Episode 012 of the Cultivate Your Life Podcast was released on March 27th, 2019. Listen here!
Lara: Somewhere along the line, someone told you something about who you are or who you’re not, and you believed that someone. Sometimes you feel stifled by this, held back, stuck in an identity box that someone else created, and when glimmers of your true self and life surface, you feel like you’re not the person for the job. Today, you’ll learn how to break that identity box, and be the woman you were created to be. Let’s talk.
Lara: You know all those things you’ve always wanted to do? You should go do them, the things that last long longer than you, the things that run deeper and are more thrilling than skydiving, the things that make you come alive. Welcome to the Cultivate Your Life podcast, where each week, we talk about how to uncover what matters to you in the big picture, and start acting like it today, whether you’re feeling stuck, overwhelmed or in need of some refreshing truth today. I’m Lara, and you are in the right place. Let’s cultivate what matters together.
Lara: Welcome to episode 12 of the Cultivate Your Life podcast. Hi. I’m so glad you’re here. I’m Lara, and I’m pumped about what you and I are going to dig in to today. Sometimes when I get really excited about something, it makes me want to sing Mariah Carey. Yeah. All I want for Christmas … Mariah does it way better way, but it’s just fun to sing it … is you. See? When we get to know each other, I get silly, and I sing Mariah Carey. Let’s talk about what we have on deck today.
Lara: You, me, we want to feel confident in who we are, grounded where we are, right? I want to feel confident enough to sing Mariah Carey Christmas with you. Okay. I can’t get over the silliness today. In all seriousness, I do. I do want to be able to be myself. I just want to be able to let loose with the people I love, with everyone, and when we do that, it encourages other women to do the same, to not care so much about what other people think or how perfect or imperfect we are. We want to be sure of our place in life, imperfections and all.
Lara: You want to stop hiding your true self, striving to be someone you’re not. Whether you feel like you’re doing that in a large overt way, you feel like you’re actively comparing your life to someone else’s or maybe it’s even in tiny things that just creep up sometimes without you knowing. You want to be the person you were made to be. Here’s how you’re going to feel as we move through the stories. I have two incredible women that are going to join us.
Lara: Here’s how you are going to feel as we peel back these layers. You’re going to feel confident in a new way, not confident as in showy, overt confidence, but a quiet confidence that comes from an inner peace of knowing you’re right where you’re supposed to be, mess and all. You’re going to feel confident, grounded, sure. You, my friend, you’re going to crack through that identity box, and start living your life. Let’s do it.
Cassie: I am Cassie, and I am from Boston, Massachusetts. I used to believe that I was too sick to make a difference.
Jennifer: I’m Jennifer from Tulsa, and I’ve been told that I’m too type A to have a good time.
Deandra: My name is Deandra, and I’m from San Francisco, California. I’ve told myself that I’m a clamshell without a pearl, and I have nothing to offer.
Lara: This is
Lara: Somewhere along the line, I started to think that something must be wrong with me. So, I set out to be liked. I became a people-pleaser. Have you felt that? Always seeking approval and validation from others. In high school, I bought all the freckle eraser creams, and lathered on the feelings of not being enough. I felt like I didn’t fit. Since I wasn’t perfect, I believed I’d never be happy or loved.
Lara: All through college and many years after that, every time I would go to the salon to get just a quick haircut, the stylist would try to convince me to get an all-day straightening treatment. I didn’t ever get one, but I considered it. I sat in that chair and I thought, “Huh! That must mean something’s wrong with me.” Everything, for almost my whole life, told me that curly hair was something to hide, so I did. Along with hiding my hair, I hid a part of who I was created to be, until one day, I came undone.
Lara: I woke up one day in the middle of a very challenging season, and felt tired of fixing my hair, always putting it up or straightening it, trying to control my curls, which was a mirror to trying fruitlessly to control my life. So, I woke up one day and I washed my hair, and I let it go. My daughter, Grace, played with my hair that night, wrapping my curls around her fingers, putting bows in my locks, lots and lots of bows, and simply wanting to touch my hair.
Lara: Something clicked. I woke up and I let it go again and again. Each day, I felt the surprising thing. I felt more free, but let me tell you, it wasn’t about a hairstyle. It was about letting go of what years, decades of feeling rejected had done to me. It was about finally, “Finally.” Are you craving that, just that finally moment of just settling into the skin that you’re in right now, not the skin or the hair or the identity, your job title or anything that someone else has created for you? I couldn’t express it in words at the time, but it was a letting go of what years of feeling rejected had done to me.
Lara: I finally felt like I was, get this, I was expressing gratitude for the way God created me just by the sheer simple act of being myself. I thought to myself as Grace continued to wrap my tresses around her fingers, if I wanted Grace to live loved, I was going to have to show her how, and live it myself. I had to come undone.
Lara: Embracing my curls over the last few years has been nothing short of life-changing, and it’s not about hair, though, okay? It’s about my hair. I look in the mirror now, and I’m reminded to live my unique life right where I am, with what I have because rejection, these feelings of not being enough or being too much, they’re going to happen, and it happened to me just a few weeks ago, and it’s done. Those little moments remind me to keep fighting to trust and what I know to be true.
Lara: I, you, we are loved more than we could ever imagine. I must say that one more time. I’m going to let this sink in to my heart, too. We, my friend, we are loved more than we can ever imagine. Everything in the world tells us that we have to do something to rise to some standard, to fit some mold, to have something written on our lapel for a job title, to be worthy, but it’s not true, and it’s exhausting.
Lara: Living from the place of knowing we are loved, it encourages others to do the same, too. It multiplies freedom. When I feel the desire to hide because it happens, when I feel that creeping back up, I think about what I know versus what I feel. Now, feelings aren’t the enemy, but many times, they can lead us away from truth, right? I may feel rejected at times, but I know Whose I am with a capital W. I may feel broken, but I know I’m whole in the Lord. I may feel like my heart’s a total mess, but I know that God transforms our messes into our message. I may feel alone, isolate, and lonely at times, but I know that God never ever, ever leaves me. Leaning into knowing instead of letting my feelings inform my worth changes everything.
Lara: I’m so excited because a friend of mine knows a whole lot about this. When we open our hearts to share some of our deepest pains and triumphs, ooh, it can make so many light bulbs, fireworks, cartwheels in our hearts go off, and this lady, Maghon Taylor, my dear friend from many years. Just wait.
Lara: Friends, you’re about to experience the magic of Megan Taylor. Hi, Maghon. I’m so glad you’re here.
Maghon: Thank you so much for having me.
Lara: So, Maghon, you and I have known each other for a long, long time. Just before we started chatting here, I was remembering, it’s almost like a movie in my mind of remembering when I first met you, and I have to say, Maghon, when I first met you, I knew that you were a passionate, colorful, amazing woman, but it is amazing to see what has happened in your life over the last years that we have known each other. So, can you tell us a little bit about where you were, maybe around the time that we first met? What was going on in your life then? Then what has the Lord brought out in you to help other people?
Maghon: Absolutely. It’s pretty incredible just like you said. This is a story that God has her in in my life, and just he allowed me to be able to share that with other people. When you and I first met with that making things happen, and it was in 2013, I had been through a really hard deep end. I was at the lowest probably that I had been in a very long time, but I was on the way out of that. I was charging back up. I was on my way, and Making Things Happen had popped up, and that is that. It come. I have a business, All She Wrote Notes, and I was thinking that I was going to come here and just grow my business, and everything was going to be about that.
Maghon: Little did I
Lara: I cannot hear that at all, Maghon.
Maghon: I lived all the way across the country, all the way away from my family and my friends, and everybody who loved me, in this relationship, and in this marriage that I knew was not where I was supposed to me. Things went from bad to worse. For somebody who looks for the good in everything, and who always tries to find the positive, I was in a season where there just was no good. It was very hard. I knew my life was in danger. I was threatened. I was beaten and abused.
Maghon: Just for a girl who is happy and positive, and who loves bright colors, and who loves Jesus, I’m like, “How in the world did I get here? How on earth did I end up right here?” I think I just made a series of bad decisions, and distancing myself from who I knew I was, and listening to what someone else was calling me, and what someone else was saying things about me that just weren’t true, that were berating me, were making me feel less than valuable, less than beautiful, less than confident, just anything all the little attacks. Those really, really add up, and I was just at an all-time low back then, but I was given a second chance
Maghon: I prayed and prayed for a way out. He found, not the way that I thought it was going to be, but I got out of that situation. Thank the Lord, and made my way back home, moved back home, and just started my life over. You know what? Thankfully, for me, it was a time before social media was king. It was a time before everything was out there, and it was almost like this secret that I had been living with that people didn’t know. My name had changed back. It was such a quick thing in my life. It was such a hard, hard piece to talk about, so I just didn’t.
Maghon: I just buried it, and put it underneath the surface, but I found myself in a calligraphy business, and doing things for other people’s weddings, and writing invitations, and doing envelopes, and all those fun wedding thing. I started feeling like a fraud because I was like, “Why would anybody want a divorced girl to do their wedding stuff?” I failed at marriage.
Lara: Wow! So, you felt like you were in this identity box, in a way, of, “How can this round peg fit in this square hole that I think everybody wants?” Right?
Maghon: Exactly. I saw these people, they were doing it right. They found the right person. Their life was doing great. They were in love. They were happy. Everything was happening for them that I failed to make happen for me. It was very hard because that was the life I wanted. I just didn’t have it yet. I had to learn, and I learned so much sitting in there in those chairs and making things happen that you do not have to be defined by your past, that you don’t have to be defined by your mistakes, that your mess can be your message.
Maghon: I tell people all the time with my lettering, I mess up writing all the time. I’m always doodling, I’m always drawing, and I spell stuff wrong literally everyday. I spell something wrong, or either I write a letter that’s not cute. I started turning all of my mistakes into confetti. I take the paper, the scrap paper, and I run it through the shredders, and it makes the most beautiful confetti that you’ve ever seen.
Lara: I had chills.
Maghon: I tell people that you can turn your mess into confetti. You can turn your mistakes in your life and the hard parts, and the pieces that aren’t pretty. If you look at confetti, that’s what it is. It’s the scrap paper. It’s the broken pieces, that cast as trash. Confetti is trash, you all. It is trash. It was just repackaged, and now, it has a really cool job, and it’s living a beautiful life. So, I sat there in those chairs, and broke through that identity box for myself and just decided that I’m not a mess anymore, instead, I’m a confetti, and that I am not designed by all these hard things, that God has a bigger plan for me.
Maghon: I just turned it around right then and there. I decided that I wasn’t going to be ashamed anymore, and then I wasn’t going to be embarrassed, and I wasn’t going to feel bad, and feel bad for myself that this happened to me, that instead, if I could help one person, if I could share that story and empower one person, that it would make everything I went through worth it.
Lara: Can you take us to just that, that moment? I’m so curious. To the moment where you felt like you decided, I imagine something that might have been going through your head was, “Well, I could just keep going like this. I could just keep on with feeling like I’m not enough,” feeling like what you’ve said before that you felt like you were a fraud or felt like you were just hiding, in a way, or what is it in your brain that made you take that leap?
Maghon: It was thinking that I knew that there had to be more out there, that God did not make me
Maghon: The only way that you’re going to get through something like that or get to the other side is by grabbing his hand so tight, and letting him pull you through because there is sunshine ahead. There is a rainbow on the other side. All the clichés, all of the things they say, I’m living that right now.
Maghon: I just think that all of the opportunities that have come my way, and me being able to be blessed with a platform to share
Lara: Wow! She’s listening right now, the woman who so many of us who feel like our light has been snuffed out, and our sunshine bouncing around has been dimmed. Speak to her right now. If you could go back and speak to Maghon from five, 10 years ago, probably 10 years ago-
Maghon: 10 years ago.
Lara: Yup. What would you say to her?
Maghon: That it’s going to come back, that you’re going to get it back, and that God has a plan for you that is just far greater than anything you can imagine, that he has a husband for you, he already knows who he is, and you know him. I knew Chris since first grade. I just thought that that wasn’t possible for me. I thought that I didn’t deserve. I thought that I had blew it, and then I messed up, but God already have that laid out. He had a little boy waiting for me one day, and a business, and friends, and a life, and just a chance to heal, but then to turn around and help the other people that are still hurting.
Lara: Wow! Friends, the magic of Maghon Taylor comes not from just glittery, fun confetti on the surface, but the magic inside each of us, typically, comes from somewhere that we have been wounded. I love how you said that confetti is like all those broken pieces that can be put back together. So, tell us what that’s like now. Where are you now? I’m sure that you still sometimes struggle with these feelings of inadequacy or being pulled back to that sadness and smallness. What do you tell yourself in those moments now?
Maghon: I just think that God has me here, and he has me right where he wants me, and that we got this far, and we got through it all. If there are any days that I second guess myself and I doubt myself, I feel like I compare any day that could be a bad day, any day that things didn’t go right or something bad happened at work or kids are being annoying, whatever. I compare my bad days to my worst day, and I vividly remember my worst day. I know where I was. I know what happened. I know everything that was said.
Maghon: You know what? On a day where you got stuck in traffic or when you lost your car keys or when something hit the fan, you’re okay because you’ve been through harder things than this, and you survived it. I find myself really just having a perspective that I never wouldn’t had if I hadn’t gone through everything that I did before. Just even in my marriage, I think I am able to love Chris in a way, and forgive Chris in a way, and just be so grateful for him in a way that I think a less mature wife, a less experienced wife that I was before wouldn’t have loved and appreciated him the way I’m able to now because I knew how bad things could be, and he is just so much better, and so much greater than that. So, I didn’t think that I have a greater sense of appreciation for everything in my life because of the hard times that I went through to get here.
Lara: It’s amazing. I always love hearing your story because it just points to the fact that we may look around at social media or Instagram or even people around us, and we think, “Oh, they have it all together. They’re so happy. They must have been happy all their lives.”
Maghon: I tell people all the time, I am so happy and I know what it feels like to be so happy right now because I know what it feels like to be so sad, and to not even know if you’re going to live to see the next day, and to not even know if you’re going to make it out alive, and to get out alive, and to make it, it makes you just want to run and jump around, and be so happy because I’m just so happy I’m here. I just feel so grateful that I’m here, that I’m alive, and that I’m getting to live each day, and live the life that God intended for me because there were lot of days and a lot of months, and even years that I wasn’t sure that I was going to get that chance.
Lara: It makes you want to maybe go out and get a custom license plate. Tell us what your license plate is, Maghon.
Maghon: It does. My license plate on my car says, “Confetti”. It is my favorite word. It’s my favorite mission. I just get so excited because, really, for me, it sums up everything that God was trying to teach me. I love bright colors. I mean, I love donkey pinatas. I love all those things. It’s the meaning behind it. That’s what’s so special is he takes all the broken things and makes them beautiful, and I am one of those broken things.
Lara: You all, you need to come to make things happen, just so you can hang out with Maghon and her donkey pinatas, and all the confetti. Maghon, what a beautiful picture you’ve painted for us. Friends, I hope that you now look at confetti in a totally different way, and take all of those pieces, and turn them into your message. Maghon, thank you so much for being here.
Maghon: Thank you, Lara. This was a joy.
Lara: Now, quickly, tell us where can people find you, aside from hunting you down on the street and finding your license plate.
Maghon: Oh, yeah. If you see me driving around, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee every Friday at Starbucks.
Lara: Oh, that’s the best.
Maghon: Paying it forward is my favorite thing. I am on Instagram @allshewrotenotes and my website is allshewrotenotes.com. Facebook, All She Wrote Notes. My name, Maghon, is really hard to spell, so I had to come up with something else to make a little bit easier.
Lara: I love your spelling of your name, and I know there’s a whole another story there. We’ll have to have you back on the show. Maghon, you’re the best. I love you.
Maghon: Thank you for having me. I love you.
Lara: Maybe you feel like your life is like tattered paper, scribbled on, torn, ripped, jagged edges, almost useless, too far gone to be used for anything good, but like Maghon so beautifully just taught us, grab that hole puncher, and let’s start to turn your mess into confetti.
Lara: You’re about to learn six practical ways to break free, and finally live out the life you’re created to live. Step number one, you’re going to write your story. Number two, you’re going to name what’s in that identity box. Number three, what would happen if you were to break it? Number four, you’re going to write out what would happen if you didn’t. What would happen if you just stayed the same where you are? Number five, you’re going to write a new story using one simple sentence. Finally, number six, you’ll take one step forward into the real you.
Lara: Number one, write your story. Grab a piece of paper, scrap paper. You know how we role here now. You don’t need perfect paper or perfect pen. Don’t even think you need to have the perfect handwriting. Am I right? Are you feeling that right now? Maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t know if I really want to write this down. I don’t have my perfect pen.” Just grab a number two pencil and call it a day because part of your true identity is not being a woman who is going to stop in the face of perfection and say, “I quit.” All right?
Lara: So, grab anything you’ve got, and write it down. Also, I just want to encourage you what we learned about in episodes two and three together, about the power of handwriting. I totally understand. You might be listening to me and chatting with me here while you fold laundry or while you’re driving in the car. Don’t feel like you got to pull over or stop folding panties. Just come back to this. Maybe just mark in your mind, “Hey, I’m going to go back to …” whatever marker you’re on right now as you listen, and write these things down later on.
Lara: So, number one, write your story. Write down in just a few sentences how did you get here. What things in your life, and you don’t have to write a novel here, but just name a few things in your life that you feel shaped your identity in a good way. Let’s start there. Start with the good things. Maybe it’s people in your life. First person that comes to my mind is my grandpa Cecil. His identity, his humility, his one-to-one focus on relationships, him being out in the garden growing these giant rutabagas, and his, as you know from our mini episodes in the garden together, his upside-down tomatoes. It shaped me. It shaped my character, shaped my heart, shaped the direction of where I wanted to head in the big picture.
Lara: Also, write down what do you want to break free from. Maybe for you, you have felt stuck in an identity box of something that someone else said a long time ago, and it has just plagued you, and stayed with you. I remember when I was in high school I had two close friends, and happened to me many times growing up, where I’d have two friends, and then they would decide to be friends together, and I felt left out. I felt that rejection over and over and over. It made me want to close my heart off.
Lara: I remember one of these friends at one point telling me, “Lara, you just have a lot of walls up. You just have walls up.” That sentence, those words stayed with me all through my life. Here’s the cool thing. Words that were meant to sting us can actually fuel us for good things because Lord knows, those walls are falling down in so many ways. I have shared my stories so openly not because of wanting to prove that could, but because God’s grace compels me to because I wake up everyday, I’m like, “How can I not talk about this?”
Lara: So, just imagine for yourself, as you write out your story, even as you write out these hard things, maybe, maybe, and I believe this, even if you don’t, I believe this for you. Those can turn into the very things that fuel you in his direction. So, what’s your story? What has brought you to this point? Write it down.
Lara: Number two, name what’s in your identity box. You might have written just a few thoughts in number one, but what have you decided that you can’t do? For most of my life, I told myself I was not a numbers person. Have you felt that? I would be questioned about something with finances or simple addition, and I would automatically turn my brain off because I had decided in my little identity box that I’m not a numbers person, therefore, there’s no way I could ever be successful in that, until a friend of mine said, “Hold up!” I’m going to say that to you, too. Hold up. Flip the scrip, and instead of saying, “I’m not a numbers person,” I started to say the truth, which is, “I am becoming more skilled at numbers.”
Lara: Words have power, and you can choose to use them well to your advantage. Now, I feel pretty skilled navigating QuickBooks. Watch out, people. I can run a report and compare numbers and percentages, and you name it. I am still becoming more skilled at numbers, but that identity box has been broken.
Lara: How many times have you accepted defeat before even trying? We are so quick to limit ourselves, aren’t we? Deciding who we are and who we aren’t, and we get stuck. You and I had a great conversation in episode one together about my college days. You know that I was told in college that I was sensitive. I believed that meant I was weak. When something required strength of any kind, I assumed I couldn’t do it. I gave up before even trying. Have you done that?
Lara: What’s in your identity box? Get curious about it, and write it down. Changing our limiting self-talk can change the course of our lives. Perhaps, you have believed the lie that you aren’t good enough or you can’t do something because you aren’t an expert. Have you felt that? Perhaps, someone once told you that you weren’t the best at something, and you believed that person. Are you ready to breakthrough that identity box?
Lara: I know a woman who has done this very powerfully over the last few months, and she’s here sitting next to me, my very dear friend and, actually, my neighbor. She’s my neighbor. We live maybe two blocks away from each other, right? My friend, Ashlea, is here with us. She is going to share with us her story of breaking her identity box.
Lara: I’m so grateful to have a dear friend here with me live in my office right now. Hi, Ashlea.
Ashlea: Hi, Lara.
Lara: So, Ashlea is someone that knows a whole lot about breaking an identity box. You’re a strong lady, too. I feel like you could just hammer that box, and throw it to pieces, but Ashlea-
Ashlea: I like that visual.
Lara: Yes. You do crossfit. You know what I mean? You lift weights, but more so, you are someone that has a heart, that is passionate, that is driven, and I’ve seen you break a whole lot of identity boxes over the last few months. So, thanks for being here.
Ashlea: Thanks for having me. It’s so good to be here.
Lara: So, Ashlea, tell us a little bit about your story. How in the world did you and I meet, and what were you doing before we met?
Ashlea: So, before we met, I was a lawyer working in regulatory affairs at a university in Washington, DC. So, I was there. I just graduated from law school. I was working my first job out of law school, trying to figure out adulthood. I was quickly realizing that I wasn’t quite sure that practicing law was what I wanted to do with the rest of my days. It was scary because you go to law school for three years, you study, you take the bar exam, which is basically like a full-time job to study for, and then you start out working, and you get into the real world, and you quickly realize, “Wow! This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life? I’m not sure I want to do that.” So, I was wrestling with that, and I decided to take a leap, and applied for a job at a small company in Chapel Hill called Cultivate What Matters.
Lara: I’m so glad you did that leap. Side story, you wrote that on your power sheets.
Ashlea: I did. I wrote down in my power sheets. It’s one of my goals for the year, “Get a job at Cultivate What Matters.” Isn’t that crazy?
Lara: Back track a little bit for me. When you were at your job as a lawyer, when you were sitting at your desk, tell us about some of the things that you would feel. Tell us about that restlessness. What was that like for you?Ashlea: Yeah. I would almost classify it as a season of depression a little bit from being really honest that I just felt lonely, I felt isolate, I felt I didn’t have any passion or drive or desire to do what I was doing. I was waking up everyday to go to a job that was not fulfilling, and where I didn’t feel like I was really using my talents or really using what purpose God had given me. I just felt empty. I felt like I had everything on paper, but my life just wasn’t lining up with what I thought it should like, and it was hard. It was a really hard season.
Ashlea: At the same time, I also felt like, “You should be happy. You made it. You graduated from law school.”
Lara: Yeah, “You worked hard.”
Ashlea: Yeah. “You worked hard. You got a great job right out of law school, this prestigious university,” and here I was feeling like I was doing something wrong. I felt like a lot was missing, and I just felt like this wasn’t right. I didn’t feel good about it.
Lara: Yeah. Did you feel any … Was there any pressure inside your hear or your heart thinking about what other people might think of you if you were to even consider something different in your life? Tell us about that.
Ashlea: Oh, my goodness! Yes. I feel like that’s where the majority of the pressure was coming from of these feelings of, “What is anyone else going to think of me? What are my peers going to think of me, my former classmates who I just graduated with? What is my family going to think of me, my friends? What is my Instagram community going to think of me? What is Facebook going to think of me? What is the world going to think of this girl who graduate from law school, worked really hard to pass the bar, but suddenly says, ‘I don’t like this’? Are they going to think less of me? Are they going to think that I have less of everything figured out? Are they going to think that I’m not as smart as I thought I was? What are they going to think?” All that pressure made me feel like I was stuck
Lara: Oh! I can just imagine so many of the women that are listening right now. I see you. I hear you, and I just imagine you all listening right now, you’re feeling this. You’re feeling stuck and, actually, you shared it so beautifully, this identity box of feeling like, “I have to stay here, so that people perceive me as …” and you fill in the blank. So, tell us what was brewing in your heart. So, what was that thing that you thought, “Oh, in my dreamworld, what could I do?”
Ashlea: So, I was working my first job. I decided that I should start a blog because I needed a creative outlet. I needed something to spend some time on that didn’t really relate to my job. So, I started a little food blog. I love to cook. I love healthy eating. I love to share recipes. So, I said, “Hmm, well, I’ve got some free time. Maybe I’ll start a blog.” I found my passion for something. It was a switch. It just flipped overnight, and I realized, “I love doing this.” In my dreamworld, when I would really sit at my desk at work and think about what I would really want to be doing with my days, it was to run my blog full-time and to share recipes, and to cook, and to engage with people over healthy food, and meals, and dinners, and lunches, and breakfasts, and all of it. That’s what I had this passion for bubbling up inside of me. No matter how hard I try to save it down, it wouldn’t go away.
Lara: So, did you share that with anybody that you’re close to or your parents? Tell us what their reactions were when you would share those things.
Ashlea: So, when I shared it with my parents, my immediate family members, they weren’t surprised. I’ve been watching cooking shows probably since I was a toddler. I think I preferred food network over cartoons. So, they weren’t surprised that I started a blog, but they were a little surprised that I thought that I could do it full-time. Just like a lot of people where I went to law school, and they were confused as to why I would spend the time, and the money, and the energy, and the effort to spend three years in a professional program to then say, “Hmm, I think I want to start a blog, and do that instead.” They weren’t rude about it or they weren’t condescending, but it was just a little bit of, “You sure you don’t want to be a lawyer? Maybe you should just find another legal.”
Lara: You didn’t jump into doing food blogging. That would be impractical I’m sure you thought in your head at the time. There were all these challenges. This identity box, you were still there. So, tell us about the next leap of faith you took.
Ashlea: That’s exactly what I was thinking, Lara. I said, “Well, you can’t just jump into it full-time from where you are now, but what you can do is try something different. You can try another career path instead of going down this legal career path. You can say, ‘Well, what about a creative career?’ because you want to do something creative,” but I wasn’t sure I wanted to do the food blogging thing.
Ashlea: So, that’s when I applied to work at Cultivate and I said, “This seems like a good fit. Women who are on fire, passionate, they’re doing creative work, they’re inspiring women, they’re doing something that’s fulfilling, and they’re doing something that makes a real difference in the world. I don’t have to just jump from one thing to another in such a big leap. I can try working on a different company, where I feel like my values align a little bit more closely with theirs.” So, that’s what I did. I applied here, and I got the job.
Lara: It was still a pretty big leap for you.
Ashlea: Yeah, it was.
Lara: So, tell us about that because I’m so grateful, so grateful for you, first of all. It takes a lot of bravery to take a leap of faith away from law, this thing that you worked so hard for, that you were good at, and everybody was supporting you in that, and then you took a leap of faith to work alongside us, which praise the Lord you did. I’m glad we were on your path. Then you continued, continued to peel back those layers, and to breakthrough that identity box little-by-little-by-little. That restlessness, that little fire inside for food and for nourishing others continued to grow strong. So, tell us about that. Tell us about that restlessness you felt, and continuing to break that identity box.
Ashlea: Yeah. When I was here, I just felt like, “My life should feel perfect now. I’m working alongside a group of women who are just topnotch.” I mean, the women who work on this team are incredible, and I will say that over and over again. They’re incredible women doing incredible work in an incredible way. You feel like you should be feeling incredibly happy. You should feel like life is perfect, that everything is just great, and you’ve made the right decisions, and just everything should fall in line.Ashlea: While I felt so much more at peace than I had at my previous position, I still felt that wrestle on the inside of like, “Girl, you know what you really want to do, and you’re getting closer and closer to it, but you’re still not there.” There was this push of, “Okay. You took one step,” but I really felt like the Lord was saying, “I need you take five more really quickly. I need you to just go, and I need you to stop waiting. I know you want to be practical, and logical, and do everything in a way that make sense to others, but maybe you need to build the airplane while you’re taking off a little bit. Maybe you need to just make a jump. It’s not that where you are is wrong. It’s so much as there’s something greater that I have for you, and I think you need to step into that.”
Ashlea: So, I felt that wrestle, and gosh, it was hard. It’s one thing to feel like you need to be somewhere else when you’re at a position where there’s all of these icky factors, where maybe the HR person isn’t the nicest or maybe your co-workers are, “Hmm,” but it’s another thing to feel like that when you’re in an environment where people want to see you be successful, and there’s just this good, wholesome family environment, and then you still feel those feelings of restlessness. That was a challenge because you start to question yourself like, “What is happening here? Are you unhappy with your work? Are you … What are you really unhappy about?” So, I had to sit in that. I had to sit in that, and really pray, and really think, and really journal, and write things down. What I’ve came away from that was, “You know what you want to do. You want to do this food blog thing full-time, and it’s time for you to just do it.”
Lara: Oh! I feel you just dropped so much truth on us just now to build that airplane before you actually fly it or while you’re in the path. You said it better than I can. What I think is so profound about what you shared is that even in a good thing, even when something feels like, “Why am I not grateful for this?” you might still have some restlessness, and it is okay to let go of a good thing to make room for a better thing even if you don’t know how it’s going to pan out yet.
Lara: So, Ashlea, tell us about the next leap. You’ve taken so many big leaps of faith, but I’m most especially inspired by the one you recently took, and where you are right now. So, tell us about that.
Ashlea: Yeah. So, I decided to take the leap and pursue food blogging full-time. I decided to be a full-time creative entrepreneur, which I mean, I worked here surrounded by people who are creative. So, I’m not super surprised by it, but that was the next step for me. I just really felt like the Lord was saying, “It’s time for you to just pursue that dream on your heart full-time. I want you to give everything to it. I want you to really press into that. I know it may not look like everything is all tied up with a ribbon and a bow, and that people typically have all these boxes checked before they become full-time entrepreneurs, and you may not have as many of those boxes checked, but it’s time. Now is the time for you to do it.” So, I decided to take that leap and to pursue being a business owner full-time. That’s what I’m doing now.
Lara: That’s awesome. Okay. Now, but tell us, has it been scary at times?
Ashlea: I would say scary not so much, but, and this is the thing. I really want people to hear this, too, is that you may not have everything figured out, but you don’t have to be fearful. I think that’s what I have learned from this process more than anything is that I don’t have everything figured out. I don’t have the next 10 years or five years or even a year plan figured out. I have goals. I have dreams. I have things I want to accomplish, but I don’t have all the answers, but I have peace.
Ashlea: That is what’s so incredible is that even though I have every reason to be scared or fearful or question what I’m doing, I have an overwhelming sense of peace like I’ve never had before about any career decision, whether it was a legal decision or any job. I just have peace like never before. Anytime that I start to feel even a little bit of anxiety or who it’s going to happen, the Lord sweeps in, he’s like, “No. I’ve got you. No need to be afraid. No need to be worried.” That peace is what’s carried me, and that peace is what’s confirmed over and over that you made the right decision.
Ashlea: So, even if things on the surface don’t look like they’re all figured out, the inside of me has a peace that’s just so overwhelming and all-consuming that I can’t even bring myself to really fear. That’s what’s just … It’s been that thing that’s been like, “Okay. You did it. You made the right move. You did what I said, and now, I’m with you.” That’s how I feel.
Lara: This is why I had you come and talk to us because, you all, I mean, well, doesn’t that encourage you, though? I mean, take us back to the moment when you’re sitting at your desk back in your law job. If you hadn’t thought that there was another way to live, if you hadn’t considered breaking that identity box of, “I am a lawyer. I am going to be successful in this thing only. This is what’s expected of me. This is what everybody has known of me. This is what I’ve worked so hard for,” if you hadn’t done that, where would you be?
Ashlea: I would still be stuck wasting my days, and that sounds really dramatic. Maybe it may sound a little bit harsh, but I believe it to be true because I don’t think I would have been living my purpose. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t have been doing work that was helpful to someone or that I wouldn’t have been doing something good. It’s to say that I wouldn’t have been living the life that God designed for me, and that is not what I want to do.
Ashlea: We only get so many days. We only get so much time, and I want to make sure that I use that time wisely. If I had never considered what could happen, if I didn’t break that identity box, I would still be stuck, wasting away the precious time that God had given me on this earth, and that is not how I wanted to live my life. That’s not what I want to look back on. That’s not what I want to show my children or that’s not what I want my life to be a testament of. I want to leave this earth poured out.
Ashlea: So, I’m just glad I broke it, even though it felt hard, and it was challenging, and I felt like I could never do it. When I made the first step, the second step felt easier. When I made the second step, the third step felt easier, and so on and so forth. Then you get to this point, and you look back, and you realize you ran a marathon.
Lara: I’m going to cry. So good
Ashlea: Don’t cry.
Lara: So good. Last question for you. She’s listening, the woman who is still there, and she feel stuck. She feels like there’s no way anything could change like, “How in the world could I actually break free?” whether it’s from a career or from feeling like you’re not enough or someone told you that you can’t, whether it is. Can you speak some words to her?
Ashlea: Yeah. Girlfriend, you can. You can do it. You can do it well, and you will do it. Take the first step. It’s not going to feel easy. It’s not going to feel like you have everything figured out. You’re going to question what in the world you’re doing, and that is normal. That is okay, and that’s maybe how you should feel because it’s a big change to break out of an identity box or to change your life or to make a decision that feels like you have no idea what you’re doing. I want you to feel those feelings. I want you to sit in them for a moment, and I want you to keep going. I want you to keep showing up, whether it’s applying for a new job, whether it’s having a conversation, sending a text message, making a phone call, stepping foot in a gym for the first time, cleaning out your kitchen, organizing your pantry
Lara:You can come clean on my kitchen.
Ashlea: Whatever it may be.
Lara: You’re probably really good at that.
Ashlea: I want you to keep going, and I want you to be encouraged that how you start will not be how you finish. You will look back in a year, six months or even a week and realized you’ve come so far, and I want you to remember that you can do it. You’re more than well able
Ashlea: Thank you, Lara
.Lara: So, Ashlea, tell us about what you’re doing now. Just tell listeners where they can find you, and tell us about some things you might be excited about coming up.
Ashlea: All right. Well, you can find me at allthehealthythings.com. That’s the website in the blog, where all of my recipes are housed. I am a full-time food blogger. So, what you’re going to get from me is great, easy, simply recipes that you can make any day of the week that are perfect for your family or just for you, if it’s just you. You can find me on Instagram @allthehealthythings as well. I just love sharing good food, you all. I love cooking, and I love sharing.
Ashlea: Some exciting things coming up, it’s Monday when we’re recording this, and I get married on Saturday. So, that’s exciting. I’m just so excited to dig in to more content, more recipes, more everything, and just serve the community so well. It’s just my privilege, and it’s just an honor to be able to do it, and I’m so grateful.
Lara: Did you hear that? “I am a full-time food blogger.” I mean, I just heard that. That’s amazing.
Ashlea: Thank you.
Lara: I love you, Ashlea.
Ashlea: I love you, too, Lara.
Lara: So, one of my favorite things about church besides going to worship God, yes, that’s my favorite thing, but I have a few other favorite things. One of them is when there is a strong point named at a sermon, there are two friends of mine who make sure that that is noted. There’s one gentleman in the back that always says, “Well,” and then another dear friend says, “That’s what’s up.” I have both of those things to say about Ashlea Adams right now. Well, that’s what’s up. That is some truth right there.
Lara: We can keep on the same way we’ve always done it, doing life the same way we have always done life or we can stop and consider that there’s another way forward, a way that is more true to our authentic selves, and not some other person’s idea of what our path should be. You and I, we are throwing out the should’s, and we’re doing that most radical thing we can do, which is walking our unique path. This leads us to number three.
Lara: So, we’ve done number one, which is to write out your story. How did you get here? What are some of the things that shaped your journey along the way, shaped your identity for better or for worse? Number two, what’s inside that identity box of yours? Now, number three, what would happen if you were to break it? Name the possibilities if you were to crush that identity box. How would this not only affect you, but the people you love? Imagine the positive possibilities. If you were to step outside of that box you’ve maybe unknowingly put yourself in, for the first time ever, what would that feel like? What would happen if you broke free? Write it down.
Lara: Number four, what would happen if you stayed where you are? So, we’ve talked about what would happen if you were to break free of that identity box, but let’s just imagine for a minute that you didn’t, that you just stayed right where you are. What would happen? How would you feel if you didn’t break this identity box? What might you stand to lose or miss out on? How would the people you love be affected if you just stayed stuck, believing the same things, potentially believing lies about who you are? I know that might be hard to hear, but sometimes we do go around believing things that are not true about us.
Lara: Seeing Grace light up as she played with my curls, seeing her face light up that first night was a light bulb moment for me. I couldn’t even put it into words, but I knew that there was something there, and I thought, “If I don’t break free of this, I might risk her heart not breaking free either,” and I wasn’t going to have that. So, what is it for you? What might you stand to lose? How would the people you love be affected if you didn’t break free?
Lara: Number five, you get to write a new story using one simple sentence, just one sentence. I want you to fill in the blank. When you think about breaking your identity box, breaking through the things that you’ve been telling yourself of I’m not good enough or I’m too much, when you think about breaking free of those things, and how you’re going to feel, fill in this blank, “I thought I was,” blank, “but I am,” blank.
Lara: For me, I thought I wasn’t good enough, I thought I’d never be loved, I thought I was flawed, and actually, the truth is I am flawed, but I know I am loved, flaws and all. Those things that seem like flaws, that the world says make you less than someone else, I know for a fact that those things are what make me. They make me unique. Those are things we’re celebrating in you, too, my friend. So, fill in the blank. What is it for you? “I thought I was,” blank, “but I am,” blank.
Lara: Let me give you a word of encouragement here. You may have a really, really difficult time even thinking about filling this in because maybe you don’t believe it. That’s okay. We’ve only been talking here for less than an hour. I don’t expect light bulb moments to turn into changed lives overnight. They just don’t, but I’ll tell you what, just like words have power to affect you in a negative way, words have power to change the way you think, and the way you think affects the way you act, and your actions add up to a whole new life. Your thoughts directly influence your outcomes. So, I want you to fight for this.
Lara: Do your very best to just grab that scrap piece of paper. If you write nothing else down than this, let this be the words that lead you forward. “I thought I was,” blank or, “Someone told me I was,” blank, “but I am …” Write down the truth. Whether you believe it with your whole heart or not, sometimes we have to say the words or write those words down in black and white or hot pink and purple, whatever you want, okay? Do unique you. Sometimes we have to put those words out into existence in order for it to click in our brains. Just take a leap of faith. All you’re doing is writing, but it might change your life. I have to admit, I get lost on this constantly. I mean, think about the amount of competing forces in the world that try to tell us we’re something other than we are or try to tell us we should be someone else. I mean, every single advertisement out there, let’s take Weedies, for example. Let’s just start with an easy one. Weedies, their slogan is “Breakfast of Champions”, “Breakfast of Champions”. So, you eat Weedies. They’re telling you that your identity is going to change into a champion. They’re going to make you a champion. L’Oreal, “Because I’m worth it”. Because you’re worth it, you should buy that product. I’m not saying anything bad about Weedies or L’Oreal, just pointing out that it is understandable that it’s easy to forget these things. It’s easy to forget the truth about who we are, whose we are, and where we’re going. So, come back to the truth of the word. The word says, “You are washed clean.” You feel like you’re not good enough in your life, you feel like you have messed up too much, the words says in Isaiah 1:18, “You’re washed clean. You were a child of God. You’re delighted in.” Zephaniah 3:17, “You are a sweet aroma.” Isn’t that nice? Actually, not to make little of that bible verse, but I love when my husband says, “Oh, you smell good.” To God, we are the same way. We are delighted, and we are set apart. We are his masterpiece. We are wonderfully made. You are wonderfully made. You are free. You are forgiven. You are beloved. I know these things are hard to believe. I just have to keep stopping and staying that. If you feel like your whole self is fighting this, just know, all that stuff that was poured into your soul and your heart that say you’re not enough, you’re never going to be enough or you’re too much, and you’re always going to be too much, whatever it is for you, it’s going to take some intentionality for you to rewrite that script, for you to break that identity box. I believe that you want it enough to make that effort. It’s going to be worth it. Imagine how you’re going to feel if every time you hear something good said about you, you don’t drop your eyes to the floor and say, “Ah, yeah, whatever. Yeah, whatever. I don’t believe that.” You don’t say that in your heart. Do you do that? Is it hard for you to take the compliment? It is for me. So, just know, you’re not alone. You’re not alone in this. It is going to take time to rewrite that. Speak truth over yourself just like you would do it for someone else.
Lara: You got be your own best friend in this. Do it for other women, and do it for yourself. Say to yourself over and over and over, “I am wonderfully made. I am wonderfully made. I am wonderfully made,” even on the days you just don’t want to believe it. Say it over and over and over. Keep leaning into his word and his truth until those seeds have had time to grow in your heart. They’re not grow overnight, but they will grow with tending and watering, and coming back to the source of life and truth.
Lara: Our identity boxes that we find ourselves stuck in, they make us feel like we’re constantly lacking something, right? It’s so frustrating. We just call it what it is. This, though, coming back to your true identity, your true self, that is the way out of the constant cycle of living and lack. Remembering whose you are takes the pressure of. You are already beloved. No striving or perfection or metamorphosizing into something that is going to take your effort required. You don’t have to make yourself better. God made you the person he wanted you to be. Sometimes you just have to peel back those layers to see it.
Lara: Number six, our last step is to take one step forward into the real you. We’ve done a lot of talking. We’ve done a lot of deep thinking today, right? We did sing a little Mariah Carey, though. Just remember that. We did do that. We have done a lot of hard work together, but talking isn’t worth a whole lot unless you take action on it. I know you didn’t want me to say that. Sorry. I’m saying it because I love you, okay? You have to take action. Physical action solidifies what we’re talking about here.
Lara: So, do something about this. Do something. Whether it is writing that I am statement, you’re filling the blank of “I thought I was, but I am” writing that somewhere, maybe on a Post-it note, stick it on your computer desktop, on your bathroom mirror, so you repeat it to yourself over and over. Stick that phrase in your reminders. Make it your background of your phone. Speaking from experience here because the alternative is you getting on your phone, and again, speaking from experience here, clicking over to Instagram, and looking at someone else’s highlight reel, and feeling this pit of lack in your stomach of, “I will never be good enough. I will never be like her. She seems like she has it easier than me.” Let me tell you,
Lara: Now, here are three ways I avoid failure in this because we’ve talked about it. It’s really easy to forget. Three ways, very practical ways I avoid failure. Number one, give yourself a visual reminder of who you are. For me, that’s my grandpa Cecil’s bible. I have it right here in my office. It helps me to remember who I am. It motivates me to do the hard things everyday to stay on that path. Have a visual reminder of where you’re going.
Lara: Number two, huh, this is a big one. Are you ready for this? Get rid of things that hold you to your past. I am someone who held on to every photograph, every paper from high school, college, middle school, elementary school, all the things, and had a really hard time letting go of things because I felt like there was so much meaning in these things from the past, but many times, those things can hold us back. Because when you step into the life you are created to live, it can feel fragile at first. Because sometimes, and this may sound strange when I say it, sometimes it’s comforting. We think it’s comforting to live in that identity box because it’s all we’ve ever known. You think to yourself, and I thought this, “I don’t know what my life would be life …” I remember thinking this in college, “I don’t know what my life would be like if I didn’t have an eating disorder. What would that mean that I will be called to do? I don’t know. That seems so unknown. I don’t know.”
Lara: Sometimes we think it’s easier in our minds to stay stuck there. So, do yourself a favor, and get rid of all these things, these objects or reminders of your past or of the thing that you want to break free from. While you’re training yourself to believe in a new thing, to believe in what’s there deep below the surface, don’t surround yourself with things that send a different message. That’s defeating, and it’s going to hold yo back from moving forward.
Lara: So, let your environment help you. Remove it, whether it’s pictures, momentos, papers, anything that hold you to your past. You got to go Konmari on those things. Is it Konmari? Konmari? Yeah, one of those.
Lara: Number three, community will help remind you of who you are. Genuine community will do that. I don’t have a formula for you to find it, except for to say be the invitation. Be the invitation. Being around other women who also want to live out their unique identities, man, that’s good stuff. There’s something magical about being around a woman who is grounded in her own skin. Oh! It makes me take a deep breath just thinking about it. I think of very dear friends of mine, Towana, Marie, Shante, Gina, Ashlea, Emily. So many friends. I mean, the list goes on of women who know they’re not perfect, but they’re living on purpose right where they are.
Lara: Surround yourself with community who’s going to remind you of whose you are, and do the same for other people. Be that for other people. Be there to remind them. You don’t have to be anybody but yourself, and you are loved, you are cared for, you are seen right here.Lara: If you need someone to speak that truth into you right now, let me do that for you. Just receive this just for this moment. You are one of those women. You are loved. Your life, it matters. The world needs you to open up your eyes and look in the mirror and say, “You know what? By golly, yes, I have gifts that were meant to be shared with the world,” whether that is with the people right in your home, the people out in the audience, with you on a stage, wherever you have been placed is the exact place that you’re supposed to be to take a leap of faith, and to plant you unique seeds, and grow your unique garden.
Lara: You can stay stuck in someone else’s idea of who you’re supposed to be or you can come alive. You can come undone, too. It turns out that coming undone is part of coming alive.
Lara: Now you know. You have the capacity to start fresh, and to break free, and to be the woman you were created to be. You know now that you are not your failures. You are not your fears. Who you were yesterday, who you thought you were yesterday is not who you are today, and it’s not about who you are, it’s about whose you are.
Lara: What you surround yourself with is who you become. It can either hold you back or inspire you forward, and now you know. It turns out that coming undone is part of coming alive, and it feels really good. So, where do you start? You start where all good things begin with singing Mariah Carey. No. No. I mean, you could. You could start there. I did. You could start there. If you feel like that’s your thing, too, let’s do that or you can just start with one small step forward
Lara: Do this. Where have you felt stuck? You know that feeling you get when you’re trying to unknot a necklace? I think my little jewelry box makes me crazy sometimes. It is seemingly the place where all my children are magnetized to, regardless of the fact that I hide it in my closet. They somehow find it, and they knot up all my necklaces, but you know that feeling when you’re trying to unknot a necklace? You have to very carefully pull apart the pieces to unravel that necklace, and bring the chain free, right?
Lara: The first thing you have to do, though, is not just start pulling at things. You have to look at the knot, and carefully assess how to undo it. I mean, I will tell you, there’ve been definitely times I just yank at a few things and hope for the best, and swish my fingers around on the part that’s knotted up, and it doesn’t always go so well. So, to successfully unknot something, you have to pause, and you have to really examine where you’re stuck. Examine what’s up there.
Lara: So, where are you stuck? Where have you felt stuck? Start with that. Write that thing down. Maybe you felt stuck feeling like you’re not an expert in something, so you’re not going to start that project or that business or that book or that email because you feel like you’re not an expert, so you’re stuck, you’re stuck in that identity box of, “I’m not an expert, so I’m not going to start.” What is it for you? Where have you felt stuck?
Lara: Well, as always, I have so much fun with you. You can find the show notes, and lots more fun from today’s episode at cultivateyourlife.com. I’m so grateful. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave five-star reviews for the podcast wherever you’re listening. It really does go a long way to help get this free encouragement into the hands of women who really need it. Thank you to Ana who said that the podcast has helped to free her from feeling stuck in past mistakes, and being fearful of messing up in the future. Yes. No perfection required. Corey, thank you for your kind words of saying the podcast has been a breath of fresh air amongst all the negative and toxic things that she’s exposed to on a daily basis. I am so glad to hear that
Lara: So, thank you again. It is a big thing, I know, to go and leave a review. You just want to listen and move on, but I just want to say thank you. It does mean a lot. You are
Lara: Now, a little fun from my kiddos. See you next time. We’re going to sing
Joshua: All I want for Christmas is you.
Lara: All I want for Christmas, dance it out, buddy. That’s awesome. Is … How does the end part go