Life often has its own way of teaching us valuable lessons, sometimes in the most unexpected and challenging circumstances. This is a personal story of my journey that took me from the depths of despair to a place of self-worth and self-acceptance. But not without lots of trouble, hitting rock bottom, and cycling through burnout first.
From Apathy to Empathy
Let’s throw it back to baby Ashley. The troubled kid who acted out because of a desperate desire for attention and validity. In my teenage years, I was content with mediocrity because I didn’t have anybody pushing me to be better. I had good potential, but I lacked the motivation to fully apply myself. My grades were a mix of B’s and C’s because there were no consequences for my average performance and no praise for an exceptional performance either. My parents simply encouraged me to do my best, but I interpreted it as an invitation to do the bare minimum.
I wasn’t driven to succeed because there was no one holding me to a higher standard. I impressed my “friends” with my rebellious behavior and acting out as the class clown. This paradox, where my misbehavior garnered more attention than good behavior, left a lasting impression on me. I realized that being the “bad girl” earned me more recognition so I had no intention of changing my ways.
A Teacher’s Vision
My life took a turn when a teacher recognized something in me that no one else had. I mean, after being suspended multiple times (and eventually expelled from middle school) I’m not sure why anyone would go out of their way to see potential in me. But this teacher did. He saw potential, brilliance, and a future worth nurturing. His encouraging words sparked something within me and drew my attention to a perspective I’d never thought of before. The idea that I could be massively successful if I applied myself.
For the first time, I started to put in genuine effort. I devoted myself to Senior SEM and discovered the world of college applications and higher education. This was definitely uncharted territory for my family as I was the first to attend college. But, the support and guidance from this teacher were invaluable in helping me start my college career.
A New Beginning
I eventually enrolled in Mesa State, a college in Grand Junction, Colorado. Basicallyyyyy, it was like one of my only options. Despite my past and terrible grades, I was determined to prove myself.
The shift was drastic. I went from being the wild child, known for my antics and rebellious spirit, to an overachiever with a 4.0 GPA. It was a night and day transformation. However, the pursuit of validation and success came at a price…
Two Sides of the Same Coin
I found myself torn between two extremes. On one side, my previous reckless behavior had introduced me to life’s challenges and caused immense mental turmoil. On the other side, my newfound obsession with success led to a relentless pursuit of achievement, finding my worth through work, and constantly cycling through burnout.
Over-Identification with Work
My over-identification with work and success began to define my self-worth. I truly, truly believed that the harder I worked, the more valuable I became to the world. My achievements became my drug, and I craved them to fill the void I had within myself. My unconscious belief that I was only enough if I was successful.
A Felon’s Tale
My journey took an unexpected twist when I found myself in jail while six months pregnant with my daughter. YEAH. Talk about rock bottom.
A warrant from my past related to unemployment claims during a period of losing my job as a nanny, resurfaced after nine years. The legal battle that followed drained me, it cost me $36,000 in legal fees, and left me with a felony record that should be sealed. I don’t know, I’ve never googled it, but it should be sealed LOL.
This experience shattered my self-image and left me feeling like a common denominator of bad experiences in my life.
That really was rock bottom for me. It was the belief that no matter what I achieved, I was inherently bad. The weight of past mistakes and judgments nearly broke me. I couldn’t help but think, “I’m just not good enough.”
This dark period led me on a path of self-discovery and self-acceptance. I began a journey to redefine success and my self-worth. It was time to free myself from the burden of external validation and the false belief that my worth was tied to my achievements.
From Validation to Wholeness
I realized that my need for validation had to be transformed into a mindful pursuit of meaningful work, inner fulfillment, and wholeness. I sought professional help to heal my wounds and redefine my perspective on success. I could never thank my therapists enough.
A Journey of Healing
Through therapy and self-reflection, I learned to love and accept myself. I recognized that my worthiness was not dependent on external factors but on my true self. This transformation was not instantaneous or perfect, but it was the first step towards healing. The following steps were filled with twists and turns. I learned that setbacks and challenges do not define our worth, rather we have the power to redefine our path and emerge stronger and wiser by bringing subconscious beliefs to the forefront and challenging where our wounds were born.
In sharing my story, I hope that you feel something. This is the start to an eight part series of raw & real conversations with badass CEO women who are not afraid to bare it all in the name of belonging. If you want a backstage pass to this special series, drop your info below to opt-in where you’ll get a little extra therapeutic support, a little extra storytelling, a little extra soul-baring… making this journey a little extra all around.
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