love, self-regard, and self-esteem are terms common to self-help books, but an article by Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D. encourages us to, “Forget Self-Esteem.” Halvorson’s article instead points us to,“Self-compassion… Self-esteem is, at least in Western cultures, considered the bedrock of individual success,” she writes. “You can’t possibly get ahead in life, the logic goes, unless you believe you are perfectly awesome.”

Halvorson offers a new perspective, “Self-compassion is a willingness to look at your own mistakes and shortcomings with kindness and understanding,… it’s embracing the fact that to err is indeed human. When you are self-compassionate in the face of difficulty, you neither judge yourself harshly, nor feel the need to defensively focus on all your awesome qualities to protect your ego."

Such a novel thought - this makes so much sense? After all, when we think of relationships, compassion to forgive when we have been wronged is essential. Compassion reaches out and gives even when we don’t feel like it. “People who experienced self-compassion,” says Halvorson “were more likely to see their weaknesses as changeable. Self-compassion … actually increased their motivation to improve and avoid the same mistake again in the future.”

Could Oscar Wilde, in his quote, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance,” have been talking about self-compassion?


The Holcoglossum Amesianum - one heck of a self-lover

The whole subject reminded me of an article I read on the Holcoglossum Amesianum. The Holcoglusum Amesianum is a breed of Chinese Orchid which actually was discovered to fertilize itself. “The orchid”, according to an Associated Press article, “defies gravity to twist the male part of its flower into the necessary shape to fertilize the female one.’

What an interesting plant, so interesting that the "sexual relationship is so exclusive that flowers do not even transfer pollen to other flowers on the same plant, researchers found." Now that's self-love!


For Nikki, winding her “nutty” self around the idea of self-love/self-compassion was the freedom she needed to escape the damage done by yet another non-attentive person.

That day, she went home from the hot tub and soaked in a long bath and read a good book on respecting herself and best of all… she quit calling her "friend" and unconsciously asking him to fill her needs.

And…she finally did get that tattoo, a symbol of how she twisted her life around like the Chinese Orchid and fertilized herself towards growth and self-love.


Halvorson, Heidi Grant. "The Science of Success." Forget Self-Esteem. Psychology Today, 24 Sept. 2012. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.

Scientists Find Self-fertilizing Orchid - Associated Press, 21 June 2006. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.


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    • carlajbehr profile imageAUTHOR

      Carla J Swick 

      7 years ago from NW PA

      That sure makes it all worth while - knowing the story moved you! Thank you so much!

    • mzlady5 profile image

      Lillian Edwards-Walker 

      7 years ago from Atlanta, Ga

      Good Morning carlajbehr;

      That was great! Also very interesting, and loved the tattoo. I've always been drawn to orchids for some reason; now I know why, they've inspired me to love myself more. :) Thumbs Up Lady!

    • carlajbehr profile imageAUTHOR

      Carla J Swick 

      7 years ago from NW PA

      Thank you so much for your comment - I love a story with a moral - my favorite kind to tell.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      Beautiful orchid and I love the way you have woven it into your story. Very well told and holds a moral well worth learning.

    • carlajbehr profile imageAUTHOR

      Carla J Swick 

      7 years ago from NW PA

      Thank for your comment, Cyndi - isn't it funny how we sometimes learn from nature. I appreicate your comment.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      What an interesting analogy of Nikki and the orchid. Such a wonderful way to write about the development of self compassion or self regard Humans do spend a lot of time examining our faults without reflecting on our good points which means we will always come up lacking. A refreshing perspective.

    • carlajbehr profile imageAUTHOR

      Carla J Swick 

      7 years ago from NW PA

      Thank you, Rebecca - I appreicate your comment. Sometimes it's so easy to get down on ourselves. The whole article by Halvorson is rather interesting on the concept of self-compassion.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      7 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I love the idea you present here of self-compassion and forgiveness. We work so hard to forgive others, why not forgive ourselves. Well written and very interesting!


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