… even publishing a book at 19.
Last week, I published my first ever book! It’s called Survival of the Prettiest and discusses body image, self-esteem, mental health, sexualization, and pretty much everything I/my friends were dealing with while growing up. The book is interactive and full of reflection questions, and I am so unbelievably proud of it. (If you want, you can check it out here)
I spent three years working on it, so needless to say, it’s a pretty big accomplishment. And by all accounts, the release of the book seemed pretty victorious – the Instagram got nearly 500 likes, the Facebook post has been shared dozens of times, I have my first signing this weekend, and I’m lining up press for weeks to come. I’m so unbelievably humbled and grateful by the early support I have had 🙂
But there’s so much more to the story than the picture-perfect ‘success that I’ve chosen to make public. Truth be told, I share many, if not all, of my successes and very few of my failures – despite the fact that I fail innumerably more times than I succeed.
I want to make what goes behind the scenes as well. I want to talk about the overwhelming lack of confidence so many of us face and how I learned to overcome self doubt.
My name is Ashley Olafsen, I’m 19 years old, and I’m the co founder of MOVE – a company designed to help girls reach their full potentials. Alongside my best friend Lexie, we deliver workshops and even run a 5 day summer program…this summer, we had 70 girls attend!! You can check out a super adorable memory video right here. I’m also a TEDx speaker and a Huffington Post Contributor, and did I mention I published a book?!
Yes, all that sounds hopefully impressive, but let’s talk about what goes on behind the scenes.
Behind the scenes, I send out literally HUNDREDS of emails to Principals and guidance counselors asking to give a workshop at their school. I’m lucky if I get a response from three of them, and I’m lucky if I’m actually able to book a workshop with one of them. Lexie and I actually received an angry parent phone call after our first ever MOVE workshop (that’s a whole other story on failure and learning to grow for it).
Behind the scenes, there was not even 12 people at my speech on women and leadership – I’m not kidding. Behind the scenes, I reach out to DOZENS of newspapers, individuals, and organizations trying to get press for my work. It’s a miracle if someone responds to me – but when they do, it’s Arianna Huffington herself and it makes for a great Instagram. Behind the scenes, I worry that I’m not doing enough, that I’m not inclusive enough, and am sometimes consumed by the fear that I won’t be able to continue my work, as I won’t make enough off of it.
And behind the scenes, truth be told, I almost gave up writing my book in March of 2015. I was a year and half into researching and writing it, and I realized that I needed to rework the ENTIRE structure and potentially rewrite everything I had. As an impatient person, that reality deeply irritated me. In addition to having writers block, I also allowed the self doubt to take over… I started to believe that I, ‘just’ a teenage girl, was not good or smart or educated enough to be writing a book – after all, I didn’t even have a college degree!!
While I believed that I was not worthy enough, I find that so many of us believe that we are not ‘enough’ of whatever it is we need in order to accomplish whatever we hope to accomplish.
So, what can we do to overcome the self doubt that so many of us face?
Well, my friends, I have a few ideas.
Recognize that YOU control your self doubt.
Let me tell you something. You can’t control whether or not other people are going to doubt you – in fact, some almost definitely will. BUT, you can control your own self doubt. 100 percent. You can let it take over and win, or you can put up one hell of a fight.
Keep pushing through the insecurity.
One of my favorite quotes ever is “action cures fear”, and I believe that action cures self doubt as well. If you keep working and you don’t give up, you’re actively fighting your self doubt! And that counts for something, seriously!
When I had to redo the structure of my book, I quite literally tried out over a hundred different versions to try and solve the structure. Though it took me three months and was frustrating and tedious and low key sucked, I KEPT GOING AND NOW I HAVE MY BOOK PUBLISHED!
You’ve gotta keep going, tap into your intrinsic motivation and pushing through.
Recognize what you bring to the table.
Sometimes, I get so caught up in the ways I’m underqualified that I forget what I bring to the table. On several occasions, people have said that I don’t have enough ‘life experience’ to be giving workshops because I’m so young. I shared this with the girls at the summer program, and we actually ended up finding it hilarious – they told me that there’s no one better to be doing the job than me, because I’m close in age to them and they believe that’s much better than having an adult with a lot more ‘life experience’.
Yes, I may not be an ‘expert’, but I’m a strong public speaker and leader and I keep it real and I’m good at sharing relatable experiences with the girls I work with. And THAT’S what matters, and that’s what I need to keep in mind as I visualize my goals and purpose.
It’s good to recognize areas you can work harder in, but don’t forget your unique perspective and undervalue your voice when each of us brings so many important strengths and gifts to the table!!
Thank you so much for reading – if you want to follow my other work, please check out my site.
If you’d like to order my book or learn more, click here.