Lately I’ve been struggling with the idea of what it means to be happy. Truly happy. Obviously, I have a pretty good idea of the things I like and what I enjoy doing, but there are so many times I let other people get in the way. I let their opinions change how I think. I compare myself and wonder why I’m not doing what they’re doing or why I haven’t tried that new hobby yet.

You say gin is the most awesome drink and I should love it. But I don’t. And I should learn to sew because everyone and their mom is doing it. But I couldn’t care less about sewing. And photography. Yeah, it sounds fun, but I’m okay with just using my point-and-shoot. And that’s fine, really, but I still feel guilty about it. Like it somehow all these things make me less cool/desirable/fun/smart/creative. Yes, I realize how stupid that sounds, but it’s true. And it’s exhausting.

Then last week I discovered a new idea from Amy who wrote this incredible post about self love and being authentic. Amy quoted Gretchen Rubin  who says one her personal commandments is to “Be Gretchen.” To like what she likes, leave what she doesn’t and stop apologizing for both. As I was reading her words, I couldnt’ stop myself from thinking, “Uhh yeah, Ashley. THIS.” It seems so obvious. I need to forget everything else and just be Ashley.

I’ve spent some time thinking over the past few days (do you realize how sad it is that I had to think for days to figure out what it means to be myself?!) and have come up with some basic ideas on what it would mean to “Be Ashley”.

It means I would say no to friends when they ask me to go downtown at 10pm on a Saturday because I know that I am happier staying in and going to bed by midnight. Usually I say “yes” because I don’t want to seem anti-social. I want to spend time with my friends, but I don’t want to lose sleep over it (literally). In order to “Be Ashley” I need to make plans dates with friends throughout the week. I need to go out to dinner, meet for coffee, and go on walks. I would not spend my weekend nights in a crowded bar where the music is so loud I can’t hear myself think. I know I’m much happier when I’ve had time to myself. I need to re-charge my batteries. And I shouldn’t feel guilty for that.

It means that I would go to the gym three times a week for a hardcore workout, but give myself a break on the weekends. I would accept the fact that I’ll never be a competitive athlete or have any desire to finish a triathlon, but I do enjoy running, lifting weights, and the feeling of pushing myself a little further during a workout.

I would paint more, even though I am not an artist. I would relish in the relief I feel when I see the brush spread colors on the canvas. I would collect photos  to inspire me, but not feel pressure to become “crafty” or a “design expert”. I would understand that wandering the aisles of craft stores only makes me anxious and that it is okay to replace them with trips to Target.

I would talk about my problems and stressful situations with friends and family, but ultimately make my own decision. I love hearing feedback from people who care about me and often times talking through my problems helps me get a clearer picture of how I really feel. But then, I need to grasp on to that feeling and not allow different opinions to hold me back or change my mind.

It means that I would spend more time in the kitchen trying new recipes. This is something I’m still having to push myself to do, like breaking in a new habit. It always seems like such a hassle and most nights I’d rather zone out in front of the computer than stand for an hour to make dinner. But I know that I’ll feel more relaxed and accomplished once I’m finished. And have some delicious to show for it!

I know what I like and what stresses me out. I’m all about filling my iTunes with Hanson, Taylor Swift, and Joshua Radin. Wearing flats over high heels. Going out to brunch on Sunday morning. Spending my evenings curled up in bed watching documentaries and catching up on TV shows. Saving my chores for the weekend and relaxing during the week. Having a glass of wine and reading blogs.

So the biggest challenge in all of this is learning to let go of the guilt. My plan is to spend more time with myself. If I’m doing something that makes me unhappy, I will stop. And I will document those feelings. I will figure out the intricacies of what it means to be me and I won’t apologize for it. I will be kinder to myself and therefore kinder to others. I will allow myself to be Ashley.


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