It has been a while since I sat and wrote a personal post, but lately I’ve had a few things floating around my head that I need to get out. Now that I work full-time as a travel blogger, I can officially say I’m part of the industry. It’s an industry full of people with individual and unique talents. It’s also an industry that can feel, at times, competitive.
I used to be quite scared and intimidated by all the talented bloggers in this industry, most of whom are women. These exceptional women and what they create can feel very scary, especially when you look at what you create and feel like it’s a pile of mummified cat turds compared to what they create. Rather than being scared, I made a decision to open myself up totally and completely, allowing myself to be inspired by these women, rather than intimidated by them and jealous of their success. It was a good decision.
Now, I’m friends with a number of these ladies and we work together to support one another openly, honestly and without reservation. Women working together is a powerful thing. Don’t ever underestimate it. Honestly, one of the biggest things I’ve learned this year has been to open yourself up to the things you fear most. Make them your best friend, let them into your life and they won’t feel so scary anymore.
Given the number of women in this industry, it is inevitable that we will be compared to each other, by ourselves and by others. When this happens, you can’t help but examine who you are and compare yourself to someone else. “What is it about their Instagram account that draws such high interest?” “What is it about their blog and what they post on Facebook that gets such good engagement?” For me, I couldn’t help but notice the difference in the type of photos I shared, compared to that of some others. Some bloggers who are successful share photos in their bikinis or photos with a sexy vibe.
First things first, I’m not here to judge or shame these women in any way. Noticing these photos doesn’t make me think or feel badly of the women posting them, it makes me question why I feel uncomfortable doing it and what that means about me.
Part of what makes it hard to stay body-positive is that I see thousands of photos of myself at various angles, not all of them flattering. It’s part of my job to share photos of myself. After you stare at your un-tanned thighs for 2 hours straight, you start to develop a bit of a niggling doubt in your mind that, maybe, you could look better and maybe, that would have an impact on your success.
My initial thoughts were that I should be working out harder, eating healthier and trying to buy more flattering clothes that make me look ‘sexier’ and ‘thinner’. But then I realised that’s really f*cked up. Truth is, I don’t feel comfortable being ‘sexy’. Even just thinking about it now is making me squirm in my seat. I’m imagining myself trying to lay on a beach in a bikini being sexy and I want to crawl into my coffee mug and hide. No joke.
It’s totally okay that I don’t want to post photos like those and it’s also totally okay that people do. Everybody in this world is different and we should all feel confident in doing whatever it is we feel comfortable doing. What’s difficult, though, is there’s no denying that sex sells. Images of beautiful girls with beautiful bodies in beautiful bikinis on beautiful beaches will always perform well, because they appeal to people. They just do! Not everyone, of course, but a lot of people.
As a consumer of these images I can’t help but get swept up in it too… I see a gorgeous girl in her gorgeous bikini and a little part of me sends up a silent wish that I looked like that too. So, I follow them on Instagram and spend hours consuming their beautiful body-perfect photos. After a while I realised this was doing me NO good and I
stopped cyber-stalking unfollowed these beautiful girls, because it was doing more damage to my self-worth than good and I am certain the women sharing the photos don’t intend to make anyone feel bad about themselves.
I work out regularly and eat healthily. I swing between dressing like a tom-boy with a messy-bun and wearing A-line skirts with my hair curled. That’s just me, I’m all over the shop! I’m more comfortable in ripped jeans and a baggy T-shirt than I am in a dress. I don’t feel comfortable being ‘sexy’ or wearing a bikini in front of people or showing too much of my body to anyone, let alone the world, via social media. All of those things are okay, just as it is if you choose to do something different.
You can ‘know’ all of this stuff, but actually accepting it is a different thing altogether and it’s a process I’ve been going through. Imagine seeing other bloggers who are very successful and show bikini pictures, then looking at what you do and feeling like you’re letting yourself and your potential success down because you can’t share those kind of pictures and you don’t want to. Part of you can’t help but blame yourself, right? Like, “If you could just have the perfect bikini body and share photos like those, you’d have more success.” That’s messed up.
I can’t change the shape of my body. I’m curvy in the butt area. I wear size 12 jeans, sometimes a size 14, there isn’t any situation where I’m going to be purchasing a size 8 bikini. Having a thigh-gap in a photo isn’t going to be physically possible for me, EVER, but I’ll tell you what, I’ve got one hell of a brain and an ability to learn things very well, very quickly. So, while I can’t have a thigh-gap in an Instagram photo, I can learn the shit out of a new language and knock the socks off some Frenchies next time I go to Paris.
I’m never going to be able to lay on a beach in Bora Bora with my perfectly toned bum out, but I’ve got some real good sun-safe knowledge… so I can definitely sit on that beach, nearby one of the cheap hotels in Bora Bora, with a sarong, floppy hat and SPF50 sunscreen on, being sun-safe as a mother-flipper. That’s my jam right there. Sun safety. I can tell you who ain’t getting burnt on that beach… ME!
Whatever it is you have, whether that’s a gorgeous body and the confidence to match, a big ol’ brain, a knack for languages, you’re great with numbers or you’re an amazing cook, you rock the shit out of it and do not feel pressured to be anything else than exactly what you want to be.
At the heart of all this, is the realisation that these fears and doubts come from my own mind. There aren’t people commenting on my Instagram saying, “Let’s see that booty! More flesh, please. Be sexier! Pronto!” My doubts come from within myself. Comparing what I share to what others share comes from within myself. Which means I am and always will be in total control of it.
While a lot of people enjoy seeing glamorous girls in glamorous bikinis, there are also a lot of people out there who feel weird about it. Which means, there are people out there who just want to see a girl with a big, white booty, squeezed into her size 14 jeans, lathered up with SPF50, speaking French in Bora Bora…. or… maybe something slightly less specific.
Whoever you are, whatever you’re into… just know that you are perfect. I sometimes feel a lot of pressure to be perfect, worrying that nobody will care about what I share and that I’m not thin, pretty or smart enough to be successful, but the truth is we are each innately perfect, just as we are. You cannot be anything more or less than exactly who you are.
I can’t pretend to be something I’m not or do things that make me feel uncomfortable just for ‘likes’ on Instagram. If I’m going to find success, it’s going to be for who I am; a really awkward person who hates feeling ‘sexy’ but loves to write and be weird. Finding success for who you truly are and just being yourself will feel far more rewarding than pretending to be something else and having to fake it forever or risk being found out.
Success and happiness are not determined by how thin you are, how pretty you are or how many beautiful photos you share with the world. Success and happiness are determined by you, within you. YOU know when you feel you’ve achieved success. YOU know when you feel happy. You are in complete control of these things and they all hinge on one thing; listening to your heart and being true to who you really are. Just be yourself.
Phoebe Lee is a writer, award-winning blogger and travel lover sharing helpful travel tips, insight and reviews for regular people. Follow her adventures at home and around the world, right here on Little Grey Box and on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.