By: Shadeyka Warren @dizzydiscoveries
Rewind to Summer 2018… I’m out with my girls at brunch, telling them about the amazing plans that I have to visit Western Europe the following year — full English breakfasts in London, lunch at the Eiffel Tower, and sunsets on the Almafi Coast. Fast forward to Spring 2019, I’m sitting in “Cafe Blue” in the picturesque Blue Mountains region of Jamaica, enjoying a delicious cup of the Caribbean’s most expensive coffee. I’m hundreds of miles from Europe, here’s why.
My lack of confidence and acceptance of myself has kept me vacationing in the same places. April 2019 was my fifth time to Jamaica. While I love the country and I think it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, it took my fifth time there to realize why I keep going back, when there is so much more of the world to see. It’s because I am afraid and insecure to be in spaces where the majority of the population doesn’t look like me. I feel as if I don’t belong there. Some people would call it “imposter syndrome.” I did a trip to Poland and Germany a few years ago, and felt self-conscious the entire time; so much so that I was barely able to enjoy the trip. It was a group trip, and I was the only black person in the group. When we arrived in Europe, not only was I the only black person I saw, but I was also the only fat person I saw the entire time that we were there. It made me want to cringe. While I vowed to dedicate my year to exploring new corners of the world, I ultimately retreated back into my safe space that is Latin America and the Caribbean.
There are people there who look like me, talk like me, and love the same things I do (have you ever been to a Jamaican dance hall party on a Friday night??!). I hear stories of black travelers having their hair grabbed in China, or having their photos taken without permission in Spain, and I even had one friend who was chased down the street in India by a group of teens calling her the n-word! This has inflicted a sense of fear in me. However, in limiting myself to only my “safe spaces”, I have sort of cut myself off from experiencing the infinite beauty of the rest of the world, and the education that comes along with unrestricted travel.
This story isn’t just about being afraid though; it’s also about self-love. There is no doubt that the media and social networks have heavily influenced our ideas of beauty and standards. When we scroll through our Instagram feeds, and are constantly seeing the “travel barbies”, it’s hard not to feel the pressure to fit in or look the same way. This pressure doesn’t only exist at home in the confines of our own space. It also exists at work, at the gym, at the supermarket, and on vacation. I realize that I have made subconscious decisions to visit places where the beauty standards are not as holy grail as they are in America and some other parts of the world. For example, in places like Jamaica, I feel comfortable enough to walk around the beach in my bikini with my back fat hanging out, and no one even blinks an eye. Why? Because there are dozens of other women doing the same thing! On the Almafi Coast, ehhh… maybe not so much. This is not to say that Jamaica does not have beauty standards. Dancehall artist and reality star, Spice, recently faced world backlash when she temporarily lightened her skin to bring awareness to colorism in Jamaica. So, problems do exist there. However, it is much easier for me, personally, to find comfort on the island, because there are many other people who identify as fat black women.
The road to self-love is a long and arduous one. Many times, we don’t realize how our lack of confidence affects the bigger picture of our lives. While some of us have grown to love ourselves for who we are, and don’t care if the entire beach is staring at our back fat, many of us are still on our journeys to self-acceptance; And that is okay. However, when insecurities begin to affect our outlook on the world, and limit us to only wanting certain experiences, we must make conscious efforts to uplift ourselves out of negative mindsets. That being said, later this year I have an amazing trip planned to a very special place… and no, it’s not Jamaica!
What are some things you once felt insecure about, that you now feel confident about?! Let’s chat below in the comments!