What People Don’t Want To Know About Self-Belief

happy girl what people don't want to know about self belief ash chow

It’s been a month and a bit since I’ve started consistently posting on Wednesday’s and actually telling people about it. I know I keep counting the weeks, but it’s just astounding to me that I’m still here. It’s astounding to me because I’m always plagued with discouragement and wonder if my stories are really worth following along.

Although- that’s not true.

I know there are people reading who benefit from this more than I ever hoped.  

On New Year’s Eve, two beautiful souls gifted me a framed collage made up of all the thoughts and feelings people felt after reading this corner of the internet. In the early hours of the 1st of January, I read the compilation of love letters people had written to me to say that they could feel the depth of emotion in my words, and they felt seen and understood. It was the most thoughtful gift I’d ever received, and a tangible expression of the impact I’d always hoped to have. At the start of a new year, I felt empowered, celebrated and motivated to keep going.

But only for two days.

The next time I had to sit in front of a blank page and figure out what to write for that week, I felt anxious again.  I would get high-key stressed about sewing parts of my heart onto the page and putting it out to the universe, only for people not to care or show up. The same thoughts would run around my mind, like a tortured hamster who was forced to stay on his wheel, and I would wonder if it would really be a big deal if I just stopped showing up to the page.  

Often, in the midst of angst, uncertainty and yet another existential crisis, the help we need comes from unexpected sources. Kindred spirits are conjured up from thin air. The hope you needed to keep going may be found in a blogpost you might not ordinarily read but felt compelled to anyway.

People and words have always been the balm that helps soothe my wounds, and I’m a sucker for calling a bunch of people when I need help wading through my emotional mess. So is it really a surprise that on the brink of giving up I would meet someone who encapsulated both of those things?

As someone who used to be fluent in the art of losing people, I’m astounded by the way God crosses our paths with the ones who help us unravel our jumbled thoughts.

We met quite by accident.

While I was waiting on the phone to vent and cry to someone else, he picked up instead. He was one of those rare, old souls that knew how to help you wade through the swamp of your emotions, but also knew how to call out the good things he could see in you. I would call him a guardian angel, but I’ve learnt it’s irresponsible to place other fallible humans on a pedestal to be worshipped. So maybe we’ll just call him a friend.

When the anxious thoughts began to invade my mind and crush my chest, I called him again to ask what I should do. I regurgitated the same thoughts about feeling discouraged and waited for him to drip feed me all his comforting wisdom.

Instead, he asked “How many people is it going to take for you to believe in yourself?”

Have you ever wanted to punch someone in the face because you know they’re right, but you also don’t want to hear it?

 All we could hear was the fuzziness of the phone line as I let the implication of his words sink in.

How many messages will it take for you to feel good?

How many people have to validate you before you feel legit?

How much affirmation and confirmation do you need to fill the holes in your Swiss Cheese heart?

“I guess it’s just easier for me to fall back on the narrative that I’m not going to succeed and that this isn’t going to be worth it,” I explained to him.

“So…it’s easier for you to not believe in yourself than it is to challenge yourself?” He said wryly.

Again, I resisted the urge to hang up the phone.

“Yes…” my voice trailed off as I contemplated the absurdity of that sentence.

And it is absurd.

I would shake the shoulders and metaphorically slap any loved one who told me that they didn’t believe enough in themselves to keep persevering. I’d give all the pep talks, hold them accountable and make sure they were implementing the baby steps that would get them off their butt and moving forward.

It’s easy to push other people out of their comfort zone, but when it comes to us, we’d rather cover our ears and stay comfortable.

I am the Queen of staying comfortable. I bet you are too. We crave comfort so much that we’d rather stay snuggled under the blanket of thoughts that tell us we aren’t good enough, this isn’t going to work or it’s too damn hard, because we think it’s going to keep us safe and warm.

Except it’s not.

If you dared open your eyes and take a good hard look around, you’ll realise these thoughts are just lies designed to keep you in one spot. But even after knowing the truth, we still stay curled under those blankets. We’re a generation that longs for escapism, yet we don’t actually like the change and the challenge that comes along with it.

On Boxing Day, I bought a pair of really beautiful, high quality, tan sandals. It’s now January and they’re still sitting untouched in the box they came in. I’m still walking all over the city in my old pair of shoes where the heels are worn down and the straps are badly frayed.  You might think it’s crazy for me to attach myself to them, but I’ve worn them so many times that they’ve moulded to my feet. They’ve been with me on all my adventures. I know the exact fit and feel of them so well that trying to wear anything else would feel wrong.

While I was thinking about these shoes, I was reminded of something a mentor once told me.

“You have this habit of running back to the old things in your life that you can’t even see all the new things that are right in front of you. God has a whole new life He wants to give you, but are you ever going to reach out and take it?”

***

I don’t know how long you’ve been conditioned to crave the thoughts that keep you in one spot.

But I know that even attempting to believe anything different will feel so wrong and so weird that it’s easier to slip your feet back into the old pair of shoes. You know, the ones that carry you down the path of fear and inadequacy. Because of this, we find it hard to believe anyone who says there are good things ahead of us. We struggle to reach out and seize it because it’s easier to believe the lie that we’re not worthy rather than get disappointed yet again.

But anything that makes you into a better person will require a constant re-shifting of the things you repeat to yourself, and above all – a fight.

People will fight hard to believe in magic, sparkly vampires and the Avengers, yet they can’t imagine a reality where they believe in themselves.

Self-Belief isn’t a nicotine patch that you slap on once and expect to be cured from the addiction to your deprecating thoughts. It doesn’t come from 100 people telling you how much potential you have or 200 double taps on the screen. It’s a day by day thing. It’s waking up and choosing to wrestle with the thoughts that moan ‘come back to the blanket of lies.’

I’ve spoken to dozens of entrepreneurs, listened to every motivational speaker and every podcast host, and they all say the same thing. Self- Belief is a you thing. It’s there. It’s literally in the name. It’s an inside job no one else can complete but Y-O-U.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t lean on your people. It doesn’t mean that you can’t ask them to rally around you or support you. But your cheerleaders can only cheer for so long before their throats get hoarse. It’s going to be up to you to keep rallying around yourself when everyone else falls away.

My friend on the phone was right to ask me how many people I needed to believe in me before I believed in myself. All the external praise in the world won’t do anything for you if you can’t learn to validate yourself first.

People can hold up the mirror to show you the dark spots, sit with you in your mess, and hold one end of your string of jumbled thoughts. But it has to be you that does the work of untangling the lies that you’re not going to make it. No one else but you.

That’s a really scary sentence to process. Until you realise it’s actually freeing. The person you’ve always wanted to come along and save you from your deprecating thoughts has always been you babe.

No one else but you is going to know whether you’ve done the work to change your perspective and believe in yourself.

 But you’re the one who’ll get all the benefit baby.

Only you.

Know anyone doubting themselves lately? Sharing is caring!

THE WEDNESDAY CLUB

Everyone struggles 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…

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, fun stories & 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!

Need more encouragement? Check out these gems:

Thank You, Next: A Letter to My 21st Year

I turned 22 yesterday.

When it comes to birthdays, people will say many things amongst the chimes of well wishes and ‘have a great day.’ Do you feel any different? Do you feel older? Wiser? Did the Universe flood your brain with the answers to your burning questions as soon as the clock struck midnight?

I woke up and I felt the same as I did yesterday and the day before that. Nothing had changed.

If you’re anything like me, you often treat birthdays like a deadline for the all the milestones you were hoping to accomplish. A few years ago, I remember texting a friend in the lead up to my Birthday and telling her that I felt so upset because I hadn’t done anything noteworthy or awesome yet. “This isn’t where I thought I’d be,” I texted her while in the midst of any ugly cry. 

I’m willing to bet that you’ve probably felt this sentiment too. That this isn’t where you thought you’d be at 17, 21, 28 or 30. But that’s what happens when we place a ton of weight on a day that only asks to be celebrated for the glorious fact that you’re alive. When the clock ticks over and things haven’t unfolded the way we wanted them to, we end up feeling crushed by the weight of unmet expectations.

At 22, I woke up and felt like nothing had changed.

Yet everything has.

A whole year has passed since 21. The world has almost made a complete orbit around the sun. And it makes me wonder how many beautiful moments have happened that I’ve discounted because it didn’t happen the way I wanted.

So in honour of the year that’s gone by and the events that have unfolded, I wrote 21 a letter.


Hey you,

21 begins with you huddled under a green quilt in your flat in England wondering how the next year will unfold. Little weeds of discontentment will start to grow rampant in your heart, but you’ll shrug it off as pre-travel jitters and continue to chase after the wrong things.

The next month will be filled with you jumping from country to country, blurred memories, first dates, meeting friends who make you laugh till your stomach hurts, and moments where you wonder if loneliness will always be a companion. Turns out, everything you’ve clenched your eyes shut and wished for at 16 and 18 will be fulfilled by 21.You’ll have run the marathon, be in Law School, lived out a cute-meet and got to travel around with no parental supervision. After the past year of unmet expectations, you finally learn that some things take time to unfold. 

Things crumble as soon as your plane touches down in Melbourne. You spend the first month back home wrestling with the familiar darkness that tries to claw you back down by questioning where exactly you fit in this world. You struggle through all five stages of Grief even though it’s unclear exactly what you’re grieving, and your favourite writer will write to tell you, “You’re in the valley. Welcome to it.” The valley is something we all go through. For so long, you’ve worshipped this idea of jumping from mountaintop to mountaintop and having one victory after another. But no matter what it looks like online, nobody has that. The valley is the rocky, cavernous space in-between each mountain that we have to navigate through before reaching the top again. You might know it as the low point in your life when depression came back or when things felt stagnant, no matter how much you tried to move. It’s that place where you feel like giving up every two steps and you’re unsure if you’re ever going to see sunlight again. Believe it or not, the valley is golden. It’s the sacred space that stretches and refines you so you are ready for the next big thing in your life. When you do find your way to the top again, you’ll be able to take in the breathtaking view and say, ‘It wouldn’t have felt as spectacular if it’d come easy.’

Your valley was necessary for God to break and rebuild your foundation. It shattered the cardboard scaffolding of flimsy lies and false beliefs that you used to stand on. It forced you to decide whether you wanted to continue basing decisions off the lies you tell yourself or on truth. Anything that you seek to build,whether it’s a relationship, a career or a community, will require a foundation that won’t break at the first signs of a storm. Soon you can say with absolute certainty that you’re building your life on solid rock.

The community comes first. You pick up right where you left off with the people who know how to speak life over your wounds, and you begin the hard work to go even deeper with them. You’ll meet people who let you dive into their passenger seat and listen to you patiently while you stumble over the words to ask for help. The same ones will pick up the phone, let you snooze on their couch and will ask if there’s anything they can do to help you with your walk with God. They’ll wander into your life unexpectedly and it’ll feel like they’ve been there all along.

 Find the friends who aren’t afraid to talk about all of the deep and hard things with a side of pancakes and maple syrup. You’ve always had people in your life who know how to stay for the sparkle. It takes a longer, deeper process to find the ones who aren’t afraid to set up a tent with you in the mud and help you unravel your feelings. But take heart- at 17 you never thought you’d find anyone who’d stay during the tough times. Now, your tribe is full of people who are fluent in the art of showing up. Better yet, you’ll have learnt to be the one who shows up for others. 

When the calendar flips over to June, you’ll have coffee with a boy an hour before your exam. He’ll sit next to you while you’re sipping on lattes and speak breathlessly about his new business venture and how taking a risk changed his whole life. As the words rush out of his mouth, you’ll finally realise what true passion looks like. His words and support will push you to start forging your own path and investing in a craft that fulfills you.

You’ll land a job in an office that will make you feel more and more in your spirit that this is not the way you’re going to help other people. While some serve the world best by distance between themselves and others, your sweet spot has always been to sit with people in the thick of their everyday messes and tell them they’re ok. Words have always been the life raft that’s kept you from drowning and stories will keep you paddling even when the waves beat you down. Now it’s become the secret stuff that gets you out of bed – to speak words that will help people through their storm.

Let me say that the words you tell yourself and the words you speak over someone matter. Gosh it matters so much more than you know. The things you tell someone will either empower them to embrace who they are OR it’ll be another strike on the list of why they’re not enough. Be conscious when you tell someone that ‘no one cares.’ Be extra cautious about the lies you’re repeating to yourself about not being good enough.

Every storm you’ve ever weathered, every dark pit you’ve fallen into, the way you feel things so deeply, and how you used to scribble stories in the margins of notebooks, will come together to form the pieces of a bigger picture. Everything will click into place and it’ll make sense what you’re here on this world to do. For anyone that’s currently wandering aimlessly in a fog and confused about the direction their life is going, trust me when I say that the fog is a good thing. It’s the first step to making a breakthrough. The fog forces you to ask if you really like the direction you’re headed or if you’re just following someone else’s journey. Perhaps this is the opportunity you’ve always needed to chart a new course for yourself.

Fear will fight hard to pull you back whenever you’re about to be a victor. He’ll wrap his bony fingers around your wrist and whisper things like, ‘Who do you think you are?’ and ‘No one will care.’ He manifests himself in the forms of other people’s opinions, failure and risk of rejection.Sooner or later you have to decide who gets to call the shots in your life. You or Fear? I’ve done the research and spoken to the people who are 5 and 10 steps ahead of me. They all say the same thing: fear doesn’t go away. It’s going to be up to you, brave one, to push through. Fear shrinks every time you step forward so just commit to one step. And then another. And then another. Soon you’ll realise that fear’s got nothing on you.

Take heart though, because our hardest battles really do become the launching pad we need. Every ballad you’ve ever written about overcoming fear becomes the fight song that opens new doors. Every heartbreak, anxious thought and tear you’ve ever shed will form the lines of a map that will help someone else come out of their storm.

On a warm Spring day, you’ll spontaneously accept an invitation to skip Uni and drive to the middle of nowhere. You’ll watch as a group of singers reduce an auditorium full of restless teenagers to tears after telling their story, and it’ll hit you that your experiences are important. The stories that make up your life are sacred and golden, and you need to stop discounting them as too trivial, messy or boring.  Afterwards, you’ll sit on the grey carpet with one of the guys who shared his comeback story. He’ll look you in the eye tell you that he can see joy written all over you. “In fact, Joy will be one of the key pillars of your life,” he says.

You’ll cling so hard to that because there was once such a dark period in your life that you thought you’d never feel happiness again. Now, if there’s anything you want to dedicate your life to fighting for, it’s to help other people feel joy as well.

21, you were a fight song and a love story all wrapped up in one.  Society places you on a pedestal because it’s the year of ‘real adulthood,’ but I say this was the year you could proudly say ‘I’m in my element.’

Love always, 

Ash


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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