Meet Ashley. A model, speaker, and life enthusiast, Ashley has felt the unrealistic standards of beauty. Overcoming others opinions and perceptions, Ashley now bravely speaks her truth and shares her own experiences to remind others that their worth has absolutely nothing to do with the way that they look. Read on to hear Ashley’s truth:
UR Enough: Please introduce yourself to the UR Enough community.
Ashley: Hi, I’m Ashley! I’m a 5’9 Gemini bursting with both energy as well as curiosity. With an innate desire for discovery, exploring, and a good laugh, I’ve found myself in some pretty incredible situations over the past years, and now spend my days as a full blown life enthusiast.
I started modelling completely by accident back in 2009 and through a series of very fortunate events found myself starring in short films, being featured in national commercials, strutting down runways, influencing, and co-founding SKYN Magazine.
While life is pretty flashy now, it hasn’t always been this way – my actual background is in leadership and social justice. With a Masters in Child Study and Education, and an Undergrad in Human Ecology and Sociology – I’ve spent a huge chunk of my life out of the public eye fundraising for local charities, volunteering as a youth mentor, teaching in classrooms, as well as participating in international service learning.
Some examples of my past endeavours have been teaching English in the Dominican Republic and Ghana, building schools in Nicaragua, Peru, and India, digging goat pens in China, opening up medical clinics in Costa Rica, and giving nation wide speaking tours across Canada talking to over 22,000 youth about the realities of hunger and the importance of food security.
I’ve also been lucky enough to represent Canada at the World Championships for Aesthetic Group Gymnastics four years in a row, and was blessed with the role of Youth Ambassador for impossible2Possible where I was given the opportunity to run 6 marathons in 6 days across Bolivia with the goal of educating, inspiring, and empowering youth worldwide using the medium of adventure.
Now? Well now I’m just here having a blast, traveling the world, and trying to make a positive impact while (hopefully) inspiring others to do the same.
UR Enough: Our society can be very judgmental, placing unrealistic standards on the way that we look. Has there ever been a time where these societal pressures have affected your mental wellness?
Ashley: Absolutely. Growing up I was always the friendly and outgoing kid. An extreme extrovert and very confident, I found myself involved with all sorts of school clubs, activities, and groups of friends.
As I got older, my body started to change, and with it, so did people’s perceptions of me. At 16 I found myself with a 30F chest, and although for many women out there something like that would be considered an ideal, for me, it most certainly wasn’t. Not so much because I hated the way it looked, but I hated how it made people treat me. I was teased, bullied, and judged constantly by men and women alike who assumed I was something or someone I was not all based off of one silly characteristic that I happened to have. Half the people I knew placed my sole value in it and the other half discredited the things I said, assumed I acted a certain way and sent me hurtful messages, all because my chest was a certain size.
At the age of 17, after realizing that my own internal self-worth was beginning to be negatively affected to the extreme, I made the decision to have them reduced. The surgery was a big step for me, one I made for others and not for myself, and for years I hid the scars with shame, trying to deny the conformity that I made of myself.
The thing is, that without that surgery I would have never become all that I am today. Trying to make the best of a bad situation I began doing all the things I never could before – I began running (which had always been a physical challenge for me before), and found myself running 6 marathons in 6 days across Bolivia. I found my confidence and voice, which before the surgery I hardly ever had for fear of people judging me based off my appearance, that confidence and voice led me on a nation wide speaking tour for Me to We and free the Children talking to kids about the realities of hunger and the importance of food security, And finally, it allowed me to really and truly understand that who I am as a person has absolutely nothing to do with how I look, and the right kind of people who should be around you will never make you feel anything less than everything you are.
Now at 27 I find myself still with my scars, but now with a renewed sense of purpose for them. Instead of just scars, I view them as my shield, one I can draw strength from, use as a reminder, and wear with pride.
UR Enough: It doesn’t matter who you are, we all have scars — some are visible, some are not. While we all have these scars, being able to share them with others allows us to open up to a whole new level of intimacy. If you could, what would you say to someone who feels shame for exposing them?
Ashley: First off, as cliche, as it sounds, I want you to know that you’re not alone.
The fact is that while everyone thinks that they’re unique in their circumstances, they’re often not nearly as alone as they think they are – and odds are someone else has been there before. So don’t ever feel like you’re alone, and don’t ever be afraid to share what you’ve been through. You never know who you’re inspiring, who you’re empowering, or who might be relating to you. Just think back to what life was like when you were living your truth and experiencing your struggles, how helpful would it have been to know that someone had been there before? Sometimes just knowing that someone is there, or has been there, is enough to get you through. You have the chance to be that person for someone else, and when you do, I promise you’ll make yourself proud.
UR Enough: Do you have any daily mental wellness rituals that you practice?
Ashley: For me, the best way to increase mental wellness is to constantly work at it, like a muscle. Just like I go to the gym daily to tone and flex my physical muscles, I’ll try to make a point to tone and flex my mental muscles as well. Sometimes that’s strengthening my mind with thoughts, images, quotes or books that inspire me, motivate me, or just simply make me feel good, and sometimes that’s simply taking the time to relax, reflect and debrief all that I am and all that I’ve done.
Personally, I find I’m at my own mental best when my actual self-aligns with my ideal self, so I always try to take time every day to ensure that what I’m actually doing and saying is aligning with the person I want to be and who want to become. When that happens is when I feel like my best me, and feeling like your best self is what mental wellness is all about.
UR Enough: What is one thing you love most about yourself?
Ashley: …I love that I’m resilient. It’s been this secret superpower that’s helped me not just survive some of life’s toughest situations but thrive within them.
…I love that I’m optimistic, it’s allowed me the ability to always see the bright side in every situation and really just enjoy life much more than I think I ever would otherwise.
…and I love that I’m brave. The bravery isn’t something that comes naturally, it’s something that I have to work at, something that I have to push myself to be each and every day, but I love the fact that regardless of what life throws my way, I always choose to be brave.
UR Enough: In five words, what does the messaging and community of UR Enough mean to you?
Ashley: Celebrating our ability to thrive.
Watch and listen to Ashley speak her truth in The #UREnough Campaign, and become inspired to nurture your own mental wellness and speak your truth, too.