What Meeting My Favourite Author Taught Me About Comparison.

We all have that “one person” who opened our eyes to what’s truly possible for our lives. Your person may be the 6th-grade teacher who showed you how an encouraging word can stick with someone for years. Or it could be the doctor with the kind eyes who helped you realize that treating people with modern medicine is what you’re called to do.

My person was a blogger-turned-author from New York. Years ago, I’d stumbled onto her page and found solace in her words. Her stories soothed an ache in me I didn’t know I had, and her words were a lifeline out of my pit of depression. We were a whole world apart, but through her stories, she became my friend, mentor, and biggest cheerleader. I devoured every post she wrote and paid an arm and a leg to ship her books to Australia.

“This is exactly what I want to do,” I told myself after reading yet another one of her beautiful blog posts. “I want to spend my life writing words that make people feel seen and heard in their mess.”

Two years later, I followed her footsteps and pressed publish on my humble blog. It was the most courageous move I’d ever made up to that point in my life and led to me becoming a creative copywriter for visionary business owners. The dream I had was rapidly turning into a reality, and with every opportunity that came my way, I felt indebted to this writer for helping me overcome my fear.

Then, the inevitable happened.

I got caught in the trap that writers who rely on their work for a living fall into. I focused less on the joy of writing, and more on how I could make it work for me. I wanted to grow and earn a substantial living. I was hungry for more validation, money, and readers. I wanted to be known for my beautiful prose and stories, just like the author whose words I’d stumbled on.

‘I wish I could be as cool as her,’ was the first thought that cropped up as I watched her life play out on her Instagram stories: a life where her words spread like wildfire across social media and every post received dozens of adoring comments.

But then, the thought started to take a life of its own:

“Why is she making more of an impact than I am?”

“Why is she more successful than I am?”

“Why can’t I be more like her?”

Like soldiers on a battlefield, I lined up every single one of our traits and began comparing them to figure out how she had achieved success at such a young age. She’d received her first book deal at the same age I am now. What was she doing that was making her so much better than me? I believed her path was the only one to success, and I was hell-bent on following in her footsteps.

My uncontrollable urge to compare myself to her, and my frustration at not being where I wanted to be, mixed together to become a poisonous concoction of pain and anger. Instead of being inspired by her, I was filled with resentment.

Like weeds, comparison begins its lifespan so small and seemingly harmless that we’re initially dismissive of its existence. It starts off with a tiny twinge here, and a throbbing ache there. It’s birthed from a small question, “Why doesn’t my life look like theirs?” and grows into a nutrient sucking force that wails, “Why aren’t I enough?”

Distrust and bitterness grow rampant when we continue to water the seeds of comparison. Left unrooted, it can entangle us in a never-ending cycle of wondering why other people have it better than we do. It can choke the life out of the dreams we’ve planted for ourselves and make us question if it’s worth tending to our garden if someone else’s is just going to look better. It can be the driving force that compels us to keep striving to prove we’re worthy — only to leave us burnt out in the end.

I let the weeds of comparison grow for so long that it wrapped around my creativity and strangled the life out of it. I no longer created; I consumed. I couldn’t sit at the blank page without berating myself for not being as good as her. Any story I produced was dull and lacked the flair that made it truly unique.

It was the devastating loss of my voice that finally prompted me to take action and deal with my comparison issues once and for all. With the money I’d set aside for a rainy day, I hopped online, booked a two-hour coaching session with the author, and mulled over what I would say.

How do you tell someone their words are both a blessing and a curse?

When we met over Skype, she sat and listened attentively while I revealed how her words had impacted my life and how I’d “lost” my voice.

“I fear I’m trying to become too much like you and it’s manifesting itself in the way I write,” I told her.

She smiled before taking a deep breath and saying:

“You’re not me and you never will be. You have your own voice to craft and stories to tell that are yours and only yours. Focus on being you.”


Two years on, I now know that we were never created to be like anyone else. Once I could separate myself from the vicious thoughts that were clouding my mind, I could see that I had my own way of stringing words together and telling stories. And it was just as valid as hers.

I didn’t conquer comparison that day. I don’t think it’s something we triumph over once and never measure ourselves again. Rather, it’s something we must continuously acknowledge. We must intentionally uproot the lies every time it strikes our most vulnerable areas.

The world doesn’t need you to become a carbon copy of someone else — no matter how incredible you think they are. It needs you to be someone who isn’t afraid to blaze your own trail, live out your own experiences, and then come boldly to the page to write about it in a voice that’s truly yours.

The irony is that, while you’re over here looking at another person’s life, someone else is probably wondering why they aren’t more like you.

And how heartbreaking would it be if you never discovered your voice because you were too busy trying to imitate someone else’s.


I put words to emotions, tell stories for visionary business owners, and write love letters every Wednesday. To get your weekly dose of love, encouragement, and confetti in your inbox, drop your email below.

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Are There Good Things Ahead For Me?

“Are there good things ahead for me?” she texted me, late one night.

I drew in a tight breath as I read her message. A dozen responses flooded my mind, but none felt good enough to support the weight of her question. Everything I wanted to say felt glib and wouldn’t begin to scratch the surface of everything she was feeling in that moment. 

How do you talk someone out of their existential crisis in less than 300 characters? 

Her question is one that I’m intimately familiar with. And I bet you are too.

It’s a thought that creeps slowly into your mind when you’re struggling to fall asleep after a bad day. It flares up when you’re in the throes of another heartbreak, or when you listen to a friend gush about the incredible things happening in their life. It’s an innocent question that can rapidly spiral out of control: are there good things ahead?

The evidence piling up in your mind confirms the answer is no. You’re stuck in a mind-numbing job with no fulfilment in sight. Good, healthy people you love get sick. You’re in a rut with no clue how to get out. You’re ghosted by someone who doesn’t have the courtesy to say “thanks, but no thanks” to your face.

The jury in your mind lays down the verdict: there are no good things here.

Then, it gets worse.

You cast a furtive glance to other people beside you and it turns into full blown gawking when you see them get all the things you’ve secretly been longing for. A high-paying job with the freedom to travel. An Instagram-worthy relationship. A seemingly care-free life. Gawking turns into resentment: why is this person getting all the blessings you’ve ever wanted?

You ask yourself again: are there good things ahead for me?

Sometimes, you have enough willpower to cast the thought aside. Your to-do list calls out your name, you turn to Netflix to numb your thoughts, or slumber finally overtakes you. But, often, when the day is long and you’re feeling weary, you give in. 

In an angry, hurt state, you text someone you know you can unload your emotions on.  

You repeat the question, ‘Are there good things coming my way? When is it my turn?’

You want the other person to validate you; to say yes, your life is crap. You secretly want the pity.  But you also want reassurance that good things are coming your way. You don’t want clichés shoved down your throat or a generic statement like, “Yes, of course there are.” You want an explanation for why life has fallen vastly short of your expectations.  

Having repeated this cycle multiple times before, I was hesitant to respond to her text. 

What do you mean by good things, anyway?

During my own spiral, friends would often turn this question back around on me. What are you waiting for?

I’d get frustrated and want to scream at them, ‘Good things. Ordinary things. The things that appear to come effortlessly to others.’

I wanted a job I loved and more direction in my life. I wanted to stop feeling the perpetual heaviness of depression and sadness on my chest. I wanted love to come as easily to me as it did for everyone else. I wanted to feel normal and have the same beautiful things as everyone else.

I thought my life would be ‘good’ when every area of my life – love, work, friendships – was running smoothly. But work and friendships would be thriving, while my heart broke. Or I’d be surrounded by a loving community but feel unfulfilled about my job and my finances.

It’s like I was living life on a treadmill: forever sprinting after happiness, while never moving from the one spot. I’d feel winded, with legs like jelly, wondering why I wasn’t where I wanted to be.

***

Late last year, I caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. We sat perched on stools in the corner of a cosy cafe, and we listened to each other regurgitate all the events that’d unfolded since we last spoke. 

While sipping on my latte, I listened to her recap everything about her life, from the guy she wasn’t sure she was dating to the woes of her full-time job. 

As she spoke, I remember thinking: there are amazing things coming for this person. I can’t wait to see what her life looks like in six-month’s time.

Although she was battling her own frustrations and discontent, I knew she would find a way through it. She always did. From where I sat, I could see all the good things that had unfolded in her life, and I knew in my bones that more incredible things were coming her way – even if she couldn’t see it herself. 

I couldn’t help but wonder: Why is it so easy to see goodness destined for other people and not for myself?

It’s hard to believe things will get better when we’re knee-deep in the middle of a storm and surrounded by the wreckage of our unfulfilled dreams and broken expectations. We can’t see the clear skies ahead or the dark clouds slowly starting to dissipate. All we can see are our flaws and the way we don’t measure up. Surely, no good thing can find its way to me, we tell ourselves. 

But as I looked at my friend and saw the presence of goodness throughout her life, it made me think about my life, and what people must see when they look at me. 

Just like how you look at someone and see only the most wonderful things, someone else is looking at you and thinking exactly the same thing. 

***

My definition of ‘good things’ is slowly evolving. I no longer set perfection in every area of my life as the goal to attain. By doing so, I was breaking my own heart unnecessarily. I knew even when I did reach the job promotion, relationship, and peace I strived for, all I wanted was more. We humans are insatiable like that.

Now, I like to think that ‘good things’ are drip-fed into our lives. If we were to get everything we wanted all at once, we’d take it for granted.

At the start of my writing journey, I remember telling my mentor about the exciting opportunities that had come my way. People who weren’t my mum had told me they liked my words and wanted me to write for their publications. My friends were rallying around me, and the person I was dating at the time had yet to throw up any red flags. Things were good. 

Almost too good. 

“I keep waiting for the other shoe drop,” I told my mentor. “I’m scared that as soon as I let my guard down, it’s all going to fall apart.” 

Although I had everything I wanted at the time, I couldn’t enjoy it at all. I spent the whole time eyeing my blessings sceptically and trying not to get too attached to the feeling of contentment because I didn’t want to feel crushed when it was yanked away from me. 

But when small blessings crop up in unexpected ways, I find myself appreciating them a lot more. A random text message from a friend in the middle of a dreary day makes me smile. Finding the right word after struggling for days to write a blog post, feels like a victory worthy of being shared on Facebook. 

I don’t remember the exact words I used to respond to my friend. But I understand why she asked the question. 

When all you can see is your mess, you often need to hear someone else point out the things you’ve been missing. Even though we may not believe it ourselves, hearing someone’s deep conviction that there are good things coming our way may be what we need to start believing it too. 

If you were to ask me the same question then here’s what I’d say:

Yes. It’s inevitable, just like how the sun rises and sets every day. There’s a fulfilling job with your name on it. A love story in the process of being written. You’ll meet strangers who’ll turn into lifelong friends, and friends who turn into something more. The obstacles that are tripping you up today will soon be nothing more than a minor inconvenience. The sharp ache you feel because he rejected you will eventually be a distant memory. 

But there are also good things happening, right here, right now. They’re buried beneath the carnage of crappy things. But look closely enough, and you’ll see them. Someone thinks the way you tell stories is utterly hilarious. Someone needed to hear how you faced your fears and came out on the other side. Another person made a decision to keep moving forward because of you. You have so much impact running through your veins and you don’t even know it. You’re discovering the things that light you up, and steering clear from the things that drain your energy. With every step forward you take, you’re inching closer and closer to where you want to be. 

Hold out for the good things. I promise you’ll see them soon. 


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A Letter On Creativity & Comparison

The following email was reposted with permission.

Dear Ash,

A large part of why I create is because I don’t know who I am without it. I especially love that through creating I’m able to make people feel like themselves. Because for so long, that’s what creating has meant for me. It’s been both a dream and a promise.

Then I made the mistake of playing the comparison game. I spent way too many hours looking at Instagram posts and blog posts and views and comments. I’m almost entirely certain I had at least sixteen different tabs open on my laptop at one point just so I could see where I was going ‘wrong’. Why I had less views, fewer comments.

I was a few hours into the comparison game when I took a look at every hurdle I’d overcome. And I thought to myself :

‘My struggles will forever mean I’ll always have to work twice as hard to be successful. And because of that, I will never succeed as a creative. Everything will come easier to everyone than it will to me.’

But now I’m exhausted. I’ve spent so much time hating on everything that’s brought me joy over the past few years to want to do any of the things that genuinely make me excited about life. The comparison game has mentally and creatively drained me and for the first time in a long time, I’m not excited to create.

Has this ever happened to you? Any ideas on how to solve it?

All my love,

A


Dear A,

When I first started writing, I declared that I was going to publish a blog post every week. I was going to show up, be consistent, and see that commitment through. For a while, I kept that promise. I would pull up a blank page every week and write all the stories and words I wished I could have read when I was younger. I had pent up my creativity for so long that when I finally had the chance to write, it all came flowing out. When my blog was shiny and new, I was so grateful to have just one person read my words. Any more than that was the cherry on top.

Have you ever noticed that as soon as you become aware of something, you start to see it everywhere? It’s like when you get a new pair of boots, and you suddenly notice it on the feet of everyone your cross paths with. That phenomenon is known as ‘frequency illusion.’ Now that I had carved out my own corner of the internet, it felt like every man, woman, and dog was trying to establish themselves online. As I consumed more of their content, I started to feel a twinge of envy here and an ache over there. There were so many brilliant creatives out there with a huge audience. Why would anyone care about me? How was I to succeed? These writers were so much better than me so what was the point?

Like you, I started to play the comparison game. I became torn up over the numbers and I agonised over why other people were getting a better return on investment than I was.

So, I stopped writing.

I justified to myself that I was merely giving myself space to focus on my clients and prioritise the writing that was going to get me paid. But the truth was: my inspiration had dried up. My willpower had deserted me. Writing had become a chore and the joy I once felt for creating was stifled by the thoughts that I wasn’t enough.

You and I are very similar, A. We attach so much of ourselves to our work. We bare the most vulnerable part of our souls and we feel crushed when it seems like nobody cares. Left unchecked, that crushing feeling is what drives so many people to give up on blogs halfway, close up businesses, and deactivate Instagram accounts.

Here’s what I know about the comparison game: there are no winners. While you’re comparing yourself to that writer, they’re probably comparing themselves to someone else. The result is two individuals who feel deflated and less-than.

Comparison also gives you an incomplete picture. It’s a flawed view of someone else’s life. It’s easy to look at other people’s creations and see all the things they’re doing better than you.

But you literally have no idea what’s happening behind the scenes.

This could be their 3rd attempt at creating a blog. They could have been honing their craft behind the scenes for years and only choosing to share it with the world now. They could have messaged all their friends and asked them to leave likes and comments. For every successful blog post you see, there are pages and pages of drafts that never got to see the light of day.

It’s normal as a creative in 2020 to get caught up in social media and the numbers. But here’s some tough love: there will always be someone out there with better metrics than you. Even if you were to reach a goal of 10,000 readers, there will be someone else out there who has 20,000. Chasing metrics is a race you will never win. The magic lies in going deeper with the readers you already have, not wider.

That being said, you can’t create from a burnt out place, A. It’ll only turn you bitter and cynical. Take the time to have a break from the pressure to create for others and just rest. Use the ‘mute’ button and pull yourself away from the comparison game. Take heart in the fact that even if other people have a bigger audience, there are people that only you will be able to reach.

The ability to create is a privilege. Focus on the joy that creating used to bring you. Perhaps you can try exercising your creativity using a different medium, like through cooking, music, or pottery. Don’t do it for the purpose of uploading it to Instagram and gaining views & likes– create just for yourself.

There will come a time when you’ll be ready to come back and start publishing your words again. When you do, remember that you’re not ‘going wrong.’ There isn’t something inherently wrong with you that makes you unlikely to succeed. The obstacles and struggles that you think disqualify you from succeeding as a creative is actually the secret sauce that sets you apart. No one else will live your story and tell it in the raw and honest way that you do. Someone, somewhere is going to need to hear how you held firmly to your courage and made it through to the other side.

Before you get lost in a sea of numbers, views, and likes, remember why you set out to create in the first place.

Encouraging you always,

Ash


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‘You’re Better Than You Think’ and Other Mantras

If I can be honest, the last few weeks have felt very heavy recently. My mind and my heart are caught in a constant tug-of-war over where I want to be and where I am now.

Perhaps you often feel this way. You have a vision for what you want your life to look like. You have the dream, the calling, the book or business on your heart. But you just have no clue how you’re going to get there.

The heaviness sinks in and you start to hear the same thoughts on repeat:

‘I’m not good enough.’

‘I’m never going to get to where I want to go.’

‘Other people are better are doing better than me.’

‘I freaking suck.’

You know this cesspool of negativity isn’t going to help you get anywhere, but sometimes you just want to wallow.

As an Enneagram 4, wallowing in my feelings is my favourite past time. All I’ve felt like doing is feel everything, stay in bed, and binge watch everything on Disney+.

But yesterday, my mentor and work wife took me out for the day and gave me the pep talk to end all pep talks. It helped spark a glimmer of hope that was lying dormant under all the heaviness. It forced me to confront some lies I’d been believing and start the process of re-writing the stories I often tell myself.

There’s a time to feel the feelings, and there’s a time to buck up and get moving. It’s not my place to tell you when it’s the right time to do either of them. If you’re anything like me, you’d probably hate anyone who tells you to ‘cheer up’ when you’re still marinating in your feelings.

But when you feel ready to stop listening to your feelings and start taking action instead, this pep talk will always be here to help get you back on your feet.

I think we should always pass on the wisdom that’s been bestowed onto us. So here are some of the words I want to pass onto you, sweet reader.

001. You’re better than you think

Chances are, you don’t suck. There’s probably someone who’s looking at you from afar and wishing they’ve accomplished half the things you have. You may not be the best, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use the skills, gifts, and talents you have to contribute to the world. Give yourself credit for the things you’ve done and remember that there’s always someone who’s ready to receive what you have to offer.

002. Own the person you want to become

If you want to be a writer, own it. If you want to be known for empowering other women to love their bodies, own the heck out of that. It’s easy to get discouraged when other people raise their eyebrows skeptically when you tell them what you want to do. I feel like bursting into tears anytime someone questions what I’m going to do now that I’m so close to finishing my law degree. But honestly, it shouldn’t matter what other people think about you or your craft.

“If you believe you can make it happen, it will. If you’re plagued with self-doubt and keep telling yourself you suck…then I’m sorry but it probably won’t happen,” said my mentor.

003. You’re doing ok

Even though you’re not where you want to be, you’re ok.

Even though it feels like everyone else is running laps around you, you’re ok.

There’s nothing wrong with you that’s stopping you from reaching your goals. You’re not missing vital pieces. Other people weren’t giving a page of a guidebook that you feel like you’ve lost.

You’re on your own path and kicking your own goals that were uniquely created for you. Other people may be called to lead and inspire and encourage over there. But you’re meant to lead, serve, and inspire just where you are. It doesn’t feel like a gift in this very moment. But I can promise you, it is.

Keep going, sweet reader. I see you, I believe in you, and I’m always fiercely cheering on for you.

The Weeds That Trap Us: Thoughts on Comparison

@priii_barbosa

To know me is to know that I’m a hoarder of journals and scrap pieces of paper with ‘notes to self’ scribbled on them. I love reading the stories I used to write about where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. It’s a testament to how much things can change in a single year.

As I pulled my notebooks off the shelf and skimmed through the brittle pages, a multitude of memories flashed through my mind about the angsty struggles and insecurities I used to face. Hard conversations with friends exposing where I really put my worth. Having to say goodbye to someone before their chapter was truly finished. Playing small because I was too fearful of showing up. Watching other people live out the storyline I wanted for myself.

I say I ‘used to’ face these insecurities, but really, a lot of them are still flaring up in the present. Like babies that demand your full attention, these insecurities cry out and whinge until you start devoting all your energy to them.

The loudest of these is comparison.

Comparison has always been a struggle in my life, but I don’t think I ever truly understood how much damage it could inflict until two years ago.

Even to this very day, the memory of having to watch ‘my person’ get with someone else occasionally makes me cringe. I remember feeling overcome with despair as I watched on the sidelines while their storyline unfolded. It was like a tsunami of hurt and pain flooding through me. No survivors were found.

In the aftermath, and even after the punch to my gut had faded away, I couldn’t stop thinking about the girl he had chosen over me.

 “Is it because she’s prettier than me??”

“Is it because she’s smarter than me??”

“Is it because I’m not White??”

Like soldiers on a battlefield, I lined up every single one of our traits and began comparing them in an attempt to search for some sort of certainty. Some reasoning or explanation for why someone else, who was so painfully similar to me, was getting all the things I wanted.  

Every single thought was like a stab wound to my heart and mind- yet somehow, I couldn’t stop indulging in the belief that she must be better than me. As time went on, my uncontrollable urge to compare myself to her, and the inevitable thoughts of discontentment, mixed together to become a poisonous concoction of pain and anger. For months, I resented this person from afar and engaged in a tug-of-war battle in my head over who was better- me or her. Yet somehow, I was always the one losing.

Maybe you’ve never experienced comparison to the same angsty and dramatic extent. But replace my situation with a dream job prospect, a competitor in your business, or someone you follow on social media, and I bet you can start to recognise the discontent feeling that tells you you’re not enough.

Like weeds, comparison begins its lifespan so small and seemingly harmless that we’re initially dismissive of its existence. It starts off with a tiny twinge here, and a throbbing ache there. Its birthed from a small question, ‘why doesn’t my life look like theirs?’ and grows into a nutrient sucking force that wails ‘why aren’t I enough?’

You become wholeheartedly convinced that you’re inadequate and you’ll never measure up. You resolve to do whatever you can to close the gap between you and this idea of ‘enough,’ only to find it’s a never-ending uphill battle. For me, I became embroiled in the lie that I was destined to watch other people live out the story I always wanted.

Distrust and bitterness grow rampant when we continue to water the seeds of comparison. Left unchecked, it can entangle us in a never-ending cycle of wondering why other people have it better and easier than us. It can choke the life out of the dreams we’ve planted for ourselves and make us question if it’s even worth tending to our garden if someone else’s is just going to look better. It can be the driving force that compels us to keep striving to prove we’re worthy- only to leave us burnt out in the end.

Nobody wins when we engage in this battle of comparing ourselves to others.  Whether you’ve waged full-blown warfare against someone, or just made snarky digs at them in your mind, it’s a futile fight against the wrong enemy.

I think that comparison latches onto our hearts so easily because we want to become somebody. We just want to know that our efforts to make our lives meaningful, are going to pay off. So, when we see someone else get the things we want it can make us feel robbed. We wonder what’s wrong with us that we couldn’t achieve the same thing even with all our striving. Underlying all of this is the belief that other people deserve good things, but not us.

Two years on from that fateful event, I now know that what’s good for someone else, isn’t necessarily good for me. What one person perceives as a blessing, someone else is having to deal with the side effects that come alongside it.

Once I could separate myself from the poisonous fog that was clouding my mind, I could see that what I so desperately wanted was (thankfully) never supposed to be mine. I could see that, though my vison and goals looked similar to others, I was on my own, unique path that nobody else could claim.

Comparison is not something you conquer. It’s something you continuously acknowledge. I don’t think it’s something that we triumph over once and then move on with our lives without ever measuring ourselves again. Rather, we must intentionally uproot the lies every time it strikes our most vulnerable areas.

Although I’ve moved on from that event, I can still feel comparison’s snare around the parts of my life that I’ve invested in. I may not be competing for a legal job anymore, but I’m still wondering why other creative businesses are flourishing more than mine. I may not be competing for a guy’s attention, but I’m still fretting over why certain relationships in my life look different from other people’s.  

Comparison recently flared up again when I was scrolling through the posts of a writer I deeply admired on Instagram. Though I owe a lot of my bravery and wisdom to her, I couldn’t help but feel familiar twinges of discontentment whenever her posts popped up on my screen.

“I wish I could be as cool as her,” was the thought that kept circling through my mind as I watched her life play out on the screen.

‘Why is she making more of an impact than me?’

‘Why is she more successful than me?’

‘Why can’t I be more like her?’

It got to the point where I had to sit down over Skype and have a conversation with her about what I was feeling.

“I fear I’m trying to become too much like you and it’s manifesting itself in the way I write,” I told her.

“You’re not me and you never will be,” she told me. “You have you own stories to tell, and dreams and wisdom that’s yours and only yours. Focus on that.”

The lesson I learnt that day?

We were never created to be like someone else. We were never meant to follow someone else’s story. There is a plan and a path of your life that’s reserved for you and you only. Though you may be aspiring for the same things as him or her, and though they may have gotten it ‘first,’ it doesn’t detract from the truth that there’s something out there for you too.

There are stories only you can tell. There are gifts only you possess. It’s not a cliché to say you’re unique – it’s fact. You can’t compare two vastly different lives.

The irony is that, while you’re over here looking at another person’s life, someone else is probably wondering why they aren’t more like you.

And how heartbreaking would it be if you never discovered your full potential because you were too busy trying to imitate someone else.

So let me leave you with this, dear reader.

There is a seat for you at the table.

There is enough blessings and abundance in this world for both you and her to achieve the things you want.

Someone else’s success doesn’t take away the fact that there is so much purpose and impact running through your veins.

No amount of striving will change the fact that you’re already enough.

Though you may not see the path laid out before you, rest assured it’s there and it’s not going to be like everyone else’s.

How boring would it be if we all received the same things at the same time? What kind of storyline would that be? There wouldn’t be any room for redemption and triumph. No euphoric, uplifting thoughts of ‘it was all worth it.’

So how do you remove the weeds of comparison from your heart?

You unclench your fists and bless the other person. You stop thinking of them as someone to compete with, and wish them well on their journey. You pull on your gloves and start uprooting the lies that you are inadequate and that other people are better than you. You sow the seeds of truth that good things are on its way to you too.

I don’t promise it’ll be easy. There have been so many times where I have wished blessings over other people’s lives only to still feel angry the very next day. Even in the middle of writing this, I saw a post from someone else and got so triggered I had to stop writing.

But there is value in uprooting our tendency to compare. There’s gold in remembering who you are and the fact that you’re one of a kind.

You’re on your own journey babe, and nobody can steal that away from you.

Encouraging you always,

Ash xx


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Success and All His ‘Friends’

I watched Bohemian Rhapsody last week.

When I first saw the trailer, I remember swearing that I wouldn’t pay money to see it because it didn’t seem like my type of movie. But then life, with its funny sense of humour, dropped 4 free tickets into my inbox to see it at the Open-Air Cinema. Side note: I ended up loving the movie so much I watched it again the very next night.

As we curled up on a picnic blanket and watched Freddie Mecury transition from baggage handler at Heathrow to the lead singer of Queen, I remember wondering, ‘When is the drama going to start?’ The first 30 minutes felt like a montage of him reaching milestone after milestone. He became lead singer, got the girl, landed an international tour and become world renowned, all within 5 years.

Even though Freddie and Queen were pursuing a vastly different goals than I was, I couldn’t help but feel little aches and twinges inside as I wondered why certain things hadn’t unfolded just as easily or quickly for me. Anyone with lofty dreams and big goals knows that having high aspirations comes with conditions attached. Namely, the self-doubt and anxiety that asks: Why aren’t things happening quickly for me? Why am I not there? How come I’m not as successful yet?

I want to pause and say that I know the producers probably didn’t have time to show all the initial striving and disappointments in Queen’s first five years. And surely it wasn’t as easy as I’ve described. But sometimes I think that’s all we see when we look at other people’s lives. At a distance, we only get to watch the highlight reel of someone else’s life and a surface level indication of the challenges they’ve faced. As a result, it can be really easy to doubt our capabilities and wonder if good things are only reserved for others.

From the outside, life really looked like it was coming together for Freddie Mercury.

Until it all fell apart.

The drama erupted halfway through the film when Freddie had to wrestle with the choices he’d made and his identity. I don’t want to ruin the plot, but anyone who’s aware of his life knows there was a point where everything came crashing down.

I heard someone say that becoming ‘successful’ opens you up to more vulnerabilities. That behind all the glitz and glamour, you have to deal with the side-effects of being in the public eye or having more responsibilities. The higher you climb, the further you fall. The bigger you get, the more public opinion you’ll inevitably attract. You’ll wonder if certain friends are genuine or just wanting a slice of the pie, and you’ll clash with people who don’t have the same vision as you.

Hearing that and watching Freddie’s character fall apart on the screen got me thinking that maybe I’m not ‘there’ yet because my character needs to be developed first. A lot of us fantasise about what it’d be like once we become successful, but we don’t stop to ask if the person we are today can handle the consequences of getting everything we want.

Obtaining the dream doesn’t transform us into someone different. We’re still the same person with the same insecurities and flaws. If we can’t handle rejection now, we won’t magically be able to handle it once we’ve made it. If we attach our worth to what people think of us, it’ll only magnify once we reach our version of success.

Getting somewhere too fast, too soon can attract a bunch of gate-crashers to a party with poor security. Left unchecked, Depression can slip in and drain your energy. Anxiety invites all his other friends, like Imposter Syndrome. They can squash you and your good intentions so you can’t remember why you started in the first place.  

While it can be easy for me to get trapped in my feelings and get salty about why I’m not where I want to be, I also know that I don’t want to be someone who crashes and burns once I reach my goals. Maybe all the waiting and the lengthy distance between our goals is so we can be ready to handle the ‘consequences’ come attached with my success. Because the good and the bad always come as a package deal. Above all, I want to be faithful with the little I have now before I ask for more.

It’s a hard sentence to process when someone says, ‘maybe you’re not ready yet.’ I’d be lying if I said I handle that thought with grace and poise. In reality, I throw mini temper tantrums because it feels like everything I’m doing isn’t enough.

Someone is probably going to read this and ask, ‘But when will I be ready?’ And the truth is, I don’t know. No one else will be able to know but you. You’ll most likely hate this answer, because I did when someone else said the same thing to me two days ago. But it’s true.

Being ready isn’t a destination you arrive at. No one hands you a certificate that says ‘You Made It.’ There’s no map that marks X as the spot and the trail you use to get there. A map implies that there’s a chance you’ll go the wrong direction. But no matter how long or slow it takes, or what path you choose, everything that’s happening is refining you into the person you’re supposed to be when things do fall into place.

It’s easy to discount the places where we feel like we’re moving backwards or are stagnant. I remember having dinner with a friend last year who told me there was a time where it felt like absolutely nothing was happening for her.

“A few months ago, I landed this job, then aced this comp, and figured out what I wanted to do. And now I feel like nothing’s happening and I’m not moving forward. I just want to go back to those months where I was kicking goal after goal and winning at life,” she told me.

What I wished I’d said back then was that it’s easy to desire this idea of always jumping from one mountaintop to the other. It’s easy to crave the cheap thrill of a victory over and over again. But it doesn’t work like that. We eventually have to come down from the mountaintop and live our life in the valley in-between. Because it’s in our everyday life that we get to encounter all the things that’s going to prepare and equip us for the next victory we’re about to have. Your valley may be teaching you how to be patient with people or how to handle your finances. It may give you the opportunity to be a follower so you’ll know how to be an effective leader. And what a pity it would be if you missed all that gold because you were too busy chasing after accolades and validation.

Instead of wondering why we aren’t there yet, we have to appreciate the valley we’re in and trust it’s preparing us for the next level. So for the people who are going to read this then go back to scrolling and feeling discouraged, know that your mountaintop moment will come again soon and you’re exactly where you need to be.

THE WEDNESDAY CLUB

Hey you,

I see you struggling to get through Humpday. It’s this dreaded, in-between, mess of a day where time slows to a crawl and your weekend is delayed. Let’s be honest- nothing exciting ever happens to anyone on a Wednesday…

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In just a click, you can look forward to me showing up in your inbox with a sprinkle of confetti and encouragement to make Humpday fly by so you’re closer to dancing on the weekends. 

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Eyes on your lane

I have this terrible habit of reaching for my phone whenever I hit a rut in the writing process.

Whenever I’m racking my brain for the right words or can’t figure out how to weave my story together, I instinctively turn to Instagram for inspiration within the masses of selfies and motivational quotes. To counter this habit, someone recommended a productivity app that plants a digital tree when I can resist touching my phone for a specific period of time. So far, no trees have been planted.

The best thing about social media is I can watch the lives of people I admire and all the ways they’re making their mark on the world. The worst thing about social media is I can watch the lives of people I admire and all the ways they’re making their mark on the world.

Before I started writing in this space, I would enjoy trawling through the feeds of other writers and swoon over the way they could capture my feelings with their words. Reading their stories was like the first time I wore glasses. When I placed those plastic rimmed frames on my face, all the blobs and blurred lines in the distance sharpened into focus and I could see the all little details I never realised I was missing. Like how the colourful shapes in the storefront were actually teddy bears, and how the letter ‘a’ on the sign was actually a ‘d.’Their words soothed an ache within me that I never knew how to explain or how to fix, like how a toddler might point to his stomach and cry.

Now that I’m aspiring to do the same, I can’t help but feel twinges of envy after reading their beautifully crafted sentences and how their words sparked magic. I longed to be at the level where everyone I admired was.I wanted their perfect prose, their platform and people that support my writing – and I wanted it yesterday. I pretend it’s not there, but left unchecked, the spoonful of self-doubt along with a pinch of self-loathing soon becomes hard to swallow.

Underlying all of this is the desire to just hurry up and be ‘there’ already. Humble beginnings and baby steps are like poison ivy to those of us with big visions on our hearts. We itch and scratch and whine in frustration at the reminder that although we’re not where we want to be -other people are. Suddenly, bitterness and distrust can’t help but creep in when you see someone else living out your vision. 

***

It hit 31-degree’s last week.

It lasted two days and then the thunderstorms began.

While the sun was still out, my friend and I headed to the beach to make the most of the blue sky and our free time. As she got into the car,she began to complain about the fact that her packages hadn’t arrived.

“Aus Post told me it was going to get here by midday, and it’s still not here,” she grumbled. “Now I have to go all the way down to the post office to pick it up since I won’t be here to sign for it. This is so annoying!”

As dramatic as she sounded in the moment, I knew that I harboured the same frustration and discontentment. Although I claim to be competitive, the waiting game is one I would forfeit if it meant that I received my prize instantly.

In a world where express shipping is the default option and food arrives straight to your doorstep, we are conditioned to crave instant gratification. I know I’ve been easily tempted by the siren call of products that claim to give me a flatter stomach in five days and clear skin by two. I’ve stalked the feeds of the people I admire and assumed that so long as I perform X, Y and Z, I should be exactly where they are by next week.

I think many of us wish we could just order up our dream like an online delivery. We’d get a text when our dream has been dispatched from the warehouse and we could track its journey by watching the icon move along the timeline. We’d squeal in anticipation when we finally get an estimated time of delivery, and we’d run to the door as soon as we heard the postman pull up.  

I have a running list of suggestions to tell God on the way Life should work.

But for now, He hasn’t implemented any. We have no way of tracking how long we have to go or how long it’ll take till we attain our goal. The air of uncertainty only fuels our anxious minds, so when things inevitably hit a road block, we lose momentum and get dejected about the delay. 

We look at our journey and say, ‘Hey. You’re taking way longer than I expected. I asked for my dream to be delivered Amazon Prime style to my doorstep, but instead you’ve decided to get held up at the post office. I’d like my refund now.’

***

The hardest lesson for me to swallow is that the reason I’m ‘here’ and not ‘there’ is simply because I’m not ready yet.

There are skills that have yet to be developed, basics I still need to master, and experiences I have to overcome that will ultimately keep me sustained in the long run.  Above all is a God who keeps me in one spot to ensure that I learn to walk before I even think about running.

As desirable as an online delivery of our dream is, we forget that there’s beauty in the process and a better payoff in the waiting. None of the people I admire are instant successes. When I was scrolling on social media and consuming the posts of the writers I adored,I was looking at the culmination of a decade’s worth of work. A decade of sitting at the table with their butt in the chair, slamming their fingers on the keyboard until they produced stories that flowed.

But I know that as much as the waiting hurts, there’s an even bigger heartache when you watch someone else get their package first. My phone is full of the text messages, emails and phone calls about the heavy hearts and sink in our stomach my friends and I feel when we hear someone else got that job offer, the relationship status or the prestigious award.

The questions start to fire off in our brains:

Are there good things ahead for me?

Is there a purpose for me here?

Is everything that I’ve been working towards going to be worth it? 

My honest answer is that you are special. You do matter. And the thing you’re working for will pay off for you in the end. There’s so much influence and impact running through your veins that everything you touch is going to produce so much good in the world.

But I know this is real hard to believe when we’re consumed by the mentality that we’re in this Ultimate Race. The race where there’s only one prize for all seven billion of us, and we have to strap on our weapons and battle each other Hunger Games Style until we win. We end up tearing our eyes away from our goals and spend all our energy twisting and turning our necks to see who’s gaining momentum on us and wondering why someone else is faster, better or smarter than we are.

Perhaps I’m being too dramatic. All I know is that I can’t be the only one whose heart breaks a little when I see all the ways people are racing past and getting their prize while I’ve barely moved an inch. 

What I will say is that time gets wasted when we worry about who’s ahead of us. Time gets wasted when we are constantly turning our heads to see who our competition is or analyzing all the ways why they have what we want. 

We could either watch other people excel and neglect our own craft. Or we could focus on our own process and fight to believe the truth that while it might be their turn to reap the rewards now, one day it’ll be ours. 

Earlier this year, someone I looked up to purely because of the fact she seemed to have her future figured out, sent me a flurry of messages to vent about how she was doing everything ‘right’ but only getting minimal returns. Other people were coming up from behind and getting the opportunities she’d worked for, and anxiety was whispering that maybe this means she wasn’t cut out for her dream.

For the hearts that wonder why they aren’t ‘there’ yet or discouraged by watching other people ‘ahead,’ this is for you:

 “Take yourself out of the race,” I texted back. “You’re in a league of your own.”

Don’t look side to side for your inspiration. Just look straight ahead because that’s where you’re going.

Ahead.

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Wednesday’s Just Got A Recharge!

When the fresh start to the week has worn off, but the weekend still feels ages away, you end up with humpday. This dreaded, in-between, mess of a day where time slows to a crawl and your weekend is delayed.

 Let’s be honest- nothing exciting ever happens to anyone on a Wednesday…

Except if you’re part of the Wednesday Club!

In just a click, you can look forward to me showing up in your inbox with a sprinkle of confetti* and encouragement to make humpday fly by so you’re closer to dancing on the weekends. 

I won’t be like your flaky Tinder date. I’ll show up on time, every time, with insightful conversation & a mission to leave you feeling inspired.

So what are you waiting for?

Enter your email to receive confetti* and encouragement in your inbox every Humpday!

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