I am a cautious girl by nature. I need lots of time to “prepare myself” for changes or for things I feel may be scary or unpleasant. I was the little girl on the diving board frozen in fear because I wasn’t “ready” to jump yet. I was the college Freshman who wasn’t “ready” to move away from home so attended a local college for a year.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with knowing your limits. I think it is wise to know yourself and listen to your gut and if your gut says “not yet” then maybe you should listen.
But here’s what else I know.
When I turned 18 I went to get my belly button pierced. I was terrified of needles but willing to sacrifice my body for the sake of a dangly diamond in my navel. The woman at the tattoo parlor I visited had me lay down on a table as she held the needle in one hand and asked me, “Are you a person who needs me to count down from ten or one who would rather have me just do it?” I lay there sweating and began stammering “Ummm … well… I’m not su-“ And BOOM. She pierced my belly button while I was trying to decide if I was ready or not. I lay there shocked and looked up at her and with genuine gratitude thanked her for just doing it. She smiled. “I could tell you were the type that needed that.”
She was right.
Sometimes we get to sit in contemplation and go back and forth debating whether or not to take the leap. But sometimes, life happens to us. Before we are ready.
Nine years after I was laying on that table with a diamond in my navel, I was staring at a positive pregnancy test as my mind screamed frantically “I’M NOT READY FOR THIS!!” I wasn’t. I really wasn’t ready. But it happened anyway.
I wasn’t ready to be a mom yet, but I will tell you a secret. I am doing it anyway. Now I am ready. I’m doing it just the same as all those other moms who were ready. I am doing it the same as the women who feel they were born for the sole purpose in life of becoming a mom. I’m doing it right alongside them. And I’m doing a damn good job. Now I know that I am capable of SO, SO much more than I ever imagined. I never would have known how far I could push myself without having had my daughter exactly when I did. She came because it was time. And when its time, you just have to buckle down and do it. My daughter was a giant, 9 lb kick in my ass to wake up and live my life.
Not too long after my daughter was born, I felt the tug at my heart begging me to write. I pushed it down and away because, you guessed it, I wasn’t ready. Then I saw this quote from Amy Poehler:
“Great people do things before they’re ready. They do things before they know they can do it. Doing what you’re afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that- that’s what life is. You might be really good. You might find out something about yourself that’s really special and if you’re not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself”
I wasn’t “ready” to write. I didn’t know anything about blogging. I had zero experience. The perfectionist side of me NEEDED to have things perfected and well-understood and well-controlled before I started. Perfectionist Ashley thought I could protect myself that way. That I wouldn’t be as vulnerable. That being perfectly prepared would ensure people would still like me even after I put everything out there. That somehow I could prevent myself from “failing” that way. But I saw Amy Poehler’s words in black and white and sighed a big sigh because I knew it was one of those signs that you had to actually listen to. So I googled how-to’s and set up my blog in one week and then just started writing. FUCK YOU PERFECTIONISM.
Sometimes guys? Sometimes you just need to fucking do it. Sometimes you just need to take off on a wing and a prayer. Sometimes you just need to take that leap of faith. I’m not talking about reckless and impulsive decision making here. I’m talking about a dream you’ve been sitting on for far too long out of fear that you aren’t good enough for it. And I think you know when its time. When the excuses of “not enough time” or “not enough guts” or “what if people don’t like it” or “what if people don’t like me” or some other lie you are choosing to believe are keeping you stuck in the “safety” of not trying.
Being “ready” can be an illusion that guarantees nothing. Thinking you are ready for something does not guarantee success or the absence of pain, just as not being ready doesn’t guarantee failure.
I was married for the first time at 22. People warned us that we weren’t ready. And guess what?
They were right.
Yes, all those people who we whispered “we will show them!” about? The ones we resented for being so negative, for raining on our love parade? They were right.
Tell me there isn’t a more bitter feeling than that.
But I will let you in on another secret: I don’t think I would trade it in for making a “smarter” decision. It was a big, huge, messy mess of a decision. It was beautiful and brutal and exciting and devastating. But we lived. We lived in a big, brave way. Brave to get married and brave to divorce. I stand by that story and I stand proud that I did something that was very out of character for me – for giving up on trying to appear perfect. That was the first time in my entire life I decided it wasn’t worth it, living a life that looked perfect on the outside and was a fucking disaster on the inside. I was willing to risk letting people see I wasn’t perfect for the chance to be the real kind of happy.
And almost every miraculous thing in my life has been birthed through the ashes of that time in my life. My career, finding my way back to my soulmate, my daughter, and above anything else, loving and knowing and trusting myself.
It wasn’t pretty or easy but it was oh, so worth it.
I wasn’t ready for the kind of rush that comes with stepping outside your comfort zone, with taking a chance and falling flat on your face, with taking a chance and flying higher than you thought possible. I wasn’t ready for any of that, but it was ready for me. Whether your thing is a belly ring, a baby, a career, or a dream, I hope you will listen to that piece of you that is begging to step outside your comfort zone.
Are you ready?
For anyone looking for more advice on overcoming self-doubt, please read my genius creative mentor and encourager of all things brave, Jenna Martin of Jenna Martin Photography’s most recent blog, “10 Steps to Overcoming Self-Doubt”.