I know that I've said it before, but this solo trip through Europe has already proven to be pretty stinking life-changing. Not only have I been able to take in countless beautiful places, interact with so many new cultures, and meet some of the most amazing people, but I have also been challenged in numerous ways. I've had to navigate all of these new cities, typically alone (shoutout to Google Maps for being the real MVP), I've been forced to find the balance between exploring and making time to rest and recharge, and I've endured some some truly awful travel days. I have also come face-to-face with some hard stuff, such as melancholy, feelings of loneliness, being single in some of the most romantic cities in Europe, and most recently, a desire for normalcy and routine. The coolest and hardest part of all of this is that I've been edged out of my comfort zone to the point that I'm not even sure where it begins and ends anymore, which is amazing and — trust me — a huge deal for your girl.
In spite of and because of these challenges, I have grown in some big ways during this trip, the biggest of which is my confidence. I am finding myself more confident than ever, and it feels so much better than I could have imagined. While I don't think that everyone needs to go on a trip like this to grow as I have, I'm certain that I did. I needed to get away from everything and everyone I've known, do some soul searching, and then see what could happen... and as a result, my self-doubts have dwindled and my confidence has skyrocketed. So I wanted to share the three ways in which my confidence has grown over the last few months.
Confidence in Who I Am
Inching closer and closer to my thirties, I am so glad to (finally) be able to say that I am no longer a girl who questions and doubts herself on the regular. Sure, it still happens from time to time, but more than ever before I am finding that I've settled into who I am and I love that girl. I'm owning that I am quirky, compassionate, introspective, empathetic, and a total nerd; that I love to dance whenever I can, take photos of all of the things, and eat burgers like it's my job; and that I absolutely have it in me to get after the things that I really want out of this life. I've also realized a few of the things that I really don't like, like waking up early (#nightowl) or drinking much. And apart from being affirmed for years by people in my life, I'm finally in a place where I accept and believe in some of my gifts/passions, like writing, photography, and other creative outlets. It's been a fun process of peeling back the layers to discover all the things that make me me, and to fall in love with that person. I'm a weirdo who loves Jesus and traveling and dancing, and I won't apologize for any of it anymore.
Confidence in How I Look
Early last year, I wrote a post entitled Loving Myself that shared some hard but necessary truths: that for over half of my life, I had hated my body, berated my "flaws" constantly, and let a health diagnosis determine far too much of my worth. So I chose to declare that I was done being my own worst enemy, and while I meant it then, it's has continued to be a daily battle to drown out the negative self-talk. I've always been more athletically built, which for a long time meant I felt "big," and I don't think I've had flat stomach ever. And I've always been pretty hard on myself, not to mention terrible at receiving and believing compliments, especially about how I look. And while I have grown a ton over the last few years, this trip has done something else for me. I can say that I now finally believe that I am beautiful just as I am — "flaws" and all — and that's quite the victory for me. And I am so glad that I know, and now really believe, that looks are a very small part of someone's beauty, and yet that feeling good about the outside helps the inside to shine even brighter.
Throughout this trip, I've noticed that the negative self-talk has dropped a few decibels and a new voice has become clearer and louder, and it's saying things that are making me feel like a bit of a badass queen (note: this may be tied to binging Queer Eye and now JVN is seeping into my sub-conscience). I've noticed that I am walking differently, with my head held high and a new groove in my step. Maybe that sounds silly, but it's my truth right now, so I will preach it even when it's hard: I am beautiful, I am worthy, and I am badass. It's still a daily battle, but it seems to be one that I am winning more and more, and that's exciting.
Confidence in What I Believe
Meeting so many different people from different places with different experiences, cultures, and beliefs has been one of the most eye-opening experiences of my life thus far, and it has ultimately helped to solidify what I've always thought: that Love is truly the best and only answer. Throughout these travels, I have had a few tough conversations around faith and Christianity, and where some may have expected me to be up in arms or defensive, I have done my best to show love and grace while sharing Jesus. In doing so, I've noticed others' demeanors change. I've had some people even say they "hadn't met a Christian like me" before, which is cool, but also makes me sad (because if Christians aren't showing love, then what are we doing?). I wrote a little post back in April about showing more love, and I can say now — almost three months later — that I believe it even more, because love is the only thing that softens hearts. Showing others the kindness and love of Jesus is what leads people closer to Him, and I'm so confident of this because it's what changed my life so many years ago. I'm also more confident that my Father is real and on the move, even when some of the things happening in the world are hard, dark, and seemingly hopeless. While there are no easy answers for any of it that suffice, what I know is that the power and love of Jesus are real, and that I have the responsibility to show it through my words and my actions. So I am about Love. I am about kindness and grace. I am about showing others who Jesus is and how He loves them.
And with another five weeks of traveling ahead of me before I make my way back to the States, I'm sure that more growth is inevitable. I can't wait to see how things continue to move forward, and I can't wait to bring this new and improved version of Gennean home. See you soon, Nashville and San Fran!