On Other People’s Opinions

This was originally published on Windrose Magazine Blog. I felt all sorts of angsty after I published my last piece and got caught up in what other people were thinking that I completely missed the point of this page in the first place. So here’s a reminder that we shouldn’t worship other people’s

Last year, I was given the opportunity to co-start a mental health initiative and grow its influence. This one small project birthed in me a greater passion to create my own platform and share my own messy stories to help others know their worth. I wish I could say I immediately started hustling to bring this vision to life. Instead, I spent hours upon hours lying in bed watching ‘Worst X-Factor Auditions.’

You see, I knew I had the potential to create something impactful. I’ve fought through my own darkness and have sat with enough friends in the thick of their mess to know that there is a whole army of people who need to know they are not hopeless. But whenever I took any steps to bring it to reality, I would get shut down by fear and sent back to the depths of YouTube.

Fear crops up all over our lives wearing different disguises to keep us distracted and stuck in one place. He showed up when I contemplated setting up the website. He banged on my door when I wanted to publish my first words to the world. He came and knocked me over when it was time to be vulnerable and tell more people about my craft. Sometimes he appeared as a fear of failure and other times as fear of rejection. But his favourite way to stop me in my tracks is to breed in me the fear of what other people think.

I’ve legitimately been paralysed from moving forward because of the things people have said about me. I’ve kept passions and desires to myself because others might say it’s ‘silly’ or I wasn’t ‘qualified.’ There have been days when I’ve been too afraid to speak up because of potential ‘backlash,’ and months where I’ve ended up alone because I’d stood up for my values. There are stories I’ve held tightly to my chest, and opportunities I’ve turned down because it would mean exposing more of my life to the public and what ‘they’ think. I could spend hours writing about the loss of support and all the heaviness I’ve felt from carrying around the things people have said about me like stones in a backpack.  

It wasn’t until I was listening to my friend share her story that it all clicked for me. With steaming mugs of chai in our hands and a half-eaten brownie sitting between us, she told me how people used to mock her on the bus because she didn’t fit in. How her teacher’s ‘advice’ was not to bother re- taking her exams because she probably get better. How no one thought she would ever clean up her act enough to get a decent job and out of the mess she was stuck in.  

“But you know what?” she told me, a smile spreading across her face. “Two years ago, I was awarded a prize for being the number one student in Journalism. I’m launching, not one, but two businesses in the summer. And I’m getting married in three months. I didn’t let other people’s opinions define me, and now look where I am.”

***

Maybe you have a history of people putting you down. Maybe your story is full of characters who treat gossiping like an Olympic sport. Maybe you’ve let other people convince you to stay small. Perhaps you received one snarky comment and ever since then you’ve been too afraid to tell the world about your craft.

Here’s the kicker: you get to choose who influences your life. You choose whose voice you listen to and whose opinions carry the most weight. Everyone will have something to say. Some people will declare it with love. Others will speak in hushed whispers intending to keep you small. Either way, you decide if you’ll let it hold you back.

The beautiful yet frustrating thing about us humans is how inconsistent we can be. Our opinions are malleable and can change from one day to the next. I can know someone for years and not feel any spark, but one day I can look up and it all changes. Because people only have a one-dimensional view of who you are. They see you through the lens of whatever experiences they’ve had and whatever baggage they’re holding on to. We’d forever be running a losing race if we tried to stay ahead of other people’s thoughts. You could do everything ‘right’ and say everything ‘right,’ and someone will still find a reason to have a problem with you.

But here’s what will never change:

You – beautifully complex you – are not defined by people’s negative opinions.

You – who are worth more than diamonds and called to be a light- are not meant to stay small.

You- who are sometimes a little messy and hasn’t got life figured out yet-  are more than the one-dimensional perspective others have of you.

Irrespective of who thinks you’re ‘good enough,’ or ‘smart enough’ or only a solid ‘6/10,’ it shouldn’t stop you from going after what you want.

It would be a great disservice to the world and to the God who created you if you hid parts of yourself away because you were scared of what people think.

So pursue your calling. Apply for the job. Post the photo. Tell your story. Don’t let the fear of other people’s judgement rob you from doing what you love. We only get this short little life to live. It would break your heart if you never stood up and moved forward because you were worried of what other people would say.

We don’t get to control many things in life. But we do get to control this.

The Reminders You Need Today

I woke up early today intending to write a post that would speak to your needs, only to still have a blank page at 9am. Ideas were swarming around but nothing was sticking.

Some days call for flowy words and beautiful metaphors to remind us to stay hopeful. And some days, we just need someone to tell us the truth without any fluff.

I promise to validate the heck out of your emotions on every other post, but today I’m just going to give you the reminders you didn’t even know you needed.


Stop waiting for permission and just do the damn thing. I ‘ummed and aahed’ for so long before I ever considered forging my own path and publishing something online. I asked for 10 different people’s opinions and still kept procrastinating on my vision before I ever took action. If you keep waiting for support, you’re going to get left behind by the people who aren’t looking for a pat on the back. Understand that not everyone is going to support you 100% because it may seem completely left field, but other people’s opinions shouldn’t be the reason why you give up. Stop asking and start doing.

You don’t need their approval.

Whoever’s face flashed into your mind as you read that- that’s the person you need to stop begging for acceptance. Bending over backwards and changing yourself to gain their approval isn’t serving anyone at all. One day, you may gain their respect, or you may not. Either way, their opinion of you doesn’t detract from your worth or the impact you have. You are a light and lights don’t stay hidden.

Speaking of staying hidden, stop downplaying your gifts. Stop hiding what you really want to do because it contradicts with your current path or because you’re scared no one will get it. I used to speak about my writing in hushed tones and only tell people about it in parking lots like a shady drug deal.  But all I was doing was just making myself smaller. Be bold and unapologetic about the things that give you life and make you get up in the morning.  

If you don’t actually know what lights you up or what you want to do in life, that’s fine. The majority of adults are still trying to figure it out. I always wanted my life’s calling to be handed to me in a manual with all the instructions intact. But where’s the fun in that? It’s in the uncertainty and the confusion that you unexpectedly find what you’re looking for.

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.

You need to stop thinking it’s the end of the world when you fail or when someone rejects you. Failure gives you stories to tell during an awkward silence at a dinner party, and rejection literally saves you from settling. It’s a time saver, not a time waster.

One of the bittersweet parts of life is that we don’t get to keep the people that come into our lives. I read somewhere that the people in the Pilot episode of our sitcom, won’t necessarily be there in the season finale. And I think that’s a beautiful picture. People come and go, but the next season always brings in new characters to support the protagonist. When someone leaves, let them go with the blessing that they now get a chance to impact somebody else’s life.

Savour the humble beginnings. Relish the seasons when no one is watching you or expecting you to keep performing. It may hurt when you look at how much traction others have gained while you’ve only taken two steps. But you have no idea what’s happening behind the scenes of their story. Just stay faithful to what you have and keep showing up to your craft and your journey. The rest will fall into place.

Stop finding reasons to run away. One day, the thing you’ve been waiting for will grace your doorstep. For once, it’ll be nearly everything you’ve asked for, and it’ll be so unexpected that it may take a while for your feelings to catch up. Your knee jerk reaction will be to nitpick at flaws till you find a reason to end it. But know that beautiful things take time to unfold and that applies to your feelings as well. Savour the slow burn and trust the process.

Speaking of feelings- you’re allowed to have them. So many people go about life desperately trying to hide the fact that they feel anything but happy and joyful. Your painful feelings are just as valid and nothing to be ashamed of. It’s tempting to want to fast forward through the achy breaky parts of your life. If the remote from the movie Click was real, I’d buy it in a heartbeat to skip the emotionally turbulent times. But the painful stuff increases your sensitivity for all the beautiful feelings as well. It widens your capacity for love. It breeds in you a deep compassion, astounding empathy for the hurting ones and an appreciation for who you are when you’re on your own.

You are worthy of good things. I know it’s easy to look at other people and believe that beautiful moments are only reserved for everyone else but you. But that’s not true. Your story may look a little different and it may not be what you expect, but how boring would it be if we all received the same things at the same time. Just hold on. Good things are coming for you too.  

Know that you’re not powerful enough to ruin the plans for your life. But you are powerful enough to persist through each day and keep walking even when it’s dark and foggy. You’re powerful enough to give yourself a fresh start any day you want.

Above all, know that there’s nothing wrong with you. The world will try and magnify your flaws, but your life can either be all about fixing yourself or serving others well.

You were not born with missing parts and attached to a label that says ‘defective.’ No. You are utterly unique and created for a purpose.

Encouraging you always,

Ash x

THE WEDNESDAY CLUB

Hey you, I see you struggling to get through humpday .

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

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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.

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Fireworks and Feelings: A Note on Celebrating

birthday party sponsored by Kmart

I used to believe that I wasn’t worth celebrating.

As time creeps closer to my birthday, I inevitably feel Slumpy. I’m coining this term as the 8th dwarf in my emotional repertoire. He is the illegitimate love child of Grumpy and Sleepy who is perpetually anxious and likes to sit in the corner leaking tears over his abandonment issues. As the calendar flips closer to December, you can be sure he’ll rock up to the doorstep, dump his baggage in the room and overstay his visit.

Birthdays are synonymous with celebration and nobody ever dreams of giving Slumpy an invitation to the party. But sometimes, despite the best of our abilities, he gate crashes the event. He frets over planning a party because mixing friendship groups from all different walks of life is too stressful. He sows seeds of doubts that make you wonder if anyone will show up and whether they’ll enjoy themselves. Most of all, he makes you question if you’re even worthy of a celebration. 

To his credit, I don’t think Slumpy intends to be such a killjoy. Perhaps he’s even trying to protect us. “Expectation Management,” he’ll probably moan in his defense. When I look back over the years, birthdays always felt like such a disappointment. I wrote last week that a lot of weight tends to get placed on this day. We pile on the expectations for a better year. We wait for it to change us. We set deadlines and declare that this will be the year all our fantasies come true. We hope for the people we love to rally around us.

Most often, my day would end up feeling lackluster. Events would be planned and people wouldn’t make the effort to show up. If they did, the day revolved around them. Irreparable mistakes would happen- the type that hits you when you wake up the next morning and make you feel like although you’re a year older, you’re definitely not wiser. The day would end and something would feel off.  A culmination of disappointing birthdays later,and you can’t blame Slumpy for believing that you aren’t worth showing up for and don’t deserve to be celebrated.

A year ago, he showed up again in the weeks before my 21st birthday. I was studying in England at the time and given free reign to jump from country to country. This sounds like a perfect combination for a birthday,except for the fact that my flatmates and I were slammed with last minute assignments and no one felt up to planning a party. Like a long-awaited heir to the throne,society places 21 on a pedestal and heralds it as the year of adulthood. I had hoped to usher in the year with a bang and alongside the people I loved. Yet, being isolated from my community back home and a frantic rush to finish essays meant nothing special was going to happen this year either.

This sentiment was echoed back to me later that week when my friend’s workmate from Melbourne decided to visit our flat before his travels. Incidentally, it was his birthday the day we met and we were plus ones to a party hosted by the Surf Society. Amongst the cheers and loud music in the background, and drawn together by the fact we didn’t know anyone else, I asked him how his birthday was going.

“It’s…not exactly what I thought it’d be,” he said hesitantly. “I keep waiting to feel different. Like, I know I should be happy to be here and I’m waiting for it to hit me. But it doesn’t feel like a big deal.” The crestfallen expression on his face said it all. Silence hung in the air between us and all I could say was, “I know.”

If you’re anything like me, then you’ve probably spent most of your life waiting on the big things. I used to be all over the idea of grand gestures, like surprise parties or fireworks that light up the sky or intense feelings that slam into you to let you know this person’s ‘the one.’ I’m so expectant of the big things that anything smaller makes me question whether it’s right and I wonder why it always feels like there’s something missing. 

 The problem with always looking up at the sky and waiting for the fireworks is that you miss out on what’s right in front of you. While your head is craned up towards the sky, you miss out on the people that are trying to celebrate you in their own way. You miss out on the magic of a slow burn that promises to keep flickering in the long run. Fireworks and grand gestures are an impressive spectacle, but once they fizz out you’re left with nothing but a dark sky. At the end of the day, I know I’d rather something meaningful that lasts for years to come, than something that only looks glamorous in the moment. The intimate memories created between close friends and the small, but intentional, actions are what imprints itself on your heart in the long run. That’s the golden stuff of life.

For my 21st, there was no huge party, no bar tab and no speeches that dragged on forever. Instead, my flat pulled together to rally around me at the last minute. The guys made an emergency trip to Tesco to buy a decadent cake topped with Maltesers. We laughed over the fact that cigarette lighters had to be held up instead of candles, and a single balloon found at the bottom of a show bag was inflated to celebrate me making it through the first year of my 20’s. Afterwards,we made our way into the city where I learnt how to (unsuccessfully) balance on my first mechanic bull and we danced the night away as fake snow rained down on our heads. It was the night my flatmate met his now girlfriend, and the night I got to see how time is a flimsy measure for the amount of impact we can make on others. It was a rushed, last minute affair, but it was enough. It wasn’t the big party I always imagined. But it ended up being more fulfilling than I ever thought possible.

As much as Slumpy and the rest of the dwarfs want to assert themselves and protect us, we can’t hand over the reigns to them. The story of Snow White is notable for the damsel in distress that has to rely on men and her feelings to save her from the Evil Queen. But sometimes we forget that we are the heroes of our own life and we get to choose what gets the most weight. Truth or Feelings. Fact or fiction.  

Someone once told me that I’ll be celebrated when I no longer feel that desire anymore. I don’t think that’s true. I think you should absolutely desire to be celebrated. You deserve the reminder that it’s not an accident you’re here today. You’re allowed to feel sentimental and all up in your feelings like a Drake song. There are years where it’ll feel eventful and everyone is gathered round for the glitz, glam and sparkle. And there’ll be years where you’ll have to be your own sparkle. The smaller, quieter, years allow you to be your own cheerleader and learn to celebrate yourself. You’re going to have to figure out how to love on and bust out the confetti for yourself before you can ever invite anyone else to do it for you.

Learn to celebrate the small sparks on the ground instead of worshiping the fireworks. Celebrate the grueling but golden process it took for you to get here. Celebrate the fact that despite all the hardships that came your way, you made it through. One day soon, someone’s going to love every bit of the mud that transformed you into who you are today.

All this to say that if a single shred of you has ever wondered whether you are worthy of being celebrated, hear me when I say you are, you are, you are.

Irrespective of who does or doesn’t show up for you, you’re worth celebrating.  Every inch of you is worth breaking out the confetti and silly string for.

Your birthday will undeniably be someone’s favourite day because it’s the day you showed up to the world ready to leave a mark on people’s hearts.

So if no one else has ever made you feel special, know that you are, you are, you are. 


Know someone in need of celebration? Share this post with them! 


Need someone to show up for you?

Then The Wednesday Club is just for you!

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!

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