Episdoe 12: [Candid Conversations] How My Stress Manifests Itself

Filed in All Episodes, Business Strategy, Emotional Intelligence — December 2, 2021

Episode Summary:

On the newest Candid Conversation episode of the podcast, I am getting super vulnerable and sharing how stress has manifested itself in me physically. This was not the easiest conversation to have, but I knew it was something we needed to talk about as I pride myself on truly pulling back the curtain. If there is a secret that you carry, that doesn’t necessarily have to be a secret, you might be allowing it to grow its own shame, so today I’m bearing all. I’m going to tell you about my journey with stress, shame, and vitiligo. But, I want to end on the reminder that you’re loved, sister. Thanks for being here.

Topics Discussed:

  • The weight of the secrets we can carry and the effect this has on us
  • How Ash’s stress is manifested through Vitiligo outbreaks (and what exactly this means)
  • The reminder that if we want to change our world, we have to change our circumstances
  • Trusting that massive risks create massive change and that the universe is for you, not against you

Episode Resources:

Click here for a raw, unedited transcript of this episode

Ashley McDonald (00:00):

Oh, I am nervous. Today is a bonus episode. It is a candid conversation as I have opted to call them. And these are episodes that don’t have a plan and they don’t really necessarily have a rhyme or reason. It’s something that’s been placed on my heart and my soul to share with you, because I believe that it could help you in some way, if nothing else, and normalize the situation for you. I’m nervous because I don’t talk about this a lot. And that is probably why it has a lot of shame for me. So let’s a number one. If there is a secret that you carry, that doesn’t necessarily have to be a secret, you might be allowing it to grow its own shame.

Ashley McDonald (00:53):

Oh, so today I’m talking about how stress has manifested itself in me physically and how I’ve got this sort of like tell all sign that stresses too much for me that I have not managing my stress well enough. Now, honestly, if we’re, if we’re being real, real real with ourselves, I have some gratitude for that sort of clarity, because I know that there are a lot of people who live in professional stress without necessarily knowing it, which does sound kind of crazy, but it is very, very true, honestly, stress and cortisol within our bodies is such a common occurrence for people. Every body has it, especially more so now than ever before. There are so many stressors in our worlds. Mine shows itself in fiddle Lego outbreaks. So to be really honest with you, I don’t quite remember when I was first diagnosed. I don’t really remember a time not having that Allego and maybe because it’s felt so prominent in my life, but I, I know it was early teens and I know that it has changed so much over the years in so many different ways, you have never heard of it.

Ashley McDonald (02:13):

I go, and you’re like, what is this chick talking about? Vitiligo is an auto-immune response where essentially your skin attacks itself, your S your pigment, sorry, your pigment in your skin, the tax itself. So it’s not like a flesh eating thing, but it is essentially white spots on my skin that can grow that take over. And lots of areas actually can even grow. Like the pigment can come back as well. It’s a condition in which the skin loses its pigment, the cells actually the pigment cells. And it seems like discolored patches all over your body. The disease is a lack of skin color, essentially. And it is something I have hidden, tried to hide, been so ashamed of. So embarrassed by it is impacted so much in my life. Holy hell. Even in motherhood you know, just having to deliver a child in the nude, like I felt, I felt shame.

Ashley McDonald (03:21):

I felt weary. And the truth is some of this is because doctors are some of the greatest but you know, ask things like, what is this as if they have no idea what it is, or how long have you had this, or what are you dealing with here? And sometimes you just don’t want people to bring it up. Right? I had that a lot as a kid, too, wearing a bathing suit and having, you know, the white on my stomach and somebody asking like, what’s wrong with you? And I believe that we all carry these insecurities 100% believe that we all carry some form of insecurity, especially as women. And the unfortunate thing is that with vitiligo, it tends to grow and spread under stress. Now this can include physical stress on your body. So pregnancy like a surgery, getting a tattoo, even I’ve gotten a tattoo before and then broken out in the middle. I go all over around it, not knowing that that would cause such a, such a reaction in my body, but mostly stress high levels of cortisol in my body shows itself in a massive vitiligo outbreaks. And here’s the thing I say, outbreak, which is a very light term for the fact that I have no idea if it’ll ever go away. Sure. There has been places on my body that have re pigmented, but there is no guarantee for that.

Ashley McDonald (04:47):

And the year of 2021 has been one of the hardest years of my life, a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety, a lot of hardship personally, within our family, within myself, so much growth work, so much expansion. And I have probably gained another 20% of it all. I go all over my body and it has been really hard. It’s been hard because the first thought obviously is like, no, please, God, no more, please. No more. I can’t do, I don’t want to do this anymore, but used to have a lot of it Allego and very hideable places under my armpits on my upper legs. Even my belly button, although I hated it, I could really hide it. And it was, it was, it was okay. It sucked. But I’m so honestly I will say very blessed with my husband. I love him and he loves me and he thinks I’m beautiful.

Ashley McDonald (05:55):

And I, I trust that. I trust that in its entirety. But I will tell you that love early on and being in relationships is really hard for me. I didn’t want anyone to see me or know me or experience me intimately because I was just so ashamed, crazy, right? I worked so much in the shame department and I carried shame like a badge, right? So I worked through a lot of that throughout my years. A lot of that. And then this year, my expansion work included the fact that I was under so much stress, that my bit of Lego has expanded to so many areas. I can no longer hide. It is now on my shins, on my fingers and my toes on my wrists. It is spread from under my armpits, down into my arms. It is spread from just my lower belly button area, up into my entire stomach. It has spread onto my chest.

Ashley McDonald (06:50):

It is come on my back. There was not any on my back. And now there has been a Lego spot on my back. It feels, it felt like it was spreading like wildfire and it made me want to hide under a rock. It also made me deal with just all the shame of, I teach women how to avoid, prevent work through burnout. I’m clearly burnt out. If I’m like going crazy with my middle, I go. It just really isolated me experiences that would involve being in a bathing suit. Felt like the hardest no of my life. Just complete. I cannot, I cannot even fathom. And that has been hard my whole life ever since having been a Lego, but this year, I mean, I, again, I had done so much work on it and just was at a such a better place. And this year it just felt really hard.

Ashley McDonald (08:02):

So somewhere I’m telling you, six months ago, I know the last episode I talked about six months ago, well, six months ago was one of those like hail Mary’s in my life. If not less, honestly, where I realized that like needed to change or I don’t know what was going to happen. That was probably going to implode, but had that moment of like, I cannot live like this anymore. I cannot allow this to be my identity. And if you’ve ever heard me talk about this, I fundamentally believe that in order to change our circumstances, we have to rewire our brain to see the world differently. And for me in so many different areas that has looked like finding proof of the difference I wanted to see in my life. And so a couple of years ago, I was feeling just really uncomfortable in my body, not vitiligo wise, but like post-baby wise, like the extra skin, the stretch marks, the like couple of pounds I couldn’t lose.

Ashley McDonald (09:02):

And I realized that part of it was that I was like, I was hiding the beauty that I still had for myself. And so I activated a new year’s resolution to do yoga without a shirt on at least once a week. Now this was actually, it was 2020. I want to say what was it, 2020? I can’t remember exactly, but it was a time when, for awhile, I was able to do that in like in public and like a hot yoga studio, which I really, really loved. And then that all went to. So then I started to do it at home, but I would do it in front of a mirror. And I started to change the way that I saw my body, because I could see in the movements like, wow, I’m strong and I’m flexible. And I move with power and I’m graceful and I’m feminine. And I’m all of these amazing things. And I started to gain like a real self love for my stretch marks and my extra skin and the few extra pounds that just, I don’t think will ever go away. I actually think it’s just skin. There’s nothing you can do about it. Right. But then the middle I go was spreading. And in my opinion, back then it was, there is nothing beautiful to see about this.

Ashley McDonald (10:13):

It breaks my heart to say out loud. I just felt, I don’t know. I can’t even really put it into words. And clearly, if you understand at all, you probably noticed that this work is going to be never ending. And I’m certainly not there yet. I’m not here to speak about my mastery. My candid conversations are not mastery. And often I think I was talking to a girlfriend the other day about this, that podcast and, and Instagram and all these things tend to be us finally sharing about our story when we can share our mastery. I think that that’s beautiful. It really is beautiful. I mean, I just did it on the last episode, but also then we all feel like failures. I’m not actually here to tell you I’ve mastered anything. I’m here to tell you that stress shows up in some of the most peculiar ways.

Ashley McDonald (11:10):

And I’m here to share my truth with you, that my stress shows up in, but Allego and one bold move that I made. I hosted a host of two retreats this year, one in Colorado, and then one until noon that just happened a few weeks ago. And the truth is it’s. These are, I’ve done three retreats so far. And I have always opted to take trips in colder places to host retreats in colder places. At colder times that would, would ensure that I could wear a lot of clothes and that I could be my best self dressing to my body and feel really confident. I was just avoiding it. And this year I decided I was going to book the, the retreat in Tulum. I mean, my finger was literally shaking when I did that, because I thought, oh my God, I want to be a bathing suit.

Ashley McDonald (12:03):

I’m going to be in like limited clothing, or I’m going to look like a freak wearing a sweater and jeans. Right. And who am I getting? I don’t wear jeans leggings, but I decided this was going to be a huge leap for me. And I will say the one thing I think that I have mastered in my life is the ability to take massive risks in order to create massive change. Whether it’s an investment that I make in myself or for my family, it is leaping into the unknown of a business opportunity, or it is booking a trip that requires me to wear limited clothing, because I know that this will change things for me. I was so grateful. My mastermind gals are so wonderful. And I did share this with them because I felt like that was part of this journey for me. And they were also kind and gracious and lovely accepting. And the truth is most people are, most people are kind and loving and accepting and gentle and mindful.

Ashley McDonald (13:10):

And most people are not that to themselves. My body does this beautiful, unique thing. It physically shows me that I’m under stress. It raises a white flag, pun intended a white flag on my skin to let me know that things are not okay. I’m not managing my energy. Well, I am not caring for my body. Well, and at the end of the day, what else truly matters if we’re not listening to the cues, our body, our beloved body is giving us. I’m willing to bet my friends, that you too have a tail. You have a sign and maybe you’re super aware of it. And you’re having a massive aha right now of like, holy moly. I never quite realized that this was just a white flag surrender from my body. Or maybe you’re like, oh, I need to think about this either way. I hope you’re taking a moment here to recognize that our body is not against us before us. The universe is not against us, but for us, if we can open our ears, open our minds, open our hearts today, I’m here to share that I am still working through a major insecurity and a whole ton of shame around having to do it all and do it all right.

Ashley McDonald (14:49):

I am a growing woman. I am a growing woman, a constantly expanding woman, surrounded by an arm, linked with other chroming and expansive women. And I have really hard days where I look in the mirror and I see a version of myself that looks completely different than it did last year. A version that shows the journey that I’ve been on and the hardships I have faced, and even a journey that shows me how much I ignored myself.

Ashley McDonald (15:39):

That’s all I love you. You are not alone. You are so worthy, so worth it. So beautiful. So loved. And I have to it. I am too. And so I may turn into a full Dalmatian or maybe I’ll buy. Now. It’s hard to say, to be honest with you, some people do it does take over a hundred percent of their body. It does. It even has the ability to change your hair. Completely white, your eyebrows, your eyelashes. These are all possibilities for me put today. I’m claiming out loud that I will love and I will honor, and I will face all of it. All of it. I am not alone. And you, my friend are not alone.


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I am the definition of duality—I swear like a sailor and break rules like it’s my job, but I also hold incredible space for my clients and work my ass off to help them achieve the success they’re after (but faster).

My background in counseling and my experience founding three multi-6-figure businesses gives me a unique perspective on what it means to show up and serve as an ethical and successful CEO. Leaning on my experiences, along with the experiences of the hundreds of women I’ve been honored to work with, I offer founders a psych-backed and human-first approach to scaling their legacies—both in and out of the office. 

I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to anything, but especially business. Because at the foundation of any profitable, sustainable, ethically sound business is one thing: humans being humans. And to do anything without first considering the human behind the action (i.e., with intention and vulnerability) is to remove our most powerful predictor of success—ourselves.

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