That's a really sad sentence isn't it? It's amazing how much our appearance really does affect the way we feel about ourselves, and how easily it can be damaged without us even realising. I wrote a post a few weeks ago about finding balance in your own life as you get older - read it here. And, well, I've got to tell you guys that I'm failing at the moment, big time. I've just finished working over 40 hours in just four days and I'm beyond exhausted, I haven't been eating enough and I've barely had time to sleep let alone relax. It would be okay if this was a one-off, but to be honest these last few weeks it has become more and more common. I'm working too much, I'm too desperate to save money and plan for the next exciting adventure to think about my health and it's not good for me.
My days are spent biking to work in 35 degree heat, rushing around for 10+ hour shifts until I'm almost dizzy for not eating enough or waiting eight hours for my next meal. Then I bike home to collapse into bed for a few hours, getting to spend a precious five minutes with my boyfriend, and then I get up and do it all again. I'm a sweaty mess most of the time, I pile on the make-up to cover the bags under my eyes and pull on the same manky uniform I've been wearing for days on end. Travelling isn't always as glamorous as you think, is it? Don't get me wrong, I don't mind this life - it takes it's toll and I'm terminally exhausted at the moment but I know it will be worth it when in three weeks I go travelling again and get to spend all my time relaxing, enjoying and appreciating my relationship.
But in the meantime, it really hit me lately that I barely remember the last time I made an effort, or when I honestly felt glowing and happy and healthy. It was weeks ago, when I was off exploring a national park and spent my days hiking, swimming and eating healthily. I wore no make-up and lived in my bikini, and I was confident and happy, really happy. Before that, I remember the West Coast road trip, when I was living off nuts and avocados, when my body was strong and fit from exercise and fresh air. I was always smiling and full of energy because I rose with the sun and went to sleep under the stars. I miss that life. Back then it took nothing to make me feel beautiful but now, living in the city and not getting the chance to make an effort, or dress up or feel pretty, it takes its toll.
It's interesting how physical health and mental health play such a big part in our understanding of beauty. At the moment I'm mentally and physically exhausted, I'm run down and don't have time to look after myself, and I'm finding it hard to feel positive about my own body image. It's silly, because my body is the healthiest and strongest it has been in a long time from being outside and working out at the gym. I know deep down I'm happy with the way I look, but exhaustion can have a big effect on the mind and when you don't appreciate yourself, you often end up making it impossible for others to appreciate you. You don't realise until you've been sucked into that pattern of behaviour of not taking the time to look after yourself and then feeling down because you look and feel rubbish. It's so easily avoided, if only you can notice the signs before it is too late to prevent it - and sadly, that's what I'm always rubbish at.
We may be on different sides of the world, but I'm sure you can all relate to feeling like all you do is work. Feeling like life is getting on top of you and it's just not fun any more. You don't get time to look after yourself, then before you know it you're exhausted and run down, your attitude towards yourself is less than forgiving and you don't know how to get out of the hole that you've dug for yourself. It's a slippery slope - but I don't want this to be a post about feeling down and not loving yourself enough. I want to talk about how to fix things and how to change your attitude towards yourself.
It's not easy, but you start with the basics. Are you eating and drinking enough? When was the last time you had a good night's sleep? Are you getting sick, or have you lost/gained too much weight? Are you stressed out from work or life? Ask yourself all these questions and figure out what your pattern is so you can identify it earlier next time. I know that every time I end up overworked, I find I'm not eating enough which affects my weight, my sleeping patterns and stress levels - more often than not I get sick as a result. Other people overeat to deal with stress, or indulge too much in coffee to keep them going which messes up their sleep pattern even more. It's important to identify your own individual pattern of behaviour so you can break it and notice it earlier next time you do this.
Why are you letting yourself get in this state? Do you have an unachievable goal looming in front of you? Or are you unhappy with something else in your life so you're throwing yourself into work to escape? Whatever the answer, you need to tackle the problem - remove the obstacles from your life and everything will slot happily back into place.
You might not be able to escape the workload or the job, you might not be able to get out of the stressful situation, but you can change how you react to it and how much you let it affect you. Take charge and focus on boosting your body image and positivity, give yourself time to appreciate what you have. Pamper yourself - paint your nails or dye your hair, have a long bath and do your make-up how you like it, then pop on an outfit that makes you feel fabulous and go out. You could try one of these gorgeous party outfits from SimplyBe for the festive season. Whether it's out for cocktails or just to the supermarket, just know that you look and feel amazing, then hold on to that feeling and remember it when you're next working and feeling run down.
After three much-needed days off spent relaxing at the beach, sleeping in and eating properly, I'm feeling so much better. Still not 100%, I don't think I'll feel that until I quit this job and start travelling again, but I'm definitely on my way. Sometimes all we need is to look after ourselves a bit.
What makes you feel body positive? Have you got any tips for dealing with body issues and exhaustion?
After writing last Friday’s post, I really got to thinking about my life now compared to a year ago and how happy I am. To put things in perspective, this time last year I was living it up in Thailand with a bunch of great mates and partying my arse off. Now, I’m writing this from my new home of Melbourne while my roommate snores his head off, and yet, I think over the last two weeks I’ve reached new levels of happiness I didn’t think were possible. So I decided to start a list, of all the moments I’ve had recently that have made me feel grateful to be alive and happy I made the decisions that have led me to this point. Because, if you read my last post - you’ll know that this Valentine’s Day I’m taking the time to celebrate being single, independent and the happiest with myself I’ve ever been. Forget giving out roses and chocolates, I’m taking the time to think about and be thankful for all the things that are giving me the rosy glow of happiness.
So what has made me realise i’m in love with my life?
So there we go, the 20 things that have helped me realise why I’m so in love with my life and if you ask me, that’s by far the most important love you will have. Whether you were in a relationship or not this Valentine’s, take a moment to think about whether you are happy with yourself and your life - its something that is so easily brushed over in the busy day-to-day. Why not take 15 minutes out of your day to make a list like this one about all the positive reasons you are in love with you life, and why you are happy with your lot. You might find that actually you have a lot more love for the way things have turned out than you think - or it might just highlight a change you know you need to make! Either way - take the time to love yourself, your life and everything in it.
Tell me what you love mot about your life - what are you most thankful for?
It's been a funny few weeks - I won't go into too many details but let's just say a few things have happened lately that have really forced me to step up and act like an adult. It's pretty easy when travelling to feel like you're 18 and invincible, that nothing can touch you and that somehow you're just evading all the bad things in life. Often you're just so overwhelmed by the goodness and kindness of people that you wonder if you had them all wrong when you were back home working that 9-5 job and getting stressed out constantly by the behaviour of others. I'm not going to deny that bad things ever happen when you're travelling, but to be honest they don't very often - at least nowhere near as often as people warn you that they do. But when they do, it's a shock, it brings you back down to earth with a bump after months of soaring along with your head in the clouds. Don't worry, everyone, including myself are okay - if anything, I'm being a bit dramatic. Why? Well it all goes back to a conversation I had the other week with a friend about the situation, something she said really struck me and made me think.
When asked about life back at home, I told her that I don't really get homesick - yes I miss the people, the moments and the history, but I don't think I have once spent a day pining for home. I know some find homesickness a real problem when travelling and I've had friends who can be down for days on end if something sets off those feelings, but that's just not me. I was never homesick when I went to university either, I think I'm just used to dealing with the feeling of being separate and I'm a very logical person who will always reason with herself that family and friends are always at the end of the phone. My friend, who does get homesick and has been missing home lately, commented on how independent I was and seemed surprised by it. Especially when she realised that I had travelled so far across the world by myself and was unafraid to tackle Asia and Australia solo. I've had this reaction multiple times since planning my travels and setting out - it's something that just seems odd to me and perhaps highlights that it is still thought of as unusual for a young woman to be "brave" enough to be on her own and to be completely independent. Don't worry - I'm not going to start quoting Beyoncé songs to you, but I do want to make the point that I think it is a huge compliment to say that someone is so very independent.
Independence is vastly underrated - whether is financial, emotional, physical or even mental, there is nothing more valuable than the ability to be on your own and still be happy. Too many people in this world are relying on the behaviour of others to make them happy, but wonder why they are always left disappointed. They don't seem to appreciate that you have no control over the behaviour of others, ultimately if they want to mess you around or treat you badly, you can't do anything about it except adjust your own attitude. I've forgiven people for some pretty horrid behaviour over the years and sometimes I'm asked why - I always respond, because it doesn't have any impact on me beyond being upset. That person has to live with the knowledge of how they have treated me and my hating them for it will only make me unhappy and bitter - why would I want to introduce that unhappiness into my own life? As I said on my Facebook page the other day - not relying on others to make you happy is the greatest power of all. By being able to make yourself happy through fulfilling your own goals, setting your own challenges and comforting yourself in times of strife, you give yourself the key to happiness. Solo travel is a great way to learn that, but it's something we should all learn in our own lives - other people can make your life better but only you can make it great.Of course we need others to bring light into our lives in other ways - to put a smile on our face after a hard day, to crack a joke when we're mad, or do thoughtful things, but what happens on the day when they aren't there? You need to be able to build yourself back up instead of just expecting others to do it for you. I've always been a very independent person, but before coming travelling I was a lot more emotionally dependent on others. Travelling solo has given me the space and the time to get to know myself better, it has meant learning to look after myself when times are tough and boy, have they been tough sometimes. I remember being pulled out of a crashed minibus which was half buried in a ditch, I'd been thrown against the windscreen and would have gone through it if it weren't for the driver grabbing hold of me. I stood on the side of the road with blood pouring from my legs, with a group of Cambodians who spoke barely any English, and remember thinking, I genuinely don't know if I'll make it out of this one. Being in a situation like that, being forced to look after yourself and to get yourself to safety in a city that is still a hundred miles away is quite a challenge. But I did it, and I'm a stronger person for it. Now I don't want anyone to go through anything like that, but there are ways to teach yourself the value of independence without putting yourself in danger.
Just taking a tiny step outside your comfort zone and doing it all by yourself is the most valuable experience of all - it can mean disappearing off one day and exploring a place you've never been before, forcing yourself to eat out alone, dealing with something complicated all by yourself instead of seeking help from parents or a partner. All of these are things I do on a daily basis now - I love to eat out alone, I love the satisfaction of managing to deal with a problem completely by myself or turning up in a place where no-one knows me and no-one in the world knows where I am. Some people call that brave, I call it just living my life one step at a time and taking chances. So far it's paid off better than I ever could have imagined and it could be the same for everyone. Being independent is one of the most empowering feelings I have ever known. Some say to love and be loved is the greatest thing of all, but I think that being brave enough to say "I got this shit" to yourself and to others every damn day and proving it again and again is the one to aim for. Don't ever think independence is a lonely place - I've never been surrounded by and had the support of quite so many amazing people who I know love me and would do anything for me as I have lately - what brought us all together is the fact that we all kick ass independently.
Do you consider yourself independent? How else can we gain independence? When's the last time you went off the grid?
When we think of backpackers, we definitely have two very different images in our minds - some of us might have a rather rose-tinted view of sun kissed limbs stretched out on the beach in skimpy bikinis watching on as muscly guys play football on the beach in their shorts. Those who have actually been backpacking will know there are usually big bags under our eyes from late nights, that we're all a bit soft around the edges and around 20lbs heavier than we were before travelling thanks to indulging in too much pizza and beer. It's pretty difficult to keep with any kind of fitness routine, or to maintain healthy eating while backpacking - often the easiest and cheapest options are the least beneficial for your body. (Read my top tips on how to try and stay fit and healthy while travelling here)
Despite the fact that you might not always be at your absolute peak of physical fitness while backpacking, I think it is fair to say that many people feel the most body confident they ever have. Body confidence is something that plagues us all, whether we want to admit it or not. Some of us have it in bucket loads, others barely have enough to keep them going for a two week holiday in the sun. But something I've noticed about backpackers is that despite them coming in all shapes, sizes and colours, they all have this radiant glow of sheer confidence and knowledge of their fabulousness that shines through. When you look at them, you don't notice their love handles, cellulite, beer belly or stretch marks. All I see is the huge smile on their faces, the golden brown glow of their skin and the fun that sparks out of them. Where does it come from? Well it's all down to confidence. But why are they so confident?
This post was originally published on the Base Backpackers blog and won me a free bed for the night in a Base Hostel! Find the original here.
What do you think makes backpackers so beautiful? Do you feel the most confident and happy you've ever been?
Travelling is one of the greatest learning curves you will ever have. You learn so much from heading outside your comfort zone, and doing it solo is one of the biggest character tests you can face in life. There is so much out there to experience, see and feel, and it really can change you as a person by bringing out that version of you that has always been waiting in the wings for your time to shine. There are so many reasons not to travel - money, commitments, relationships... The list goes on. But what about all those reasons to pack your bags and leave? What will you gain from it that you just won't get from staying at home and working that 9-5? I know travel isn't for everyone, and it holds no appeal for some people, but I do think that the values and personal lessons you gain from that time spent independently chasing your dreams are crucial to becoming the best version of yourself - however you choose to do this. So what do you learn? Well here are 10 things travellers have told me they have gained from heading off into the great unknown:
What have you learnt from travelling? What else have you gained from your travelling experiences? Tell us about the greatest learning curve you've faced on your travels...
I've always been a very confident person, anyone who knows me will tell you that, but travelling has brought out a confidence I never knew I had within me. People talk about travelling changing them, particularly solo travelling, they say it makes you more relaxed, more flexible, more open to experiences. I don't agree that it changes you, I think it actually just brings out the true version of yourself - the one that was hiding behind layers of stress and hard work before. While backpacking you are finally free of the rat race, of the pressures of work and society, you can finally be the person you always wanted to be, but never thought you could. It sounds silly and I'm sure those who haven't done it feel like I'm getting all emosh about travelling, but the ones who have experienced it are nodding vigorously at the screen.
I've met so many people who have spoken of the exact same feeling - that feeling of a sudden strength and confidence, that undeniable capability. So where does it come from? Well the fact that so many are heading out on these enormous trips by themselves, carrying their life in a bag and visiting all kinds of places alone, relying completely and totally on themselves is no small thing. It is a huge life-altering experience, particularly if, like me, you've never done anything like this before. I've already learnt so much by relying totally on myself to get from A to B, and then on to C, I've had to find my way home from the middle of nowhere by trying to communicate with those who don't speak English, I've had to look after myself when I'm sick. But I've done it all and done it well.
That is where the confidence comes from, that silent assuredness that I can cope with anything that is thrown at me, that no matter when happens or where I end up, I will manage to find a welcoming hostel, a bar and a good meal. That I can cope with the paperwork - arranging visas and flights on the road, making sure I have permits for national parks and all the rest. It's that knowledge that despite the language barrier, you can communicate your needs and wants to others successfully, that you can get where you need to be and you will be okay. It's that confidence that when you're walking the streets you are not constantly going to be a target of thieves, rapists and all the rest, that people actually just want to meet you and talk to you, unlike what everyone else said before you left!What raises you higher every single day is meeting new people, being that person who puts themselves out there repeatedly, just waiting to see if a new friendship will form or if you will be knocked back. It's so easy when you're in a cosy bubble of friends and family back home who have all known your forever to not realise your value or your worth. But constantly meeting new people, telling them your stories and about your life and seeing their eyes light up, you realise that actually strangers think you're pretty awesome and they want to be friends with you. That actually there are people outside your bubble, from across the globe, who can have so much in common with you. Like when you meet someone and within a day you know you'll be friends for life, like you've been waiting your whole life to meet the other part of yourself. That's the travel soulmate.
All of these things, and so many more, help boost you up as a person and make you realise how amazing you are, and that's why travellers come back with that glow. That glow of self confidence and self assurance, the one the non-travellers can't quite place but put it down to a tan and a happy holiday. It's more than that, it's knowing who you are and who you want to, and can, be. At home it is so easy to be caught up in everyday life, but removing yourself from that busy, stressful environment really helps fast track you to becoming that confident and fabulous human being that takes time to grow. So if you're heading out on a solo trip somewhere, remember to embrace this feeling and to feel proud when you get it, it means you've grown as a person and realised how awesome you really are!
Do you know the feeling I'm talking about? How has travelling changed you as a person? Or has it had no effect on you? Tell me about your experiences - whether a year-long solo trip or a weekend away with friends.
I stumbled across something wonderful last week and it made me feel so happy to read about that I just had to share it with you guys. The Jubilee Project is a team of volunteers who work together to create short films and documentaries in their spare time to increase awareness and inspire action. Their vision is to produce entertaining content that will empower, enable, and inspire others to do good as well. Three guys started the project following the Haiti earthquake in 2010, when they started busking with hopes of raising $100 for the relief efforts. They fell short so made a video about it, they ended up raising over $700. Now they continue to create meaningful videos that will affect audiences and make them think about wider issues, with the mantra #DoingGoodIsContagious. So their latest video - which you'll find below - is what I wanted to share with you.
It shows the incredible difference between adults and children - culture and society. With 50 adults and children asked the same question - If you could change one thing about your body, what would it be? And without a moment's hesitation, all of the adults launch straight into things they don't like and parts they wanted to change. The children? They seem stumped at first, unable to think of anything to change. But then they launch into superhuman additions they would like to have - mermaid tails (yes please!) and cheetah's legs - because they don't think there is anything wrong with the body they were given. So innocent and pure, they minds are yet unchanged by society and the horrible body shaming and expectations that are thrust upon us over time. Is this not yet more proof that no-one is born hating their body - we are the ones teaching them to?
I know I've written before about body confidence (here and here), but I haven't yet focused on the problem of body shaming in society. The fact that you can be as confident as you like, but advertising and media and even just people on the street are often waiting to tear you back down again. It's so sad to see how the views of these youngsters will change over time as they become more affected by the views of those around them, which in turn have been placed on them by advertising campaigns like the Victoria's Secret one, or even music like the Meghan Trainor song. You can take either of these are you want - and to be honest, the song doesn't really bother me a huge amount as I think it's garbage anyway, but the underwear campaign is a different story. I don't really understand why anyone would have let that campaign be released in the first place when it gives such a clear message that anything other than a Victoria's Secret model is not perfect. What planet are these people on? Do they really think that 99.99999999% of the world's population are the exception instead of the rule?Hearing all of the adults listing several things they would change and clearly feeling very uncomfortable about parts of their bodies was really sad. To think you have these amazing individuals who have had lives, friendships, have loved and had children - and yet they are still unhappy with the way that they look. It really warmed my heart to hear one of the young girls saying she actually really liked her body and wouldn't want to change a thing - I wanted to scream at the screen and say DON'T CHANGE! Don't listen to the media, ignore those billboards and stay happy as you are. She was one of the slightly older ones and you can tell it won't be long until she too is affected by both and becomes insecure about her appearance. The clock is ticking. But then that final clip of the video makes all the difference - the oldest lady in the video says that she is happy with her body, her grey hair and her wrinkles because without those she wouldn't be her. That woman is an inspiration and someone we should all take note of - I know I would much rather be like her than any of the other adults in the video.
It makes me feel quite sad that the majority of people will go through their lives without feeling truly happy with their appearance, despite it making up such a tiny amount of who they are. Why do we have to spend the majority of our lives - from being a child to entering our golden years feeling insecure? We've all got bits and piece that work, legs that get us from A to B, noses that can smell and tongues that can taste... So why, when we have all this on our side, do we have to go full circle before feeling confident again? Well as far as I'm concerned - we don't. We all make our own decision to be happy or to be sad. We choose whether to let the haters bother us, whether to listen to those around us. Whether to feel fat on the beach in a bikini. So it's time we all stopped listening to everything around us and start listening to that voice inside that says "You're fabulous". It's easy to miss because it often gets squashed down by the one that says "You look gross" or "You're fat" - but is far more important to pay attention to. I'm not saying it's the easiest thing in the world, but changing your mindset is the first step to feeling content. The best way to change your mindset? Stop jumping straight to telling yourself about those ugly, fat or wobbly bits when you look in the mirror, make it your business to compliment the bits you like first. Three nice things for every one complaint and you'll soon start thinking and feeling differently.
What part of your body do you love the most and why? How do you feel after watching this video?