In the fifth episode of The Ashlee Craft Show, Ashlee reads an essay titled “The Problem & The Cure” from her upcoming book “Not a Dime a Dozen”.
When you live authentically, loving yourself becomes a whole lot easier.
Previously published by Thought Catalog at www.thoughtcatalog.com.
Living an authentic life, or at least really trying to, is probably one of the most challenging things that I have done. To me, authenticity is living a life that makes you feel good about the person you are becoming.
It’s when you feel like it is both okay and beautiful to be the exact person that you genuinely are and always wanted to be, and when you get closer to a place of acceptance and love towards yourself.
To me, this isn’t a specific end result or level that you one day reach, but an ongoing process of continually reinventing yourself and making adjustments to your life to match your authentic self. In the process of figuring out who I want to be and working on becoming that, I’ve noticed some wonderful changes.
When you start fearlessly reinventing yourself, you will finally feel happier. When you start living authentically, happiness will start coming more naturally to you, and you’ll feel surprisingly good about the person you are. At first, living authentically can feel scary. You may feel guilt that you’re not living the life others think you should, or be afraid that no one will like or understand the new you.
Changing the way other people see you is probably one of the hardest parts of really becoming yourself, but it’s more than worth it. You might find yourself wanting to try new things that you didn’t have the confidence to do before, and life will probably start becoming a hell of a lot more fun.
For a good portion of my teenage years, I felt strongly dissatisfied and unhappy with my life. I couldn’t do anything that I wanted to do without being plagued by the fear that others wouldn’t like my choices, and even the smallest of frowns or negative comment would dissuade me from doing what I really wanted to do.
I felt like everyone’s expectations of who I was supposed to be were things that I had to listen to, no matter how much they conflicted with who I really was.
One day, I came to the realization that most of the things that made me feel overwhelmed were related to me trying to be what others wanted me to be. I also realized that living my life based on what other people wanted was fruitless and would never allow me to be satisfied or at peace with myself.
Immediately, I began making a list of things I needed to do to start feeling more like myself, the version of myself that I was yet to fully embrace. I worked on incorporating goals and changes into my life that felt good to me and matched up with the kind of person I was excited to start being while ruthlessly editing out the things that didn’t make me happy. When I look at my life since then, it feels predominately good, and a whole lot lighter and brighter than before. The best part is, it keeps getting better all the time, and I know that the more I work on becoming more myself, the better my life will feel.
When you live authentically, loving yourself becomes a whole lot easier.
Loving something encourages you to take better care of it, so the more you love yourself, the more you will value whatever self-care activities are important to you. You will look forward to the things you do that make you feel good. I strongly believe that living an authentic life is the best choice you can make for yourself, and the more expressive form of self-care there is. Whether self-care for you means making sure to drink a cup of hot tea every morning, eat better, spend time with your family, pets, or friends, wear an outfit that makes you feel amazing, go out to socialize more, spend time alone, work more, work less, or get enough sleep, you will become more intuitive about what self-care rituals work best when you start figuring out who you are.
Things will connect and come together in beautiful ways that you may never have expected, and you may find sudden clarity regarding situations or things that you previously felt divided about.
The biggest part of becoming your authentic self is being, owning, and loving the person that you are, regardless of how conventional or unconventional a person that may be.
Your confidence will soar when you start making choices that you really connect with. and this confidence will propel you to take the next steps in reinventing yourself. You’ll find that you aren’t so afraid of what others think of you, and when you start living with honesty, you will inspire others to do the same.
That is perhaps the best and more awe-inspiring part about truly being yourself of all — the fact that you will possess the electric power to empower others to take steps to become who they are. When you start to work on living an authentic life, you will realize how much beauty there is in the unique, amazing, one-of-a-kind person that you were born to be.
- Resting & restorativeness are very important. Days off spent doing fun things, with no agenda & no clocks ticking evilly in the background reminding you of the impending returns. You cannot always be running around & constantly hustling if you are to keep your sanity. Working on it slowly, pacing yourself so you don’t get burnt out. This is all that matters in the end: you will get where you’re going.
- Their fights don’t have anything to do with you. Sit there in the corner with your ears plugged making obnoxious noises if necessary, but do not think for one minute that what they argue about has anything to do with you.
- I don’t let the mean, petty, obnoxious, or passive-aggressive things that people may say or imply about me hurt me. Sure, I may get pissed about it briefly, but I know that what they say isn’t true. They cannot know me; therefore they cannot truly comment about me, & if they do, what they say holds no water. It isn’t true, & I know that, so I breathe out a sigh of relief. It doesn’t actually have to do with me at all. I have the brick wall surrounding my castle now, & know they are not worth it. Not when he mocks me, or she insults something I have done. I am separate & immune from the stones they throw at the wall. This applies also to the fights above.
- MINIMALISM: it feels so, so good getting rid of the expansive excess. Every time I throw something out it gets a little bit lighter & easier. I look deeply forward to the day when everything is as I’ve wanted it to be; where only the essential, the useful, & the beautiful things remain surrounding me. I do not have to be owned by my possessions anymore.
- Their phrase about the evil of boredom & the joy of creating & building resonated strongly with me. I like that culture of living too.
- Black cherry dyed hair. Skateboards. The strange animals with their strange faces that you find to be perfect. Pink elaborate tulle skirts. Zines. All these things are important.
- I have plenty of time.
- Flying a kite on the beach felt timeless. There really are few things in life as satisfying as flying a kite as high as you can on a beach when they weather is perfect.
- The philosophy of parkour, surmounting all life obstacles & physical obstacles with as little effort but as satisfying of a reward/outcomes as possible. Doing it the easy way but the worth it way. See: Restorative.
- Making an effort. I did it before as a punishment, didn’t I? To try & show them my displeasure in a visible, physical way. I felt like a wilting flower & I wanted to show it off. Sometimes I am a martyr. I like to exemplify my own suffering. But I can’t do that anymore. For my own sake. Putting in the effort, showing up. The hair color, smooth & silky. I put on better shirts & better accessories that actually said something. I stopped hiding inside the folds of the jean jacket & turned my real face to the sun. I started reading & writing & listening to the sweet dancing of music. I started trying.
- Fruits & vegetables are good. I crave them. They make me feel happy & healthy.
- Happiness is oftentimes a choice. Either way, in any situation you have the option of choosing to do something that will make your life more: magical, happy, serene, reverent, sunlight. You can choose to open the curtains, or listen to a really perfect song, or run out into the rain & dance, or think about something good. You are just like the rest of them if you fall into the trap of being dark & dissatisfied & cynical. Cynics & liars laughing, indeed. Remember the song. Your favorite, as a kid. How you feel in every moment is your choice. If it’s lame, you’re the only one to blame, but also the only one who can choose to do something different.
- I want to feel that relaxed, creative, peace-of-mind way that it implies. Maybe then things would be easier.
- They clapped & laughed in the dark room & the monsters ran away.
- Gnarly: the act of doing something potentially painful but ignoring the potential pain & (intelligent, thought out) risks in order to do something freeing.
- It felt deeply freeing; I felt it welling up from deep inside the depths of something much more expansive & deep-seated & hidden behind the fronds of ferns, then it was a supernova & the sorrow evaporated from the flowers. Then I saw the Freedom Meadow expand once more; it had a garden of blooming flowers.
- I only got what I wanted when I stopped feeling lonely & danced, joyous & reverently, at night under the moon with the music playing. The next day, they called me & said YES.
- I want his work ethic. He tirelessly did things he enjoyed & made money. He seems happy now, so I guess he did do what he wanted.
- I must get more used to being uncomfortable. I want the things that make other people fall into mediocrity, the things that exhaust them, the things that make them complain & lie prostrate on the carpet powerless to be the very things that make me invincible, strong, powerful. I want to turn the curses they throw at me around & change them into sunlight that melts vampires. I want to turn the chains & empty lies they bestow on me on their heads & change them into something that works for me.
- The full moon was so big & so bright that at first I didn’t think it was the moon. When I realized it was, I still couldn’t believe it was actually the moon. I’ve never seen it so big or so bright. I stared in meditative reverence & felt profundity. I looked at her through the scope & saw the bumpy, cratered edges. It looked like maybe I was there. I loved it. The moon & I are kindred spirits.
- You really can have it all.
Happiness is hard. Authenticity is hard. I know this very, very well.
I’m not going to give you some fluffy sermon about how if you just take a bubble bath, smile three times a day at yourself in the mirror, & think happy thoughts constantly that your life will magically be better. These things might help you, but they also might not.
But the thing is, you have all the power in the world to change your life.
Hating yourself is boring. Feeling ugly & unloved is boring. Living someone else’s plans for you is boring. Being depressed & feeling hopeless about your future is boring.
You deserve better than that. You were born to live an awesome life. It’s your duty to yourself to pursue that, as vibrantly & lovingly as you can.
What do you have to lose in learning to love yourself? Or in trying to be happy, & starting to live a life that genuinely makes you feel good? There is nothing to lose.
Change is hard. But the ability to adapt is the thing which separates the winners from the losers. You are trying to make your life better. That puts you in the category of the winners, right now. You’re strong enough, & smart enough, & determined enough to win.
Think about this. You have made it through everything that’s happened to you in your life so far. You have made it. If you can do that, you can do this. You can do anything.
You can love yourself. You can feel better. You can be happy.
You can start living any super-awesome amazing life of your choosing.
And you can start today. Right now.
The key to having all this starts when you start loving yourself. Self-love is the backbone to everything else available to you. It’s the ship that you’re sailing on, & the wind that fills your sails & your lungs. It’s the star you see up ahead in the dark of night. It’s the start of everything else. The first brick on the yellow brick road.
When you start loving yourself, everything else falls into place. You become stronger & more resilient. You start respecting yourself & knowing your worth & only accepting the things you deserve. You start realizing that you can create whatever life you want for yourself, & start empowering yourself to go out there, & go get it.
Happiness is hard. Authenticity is hard.
But when you start loving yourself, that’s when these things become easy.
(image from Ashlee Craft / Assemblage, Issue 10)
Happiness is the best revenge. Or, as I also love stating frequently : haters gonna hate. The people who don’t like you don’t like you because they feel like you’re above them, or because they’re afraid of you being better than they are, because they are jealous of you. Because they are made uncomfortable by your vastness, your talent, your personality, your brilliance. If they really were above you, they wouldn’t see a point in bringing you down. Down is the key word in that. People who are vast, successful, happy, wealthy (in things more than just money), etc, have what they need, & don’t need to hinder or hold back or quell or block out or squash or shadow or disrespect anyone in any way, ever. They don’t have to do that in order to feel better about themselves. Because they are BIG. Because they are bright + brilliant. Without having to take light away from others in order to feel powerful.
The people who don’t like you aren’t really above you at all. For a minute, they might seem like they do – they might make more money, or have a better car, or more “friends”, or have an attractive & charming significant other, or an important sounding job. But trust me – if they’re that hell-bent on causing pain & sadness to you, they probably lead bitter, sad lives, or at the very least, have doubts about their confidence or their choices. People who are comfortable with themselves build people up & are excited when they do well.
So, if you’re dealing with someone who makes you feel bad about who you are or the choices that you make, or anything else, let your happiness, & your success, be your revenge to them. It will annoy them to see you doing well in the ways they thought you never could. No matter what you do, they still won’t like you, so you might as well do what makes you happy & pursue happiness like the wealth that it is. Be so damn happy that they shake their heads in absolute & utter confusion about how someone they think is as fill-in-the-blank as you can be so happy. Be so successful in your endeavors, so dedicated in your hard work + pursuit of a really really good life, that the people who don’t like you may find themselves desperately wishing that their lives resembled yours, and that they were as happy as you.
But in the end, it never really was about them anyways. This whole process was never about how your actions affect them, because there are so many more worthwhile things to do than caring what someone who doesn’t respect you thinks. It’s all about proving yourself & your beliefs about what’s possible wrong by providing the best life possible for yourself & reaching a higher level of self-love. It’s about asserting your own belief in yourself & confidence in your opinions. Your happiness being “revenge” is the one type of revenge which is about building someone up rather than tearing someone down. All their efforts to tear you down & make you feel bad about yourself are exceeded by you pushing back against them, rising up higher again & again, overcoming their darkness by you shouting you from rooftops “I AM GOOD ENOUGH. I DESERVE BETTER.” It is the one thing you can do in response to all their darkness which reasserts that you are free from them, they never owned you at all, that you are your very-own person which their choices and words do not influence, that you will not be broken by them. That you will keep marching right on forward & becoming positively radiant in the face of all that lies ahead for you. And in succeeding where others would love to see you fall, by continuing to try even when they try to tell you that you’ll never make it, I think this is when you start to know what it means to be your own hero.
Remember that you’re rad, & you’re so deserving of love + respect, & so deserving of an absolutely magical, epic, badass, beautiful, & awesome life filled with great experiences, dreams coming true, & complete happiness so brilliant it makes your haters need sunglasses. You deserve it.
- I am thinking about all the things I want to create for myself. It tingles at the ends of my fingers. Power. I am excited for it. All the things I want to bring into existence. That car. That mode of living (away from the fear). I think about my goal list & all the things that are tingling there too, vibrating & waiting with electric levitated energy to be brought out of thought & into my life. Finally traveling. The way I don’t have to wait any longer, to make things real, because all of it is mine, pick & choose, & I realize that I lack nothing that I need.
- Bright red-orange hair. I think about his face & then I think about the hair. First I feel a twinge of sadness, missing it – & then it makes me excited because I am soaring & it is freeing, to become all the things I couldn’t be before. I associate the hair with the separation of that person & this person. A tangible symbol that I have moved on. Reinvention, once more.
- I am excited about the upcoming weeks & months. The electricity of it is happy. Thinking about the way it all flowed so damn easily last year, now & before. Keeping it rolling. Flowing, it makes so much sense now. Continual motion.
- I don’t even know her name.
- The gold-embossed owl plate sitting under the Christmas tree on top a wooden Tarot card box, reflecting the lights. Mirth incense.
- Looking with melancholy out the window at the full moon. Selectively brooding.
- I illuminated the room & nothing bad happened.
- Honey-dew melon colored water after painting.
- I am watching it finally becoming a reality. The birth of a dream, finally. I sent off the words today, & then I will be at the helm of the ship, with the ability to make magic happen, & mold the sand upwards to make mountains & sky-high pines. Outer space, to touch the stars like so many before me have done.
- Now that it doesn’t have to be you, it can be anyone.
- Email minimalism. Cutting out everything that doesn’t bring me joy. Goodbye, newsletters subscribed to from past selves.
- Nautical clothing. Five things I need to add to my wardrobe soon. Things to make nautical outfits out of. Suspenders, to wear with bright-toned skater skirts. White t-shirts & sleeveless shirts. Bright yellow. Combat boots.
- The moment I realized it isn’t worth obsessing over the Fictions told by others or seen on TV or read in magazines; to spend more time worrying about keeping up appearances than working on making magic in your own life.
- It is pointless trying to read things cutting them down in order to justify your opinion of them. You are entitled to what you like & don’t like. Hate & annoyance is a waste of time. Spend more time loving things.
- Love is light. Feel the light coming out the ends of your fingers. Feel it in your chest. Stars died & were reborn & universes were created, just so that you could feel. Spend more time leaving behind $5 bills places with messages of good vibrations & send ripples out there so people can feel them. Leave behind messages in books. Write letters to people who you may never know, wishing them good things in their lives. Make it all feel loved. Become your own personal version of Love.
- His music. I listened to it, lying on my back staring up at the ceiling; it was melancholy, it was hopeful, it was electric, it was truly beautiful, & it spoke to my soul in a way that I hadn’t felt in a long time. They were the anthems for the new person I had become in the time that had passed.
- Stop wasting your time trying to follow the comings & goings of everyone, & keeping up with what all the Joneses are doing. Focus on your own shit. You’re better off that way.
- How To Be Happy Single. Realize that it isn’t that important. There are better things.
- I will order her book soon. & the hair dye, & everything else. Phoenix. Names. I am beginning to write a new narrative for myself.
I thought that without you, I would be a shadow; that I would go back to being what I used to be before I met you. Sad & incapable. I thought of you as the foundation everything I became was built upon. It would crumble if you weren’t there. That the person I had become was dependent on you being there. I looked at the happy, light, euphoric way I felt because of you (who I became because of how you made me feel) & the sense of belonging & being “good enough” that I finally felt. I thought these feelings couldn’t exist without you being with me, like a constant & repetitive circle that required you feeding the fire to keep it going. Eventually though, I realized that what I had become because of you was mine to keep. The feelings & experiences; the things that now made me feel good about who I was; the way I’d learned to love myself – those were things that could not be taken away or forgotten or repressed. This was who I was now; it wasn’t dependent on you validating me or providing a mirror by which I could see myself. It was thanks to you, showing me how to be this person & motivating me to do so, & it was thanks to me, grabbing up & running with these feelings & discoveries, & then building upon them when I had to, in order to become independently happy. I don’t need you in order to feel that way – I really can do it on my own.
As 2015 comes to a close, & a brand new unwritten year begins, I am thinking back on everything which occurred in the past year & to be honest, I am so amazed & impressed by all that has happened, & all that I have become. I have evolved. It was the type of year that started out somewhat rocky, but ended with a more beautiful & gentle sense of closure than I ever expected to find. The kind of year that makes me feel like maybe I need therapy or a long vacation or mere time to deal with all the phases & changes I went through, but simultaneously the kind of year that makes me feel like I have been deeply, vividly healed. It was the kind of year filled such with influential growth & complete reinvention & beautiful epiphanies & gentle, nurturing, startling, surprising change & rebirth, that I can only hope that 2016 will offer similar (or better, even more beautiful & ebullient) opportunities for happiness & becoming myself that this year has.
A brief overview of some highlights from 2015 //
★ Completed my A Thousand Cranes series by publishing the 10th book in the series, & therefore the 1000th poem in the series
★ Launched this blog (!!!)
★ Completed many goals that I deemed made me successful, in my eyes
★ I learned an indescribable amount about myself : who I wanted to be, where I wanted to go in life, what I really wanted & really didn’t want, what my goals really were, & that I shouldn’t sacrifice my dreams in order to do all the things I was “supposed” to do. It was a year of stripping away the bullshit until what I was left with was a polished gem glittering with the authentic truth : the reveal was that all along, I’d had what I needed.
★ I finally started feeling comfortable being open with people & letting them see who I really was : ceasing to participate in boring small talk as a form of friendship or present a watered-down version of my personality just to conform to what others expect me to be or what I perceive will make me more similar (therefore “likable”) to them. A refusal to build a wall around myself, hiding in a way so that I am never vulnerable but also never loved or known. Finally becoming myself, & having the courage to do so.
★ Learning to love myself more. Learning to accept & see the greatness (& truth) in all the things that I previously found to be faults in myself. Finally being able to see myself as being good enough : always worthy of love & respect – knowing my thoughts & opinions matter, & that my choices are perfectly okay. Being able to see when I deserve better, & being brave enough to go after Better.
★ Happiness. Learning that happiness isn’t a weird elusive thing meant for someone other than me. Finally being able to say that in the past year, I have almost entirely overcome the depression & anxiety that used to be a constant shroud (although the process of overcoming has been going on for much, much longer); achieving a sort of healing happiness; finally feeling like things really will be okay, & that I am capable of feeling good about myself & my life, long term & so deeply & authentically.
2016, I am looking forward to all the magic you have to offer me; all the good things & bright spunky ebullience awaiting me. Here’s to us all, making this the best year of our lives so far.
This is all new. This is pure newness & it can be whatever I want it to be. There are no rules, no boundaries, no constraints, no limits. I do what I want. I trust my own judgement because I believe in myself & I know how to trust myself, & I’ve learned recently that it is worth trusting myself. Only I can know what is right for me. Only I know who it is that I need to be, & only I can be the hero of my story.
It all makes sense now, newness does. Changes can be comfortable. It doesn’t have to be as difficult as it seems it will be. Beginnings make sense. Constant personal evolution, constantly being reinvented & reborn, makes sense. It is a matter of survival, of finding true happiness, of embracing life. This is how the tides change in my world. The feeling before newness is conflicted. Endings & beginnings mingling together, the last vestiges of sunlight dissolving & fading slowly, intermingling with the light of the moon, a moon which is illuminated by the next day’s sunlight, & it’s all mixed together in one beautiful palette of color, of things ending so that better things can begin, because we can’t know what these better things ahead of us are until we’re ready to let go of the dock, of the bowlines that keep us tethered there. Of course there are things we should hold onto, & promise ourselves we will never let go of. The things that we truly love, the things that make us happier than anything, the things we know are right. But sometimes we hold onto the old things, the things that weigh us down, the things that are no longer what we need them to be, the things we feel we have to keep under our control when in reality we’d be better off if we let our plans & ideas of the way things are be flexible.
It’s all part of continual personal evolution. Letting go of the things that weigh us down so that we’re free to fly. Letting go of everything that no longer make us feel light & happy & brilliant, because trust me, those feelings are out there, waiting for you, & you will find them if you ruthlessly cut out what doesn’t make you happy & enthusiastically seek what does make you feel happy & alive. You will find it. Tell yourself this whenever you doubt in your ability to reach the full potential you know you have, or are afraid to realize you do have, or worry that maybe you don’t have. Repeat these words, this mantra, every time you think the whole world around you is ending, & you’re thinking that maybe there isn’t possibly a way that you will end up with all the beautiful & brilliant things that you deserve. Tell yourself that you will find it, every time you question if you are in the right place, because right now, you are exactly where you are meant to be, & there are better things ahead. Things will get easier if you keep moving forward. Because sometimes the excellence of a new beginning is hidden among the confusing way that newness can feel, hidden among all the things you no longer are mixing with all the things you are just becoming.
This is your permission to make this whatever you want it to be. You know what is best for you.