Decide to Make Your Own Decisions

Sometimes, when we have to make a hard decision, we truly don’t know where we stand.

When the decision only affects us, we may remain undecided for weeks, even months. However, when the decision also affects other people, we may feel pressure to force ourselves to decide before we are ready.

The truth is that decisions have consequences, whether they are minor or long-term. For this reason, we need to give ourselves time to fully process how we feel about our options. Allowing ourselves this time can feel intimidating, because there are often outside factors pressuring us to make our choices, and make them quickly.

If you have the tendency to try to please others, as I do, it can be extremely hard to recognize that maintaining your agency is more important than maintaining other people’s happiness. It’s helpful to remember that if you do not consider your needs, you can end up hurting the other people involved!

Here’s how that can happen:

  1. Hard choice in front of you
  2. Consider your needs, and the needs of others involved
  3. Make decision based solely on the needs of others involved
  4. Become sad or uncomfortable with result
  5. Resent others involved or feel hurt that they did not intervene
  6. Others involved become sad upon receiving these feelings

So, if you really care about pleasing other people, remember that they will be happier if you advocate for yourself and consider your needs in addition to theirs. Nobody wants to feel like they have inadvertently deprived you of free will, and your needs are valid! 

The hardest part about letting yourself decide is that it puts you at risk of making a mistake – A mistake that is truly yours, based on your wants and needs. This is scary, especially for perfectionists like me, and I’m not trying to diminish this. However, I’m beginning to understand that it is okay, and perhaps even necessarto make mistakes.

When we make a decision that leads us to an uncomfortable or painful experience, it teaches us about ourselves. We begin to learn what makes us unhappy, and in turn we will be able to fine-tune our future decisions towards what really works for us. Without such experiences, how would we know what we do or do not like?




You are Greater Than the Sum of Your Qualities

Have you ever been jealous of another person? Ever try figuring out why, or how it feels to experience jealousy? This week, in one of my frequent bouts of introspection, I decided to investigate this question for myself. I recently experienced a strong sense of jealousy towards a woman, even though she posed no particular threat to me or my relationship. When I looked deeper, I found that I was fixated on specific qualities of hers – qualities that I admired and even aspired to. I began making mental lists of her traits, and lining them up against my own.

Her Me
  • Symmetrical Features
  • Less Symmetrical Features
  • Smart & Successful
  • Smart 
  • Bubbly Personality
  • Less Bubbly Personality

Even though I am pretty confident at this point in my life, when I reduce myself to these simplified, bullet-pointed traits pitted against hers, I easily get lost in a negative thought cycle of comparisons. Sure, I have some awesome qualities, but what does it mean for someone else to possess these qualities too – and then some? What if – on paper – I don’t stack up to the people around me? Why would anyone want to be my friend or boyfriend or boss or roommate if there are a million others out there with equal or even more appealing qualities?

It’s horrifying how easy it is to keep these negative thoughts flowing. For me, this constant comparison disconnects me from who I am and from what makes me Ashley. I lose myself by reducing Ashley to a list (I told you I like lists!). When I think of myself as a mere sum of my qualities, I become replaceable, and far from unique. When I become replaceable,  I feel sad and scared and very alone.

In order to stop this cycle and the strong waves of emotions it brings, I turn to logic and try to remember who I am. Without getting too philosophical, I can declare with confidence that another woman who matches up trait-for-trait with me on paper would still not be me. What I bring to my relationships is unique, because there is something essentially Ashley about me that can’t be explained via bullet-point. And it certainly cannot be replaced.

Number One Most Unique Thing About Me

  • Is Ashley

I hope I can continue to remember this the next time I feel pangs of jealousy or begin to compare myself to others. Everyone has his or her own special something that makes him or her an individual. If you have trouble believing this, think of someone you love or admire and make a list of the qualities that make you feel this way. Does this list accurately describe that person? Most likely, no. What this list misses are the intangible and indescribable traits that can only be experienced in person. Your loved ones are much greater than the sum of their qualities, and so are you! (And so am I!)






Believing in Ghosts & Not Ghosting

Here’s a fun fact about me: I believe in ghosts. I’m not afraid to watch gory films like “Saw” or “The Human Centipede”, but show me something vaguely supernatural and I will have nightmares for weeks. The logic I stand by to this day is that you can always get an alarm and home security system to protect yourself from dangerous people, but you CAN’T LOCK OUT GHOSTS! So there you have it, superstitious Ash at your service.


Halloween 2013, feat. Schonz as Sheet Ghost

This post, however, is about a different kind of ghost. One much more harmful than the friendly spirits of my grandparents and pet cats that visit me once in a while in my dreams. These ghosts are part of an epidemic in the dating world.

Too cowardly to meet in person, call, or even send a text message to the person they’ve lost interest in, “ghosters” simply disappear from people’s lives without a trace or explanation. This getaway can happen after a few days or texting, a few weeks of hanging out, or even a few months of dating (for the most brutal of the bunch).

What does disappearing without a word or reason achieve? The person you reject is left to wonder aimlessly what he or she did wrong, even though most likely you just realized you were no longer interested, which is completely valid! It took me a while to realize this, but there is no way to anticipate whether or not you vibe with someone romantically unless you get to know them by going on dates. None of us has a crystal ball, so we will all eventually have to end things with people if we realize they are not a good fit for us.

Since all of us who participate in the dating world will inevitably experience both sides of rejection, I would like to make a proposition – a #NoGhosting trend. Wouldn’t it be nice to be honest and let people know what’s on your mind? And wouldn’t it be great if we could all rest assured that our romantic interests will tell us if there’s something wrong instead of hiding behind a screen, never to be seen again?

Within reason, of course, I think a text like this is a great way to communicate disinterest after receiving a text or call from a not-so-enjoyable date. “Hey, it was really nice meeting/hanging out with you, but I just didn’t feel a romantic connection.” Being straightforward in this way will help prevent future communication from this person if you are truly not interested. And it’s a win-win because you will save that person from the anxiety surrounding why their date suddenly changed numbers or dropped off the face of the planet (or dating app). 

For those of you who have been ghosted, I am sorry. For those of you who ghost, I hope that this post has provided some useful insight for the next time you need to reject someone. #GhostsAreProbablyReal but #NoGhosting, please. 


Everything Serves to Further

A few months ago, in the midst of one of my frequent post-graduation “What am I doing with my life?!” moments, I decided I wanted a cookie. This particular bout of self-doubt occurred at my office, and luckily, a friendly coworker had a spare fortune cookie on hand. Not only was the familiar taste of the bland-yet-sweet treat exactly what I craved, but it also gave me a new motto: the fortune read, “Everything serves to further.” 

Now, I know it sounds really convenient for my blog post that I happened to find this fortune on that day, but trust me – it’s true! This is in fact the second timely fortune cookie I’ve opened (the night before my Bat Mitzvah I got “Looks like you’re ready for a party!”).

So, why did this fortune strike me as so apt? Because the root of my anxiety about my future career is a fear of wasting time and energy. This new motto helped me put things in perspective: even if I wasn’t sure what my end goal was, each job and networking experience I had would “serve to further” my path towards a satisfying career.

In order to shift my anxiety into action, I had to put my situation into terms I could feel comfortable with. Having a job that didn’t directly have to do with my college major was not a “waste of time,” in fact, it was productive. I was learning about myself, and what I valued in a work environment. Even if I didn’t have the next 5-10 years of my life inputted in my phone’s calendar with color coded categories, I was doing just fine.

The uncertainty of this vague career path, however, contradicted my urge to organize. So, I listened to my heart and got organized in a different way: I added to my list.

To-Do lists, Shopping Lists, Wish Lists, Lists about Lists…they’re all dear to my heart. For me, lists are a tool for sorting out my racing thoughts and ideas. I use them for fun things, like what I learned in my last aerial silks class or which recipe my boyfriend and I want to try cooking next. I use them to conquer pre-vacation travel anxiety by referring to a personalized “Vacation Packing List” of all the things I could forget. And most importantly, I use them to remember my mottos.

Here is a screenshot of a “Reminders” list from my phone:

(Yes, my phone is in Spanish)

This list is actually more than two years old, and it’s amazing looking back on my self-growth goals from back then. I feel like I have gotten much closer to embodying these and many more affirmations. Obviously, it didn’t magically happen because I put them on a list, but the list was my first step in choosing to live by these mottos – when possible.

So if you’re in the mood for growth, then do some soul-searching, figure out what you want to work on, and create some mottos of your own! Or open a fortune cookie and see if it holds some truth for you. Even if your mottos are not perfect, even if you never write them down, even if you never look at them – everything serves to further. 




Owning Your Emotions

(Photo Credit: Bitmoji)

I am emotional. And I love that about myself.

However, it’s taken a while to come to terms with my emotional side and fully accept it. I’ve had so many people in my life try to tell me that it’s not okay to be this way. Friends have told me to “Toughen up,”  “Grow a thicker skin,” or even better, “Man up” (really?). I’ve been rejected after shedding a single tear in front of someone I was dating. People have tried to teach me that I need to hide or change my emotions.

What I’ve come to learn is that I don’t have to deny myself the right to feel in order to make others more comfortable. If my friends truly love me, they will accept me as I am and learn to compromise by being sensitive during confrontations with me. If the person I’m dating doesn’t want to “deal” with my tears every once in a while, that person is not right for me!

By embodying the notion that I can own my emotions, and be proud of them, I’ve actually gained respect from friends and romantic interests. I am not ashamed of my tears, and I am not ashamed of my anxiety. As my emotions come and go, I take the time to notice and fully experience them. I give myself extra self-care if I have negative emotions, and I let my loved ones know how I am feeling.

Owning my emotions allows me to be present with how I’m feeling. Which, in my case, means that I get to feel happiness just as much as I feel sadness. When someone (especially a woman) says she’s “emotional,” people automatically picture her crying alone in her room. And to be honest, that’s definitely part of it. But what they don’t picture is the emotional person frolicking down the street after a celebrity spotting of her favorite actress from “Broad City”. What they don’t picture is someone who can empathize with her friends and coworkers. What they don’t picture is someone who can tune in to her emotions and express them to her partner to facilitate important conversations.

People don’t realize that being emotional is a gift. So, go on, own your emotions! Tell your friends about them, or keep them to yourself. Write them down in a diary. Sing sad songs when you’re sad and happy songs when you’re happy. However you choose to experience your emotions, just remember that they are yours and you have the right to feel them fully. Don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise!




Finding A Voice


You know that scene from “The Little Mermaid” where Ursula steals Ariel’s voice and you can see a golden orb of magical light being drawn from her larynx into the wicked sea-witch’s grasp? Well, even if you don’t, try to hear me out: Imagine that each one of us has this glowing, shining sphere sitting in our voice box, ready to share its thoughts with the world.

Many of you may already be aware of your voice and its power – and that’s awesome! The reason I’m using this first post to discuss this topic is because for me, finding my voice was the first step in becoming the confident and happy woman I am today. Isn’t that novel? I really had to dig deep and find that glowing orb of a voice and nurture it until we could start to work together. It took me 18 years to find it, so please, don’t be hard on yourself  if you’re already an “adult” and feel like you still haven’t found yours. (Especially if you’re a woman – we are trained to quell our beautiful shining voices!)

So I know I sound a little hippy-dippy in this first post. And maybe I am, but I’m not sorry! Really, I’m just trying to use the “orb of light” metaphor to help you visualize the power of your voice. If confidence is an issue for you, as it was for me for many years, it might help for you to recognize that speaking up (while scary) can actually lead to happiness. Here are some examples:

Past Ashley’s Train of Thought (Pre-Finding Voice)

  1. Has an opinion
  2. Thinks opinion might be negatively received by others
  3. Ignores opinion
  4. Remains quiet
  5. Feels silenced
  6. Gets anxious
  7. Is anxious
  8. Doesn’t want to have an opinion
  9. Has no opinion

Current Ashley’s Train of Thought (Post-Finding Voice)

  1. Has an opinion
  2. Thinks opinion might be negatively received by others
  3. Nurtures opinion, decides how to best express
  4. Speaks up
  5. Feels empowered
  6. Wants to have more opinions
  7. Has more opinions
  8. Expresses more opinions
  9. Feels more empowered

See that? Isn’t that awesome? I’m really proud of how I’ve been able to turn this around. And yes, it’s taken a lot of practice. But like anything, the more you practice finding your voice and speaking up, the easier it will become!

If you think this process sounds ridiculous, or if speaking up is really scary for you and you can’t imagine ever being able to get to step 4, just try step 3 next time you find yourself judging your opinions. Nurture the opinion, play around with different thoughts – consider the possibility that it might be positively received by others. Consider the fact that what you think matters because you are an important human being! Even if you never get to the point of sharing the opinion, at least you yourself have validated the thought.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I am not a mermaid, and no evil sea-witch ever stole my voice from me. So I didn’t need to find a prince and break a spell to bring it back. I just had to find my voice, nurture it, and find some way to express it. And guess what? You can do the same! Unless you really got on Ursula’s bad side…