Dear Stevo…

This time last year, I was struggling really hard to figure out what to write. I would start writing and press delete. I have a folder labelled ‘Homeless’ for all my half-written documents that don’t have a place on this page yet. Anne Lamott, wrote that whenever she struggled with writer’s block, she would open a new document and write a letter to her brother called Stevo. Just addressing your words to one person can make all the difference, so I tried writing a letter to Stevo as well.

I’ve attached my letter below because a) reading back, I think it’s funny and b) for the aspiring writers that follow me, I think it’s important to reveal that the writing process isn’t linear or pretty. We often need a guy called Stevo to prompt us into action. This letter eventually turned into this official post about my birthday last year.

Whether you’re a writer, student, or it’s the first time you’ve come across my words, I hope you’re inspired to start writing letters, and that you know you are so worth celebrating.

Dear Stevo,

I’m struggling to write the words on the page because I don’t know what to write about. That’s a lie – I do know what I want to write about, but the words aren’t flowing. Anne Lamott told me to write a letter to you whenever I’m stuck, so here we are.

Perfectionism is my big thing. I’m still not sure what my voice is. And I still have to scroll through the words of someone else to get my inspiration. I wonder if I’m really going to make it and if this will be worth it. But damm it- I have to try!

There are two pieces I want to write for this week. One is for the girl who doesn’t feel like she’s worth being celebrated. Who doesn’t feel like she’s worth people rallying around her and celebrating her. Why does she feel that way? Probably because people didn’t really show up for her in the past. Or maybe birthday’s weren’t a big thing in the family. Plus she doesn’t believe very good things about herself. What I would say to her is that her birthday is special, irrespective of who is or isn’t showing up. It’s the day she came into the world with fists raised, ready to leave a mark on the world. On the day she opened her eyes, lives changed. I would tell her that there are some years that may not feel like a big deal- like at 15. You’ll wait in anticipation for the big ones like 18 or 21 only to wonder why nothing special is happening. But some years you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

You don’t need the big party to feel loved. I woke up on my 21st wishing I had my community around me. But the flat pulled through for you. The night ended and you’ll learn that things pull together at the last minute. The right people will pull through.

I’d tell her that every inch of her is worth celebrating. That even if it feels like the world doesn’t care she’s still worth celebrating. There are years where it’ll feel eventful and everyone is gathered round waiting for the glitz, glam and sparkle. And there’ll be years where you’ll have to be the sparkle. You’ll have to be your own cheerleader and learn to celebrate yourself. You’re going to have to figure out how to love on and celebrate yourself before you can invite anyone else to do it for you.

I remember when people didn’t want to make the effort to show up. I remember when people showed up and made the day about them. Irrespective of who does or doesn’t show up, it doesn’t lower your capacity to be celebrated.

A year ago, in the days leading up to 21, Slumpy took up residence in my heart and telling me that there wouldn’t be anything special this year either, and left me feeling heavy. I was miles away from my community back home, we were caught up in the rush to submit assignments, forgotten.  21 is placed on a pedestal yet nothing felt special.

You’re allowed to be sentimental on your birthday and be all up in your feelings like a Drake song.

The 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 used cigarette lighters as makeshift candles, and a single balloon found at the bottom of a show bag was inflated to celebrate the first year into my 20s. Afterwards, we caught the bus into the city where I rode my first mechanic bull and danced the night away as fake snow rained down on our heads.  It was a rushed, last minute, affair, but it was enough. 

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.

Pushing Through The Fear

This piece originally appeared on the Eight Hundred Words blog, but fear is one of those emotions that never strays far from us. I heard someone say today that ‘Fear and Excitement can feel like the same thing in our stomach,’ and I wondered how many times I’ve avoided doing something because I was fearful. This piece may apply to writing, but it doesn’t change the message behind it. Fear doesn’t get to win. You do.

‘Don’t you want to change the world?’ flashed the text on my screen. I actually laughed out loud when I read it. The notion of me, a twenty-one-year-old who’s barely completed her degree, changing the world was so absurd I spat out my coffee.

The night before, I had sent (yet another) message to my friend, vomiting all my worries and fears into the little text block on Messenger. I’d whined that my words probably weren’t going to be good enough to be published by anyone. I wondered if it was too pretentious to call myself a ‘writer’ if I only had one self-published article online. I asked a bunch of ‘what if’s’ and ‘who did I think I was to set up a platform and be a voice.’

I typed out a whole essay, and he sent me back seven words.

Don’t you want to change the world?

To his credit, those words did stop me worrying. But only for five minutes. Then I went back to overthinking every little decision I was about to make.

I’ve written a lot about fear lately. Heck, I scored my first client because of my words on fear. I think what makes me an expert is that me and fear go way back. He was there when I wanted to apply for Class Captain but didn’t because I was scared of rejection. He lurked in the background years back when the writing itch first began and made me fearful of what people thought. He showed up every time I wondered if I was worthy of more in my life, and he always shut me down.

You see, fear is the guy you didn’t want to invite to your party but felt obligated to. He is a stage five clinger who latches to your side the entire night and begs to be the centre of your attention. When all you want to do is be the life of the party, he whispers taunts in your ear to keep you off the dancefloor. Fear wants to rob you of every little thing that could make you great. He loves seeing you doubt your ability to string together words and weave stories from your imagination because it keeps you small.

So let this be your pep talk today: Fear does not get to win. Fear does not get to smother your dreams to death. Sometimes the only way to get over it is to just do the damn thing. Sure, you may come out on the other side with a bruised ego – but you’ll still be alive! Fear shrinks every time you dare to step forward.

If you want to call yourself a writer, do it loud and proud. Forget this idea that to be ‘legit’ you need fancy by-lines, a publisher or get paid per word. If you write with intention, you’re a writer. Words have power and you need to speak out your own destiny.

If you want to set up a website and claim your domain name–go ahead and put your money where your mouth is. You don’t want fear delaying you for so long that someone else with the same name claims that website first.

If you want to post about your work, just do it. You are your first cheerleader. No one else will advocate for you as hard as you should for yourself. People may scroll right on through or they may roll their eyes. But someone needs the ideas and stories and wisdom you have to offer the world. Your story might be the lifeline they need to keep going. I always tell myself that even if only one person resonates with my words, it would be worth it .

I wish I could tell you that the anxious thoughts that dart around your mind and the urge to throw up will stop once you hit Point X on the map. That once you publish a certain number of articles or achieve the most notable byline, you’ll never feel the angsty clenching in your heart again. The truth is: fear is a constant companion. He’ll tag along whenever you even think about

venturing outside your comfort zone or pursuing ‘something more.’ And gosh, I hope you’re constantly going on new adventures and saying yes to uncertainty. That’s what makes our lives so exciting.

You may think that just because I’m writing this, it means I’ve got it figured out (spoiler alert: I don’t). I still juggle fear every day–he just takes on different personas to the one I’m used to. But I have to decide every day that fear doesn’t get to smother my dreams anymore.

My friend was right to ask if I wanted to change the world. Maybe changing the world isn’t just setting up a multi-billion-dollar corporation or achieving ‘world peace.’ Perhaps it’s feeling the fear and moving forward anyways. When 99% of your head is screaming at you to stay insignificant, trust the 1% that whispers ‘just try.’

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!

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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.

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:

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!

Fashionably late to the party? Check out these babies: