On the beach in Ko Phi-Phi Don celebrating the 2015 new year was the first time I wore a swimsuit as an adult….I was 26.
That was a major win in my life because like many people I struggle with body image issues. This is a problem because one of my favorite thing to do in the world is lay on the beach in some exotic location in the world!
I’ve always been jealous of women that could put on a swimsuit with no prep time involved and even more jealous of guys that would throw on swim trunks and call it a day. I, on the other hand, needed to build up the courage weeks in advice for what I call walking the plank.
Walking the plank: The time between undressing and getting into the water, where your body is exposed. Walking the plank is my version of stage fright.
So, back to Thailand. I imagined that when I change into my swimsuit, a crowd of gorgeous people with PERFECT bodies would see me in all of my chunky American glory and do one of these horrible things: crack up laughing, taunt me about my weight, or throw mangos skins at me.
So, what happened at the beach?
The same thing that happened on the beach of Colombia, Ghana, America, and Sri Lanka when I covered my body: No one gave a crap!
Yes, there were a ton of people with amazing bodies, but they didn’t have time for me, they were too busy enjoying the day!
Really though: No. One. Cared.
I mean, I felt amazing about this win. That was a new level of body confidence that I went to. I felt free.
Then I thought, man, all these years of avoiding this…I could have practically drowned from the weight of the clothes I was wearing!
The thing about body image issues
Body image issues will stop you in your tracks. It will keep you in your hostel room, it will keep you from beach parties, it will keep you from socializing PERIOD, forget the beach. It will stop all the fun.
It doesn’t matter what you’re dealing with, being overweight, underweight, having small calves, having small boobs, whatever, you shouldn’t let these reasons hold you back from traveling.
Coming from someone that has always silently suffered from body image issues, I want to honestly tell you that you can get over your fears, push through and enjoy your trip abroad.
10 ways be body confident while traveling abroad
1. Pre-departure prep
Traveling comes with unexpected annoyances like lost luggage, delayed flights, getting lost, etc. While these annoyances aren’t directly linked to body image issues, being in a negative space can create a downward spiral of negativity. First, you’re dealing with lost luggage, then all of a sudden you’re thinking about how you will look in your bikini! Yes, your body image issues will be on your mind, but you can avoid putting yourself in a negative space through preparation. Stuff happens! Woosa!
2. Ain’t know body got time for that
This point might not be for everyone, just those that are worried about being criticized about their body in public. Chances are, no one’s going to call you out in public because they don’t care enough. No one’s worrying about your thighs, your small calves, your boobs or even your muffin top. For two reasons, first, people are way too busy thinking about themselves. Second, most people understand that to insult someone in public, would make them look like an icky person. Don’t worry. No one has time for that.
3. Remember that you are valuable
On the road to body confidence, there is a large gap that we all, unfortunately, have to pass through. The gap lies between knowing logically that you are a valuable human being (confidence), and actually believing it (not confident). Many of us are between this gap. You can’t stop living while you’re between this gap. Stay committed to crossing the gap while you’re on your trip. Remind yourself that you are valuable and are allowed to travel the world like everyone else.
4. Face your body image issues
Before you leave for your trip, you’ll have to face your body image issues head-on. There are baby steps that you can take to face your body image issues that will eventually bring phenomenal changes. You can start by buying a book on fear or you can watch free videos on Youtube. I recommend starting with “Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers, it’ll help you tackle fear in ALL areas of your life.
5. Dress YOUR Best
Dress in a way that makes you feel most confident. No, I’m not saying you have to look like you’re on your way to a party. I mean wear clothing that makes you feel good in your skin. Don’t skimp on this, especially if you need to pack light and only have a few pieces to work with.
6. GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD
This one’s for me! Get out of your head and focus on all the awesomeness that’s right in front of you! Put aside all your worries about what people MIGHT be thinking about you. Accept all the freakin’ goodness in front of you.
I regret spending trips worrying about silly stuff instead of focusing on what’s right in front of me. Worrying is PARALYZING! It stops your flow. What you could be doing is: Eating new foods, visiting sites, doing art, talking to the locals, oh and flirting with some hot guy or girl 🙂 Stay focused and be grateful for this adventure you’re on. Take it from me, you’ll regret not soaking it all up because you were preoccupied with pointless thoughts.
7. Stay away from negative people
On your trip you’ll meet other travelers. Please do yourself a favor and run as far as you can from negative people. Definitely, don’t choose a negative Nancy as your travel buddy. Stay far away from those people that nit-pick and say rude shit for absolutely no reason. No one has time for that negativity! I’ve come in contact with a TON of crazy characters while traveling. Run away, run far far away.
8. Get back to your goal
Why again did you work your butt off and save money to be at that destination? Why did you decide to make that journey? Focus on that. What are you doing distracting yourself when you got things to do? Don’t distract yourself from your goal even if that goal is shallow as partying hard at the full moon party in Thailand. Accomplish that goal!
9. Check-in with yourself
Make sure that you’re doing O.K by frequently checking in with yourself. Checking-in with yourself will help you to avoid breakdowns, i.e. Weeping on the bathroom floor (done that). Always be in touch with how you’re feeling. You can do this through journaling or by having a dialogue with yourself. Yes, talk to yourself! This is your time to be real and see how you are feeling. If someone you loved was in a similar situation as you, you would check in with him or her right?
10. Let Yourself Be Great
Finally, Jay-Z said it best, “Let me be great.” You’ve traveled to some destination to discover something and maybe even learn more about yourself. So, can you for the time being allow yourself to be? Can you allow yourself to fully enjoy the fruits of your labor?! Can you for this one time in your life, not worry and stress about what others MIGHT be thinking about you? You’re on a journey, be fully present. Let yourself be great!
Now it’s time to walk your plank
When you decide to fight your body image issues head on, and “walk the plank,” no matter what happens you’ll be happy with yourself for having the courage to do it. Even if you fall into negative thoughts, you’ll still be proud that you tried.
My plank was wearing a swimsuit on foreign beaches far away from my home. Yours could be anything. It could be taking a kendo class in Japan or taking a salsa class in Colombia. What ever it is, it’s your plank to walk!