An Ode to Self-Love

I’m gonna take off all my clothes, look at myself in the mirror. We’re gonna have a conversation, we’re gonna heal the disconnection. I don’t remember when it started, but this is where it’s gonna end. My body is beautiful and sacred and I’m gonna celebrate it.


I know what you’re thinking. “Ashleigh how is this an ode to self-love but it isn’t a song?”

Or maybe you weren’t thinking that, but I was. Well, I really liked and wanted to use that title so I started the post with lyrics to one of my favorite songs about Self-Love, Private Party x India.Arie. I dance to this song every year at midnight on my birthday.. it’s the perfect way to start off the celebration of another year of life.

But anywho, back to the topic at hand..

Trust me when I say I think about my topics about five or six times, maybe even more before I decide to post them and the pictures that go along with this post are no different. For the longest time I’ve wanted to do a boudoir photo shoot and last month it finally happened! I had been going back and forth about doing it for about two years now. Trying to find the right photographer, the right place, the right time.. if I had waited until everything was perfect, it would have never happened. I wanted to celebrate both my weight-loss and growing confidence, something I’d never had until honestly a year or so ago. [Shoutout to my amazing photographer Imani Dennison, check out her Instagram and website for more of her work.]

It took a while to get to the point where I could say I truly loved myself, and even longer to learn to love my body. I spent so much time hating myself that I will tell anyone who will listen just how much I’m loving me now and how I got to this point! Do I think I’m sunshine and roses all the time? No. Do I still have some bad days and insecurities like everyone else? Of course! But I’m no longer waking up every day hating what I see when I look in the mirror.

Big lips, big forehead, dark skin, short thin hair, mouth rash, weight up and down..

The list things I hated about myself was endless. Growing up being teased, talked about, and having it ingrained in my psyche that my appearance wasn’t deemed beautiful by the outside world and even by those close to me really did affect how I saw myself.. for a very long time. It affected how I carried myself as well. I didn’t much effort or thought into my appearance because well, “why does it matter how I dress, or what my hair looks like, I’m already ugly?” That was really my thought process. Silly, I know.

I hated hanging out with my friends, the few I had, outside of our houses or school activities. I would always feel insecure, unwanted, and pitied, not because of anything they did, but because of my own self-loathing. It was especially uncomfortable being around my “pretty friends” when they got hit on or asked out by a group of guys and I’d just stand on the sideline. I let the world’s view of beauty define standards for myself and as a result I had the lowest self-esteem. I couldn’t honestly say that I started to love myself until I was about 19 or 20 years old (four or five years ago) and I didn’t begin to have an ounce of genuine confidence until just a couple of years ago. Had you told the younger me I’d get to a point where I am now, I’d call you a liar and tell you to get out of my face.

So Ashleigh, how did you eventually get to the point of loving yourself and being confident? How do you practice self-love?

Pep Talks in the Mirror

..may sound silly, may be cliche, but it worked for me. Forcing myself to look in the mirror and say “Ashleigh you are beautiful and I love you.” until I actually believed it helped. Even on the days where I looked and felt a hot mess. Even on the days where I couldn’t force myself out of bed. I used to avoid mirrors, now I’m always in one. Not out of vanity, but admiration for how far I’ve come physically, mentally, and emotionally.  I’ll dance, make silly faces at myself, tell me to get my sh*t together or assure me that I’m doing the best I can. Spend that time in the mirror, I promise it will help.

Visible Quotes and Positive Affirmations

I love quotes. If you’ve ever been in any room I’ve ever lived in or even seen my Instagram, you know this to be true. I would write quotes, scriptures, and positive affirmations on my mirrors, post them on my walls and have screenshots in my phone to ensure I had plenty of reminders throughout the day.

Video Journaling

This more so helped on my mental health journey but it’s all intertwined anyway. Getting my mental health together aided the process of getting my physical and emotional health together, and vice versa. I recorded myself talking about what was currently going on in my life, how I was feeling, what I was thinking, and so on and so forth. It was my actual therapy before I started therapy. I recently went back and watched those videos (all ranging from 2011-2013) and man, I’ve come such a long way.

Putting in the Effort

When I didn’t love myself, it showed. In the way I dressed, in the way I spoke (or didn’t speak) to people. I felt miserable so I didn’t put much effort into my clothing, my hair, or my body. Started losing weight, eating better, better hygiene, consistently getting my hair done, and slowly changed my wardrobe. I noticed that when I put effort into looking better, I felt better. Last year I learned how to put on makeup, something I never really wore. I did it to enhance my beauty, not to mask any insecurities. I honestly didn’t want to start wearing makeup consistently until I could say I loved me. That way I didn’t wear it out of necessity and would still be comfortable leaving the house without it on.

Going Places Alone

I love going places alone. It’s simple. You can miss out on so much not wanting to go places or do things alone. Your favorite artist in town for a concert? Go. A new restaurant just opened up with good reviews? Try it out. An amazing flight deal just dropped? Book it! It’s easier said than done for some folks but I promise you’ll feel better than you do missing out and watching experiences pass you by.

Celebrate the Beauty In Others

This one is important because comparison is the thief of joy. Being envious of the beauty and bodies of others added to a lot of the insecurities I had about myself. Instead of being jealous of the many beautiful women I had/have around me (especially during my time at Howard), I made it a point to celebrate their beauty, inside and out. No seriously, it’s okay to say “you are so beautiful!” to a perfect stranger. Or to compliment a characteristic you love and appreciate about someone. We all have days where we feel less than. I had to learn to admire someone else’s beauty without questioning my own.

“I had to learn the hard way, true love begins with me. This is not ego or vanity, I’m just celebrating me.”


What are some ways you increase your self-love?

81 Comments

  1. Reply

    Lotanna

    December 12, 2016

    This post is everything Ashleigh!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you for being brave and sharing this! And these pictures are spicyyyyy Wifey 😜 I love ans love you more 😘❤️

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 12, 2016

      Thank you so much for your continued support wifeyyy!!! I love you more :*

  2. Reply

    Jasmine Katrina

    December 12, 2016

    You better. I am so proud of you, Love you so much, always. <3

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 12, 2016

      Thank you love! I love you so much more!

  3. Reply

    Marsha

    December 12, 2016

    So proud of how far you’ve come. You have Always been beautiful, inside and out. Now you know and embrace it for yourself. Thank you for sharing your journeigh. Many will benefit from your wisdom.

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 12, 2016

      Thank you Marsha!! I appreciate your kind words and support!

  4. Reply

    Anastasia

    December 12, 2016

    This is so beautiful and so inspiring! You are so awesome and so many of us have walked the same path and are slowly trying to pull ourselves out. It is definitely a journey but little by little we learn how to reprogram our minds and redefine what beauty is and what it means to be beautiful and genuinely feel beautiful. Awesome!

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 12, 2016

      Thanks hun! It definitely didn’t happen overnight, and it’s not always peachy but it’s so worth the struggle of getting here! Keep fighting love!

  5. Reply

    Alli Ayres

    December 12, 2016

    You have amazing strength and a light that shines from within. Im so proud of you. Even though our journey together was brief in JA…sista you left a BIG imprint. Keep shinning baby girl….you are destined for great things. And your writing skills is on point….ill be waiting for your book with your personalize signature.

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 12, 2016

      Ahh I love you my fit sista!!! You left an even bigger imprint on me, always!!! And whenever, if ever that book comes, you’ll definitely get your own personalized copy!!!

  6. Reply

    Mo

    December 13, 2016

    Loved this post!! Thank you for sharing!

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 13, 2016

      Thank you!!!

  7. Reply

    Stephanie Cooper

    December 13, 2016

    You’re willingness to bare it all is amazing! Self-love and confidence is amazing! Congrats to you in how far that you have come!

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 13, 2016

      Thank you!!!

  8. Reply

    Chianti

    December 13, 2016

    Sisssttaaaa!!! This is a life-shifting moment in your journey and I’m so HAPPY to get to know you in this moment of time. Your boldness and courage will inspire the world. Wishing you grace and abundance in the new year!

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 13, 2016

      Thank you so much Chianti!!! For your kind words and for being an inspiration through your journey as well, keep being a light 🙂

  9. Reply

    Tia

    December 13, 2016

    People are always amazed when I travel alone. If I didn’t though I would miss out on one of my greatest loves which is seeing and experiencing the world.

    I truly appreciate your journey of self love as this is an area I am always working to improve in.

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 13, 2016

      Yeah same for me, traveling alone is one of my favorite things to do! Thanks for reading 🙂

  10. Reply

    Margo Briggs

    December 13, 2016

    I love this 😍
    Your confidence is just amazing
    The pictures are beautiful

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 13, 2016

      Thanks hun! I appreciate all your kind words and continued support 🙂

  11. Reply

    21flavorsofsplendor

    December 13, 2016

    This was beautiful and so are you! The pep-talks in the mirror are so helpful and I do them all the time now as well. Once I work up the courage I am going to have a boudoir photo shoot and surprise my hubby with the pics.

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 13, 2016

      Thank you! And when you do it’s going to be an amazing experience, I felt so liberated afterwards.. and hubby will definitely appreciate them!

  12. Reply

    OutdoorsyDiva

    December 13, 2016

    Congratulations on your growth and learning to love yourself. Thank you so much for sharingy your story and the things that worked for you to help improve your esteem. Also love the photo shoot!

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 13, 2016

      Thank you!!! 😀

  13. Reply

    Latoya Scott (@lifeandabudget)

    December 14, 2016

    Gah, I need some of this. It’s an incredible journey towards loving yourself and it isn’t easy. I still have work to do.

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 14, 2016

      It’s definitely on-going, but you got it! The journey is so worth it.

  14. Reply

    Kamra Clemons

    December 14, 2016

    This is awesome

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 14, 2016

      Thank you!

  15. Reply

    everythingcurvyandchic

    December 14, 2016

    Having Self-love and confidence is a beautiful thing, wish you nothing but the best

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 14, 2016

      Thank you!

  16. Reply

    MUAKimPorter

    December 14, 2016

    Such a great post! Congrats on being able to feel comfortable in your skin and for sharing this with us. I want to do a boudoir shoot as well, but I do not have the courage.

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 14, 2016

      Thank you! And I hope that one day you will, its so liberating!

  17. Reply

    Kim

    December 14, 2016

    Auntie’s baby… MY, MY, MY. This post is absolutely beautiful as are you. I cried, laughed and cried some more because this reminds me so much of my Alize’. You are an extremely beautiful, amazingly powerful, wise young woman and I am humbled to call you Auntie’s baby. Many will be helped and that’s how you leave your footprint on the world. Love you!

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 14, 2016

      Thank you Auntie!! I appreciate your continued support and encouragement!!! Let Alize know she can reach out to me privately anytime if she needs to.. Love you more!

  18. Reply

    naetorious

    December 14, 2016

    Self love. Self care. Self expression. I’m here for it! YESSSSS QUEEN!

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 14, 2016

      Thank you!!! 😀

  19. Reply

    Ramona Collins

    December 14, 2016

    This is a great post with excellent advice. Self love and self care are so important. I needed to hear this…today. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Your photos look amazing!

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 14, 2016

      Thank you!!!

  20. Reply

    Adeola Naomi

    December 14, 2016

    Such a beautiful post and we all need to celebrate and fall in love with ourselves with no guilt or judgement.
    Well done for this post.

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 14, 2016

      Thank you!

  21. Reply

    staciesayzso

    December 14, 2016

    Love everything about this posts! The tips, quotes, pictures, all of it. Thanks for being so candid with us. It’s inspirational!

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 14, 2016

      Thank you!

  22. Reply

    Kendra Pierson (@spelken)

    December 14, 2016

    Thank you for sharing your experience and being so transparent. I’m so happy that for you that you’ve discovered the secret of self-love earlier rather than later.

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 14, 2016

      Thank you !!

  23. Reply

    Michelle Malone

    December 15, 2016

    Wow! What an inspiring post! In the words of RuPaul…”If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gon’ love somebody else.” I’m so happy for you and proud of you too. Great boudoir shoot too!

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 15, 2016

      Thank you!! I almost ended the post with that line too! Lol

  24. Reply

    Andreya

    December 15, 2016

    Beautiful post! Thanks for sharing. Continue to let God use you to shine your own light and give others permission to do the same!

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 15, 2016

      Thank you love!

  25. Reply

    Keely

    December 15, 2016

    I connected with your post in so many ways! Thanks love!

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 15, 2016

      Thank you for reading!! 😀

  26. Reply

    Kenya Rae

    December 16, 2016

    This post is awesome and the photos are amazing!! I love your transparency! ❤️

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 16, 2016

      Thank you!

  27. Reply

    Arien Smith

    December 16, 2016

    Fantastic article! I love conversations about body positivity and this is so accessible, honest, and authentic. As a trans disabled person and survivor of abuse, learning to love my body has been an amazing journey. Coincidentally, I’m writing a blog on the subject right now too! 🙂

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 16, 2016

      Thank you! Transparency is so important especially so people know that they aren’t alone. Please share your article with one when you’re done, can’t wait to read it!

  28. Reply

    Tanya Barnett (@RealWifeCoach)

    December 19, 2016

    I never thought of video journaling your journey. That is a fantastic idea. Good for you lady!

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 19, 2016

      It really does help. Especially going back and watching the videos over time to see your growth 🙂

  29. Reply

    Ty Knighten

    December 19, 2016

    YOU GO GIRL!! It takes so long for so many of use to love ourselves and love ourselves enough to bare it all. So proud of you!

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 19, 2016

      Thank you!!!

  30. Reply

    tiffanytravelsblog

    December 19, 2016

    The photos look great, I would love to do one of these photo shoots! Im so glad you are loving yourself. Nobody can love you more than you. This reminds me of a poem i wrote about being Beautiful!

  31. Reply

    Tomiko

    December 19, 2016

    Talk about not only facing your fears but staring them down and completely conquering them!! Awesome strength and courage to be so authentic

  32. Reply

    Danielle @ Follow My Gut

    December 20, 2016

    I love that you found so many great ways to embrace the beauty that is within you! It’s so inspiring to see someone love themselves, celebrate themselves, and showcase that off to the world. Great way to create beauty that comes from the inside and shows so well on the outside!

    Danielle | FollowMyGut.com <3

  33. Reply

    Nettie

    December 21, 2016

    Wow!!! Amazing!!! I’m like crying so hard. Love you little sister and I admire your courage. You have grown into an amazing, intelligent, courageous, woman. And I’m proud to have you as my sister and most of all as my friend.

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      December 21, 2016

      Thank you for your continuous love, support, and encouragement sis! Love you!

  34. Reply

    T. Espi (@TheStyleMedic)

    December 28, 2016

    I LOVE the tips on self love but I especially love how you’ve fully embraced yourself. These shots are fiyyah!

  35. Reply

    Michelle Anneliese

    April 7, 2017

    Beautiful post with very smart tips

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      April 7, 2017

      Thank you!

  36. Reply

    bellbonnie74

    April 7, 2017

    If only more women were as brave as you. Without self-love we have nothing to help us succeed not only as women, but as a successful person in society. Bravo.

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      April 7, 2017

      Thank you so much! I’m hoping with my transparency more women will be open and brave to share their struggles as well. A huge part of how we feel comes from feeling like we are struggling alone when in fact, we’ve all struggled at some point.

  37. Reply

    sincerelyophelia

    April 7, 2017

    totally agree. good reminder!

  38. Reply

    riceandrepeat

    April 7, 2017

    I read to give yourself pep talks and that’s what I try to do too!!! I also LOVE this photo shoot. SO fun and so full of body confidence. what’s not to love?! gonna be trying all these tips. xx

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      April 7, 2017

      Yep, pep talks absolutely work! thanks a lot 🙂

  39. Reply

    thejournalgurl13

    April 7, 2017

    I love this post. I definitely need to try self love more. I am very hard on myself!! Thank you for this post.

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      April 7, 2017

      We all could use a little boost of self-love every now and then! 🙂

  40. Reply

    Andrea Broom

    April 8, 2017

    Ashleigh this was beautiful and you how much you embraced yourself. self love is so important and crucial for us. thanks so much for this so inspiring. its amazing that you have found so much ways. 🙂

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      April 8, 2017

      Thank you so much for reading!

  41. Reply

    clarice20

    April 8, 2017

    I’m loving that you’re loving yourself! This is seriously such a beautiful and inspiring post. Gorgeous photo shoot too.

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      April 8, 2017

      Thank you so much!

  42. Reply

    charmedwaves

    April 8, 2017

    What a beautiful shoot! And thank you for speaking out for self-love. It is so important to love ourselves before anything.

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      April 8, 2017

      THank you!!

  43. Reply

    Rosey Everyday

    April 10, 2017

    I have done the pep talks before! Works amazing! Great post love!

    • Reply

      Ashleigh

      April 10, 2017

      Thank you!!

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