Category: Self-Improvement

Disabling the lies and power of judgement

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be afraid of Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two little sparrows sold for a copper coin? And yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.  But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered [for the Father is sovereign and has complete knowledge]. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:28-31)

As a recovering codependent the biggest discovery I have made about myself is that I never learned how to enjoy my own company.

I used to believe that I was not worthy enough or just flat out enough to determine my own worth.

Scan 2016-4-21 0002-1
A drawing of what my life had always felt like, living alone in the dark shadow of Judgement.

And because of that, I was addicted to ignoring myself (emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally), and I was addicted to finding my value based on how other people felt about me – good or bad.

I had always tried telling myself, “Just stop caring so much about what other people think!” But I could never actually figure out how to stop doing it and truly be confident with who I was.

Melodie Beattie describes my inner world really well in her book, Codependent No More: “We want some of the good stuff, and the good stuff is not in us. Pain is in us. We feel so helpless and uncertain. Others look so powerful and assured. We conclude the magic must be in them. So we become dependent on them… We become dependent on their approval.”

It wasn’t just negative statements that were hard for me to let go of, it was the positive ones as well. No one likes being criticize, but when you’re a whole person you can at least respond to negative feedback from a place of security in your identity. When you’re not a whole person you avoid criticism like the plague but lap up any meager scraps of positive affirmations like a dog under the table.

And that’s a dark sort of prison to live in. It’s living in a state of bondage to a very ungracious and unyielding master.

God loves me… but I don’t?

I side-stepped accepting my own worth with God too. Before realizing how little I truly valued myself, I used to think: “God may love me but I don’t understand why. I’ll just accept that God approves of me, even if I don’t. I don’t need to love myself or even like myself. God does so that’s all that matters.”

Basically I just disagreed with him that there was anything lovable or likable about me. He could love me because he’s God and he can do whatever he wants to do. Just as long as I wasn’t required to like or love myself.

But God has never wanted that. He has always wanted me to value myself as much as He does. He never asked me to just settle for tolerating myselft. He has always wanted me to freely embrace and accept the Ashley he has loved all along.

In fact, he has tried telling me that multiple times, I have just been too blind to see it.

During one of the Awakening services several years ago at the International House of Prayer here in Kansas City a woman came by and prophesied over me. I can’t remember everything she said, but there was something about her having an image of me on a swing and God was waiting for me to jump out of the swing so that he could catch me in the air. Every time I swung back and said to God, “You’re worthy”, he replied right back to me, “You’re worthy.” But I wouldn’t make the leap to embrace him or what he was saying.

God never intended for me to just settle for how he felt about me. He has always wanted me to love myself as much as he does. He has eagerly desired for me to come to my own realization of my worth, not just take his word for it.

It’s incredible to me that I can so easily stand in awe of God’s majesty when I’m watching a sunset or looking up at the mountains, and yet I cannot do the same when I approach myself. Why is that? What makes it okay to praise him for every other beautiful thing in the earth he has created except for the person created in his very image?

I finally took the time to ask myself, “Wait, hang on. Why do I focus on things outside of myself so much? Why do I trivialize my own experiences, feelings, and thoughts? Why do I focus so much on what other people think? There has to be a reason for this. I’ll never stop doing it if I don’t find out what the reason is.”

And I didn’t ask in the usual dismissive way I always had, like, “Come on Ashley, why do you still keep doing this? Just stop caring so much!”. I actually allowed myself to feel my need to care about what other people think. And once I gave myself permission to feel that way, I saw myself as a small child whose behavior I was trying to understand.

Once I questioned the lie, I was free to discover the truth.

I am enough

The reason for my obsession with other people’s opinions of me was that I thought I needed their opinions of me to know how much I was worth or to know if I was making the right decision. I didn’t believe my opinion of myself or about a situation mattered. I didn’t take myself seriously or believe I was smart enough, experienced enough, pretty enough, [fill in the blank with whatever] enough.

I thought everyone else must know more than me or there must be some reason to trust them more than I ought to trust my self… “Others look so powerful and assured. We conclude the magic must be in them.”

I have read two books in the last couple years that dealt specifically with accurately appraising your self-worth. One of those books was The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown, the other was Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It by Kamal Ravikant.

Both books explore the way we talk to ourselves and how we let shame or other people’s judgements of us influence our opinions about ourselves. While Kamal’s suggestion was to habitually tell yourself, “I love myself” over and over and over again, I found that it fell short for me.

Instead what clicked was a phrase Brené Brown uses in The Gifts of Imperfection: I am enough.”

In context, this is what she said in the very beginning of her book: “Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.

She continues later on in a chapter titled “Exploring the Power of Love, Belonging, and Being Enough”:

“As I conducted my interviews, I realized that only one thing separated the men and women who felt a deep sense of love and belonging from the people who seem to be struggling for it. That one thing is the belief in their worthiness. It’s as simple and complicated as this: If we want to fully experience love and belonging, we must believe that we are worthy of love and belonging…

When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving. Our sense of worthiness—that critically important piece that gives us access to love and belonging—lives inside of our story.

The greatest challenge for most of us is believing that we are worthy now, right this minute. Worthiness doesn’t have prerequisites. So many of us have knowingly created/unknowingly allowed/been handed down a long list of worthiness prerequisites:

  • I’ll be worthy when I lose twenty pounds.
  • I’ll be worthy if I can get pregnant.
  • I’ll be worthy if I get/stay sober.
  • I’ll be worthy if everyone thinks I’m a good parent.
  • I’ll be worthy when I can make a living selling my art.
  • I’ll be worthy if I can hold my marriage together.
  • I’ll be worthy when I make partner.
  • I’ll be worthy when my parents finally approve.
  • I’ll be worthy if he calls back and asks me out.
  • I’ll be worthy when I can do it all and look like I’m not even trying.

Here’s what is truly at the heart of Wholeheartedness: Worthy now. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.”

At the time when I read her book I was not quite in a place where I understood how I was still sabotaging my own worth.

But I do now.

and i said to my body, softly, %22i want to be your friend.%22 it took a long breath and replied, %22i have been waiting my whole life for this.%22So, as corny as it sounds, I marched myself directly into the bathroom, looked myself in the mirror and said: I like Ashley. I think Ashley is smart, special, funny, and kind. I want to get to know Ashley better. She is worth getting to know. She is enough right now, as is. She is worthy enough. She is worth just as much as anyone else. She is not less than anyone else. She is worth just as much as the Queen of England or the President of the United States. She is good enough!

Every time a statement is made about me (negative OR positive), I have learned to immediately stop and say, “Nope. They’re not worth more than me. I can decide for myself how I want to feel about myself.”

I also came across this quote by Vernon Howard recently that has reframed my rules for self-acceptance and how I handle external judgement: “A truly strong person does not need the approval of others any more than a lion needs the approval of sheep.”(And apparently something similar was said in an episode of Game of Thrones?)

It doesn’t sound nice to call everyone in your life a “sheep” but I’ve had to take that stance. I’ve had to constantly say, “I’m worth just as much as everyone else around me right now. I don’t have to think less of myself or discount my own feelings, thoughts or needs just because someone else is having a different experience. I am allowed to disagree with another person’s assessment of me or any given situation. In fact, I don’t need anyone else to tell me how to feel about myself. I am more than capable of deciding what is best for me because I am enough!

And it feels amazing. I don’t feel nearly as scared or ashamed as I used to. I feel more confident and free than I have in my entire life.

Someone thinks the clothes I wear look dumb? First of all, I am still enough. Second of all, I happen to disagree. And third of all — wait — Ashley doesn’t need to concern herself with the opinions of sheep!

The more I talk to myself in ways that are self-affirming, the more I lose my need to seek everyone else’s approval for my actions and choices.

Self-talk matters

Dove’s ‘One Beautiful Thought’ commercial shows the ugly strength of our negative internal self-talk.

They took some things that women had said about themselves in private and then used actors to repeat those things in a conversation to another woman in front of those same women, which you can watch below:

I have internalized so many things other people have said about me for so long I believed the statements to be true. And I repeated them to myself all day long, over and over and over again.

But lies only have power over us in the dark. They loose all their power as soon as they are exposed to the light.

It’s a lie that I’m annoying or an inconvenience to others. It’s a lie that I’m worth less than other human beings. It’s a lie that I can’t do certain things because I’m not strong enough, fast enough, pretty enough, rich enough, skinny enough, or whatever enough.

I can stink like a pig, have feet that look like they belong in a scene from the Shire in Lord of the Rings, sport ears as big as an elephant — and still, I am enough.

Conversely, I can have perfectly styled hair, the most incredible career, and the most prized medals for all my accomplishments — and still, none of those define my worth, because I am enough as is and without any of those things.

And not just because I say that I am (although God does want me to truly accept myself), but because God says that I am enough.

I am enough.

I am enough.

I am enough.

And I love the woman I am seeing come to life.

When life feels meaningless (a follow-up post to resting and finding new systems)

This is a bit of a follow-up to two different posts, which you can find here:

  1. Active Rest vs. Passive Rest
  2. Setting new goals vs. finding new systems

Even after trying to set some new goals for myself and trying to find some of my own resting techniques I was still struggling with feeling down in the dumps. So during the most recent session with my therapist (who I’ll refer to as “Dee”) I decided to talk with her about it.

Why you could be feeling depressed and why calling it depression isn’t always accurate or helpful

I started off my time with Dee by telling her that I felt depressed.

I went on for a while explaining various details, all of which seemed important to relate to her so that she could help me figure out how to not be depressed anymore. (Including some of the new goals I was attempting to set for myself.)

But rather than answering my questions or encouraging me to continue setting new goals for myself she replied, “Well, let’s go back to the first statement you made: You said you feel depressed. Now depression can mean a lot of things and be caused by a lot of things. So let’s start by telling me what you mean by that. Are you depressed because you’re sad? Are you depressed because you’re discouraged? What kind of depression are you experiencing?”

Emotions Wheel
An example of an emotions wheel, used in my online Dialectical Behavior Therapy Class

I told her that I felt like my life was adrift, meaningless. And I felt discouraged for not knowing what to do next, not knowing what my ultimate purpose was, and not knowing how to live out a meaningful life.

Okay then. Let’s talk about that.

See lots of things can cause depression. Sometimes it’s biological, sometimes it’s a life event, sometimes it’s your thought life. If you’re depressed because you feel like your life has no purpose then watching an entire season of The Office in one sitting isn’t really going to do much for you. In fact, it will probably make you feel even shittier. (Trust me on this one guys. I would know.)

On the other hand, if you are depressed because your boss is griping at you all the time and you hate your job then watching something funny (or participating in any activity than creates the opposite positive emotion to the negative one you are currently experiencing) can sometimes help.

In my case, I was discouraged by the idea that I should be in a more well-defined and established place in life. I felt like I had lost my ultimate purpose and worried I was wasting my life away.

The second part of my problem stemmed from the way I distract and run away from my depression or any ther negative emotion. So I asked how to balance living a meaningful purpose-filled life and not crash and burn in the process.

When I started to notice I was feeling depressed, what did I do? Well first I spent nearly an entire day in bed feeling scared and trying to figure out why I was feeling that way because I literally just came out of a really dark season and didn’t want to go through all that again.

I read all sorts of articles on finding out what my passions were and how to achieve my dreams. By the end of the day I had gone from deciding I needed a job to needing a college degree in everything. It didn’t really make me feel any better, but I thought it helped give me some direction.

The very next morning I got up, put my big girl pants on, and then like a mad woman I crammed about as many chores and tasks as I could manage into a 12 hour period.

Maybe twenty percent of those were tasks that actually needed to be done. But the other eighty percent were driven totally by the fear of feeling depressed and trying to bury it away.

But the point is there was no in between. And NONE of those things actually helped me get any closer to the things I thought I needed to do to have more purpose in my life.

I either wallowed in self-pity, hating it and fighting against every minute of it, or I just decided that I was going to keep myself so busy and distracted that I could entirely ignore my depression altogether. (at least until the nighttime anxiety kicks in right before bed.)

And that’s why I asked my Dee how I could balance living out a meaningful life and not completely empty myself or burn out (which just leads to even worse depression).

Her simple solution? Everyday prioritize and pick four or five of the things that need to be done and that make a difference in your immediate environment — at the very most — then do at least one thing exclusively for me.

The result will be that I’ll still feel like I accomplished something worthwhile in my day-to-day life (which will at least help with some of the nighttime anxiety), and then by spending about one hour a day caring for me I’ll keep from completely depleting myself and spiraling downwards any further.

It’s important to find things that I can do for myself that make me feel cared for, valued, loved. I need to do things that say, “Ashley you are so worth this. Your needs matter and you deserve to meet them in whatever way you know how. So why don’t you take a break and give Ashley some TLC?”

And it’s why I often find myself so frustrated and twisted up by the end of the day. Not only am I sometimes not  accomplishing much with my daily chore sometimes, but I’m also not trying to spend any focused time caring for myself. I’m doing neither and so I end up feeling like my needs are neglected and then anxious/stressed because the external needs around the home haven’t been taken care of.

So the two big questions she said I need to ask myself in the days to come are:

  1. What can I do today that will make me feel like I am making a difference?
    (Or, what are the four to five things I would like to accomplish today?)
  2. What can I do today that will make me feel calm and cared for in a way that no one else can?
    (Or, what is the one thing I would like to do just for myself to feel loved and cared for?)

Asking myself those two questions on a day-to-day basis will help me not feel so lost and pointless — which is fundamentally what was making me feel depressed.

Our Ultimate Goal as Christians and Your Unique Role as an Individual

So at least building that into my routine will help me in my day to day life, but I told Dee that I still felt like my bigger problem was that my life seemed like it was going no where and I didn’t have sense for a long-term goal to work towards.

She said that ultimately everyone’s universal goal for existing is to bring glory to God. That’s the same general, long-term purpose for all of us because as humans we are made in His image. But then we each have different and unique ways that we can go about bringing Him that glory.

See part of the reason I started feeling depressed (or discouraged) in the first place was because I compared myself to other people my age and what they’ve accomplished with their lives. One of the old lie tapes that likes to play in my head is, “You need to do more. You need to be more. You’re not enough. You’re not worth as much as them.”

So even though I felt depressed/discouraged/meaningless, I didn’t want to actually let myself feel that way because I thought if I could just catch up to everyone one else I wouldn’t need to feel that way anymore. Which is crazy talk.

My ultimate and long-term goal is to bring glory to God. And the unique way I am fulfilling that in the short-term presently is by reclaiming all the territory lost to the enemy and healing the areas that need healing.

That’s it.

Just by existing I bring God glory. But my specially designed purpose at this time is to do that via investing time and resources in my personal growth. I’m not bringing him the glory he deserves by constantly depleting myself and comparing myself to other people. Taking care of me is the absolute highest form of honor and praise I can give God presently. No more, no less.

That is a noble and worthy purpose.

And judging by the amount of time God has been spending on healing me seems to say it’s really important to him and he has some purpose for it that is unknown to me at this time. But that’s okay. He does.

For I know the plans I have for you…

And it could take a few years. Who knows? At least I don’t have to worry that I’m thirty years old and wasting my life away just because someone else who is also thirty years old is doing more than me.

some of those around you will not understand your journey. That's okay. They don't need to. It's not for them.

I did go ahead though and ask God at one point over the last couple days:” What am I doing with my life, God? What are we (Michael and I) doing? Will we ever live meaningful lives again?”

And do you know what his response was?

“You don’t need to know that right now. You will find your purpose when you seek me intentionally.”

And Dee literally said almost the same thing: “Your purpose right now is to reclaim the territory lost to the enemy. God will reveal your unique purpose to you. You’re just going to spin your wheels trying to discover it on your own or make it happen. Trust him and know that He knows the future and when he is ready to, he will bring your purpose to you. He has everything planned out even if you have no idea what’s going on. You’re tucked away for now and that’s exactly where you need to be.

We are owned by God. We are like tools in his garden shed and he gets to decide how and when we are used by him. Sometimes we get a cleaning up. Other times we’re put to use. And then other times we’re stored away until the proper time. But God is not careless with his tools.”

Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies… (John 12:24)

On the way home, I was listening to music and chewing on everything I talked about with my therapist. At one point during the drive I remembered a promise God gave me, gosh, nearly eight years ago now that I had forgotten about (see, this is why you write stuff down folks).

During that season I was experiencing a lot of intense personal spiritual warfare. Very real and hardcore spiritual warfare. After a lot of prayer and healing God finally told me one night, “I have great things in store for you. I have great things in store for you. I have great things in store for you.”

How could I forget such a powerful promise? Even in my darkest and most lost moments I can always hold on to the TRUTH/PROMISE/FACT that the Lord is for me. He is not against me. That he knows the plans and thoughts he has for me…

…plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call on Me and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear your voice and I will listen to you. Then with a deep longing you will seek Me and require Me as a vital necessity and you will find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” says the Lord, “and I will restore your fortunes and I will free you and gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ says the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:11-14

I also happened to be listening to the song “Rise” by Josh Garrels at the same time. The verse where he sings: “All [that’s] lost will be, restored” is so powerful in my life right now. Michael said that God told him our word for the year 2016 is “Restoration.” 

Yes and amen to that. I’m taking back what the enemy stole. This is MY year.

I hung my head, for the last time
In surrender and despair
Before I’m dead, I’ll take the last climb
Up the mountain, face my fears
The time has come, to make a choice
Use my voice for the love of every man
My minds made up, never again
Never again, will I turn round

Though they may surround me like lions
And crush me on all sides
I may fall, but I will rise
Not by my might, or my power, or by the strength of swords
Only through, your love, my lord
All we’ve lost, will be, restored

Take courage sons, for we must go under
The heart of darkness, and set them free
But don’t lose heart when you see the numbers
There’s no measure for, the faith we bring
It’s given us, to overcome
If we run, where the spirit calls us on
The greatest things, have yet to come
With the dawn, we will rise

Though they may surround us like lions
And crush us on all sides
we may fall, but we will rise
Not by my might, or my power, or by the strength of swords
Only through, your love, my lord
All we’ve lost, will be, restored

[song by Josh Garrels from the album Love & War & The Sea In Between]

Setting new goals vs. finding new systems

I don’t really set goals. I kind of just float along until I find something that really interests me and then go for it. But I’d like to be a little more consistent moving forward.

So I was trying to read online about how to set goals for myself when I cam across these articles:

  1. An Almost Foolproof Way to Achieve Every Goal You Set – Jeff Haden,
  2. Goals vs. Systems – Scott Adams Blog
  3. Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead – James Clear
  4. Why you should focus on habits and systems, not goals – Belle Beth Cooper,

Basically they all kind of say the same thing: Don’t set goals because you can’t control that. Instead focus on developing repeatable processes (systems) which in time will hopefully turn into habits, or actions you do on autopilot without having to think about it.

I’ve never really sat down and evaluated what my big dreams are or what I’d really like to do. So I sat down and wrote out a few minor and major goals/habits I’d like to cultivate in my life.

Here are some of the little ideas I was toying around with:

  • Get better at doing my hair.
  • Get better at doing my makeup.
  • Eat more vegetables.
  • Work out more, get more activity in my daily routine.
  • Stop biting my nails.
  • Write more.
  • Find a new organization or community to volunteer with.
  • Start composting in our apartment.
  • Go on a vacation by myself.
  • Learn how to knit better.
  • Journal more

And some bigger goals:

  • Build my own tiny house or chalet in the mountains in a forested area, like Colorado, Idaho or somewhere in the Pacific Northwest
  • Learn to speak Spanish
  • Write children’s books about our greyhound, Charlotte.
  • Learn how to design and sell knitting patterns.
  • Consider finding a way to make money selling wine candles, aromatherapy diffusers, or knitted items on Etsy.

Also because I know that our brains can be super lazy don’t like doing new or foreign things, I watched this TEDxSF Talk to motivate myself: How to stop screwing yourself over | Mel Robbins

I like how Mel Robbins said to be honest about your true motivation.

Just saying I don’t want to bite my nails isn’t hitting close enough to home. What I really want is to stop being embarrassed every time I have to show my hands in public. Or the real reason I want to get better at doing my hair and makeup is so I don’t feel so intimated by other girls who look nicer than me.

Those don’t sound like very “noble” reasons, but they are the real reasons I want to change those behaviors.

I can’t work on all my goals at once but I have decided on a few I can work on a little everyday and develop systems for them. For instance, my biggest barrier at the moment getting to the gym is that it’s just not a normal part of my routine. I think instead if I can get up in the morning and go first thing I’ll be able to build it into my day.

I also have a tendency when I do goto the gym to not pace myself. I don’t pay attention to my body, heart rate or pain levels. But if my long-term goal (system) is to be more active, then I need to learn to be mindful of my body and pace myself.

I want to finally be fluent in Spanish too. I always have. So I started using Duolingo again and have set a goal of earning 50xp points on their website everyday. It’s not a crazy huge amount, but its enough for me to do everyday because I’m thinking about the long-term, not just the short-term.

And then I also have my more important personal systems/goals that I want to continue to focus on such as practicing mindfulness meditation, reading more books related to codependency and self-improvement, incorporating more self-care activities into my daily routine, and in general just learning more about me as a person.

I realize that I may start trying out some of these activities and decide I don’t want to do them anymore or I just fail at them altogether. The great thing about that though is I can still learn from the experience and use that knowledge to do something different in the future. But if I never try in the first place, I’ll never know.

Active Rest vs. Passive Rest

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.”Matthew 11:28-30

I’ve made a lot changes this year to improve my overall quality of life. But one area I’m still struggling with is the way I want to veg out on my iPad or on Netflix when I need to relax or want to take a break.

Out of habit, without even thinking about it, I immediately goto my iPad as a way of “resting”. But it’s not really a restorative kind of rest. It’s more like being lazy and just numbing out. I never actually feel restored or rejuvenated after using it. And even though I’ve kind of noticed that for a while now, I’ve still kept on using it out of habit to passively rest.

But it occurred to me that the reason I haven’t changed that habit is because I haven’t taken the time to find new activities that would actually be restful for me. I need to find NEW activities that restore me and I need to retrain my brain to seek those new activities out rather than just automatically going for my iPad all the time.

I’ve come up with a list of things I enjoy that also put me in a meditative state and/or are truly relaxing for me. I plan on keeping the list as a note on my phone and adding it to my refrigerator where it will be easily seen.

So here were few of the new rest activities I came up with:

  • Doing a puzzle (I love this one!)
  • Knitting
  • Meditation, praying, or practicing a new mindfulness technique
  • Yoga
  • Reading
  • Journaling
  • Working in a coloring book
  • Playing solitaire or another kind of card game by myself
  • Going for a bike ride or walk
  • Going for a drive and listening to music
  • Taking a bath
  • Baking a treat I enjoy
  • Doing Sudoku or a word search game
  • Going camping
  • Writing letters to friends
  • Painting
  • Sitting on my balcony outside and enjoying looking at my flowers

A lot of these are activities I do already, I just have never told myself that I’m going to do them specifically when I want to take a break. So doing them won’t be hard. Making myself do them for the exclusive purpose of resting will be.

The difference with all the activities I listed is that they are all forms of active rest, whereas numbing on my iPad or binge watching on Netflix are forms of passive rest.

Active rest requires active participation on my part but is a healthy and productive way to recharge my batteries. Active rest works because the activities I participate in are enjoyable and engage me at some level –  whether that’s mentally, physically, emotionally, or spiritually – while at the same time allowing me to relax and let off a little steam in a constructive way.

Passive rest on the other hand doesn’t really require any level of mental or physical engagement on my part. All that’s required is for me to just kick back, unplug and let the device in front of me take over.

This type of rest isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. It just needs to be done in moderation. Watching a few episodes of my favorite funny show on Netflix when I’m sad is a really good way to snap out of a funk. But binge-watching an entire season all at once turns me into a mindless zombie. I still think it’s okay to occasionally use passive forms of rest, but it shouldn’t be the default.

Another way of thinking about the difference between active rest and passive rest is active rest is mindful, passive rest is mindless.

So since it will be a new habit for me to find active rest activities and not automatically go for my iPad, I think I’ll prepare “rest box” ahead of time to have on hand. Until my new habit is set in place, the temptation to go back to my old habit of vegging out on the iPad will still be strong because the brain is lazy af, haha. So it’ll be a good idea to have something readily available for me to make good choices .

I don’t want to take any chances or give myself any excuses not to change and create better rest habits for myself! 😅😅

You matter, even if you didn’t do a single thing today that mattered.

My healing process has been like peeling back the layers of an onion. I just keep discovering more and more lies I’ve believed or thought patterns that I need to change.

Recently I had a series of “let downs” or “failures” that triggered some anxiety in me.

I had to frog two different knitting projects, not once but multiple times. So I just totally gave up on all my knitting for a while and felt like crap for not being better at it. I also tried signing up for a knitting class to help me figure out what I was doing wrong, but had to cancel due to some annoying inflammation in my wrist that was making knitting painful.

Another project I’ve been wanting to work on had to be put on hold because of the unexpected cost of some of the materials.

I also forgot to call someone back about an appointment with them and the day rolled around when we had tentatively scheduled to meet and they had been waiting for me. I felt really guilty about that.

We also tried going camping recently but I got sick the first night out and had to come home early (another fructose attack, which that alone was disappointing because I haven’t had one of those in MONTHS).

Then I was bumming around on Instagram when I came across a post of a blogger I follow who was just turning thirty. She’s writing a recipe book, wakes up naturally at 6:30am, has done magazine interviews, etc. And even though I know to stop and remember that social media only presents the edited highlight reel of people’s lives, I still couldn’t help but think, “Shit. Look at how much she has accomplished and she’s my age. What the f*ck am I doing with my life? I need to do more. I need to be more.”

And *cue the nosedive*

Without stopping the thought in its place, I just blindly accepted the lie that I’m not worth as much unless I’m accomplishing big, visible things. Or if I don’t have tangible things to show for my accomplishments I’m wasting my life away.

And at this point, I feel like I should know better than to keep buying into that crap.

I noticed all the signs of a low spell coming on so I took some time to practice mindfulness meditation. Instead of just totally giving into the feelings I was experiencing, I took a moment to acknowledge them AND then search for the cause. I became a spectator to my emotions rather than a participant in them.

This is why I believe practicing mindfulness has changed my life. Instead of numbing, distracting, or escaping from life’s problems, mindfulness creates a space for you to meet yourself graciously with love to get a better idea of what’s going on below the surface.

I realized that my problem wasn’t the desire to constantly be working on something, it was why I had that desire and what was motivating it. Somewhere along the way I was still trying to let something else define my worth. I was still holding onto a lie that I wasn’t worth much or anything at all unless I had something tangible to show for my efforts.

That’s why I get discouraged so easily when things I’m working on don’t turn out as perfect as I want or can’t be done within a certain time frame. As long as I believe that my worth is attached to my accomplishments or my failures of course I’m going to have anxiety and feel like shit.

But here’s the truth:

Your worth is not defined by what you do or don’t do. It isn’t defined by what you accomplish or how much you accomplish, or what you fail at or how often you fail. You can half-ass a million things, leave books half-finished, forget to return people’s phone calls, let the dishes pile up in the sink for weeks, but the bottom line still is: you are intrinsically valuable no matter what you have achieved today or not. You are worthy even if all you did today was lie in bed and stare at the ceiling. You are totally free to love and accept yourself FULLY AS IS — no strings attached. You matter even if you didn’t do a single thing today that mattered.

It’s a lie that I can’t just be content with who I am as person. Let other people judge me for what I get done in a day or don’t get done. They don’t know my story or how far I’ve come. And you know what else? There’s something wrong with an individual who makes snap judgements about a person they don’t even know. That’s saying a heck of a lot more about them than it is me.

So here’s to peeling back another onion layer of lies and moving forward in more freedom.

“We [who are born again—reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, and set apart for His purpose] are not children of a slave woman [the natural], but of the free woman [the supernatural]. It was for this freedom that Christ set us free [completely liberating us]; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery [which you once removed].” (Galatians 4:31 – 5:1)


Hello? *mic tap* Is this thing on?

“Before the breakdown, I was sweeter — judgmental, resentful, and angry on the inside — but sweeter on the outside. Today, I think I’m genuinely more compassionate, less judgmental and resentful and way more serious about boundaries. I have no idea what this looks combination looks like on the outside, but it feels pretty powerful on the inside.” – Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Been kind of a crazy past few months in terms of my personal growth and journey.

Spent September through December-ish of 2015 trying to hide living with some of the worst depression and anxiety I’ve ever experienced in my life. Yuck, yuck, yuck. It sucked.

I still have my days where it’s a bit of a challenge, but mostly I’m doing much better than I have been.

Half my battle was just how confused I felt. I didn’t understand why I was experiencing such a lowness in spirit. I thought I was pretty mentally healthy and lived a relatively healthy life. But I’ve come to realize (and continue to realize more and more) that I have spent the majority of my life living co-dependently. I’ve lived without a central core of fully knowing and relying on my own self-worth. I’ve always looked outside of myself for approval, acceptance, and value.

If I annoyed someone accidentally, I was bad. If I got someone a good gift for their birthday, I was good. If I cussed too much, I was a bad Christian from my assumed perspective of other Christians. If I stood my ground and acted in a way that felt true to my conscience, I was naive, dumb, or even “hateful” to those with an opposing view. If I didn’t keep a clean home, I was lazy. If I did, I was a good wife. If I didn’t like a band that everyone else did, I was lame. If I liked a band that other people did, I was “in”. If I cooked good food, I was worth something. If what I made tasted off because of my changing dietary needs, I should be ashamed of myself.

I was both too much and too little depending on who I randomly believed needed to determine my worth.

I sucked at saying “no” or disagreeing. I used to sometimes go hours without eating, drinking, or using the bathroom if I was in the company of others because I was too scared to interrupt the fun or “impose” my needs on them. Or I just forgot paying attention to myself altogether (something which I still do, almost like I’m addicted to ignoring myself). I constantly let myself be invalidated by stronger personalities that thought my preferences or needs were less important than theirs. And I felt angry almost all the time because I was constantly, and mindlessly, committing myself to things that I didn’t actually want to do. I became resentful of all the ways I bent over backwards to help, “rescue”, or accommodate others, while they weren’t giving a second thought to what mattered to me.

What finally exposed all this internal rubbish was our time in India. (Yes, God. I’m still going on about that.)

I still have days, moments even, when I wish we would have never gone to India. Truly. I have wept who knows how many times thinking about how much it has cost me, Michael, and our marriage. Then I have other moments, when I can clearly see who I am today and I know India was God’s way of healing me. India was the refining fire and I was the gold. And God spent nearly two years melting me down and bringing all my impurities to the surface to finally be dealt with and removed — because He works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28) AND he will complete the work He started in me (Philippians 1:6).

But it took me almost 3 years to finally face my fears and allow myself to acknowledge those impurities and the process God had already started. I resisted it.

After we got back from India that I started experiencing really debilitating digestive issues and joint pain. I went to the doctors. I did the tests. I changed my diet. I took the supplements. But it didn’t get any better. Meanwhile, emotionally I initially felt relieved and happy to be home. I was living again. I had occasional nighttime anxiety, but overall I felt in control of my life once again and like I could take on the world.

But after a while the temporary distraction of being back home wore off. I started to not want to leave our apartment as much. I started to avoid talking to people. I didn’t want to volunteer anymore. I dreaded phone calls. I started to have days where I didn’t really want to do anything at all. I noticed I was growing horizontal “stress dents” across the tops of my nails even though I didn’t think I had real reason to feel stress. My hair was thinning. I had heart palpitations routinely. I was having anxiety attacks more frequently at night. I’d wake up feeling like my life had no purpose. I just wanted to lay in bed and cry.

And then I’d buck up, find some new project or vacation to focus on and it would kick the funk for a little while. But it never lasted. For the last few years it’s been kind of a roller-coaster of depression dragging me down and me hitting the snooze button on it because I didn’t want to deal with it. But what was bubbling under the surface wasn’t something to be ignored. It never went away.

I felt ashamed of it honestly. And shame only has power over you when you’re isolated. And I very much wanted to be left alone until I could get my shit together. I wanted to continue being perceived as the creative, productive, organized, and nice little Ashley who never said “no”. I hated being in a position where I didn’t understand what my own problems were.

I imagined how it left the door open to all sorts of judgement and unsolicited advice: “Well have you tried this?”, “Oh you just need to try this!”, “Cheer up, it’s not that bad!”, “Have you considered that maybe you’re [fill in the blank with various mental illnesses]?”, “Well, you know, you probably wouldn’t feel this way if you’d get an actual job.”, “You kind of did this to yourself. You should try harder.”, “You only have yourself to blame. If it really bothered you, you should have done something about it.”

So I didn’t really reach out to anyone for practically four months during nearly one of darkest and scariest time of my life. By the time I did, I had been to see two other therapists and I was having on average 5-6 panic attacks a day.

bc815c45684c42292a0a549962aecbefThat was in December, shortly before my 30th birthday.

After some visits with an old and cherished therapist of mine, I eventually celebrated the big 3-0 by going to JoAnn and shopping their clearance Christmas decorations. That’s what I wanted to do. That’s what sounded fun to me. And it was. Michael and I came back home and spent the evening listening to Christmas music and decorating the apartment. It felt right. And it felt good to finally do what was right for me and not worry what other people would think about it.

And I had a realization: Jesus was also 30 when he stepped out and said, “Okay world, here I am. I am going to live the life publicly that I was called to live.” I was encouraged by that. I saw that it wasn’t too late for me to start living my own life in the way I was designed to live, regardless of how it may end up looking to those around me.

I’ve decided my next 30 years are going to be much different than the first 30. I’ve decided I’m going to learn a lot about Ashley and learn to like her for her. I think she’s worth it, even other folks disagree. I’ve decided I’m going to learn to be free and fully accept the ME that God has loved all along.



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