self-care / part 4: accepting love

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self-care series
((part four of eight))

hi, dearest one.

here we are together in this little space of the internet. it’s nice to feel like i’m not alone right now, that you’re reading this with me and we’re in this thing together. although i’m currently sitting in a crowded airport terminal, i can get so lost in my head that i feel lonely, isolated by the tornado of thoughts around me. writing here helps me. 

so we’re half-way through this series on self-care. each week i try to focus on the elements that i am writing about (typically as a note-to-self), and each week i feel more aware of how poorly i take care of myself. 

the common phrase and biblical principle ‘love others as you love yourself’ seems simple and straight-forward enough. but what we don’t often think about is that maybe we don’t really love ourselves. if we’re consumed with self-loathing, looking in the mirror and berating the reflection, how well can we really love another person?

this realization caught me off guard. as most people are, i am my worst critic. i dissect my reflection into sections and thoroughly examine all of the pieces of me that i don’t like. too many freckles, a tiny chip in my tooth, an unpleasant voice. and the list goes on. 

i make these lists every day. lists of things i wish i could change about myself, many of them that i never will be able to. many of them that no one else would wish to change about me. many of them that others find endearing and lovely. my brain distorts it and tells me that it’s unloveable. 

i was incredibly fortunate to grow up in a loving and supportive environment. my parents allowed me to express myself and told me daily how much they love me. but for years those words passed through me as though i were a ghost. these words were just words, i wouldn’t allow them to be a seed that would take root in me and grow into something wonderful.

this is a daily battle that i may very well fight the rest of my life. a battle against society’s standards of beauty, a battle against loud insecurities that ring in my ears without ceasing. 

but there are ways to make headway in this battle. to win the fight, even if just for a moment. it begins with loving yourself. 

when you look in the mirror and pick apart the reflection, comparing it to the invisible person next to you that you feel is better, take notice. catch your thoughts in the act of trying to make you feel small. catch them in your hands and transform them. 

make the choice to see the things you love about yourself. maybe only one comes to mind right now. my advice is to write it down. each positive thing about yourself that comes to you, keep it with you and use it as a weapon in the fight. hold tight to these things.

these are the thoughts that water the soil and prepare you to accept seeds of love that others plant in you. then when you hear words of encouragement, kindness, help, you’ll feel them fully and accept them as truth.

because you deserve this. whatever you do, don’t forget that. you deserve to feel the peace of unconditional love. 

it starts with you.

go in boldness, dear friend.

xo,
Ashley


Listening to:



self-care / part 3: wandering (facing fears)

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self-care series
((part three of eight))


23.

is this what living looks like?
like there's this gaping 
wound in my chest
like salt water
washed over it and 
breathing is more like
gasping and
this can't be what living looks like. 
like the night never ends
and the stars have been
eaten alive by 
the black sky and
I’ll never know 
why the sun never seems
to rise in the places my
eyes look upon through
broken glasses.
this won’t be what living looks like.
I will sew up my shattered
spirit with twine and 
I will
be my own light.
I will
be a spark to 
ignite the sun and
defeat the
cold dark of night.




this poem has been on my mind lately as i wrestle with some fears and insecurities that have been berating me lately and making daily activities a bit more difficult.

if you're on this journey of self-care with me, hopefully taking the time to get to know yourself (part 2) has helped you find out more about what you deeply desire out of your life, and what may be holding you back.

insecurity and anxiety have held me back from living my life too many times. i know that traveling is something that makes me feel alive and strong. there were times in my life when my anxiety was so bad that i couldn't get into a car for even a short road trip, much less get on an airplane to a new city. at times i've thought that i'll never get to enjoy traveling again. but this is simply a lie.

as i've mentioned to you, anxiety and depression come and go in waves in my life. as anxiety took a step back last year, i had enough strength to book a month long trip to europe. i made the plans, and as each day got closer to my trip, i kept thinking of ways to get out of it. i was so sure that i was going to be a complete mess and hate every second of it.

i talked to my doctor about this and he prescribed me an anxiety medication to take as-needed. (this is a personal choice, but one that i recommend if you feel that your mental health is taking joy away from your life). so i had this prescription in my pocket, and even just knowing that it was there was a huge relief to me. it allowed me the strength to step onto the plane, and that trip ended up being one of the best things i've ever done in my life.

wandering can start in your mind. let your thoughts wander to places that maybe make you a little bit uncomfortable. dreams that are so large, you're afraid people would laugh if you told them. don't worry about what those people think. honestly, i believe in you. i believe that you're capable to do such incredible things. you can change the world and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

dip your toes into the water of your dreams and ambitions. realize that the water is warm and welcoming. it starts with that step, with acknowledging your hopes and recognizing your fears. the more aware you are of these two things, the further you can separate them until your fears no longer have power over you.

talk to people that you trust about these things. you'd be surprised at how many people are in the same exact boat as you. know that you're stronger than you think you are.

maybe this week, do one small thing that scares you - starting a conversation with a stranger, complimenting someone that isn't very nice to you. remind people that you love them, because maybe in that moment their fear can shrink as well.

we need each other. we're in this together, and as i fight for my joy, know that i'm fighting for yours as well.

continue living boldly, dear friend. joy and light are just on the other side of what you're scared of.


xo,

Ashley


Listening to:

Sia - We Can Hurt Together


p.s.

i had mentioned that during this series i would be livestreaming on vertigo each week. the app is quite new and has been having some technical issues, so i'm going to wait until a new version is released and we can hang out on there without any glitches :)

self-care / part 2: getting to know the person living in your skin

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self-care series
((part two of eight))
hello stardust,

it's so nice being here with you. i've been feeling a bit off lately, like the wind is blowing harder than usual and i'm struggling to stay on this tightrope. being here with you and talking about these things feels like a branch to hold onto. so thank you for that.

this is the second part of my series on self-care. this week i wanted to talk about getting to know yourself. it's an interesting concept and something i think about often. am i more soul or body? are they separate? is my personality/wants/dreams separate from the reflection i see staring back at me? a bit off topic, but interesting to think about, i think. so if you're looking in the mirror you see a slightly distorted version of 'you'. it's not even a perfect representation of what people see when they look at you, and there's a much bigger part of what makes you who you are.

i think of it like my body is an apartment that i'm renting. it's my responsibility to take care of it while i'm here, to feel proud of it when i meet people. but it's not me. what is me is much deeper and more complex than skin and bones. my soul is what survives longer than my body. my soul is what people think of when they think of me; how they'll remember me when i'm gone.

it's easy to know and understand the temporary shell that surrounds your soul. you can touch it and memorize the colors and curves. it's not so easy to understand what's underneath. but it's much, much more important.

when you get to know that person, making life-choices becomes a cinch. this knowledge is nourishment for every area of your life. it's a way to water relationships in your life and watch them grow. a way to save time by avoiding doing things you know will ultimately make you unhappy or hurt you.

so if you think of yourself as a friend, you can begin this process. you care deeply for this person, but maybe don't know or understand fully who they are. so the first thing you would do with this friend would be to ask them questions.

maybe you don't know the questions to ask. some things that continually help me with these questions are personality tests.

i’ve always loved taking these kinds of tests. any silly thing that i scroll by saying, ‘what type of leaf are you?’ catches my eye and i have to find out. 

this may sound a bit shallow, or even narcissistic. but as these tests have brought me insight into myself that i couldn't have found otherwise, i realize how valuable they can be. these tests can help you learn the deep things about you that will then help others understand your needs. they can help you understand your gifts.

i tend to be a little bit superstitious. i love finding signs and deeper meanings. so when i take a test that tells me my spirit animal and it ends up touching a unique place in my heart, i'll hold onto it. 

for example, years ago i took a quiz to tell my what my 'spirit animal' is. i'm always curious, and sometimes the outcome doesn't seem quite right, but at the time it felt dead on. this quiz told me that my spirit animal is a swan, and over the years, i've seen swans on significant days of my life, and it seems like a sweet little blessing. here is the simple description this test gave about my spirit animal:

Swan: 

Powers: Foretelling future through dreams, dream-walking

Swans are idealistic, open-minded, and passionate. Your good nature often leads people to think they can take advantage of you, but they should be careful—beneath that serenity lies a fighting spirit. Your love is fierce and unconditional, fueled by the certainty that it should last forever.


i recently (years after the first time) re-took this quiz and got the hawk as my spirit animal. here's their description of this:

Hawk:

Powers: Communicate with the divine, discern powers in others, photographic memory

Hawks are the messengers of the Spirits. Adept with language, you might be a writer or a teacher. Your ability to assess situations impartially means that people often seek your guidance before making decisions. A brilliant visionary, you sometimes forget the mundane details of life like eating, sleeping, or paying bills.

so i try to take each test result with a grain of salt, not attaching it too deeply to my spirit, but acknowledging that i have gifts that i can share with others.



so as i've gotten to know myself, i've learned not only what gifts i have to give, but what gifts i desire to receive from others. these are often the same, but sometimes it's more complex than that. a good test to determine what you like to give and take in relationships is the love language test. there are a few of these out there, and they are typically geared toward romantic relationships, but i think it's good to know for any kind of relationship in your life. 

when you know what you need and can communicate that to the people in your life, your relationships can be so much stronger. or maybe this person is unable to give you what you need (or vice versa), and it's a good idea to distance yourselves.

a couple of other tests that i highly recommend are the Enneagram (more information here) and the Myers-Briggs (more information here).

these are both very well established tests which can give you thorough insight into your personality. i've taken the myers-briggs test multiple times in the last ten years or so, and have consistently gotten the same result. every time it tells me i am ENFP (extrovert, intuitive, feeling, perceiving). and the description that goes along with it describes me to a T.

this has been particularly helpful as i can often have introverted tendencies, but know deep down that after a difficult day, the best way thing for me is to be around a friend or two. my social anxiety will also often tell me that i should be alone, but in reality that only makes me feel worse.

that's just a personal example, but knowing myself can help me filter out lies that depression and anxiety often try and make me believe.



i truly believe that knowing yourself is a way to love yourself; to know what you need out of life, and not settling for less. you deserve all of the joy and fulfillment this life has to offer.

have you ever taken a personality test that has been an epiphany in your life? i'd love to hear any other ones you guys recommend!

just a reminder:

during this series i will be posting each week at 5pm Eastern Time and going live on the Vertigo music app at 8pm Eastern Time. 

see you then.

xo,

Ashley



Listening to:

listen with me to my playlist tonight (wednesday 4/12) at 8pm :) we can chat while i livestream and it'll be lovely.

you can download the free app for iphone herespotify premium or an apple music subscription are needed to listen along. if you don't have either, you can still hop in and chat with us and see what songs we're listening to.

if you're unable to make it tonight, i'll be posting my playlist on here tomorrow :)

self-care / part 1: taking the time

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self-care series
((part one of eight))

hello soft soul.

i hope this message finds you feeling warm and content.

this post is the first of an eight part series i will be doing over the next two months.

i've been finding myself busier than usual lately, which typically means that i'm putting my needs on the back-burner. and this becomes a domino effect of feeling unhealthy, beating myself up for it, and leaning into self-destructive behaviors because of this.

i typically notice this from a distance and let it run its course until my life eventually quiets down. but i recently decided that this is something i want to work on. i want to recognize the things that my body and soul need, and do everything in my power to give myself these things, in an attempt to battle the demons telling me that i don't deserve to feel healthy and strong.

the first and most difficult step is accepting that you deserve self-care.

you may not necessarily feel this acceptance deeply when you begin your self-care journey. and to be completely honest, this is where i find myself currently. this is a huge challenge for me right now. you know that depression & anxiety combo we've talked about here? that gets in the way of so many things in life. but starting now, i'm going to stand up against it. and even though i don't always feel like i even *want* to take care of myself, i have to believe that it'll be worth it. that i'll come out stronger and wiser.



one difficult thing about my life currently is that i have almost no structure whatsoever. i am self-employed (secret midnight press has my heart), so my schedule varies each day. this can lead to fluctuating emotions of feeling incredibly productive and proud of myself some days, and feel like a total failure other days.

having structure and schedules in life is a super healthy thing i think (even though it feels like a drag sometimes). it can helps you prioritize and appreciate the 'free' time you're allotted.

i'm definitely a to-do list person. i'm so scatter-brained so often that i can easily forget plans i've made or small things that need done. and it is so rewarding checking off items on a list.

so as you're planning out each day, my encouragement is to schedule in time for yourself. even if it's only ten minutes to start. give yourself time to take a bath, clean up your workspace to give you a clear mind, lay and do nothing (guilt-free), or whatever you feel would lift your spirit that day.

i'm beginning this practice by scheduling my posts each wednesday during this series:
i'll be posting each week at 5:00pm Eastern Time.
i'll be following this by going live on the Vertigo app at 8:00pm Eastern Time (information at the bottom of the page).

my hope is that taking this small step will give me a little bit more structure and mental clarity. along with this, i'll schedule in twenty minutes each day to unplug, breathe, and meditate. it's amazing how good it can feel to put your phone on airplane mode even if just for a little while.



will you do this thing with me? i'm nervous, quite honestly. i'm sure that i'll stumble occasionally, but if we're in this together, maybe it won't feel quite so daunting.

i'd love to hear ways that you have or plan to treat yourself to a little bit of love in the coming days and weeks.


xo,

Ashley


Listening to:

listen to my playlist with me tonight (wednesday 4/5) at 8pm Eastern Time on the Vertigo app :) we can chat while i livestream and it'll be lovely.

you can dowload the free app for iphone here. spotify premium or an apple music subscription are needed to listen along. if you don't have either, you can still hop in and chat with us and see what songs we're listening to.



*update*

as promised, if you weren't able to make the vertigo livestream, here was my playlist:

1. CHVRCHES - Lungs
2. Marina & the Diamonds - Numb
3. Vesperteen - Drinking from an Empty Glass
4. The Japanese House - Leon
5. Zella Day - Wonderwall
6. Lorde - Liability
7. Sylvan Esso - Coffee
8. The xx - Together
9. Vesperteen - Obsess Possess



talk to you soon

 

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