Last night my good friend and I were walking around Da-an Park here in Taipei. We were chatting about our experiences living here, she has lived here for 8 years and has really made it her home. I brought up how different it was this time around for me. I told her that I hated living here for a good portion of the time we were here. I mentioned how I used to think that the locals were always rude and I would glare at them for staring at the “fat foreigner”. Yes, that “fat foreigner” was me…well that was the way that I saw myself. And this time around, I feel warmth and curiosity coming from the same stares. I have had people go out of their way to help me and make me feel at home here. How different this time in Taipei has been.
She made the point that the way we feel about ourselves affects our perspective while living in a foreign country. That living somewhere where we are alone and have no safe familiar places leaves us open to our insecurities (these are not her exact words as my memory leaves much to be desired, but the overall meaning of what she said).
This really hit home for me and I think can be useful no matter where we live, but especially while traveling, our perspective about ourselves can make or break a place. My insecurities almost ruined Taipei for me last time, I thought everyone was talking about me, making fun of me, or just plain wanted me to go back to where I came from. As this time around proves, that was all in my own head. I have been shown nothing but kindness and generosity for the Taiwanese this time around. And even if someone says something to me that would be considered rude by western standards (like the lady that told me my tattoos were poison and that’s why the Bible says they are a sin) I am able to handle it with confidence and with grace. These remarks are culturally driven, not a sign of disliking me (or so I hope.)
I admit that there have been some times along this trip, where my anxiety gets the better of me and I worry that I have offended someone with my brash american ways. I have had mini panic attacks about how much to tip a server, or if not giving the european air kiss to each cheek made the other person feel awkward. Chad often shakes his head at the way I over-think sometimes. I am still susceptible to the cultural difference insecurities, but have not found myself falling into the “I Hate Myself and Everyone Else Has To Hate Me Too” mode. This is one of the reasons that I have met some wonderful people along our trip and have been able to truly experience the places we have visited.
So the moral to this post I guess, is try not to let your unhappiness with the way you look or feel about yourself ruin your travels (or daily life for that matter). Your perspective changes everything! I know that my saying “change your attitude about yourself” is so easy to write and extremely difficult to actually do. I honestly do not have a cure-all for how to gain more confidence. The only thing I can attribute my ability to see myself in a better light, is knowing that God loves me and has washed me clean. If I am worthy of His love, than does it really matter how the people of the world see me? I realize that not all of you have a relationship with God, and if you choose not to believe, then I still have faith that you can find a way to accept and love who you are. I simply wanted to share what has changed me.
So while you are traveling, whether it is for a day, week, month or indefinitely, try to remember that what you put out there, you will get back. Your mind is powerful and has the ability to change a place. Have confidence in yourself and the places you go will open up for you.
P.S. Starting Monday 9/30/2013, I will be adding another weekly post on And Three To Go! I am so excited! Make sure to follow so you get the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday posts.