If you've listened to any number of podcasts regarding culture or paused your Twitter scroll to take in a thoughtful tweet—chances are pretty high it might have something to do with the effervescent Ashley C. Ford.

The writer and podcast host is the author of the forthcoming memoir Somebody's Daughter, and in her work on-air and on the page, she has made a name for herself by sharing her thought-provoking musings and laser-focused interviews. Throughout it all, she's made space for vulnerable insights about life, love, identity, mental health, and much more.

In this How I Take Care interview: Ashley dives into how she navigates her inner critic, what redefining freedom means to her, and what self-forgiveness can sound like.

On understanding the intentionality behind self-care:

Self-care means caring for yourself in the way nobody else really can—because nobody else is inside your head.

We’re human beings and we try to connect and communicate with each other and our unique experiences on this planet. Sometimes: We’re able to do a really good job of that. But sometimes we need some practice.

Before we can (do that), we have to spend some time figuring out what it means to be on our own, just within ourselves.

Self-care is an intentional caring for those deepest parts of the self.

On reframing self-talk with kindness:

One of my battles is with positive—or at least neutral—self-talk.That is something that I'm really still working on.

What I found is that when I can be intentional and engage in positive self-talk, everything else in my life shifts in perspective—my capabilities, my inherent self-worth. It shifts in terms of what I believe I'm capable of.

It's not necessarily like, “Oh, if I'm taking really good care of myself now, I feel like I could lift a car.” But more so like: The better care I'm taking of myself, the more everything I do can have extra juice in. My intentionality has more power and that helps me trust myself, which is really important.

What I found is that when I can be intentional and engage in positive self-talk, everything else in my life shifts in perspective—my capabilities, my inherent self-worth. It shifts in terms of what I believe I'm capable of.

On the importance of self-forgiveness:

I no longer allow myself to lie to myself about what is, and isn't, my fault.

Sometimes even when you are a person who blames yourself, you think it is because you are a responsible person who isn’t scared to be blamed or to be held accountable. But if you're quick to take on blame that doesn't necessarily belong to you, that's not a responsible decision. That’s just the decision you make to be in control of every part of the process.

I had to let go of my need to be part of the process, which means if I missed a meeting, I couldn't tell myself: “You're so unprofessional. Have you always been an unprofessional, rude person, who squanders opportunities and will never live up to her potential?”

You have to be able to stop and look at that and say, “No—that isn't what's happening here. This is not about where I am as a person. This is about a momentary mistake and the best thing I can do right now, the most responsible thing I can do, is make apologies, make amends, and do better next time.”

It's not beating myself up. Nobody actually gains anything from the time I spend grinding myself into the ground. If I want to be a person who is intentional in life and who lives a life that welcomes as much joy, compassion, and forgiveness, I have to start with myself.

I can't treat myself poorly over and over and over and expect to be really good at treating other people well.

On redefining freedom:

I am still forming my definition of what it means to be free, because I am only recently living in the reality that I am free. The difference between being free and not being free in a lot of cases—not all—is how we choose to behave and whether or not we honor ourselves in tough moments or if we betray ourselves.

Freedom for me right now is all about being on my own side and never betraying myself.

I do not laugh when I don't want to laugh. I don't say things to make people feel better. I preserve my energy for myself. And through that, I am so much more impactful in the ways that matter to me.

My relationships are deepening and I am beginning to really see that it's possible to fully be myself, to be loved, and to be protected by the love of others who really see me.

Freedom is the opportunity to just stand up and say: “This is who I am, and this is what I think, this is what I want, and this is what I'd like.” All of those things might change—and that's okay because this human journey is long and I'm not totally interested in being the person who's famous for having stayed the same.

I can't imagine being quarantined right now and not trying to expand that sense of freedom from within. I would feel totally trapped—but right now, I don't necessarily feel trapped. The only reason that's true is because of that sense of freedom at the center of me. I'm able to go to that and really remember who I am and how much who I am is enough.

Freedom for me right now is all about being on my own side and never betraying myself.

On the reflections that help break her out of worry spirals:

I often ask myself (when self-doubt kicks in): Does the evidence of your life actually back this up? If you are this terrible, horrible, and selfish person—where is the consistent evidence of that in your life?

Is there really a pattern to this behavior? Is this something that I'm really into or is it part of the normal human experience and this is just my version of the human experience?

I have to essentially ask myself to live in reality—and not to live in the places in my head that see the world in a very binary way.

If you're being honest about how people actually live, work, love and behave, then you know that all this stuff is inevitable. Selfishness, passion and even white lies are inevitable. It's not necessarily about who you are or if you've ever done them, it's about how it made you feel if you continue to do it and what it made you think about yourself at the time.

I ask myself: Am I trying to live in a version of the world where I have to be bad if I did this thing, because that's easier to process for myself in the world? Or, am I going to live in a reality where good people do complicated things for all kinds of reasons, all the time?

If I can't make room for myself in that, I can't make room for anybody else.

On stepping into your power:

It’s a really hard time right now for so many people who are trying to find their role in the movement and just in life in general. I think we all need to adapt a combination of being really compassionate with ourselves and also changing our mental framework for the idea of failure.

If you're going to do something that challenges you so that you are shifted and you—or the world—come out differently due to those shifts, you got to be prepared for the fact that there are going to be obstacles. There is going to be stalling and there is going to be failure.

All of those things are going to happen because you are moving in the opposite direction of the status quo. You're moving directly against everything that wields power in an oppressive system—and the world is set up to make that really, really hard.

There are going to be times when doing the right thing actually feels like failing at the world. You have to be strong in that core sense of who you are, what you believe, what your values are, and what world you want to see.

You have to reflect on what place you want to have in making that world and understand the most effective and useful way for you to take part in creating that world. It's not going to happen if you fail once and decide you were never meant for it.

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