I am so thankful for the opportunities I've had to meet new people through this project. This is Ashley and I had the honor of sitting down with her at a local coffee shop here in Fresno (99% of my in person interviews have been conducted here) and talk about her experiences with insecurity and shame. Thank you, Ashley, for your openness and willingness to participate in this project!
How have you experienced insecurity?
“I think I’ve dealt with a specific kind of insecurity, something I have been dealing with since I was really young...as far back as I can remember. I was born a ‘bastard’ kid so I didn’t have a dad around. I don't even know his name. A lot of people judge women who have children out of wedlock, so I think thats where a lot of my insecurity started. I was the kid that felt the judgement placed on my mother...it ran off onto me. People looked at me different too because I was a ‘mistake’. I was the ‘product of sin’. I felt like I had to prove my worth to people, prove that I was a good mistake. That’s where most of my insecurity lies, its not necessarily a physical thing. In my dating life I wanted to go above and beyond to prove myself. I grew up with the fear of a man jumping ship, so I tried really hard to be the girl you'd never want to leave. It’s tiring to be 110% all the time, especially when you are with someone you plan to be with for the rest of your life. Those are the people you should look to for support."
"As far as physical insecurities go, I am not a perfect ten. I grew up in a very beautiful family, my cousins are models; my sister could model once she is older. I am chubbier, I am not picture perfect. But I have come to a place where I don’t really care as much. If I want to do something about it I have the ability to. I put the food in my mouth, and I control whether or not I go work out. Sitting around and feeling sorry for myself isn’t going to get me anywhere if I am not going to put in the work. I just came to a place of realizing that as long as I am healthy, however I look is how I look. I need to be content with that. It’s still a struggle because it’s something that was rooted in me since childhood, the idea of being enough.”
Is there a moment that sticks out in your mind where you felt shame from someone?
“When I was a kid my mom worked at Saddleback church, it wasn’t as big then as it is now. That was 16-years ago. My mom met my adoptive dad there, they both worked there. He already had a kid from a previous marriage. My dad found Christ during his divorce, which is how he got involved at Saddleback. It was interesting to see the dynamic he had with his daughter compared to what he had with me. Don’t get me wrong we definitely had a special bond, but it was just different than the relationship he shares with my now half-sisters. The first time I felt the shame after they got married, Saddleback treated them poorly. My mom got pregnant a couple months into the marriage. They were told one of them couldn’t work there anymore because someone needed to be home with the kids. My mom hoped to keep working there until giving birth so she could keep the insurance. Even though I wasn’t a part of these conversations, I heard my parents talk about it. Kids pick up on things.”
“I heard them talk about how my mom was a single mother before but the church didn’t tell her to be home to raise me. But I guess there was another woman on staff that had been in a similar position as my mom who had gotten pregnant out of wedlock. The church fired her, but they paid for all of her hospital expenses when it came time for her to give birth. I heard my parents say, 'well she did the wrong thing and she is still getting more than us.' I know they were just upset, and they didn’t know I was listening. But that was the first time I really heard that being born without a dad in the picture is the wrong thing. I was 6-years old at the time. When I went to Sunday school, the sins we learned about the most were the big ones like don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t murder...those kinds of things. But I hadn’t really understood what committing adultery meant, so once it sunk in it caused me to notice things a little more. As a kid I noticed everyone else had a mom and a dad, and didn’t attend their own parent’s wedding. That’s the earliest memory I have of feeling shame.”
“I didn’t feel the heavier shame of it all until becoming a teenager because thats when I started questioning if my existence was wrong. A lot of people didn’t know what my situation was because they saw that I had a mom and a dad, and even though I am not related to my adoptive dad I look like him, so people just assumed he was my biological dad. Having been the product of adultery, it was hard to hear such condemnation from people who over-emphasized how bad it was. I understand that adults want to steer kids away from doing the wrong thing, but at a certain point it becomes a fear-tactic. They would give examples of unplanned pregnancies and how it ruined someone’s life, and that just caused me to question whether I ruined my own mom’s life.”
“I think the first step to overcoming insecurity is to acknowledge where the roots are, to figure out where everything started. And then stop watering those roots. I carried a lot of my baggage with me into a lot of relationships. I held high expectations over the people I was with. I wasn’t in the right place...I didn’t want a relationship driven by insecurity. Women have confided in me about the things that are going on in their marriages...I have seen those women who start relationships while they are in a very insecure place, and if those insecurities are not dealt with, and can really effect a relationship and the people that are around them. It’s really sad for me to watch girls let insecurity tear them apart. I feel like its my responsibility to take care of my insecurities.”
How have your experiences shaped the way you view relationships?
“It’s definitely been a learning experience because in past relationships I have been a little arrogant in expecting the man to always step up, even if there was fault on my end as well. The way I handled previous relationships were not as confident as I’ve handled this one. As far as the shame goes, taking that into my first relationship, it was bad. It ended up being really toxic. I didn't understand why; I was dating a pastor’s kid. I felt pressured to do things that I didn’t want to do outside of marriage. I carried so much anxiety about the chance of an unplanned pregnancy because of what my mom had gone through. I was a wreck any time anyone tried to push me down that road. I shut it down. I shouldn’t have been in those situations, I should have been respected more than I was. In hindsight, if I had been more confident and less worried about being wanted or enough...if I had been more focused on relational health, if I had been more focused on the right things, those relationships wouldn't have been so toxic. Actually those relationships probably wouldn’t have even happened to begin with."
"In a way, I’ve been able to overcome a lot of that shame. If someone gets mad at me for not wanting to do the things I have decided I don't want to do until marriage, than that’s their problem, not mine. I was so insecure about not being wanted, or not being enough to stay, so I was afraid that if I didn’t do certain things they would leave me. That put a big rift in between me and my mom because I didn’t feel like I could talk to her about those insecurities because she had her own insecurities as well.”
“I think it’s so important to talk about stuff like this because our insecurities are more than skin deep...you see those ads on TV about ‘loving the skin you’re in,’ but the root of our issues are not the fact that we aren’t a size 2, that’s just how deeper insecurities manifest themselves. I wish more people were talking about this when I was younger, the ‘why’ behind our struggle, because I can only imagine how much heartbreak I could have avoided if I felt comfortable to voice my feelings more.”
You mentioned operating at 110% in past relationships. What did 110% look like?
“A lot of times my 110% was forgiving them for everything that they did, even though there were things that I should have forgiven, and then walked away from. I would forgive them and then everything would just happen over again. I got cheated on multiple times in my first relationship. Instead of leaving, I forgave him and let him continue. I wanted to be the girl you would never want to leave, and who wants to leave the girl that doesn't keep you accountable? It sounds really bad, but that was my mindset. He justified his actions because of my stance on not doing certain things until I was married.”
“I was really excited for my first kiss. I didn’t want to go any further than that, but I really anticipated that my first kiss was going to be really romantic. I even voiced that to him. But it wasn’t romantic...it was more of a surprise, and I was upset about it. It felt forced, and I was caught off guard. In high school a lot of people thought I was a prude because I didn’t partake in things most other teenagers were doing. It didn’t really bother me too much at the time, but I felt the repercussions of that once I started dating...the shame that comes with people thinking I was a prude. I was insecure because I thought ‘no one wants to date a prude’. There is societal pressure to be sexually active when you're younger, and then there is the particular Christian culture I grew up in that over-emphasizes not doing anything at all...so I felt like I was caught in the middle. It was heavy for me, especially because of what my mom had experienced. I let my anxiety get the best of me sometimes. Physical touch gives me a lot of anxiety. I let people get away with a lot of things in the past. There was no remorse, but I let them stick around.”
“Something I wish I understood when I was younger is that it’s okay to stand firm in your beliefs. It’s okay that you aren’t the ‘right girl’ for every guy that comes around. I can’t change the core of who I am to appease some guy who probably wont be around for long. I wish I was more concerned with someone being enough for me instead of being so concerned with whether I am enough for someone else. I put a lot of weight on my own shoulders if a relationship didn’t work out, I just assumed it was because I wasn’t the right person for them. In hindsight I would say that the reason why relationships don’t work out sometimes is because both parties are not the right fit for each other...I don’t need to take all of the blame for something not working. That’s something I wish I heard more.”
“For whatever reason people can’t accept that some people just don’t work together. When it comes to friendships, there is more leniency...sometimes you just don’t mesh well with someone else, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean they are bad people, it just means your personalities aren’t compatible. But society puts a lot of pressure on people to always be compatible in relationships, and if they aren't compatible, they aren’t good people. It promotes this idea that one of the two parties are not good enough, which is where a lot of my insecurities came from, feeling like I just wasn’t right. Sometimes you are just two different pairs of shoes...both pairs can be cute, but it doesn’t mean they match.”
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?
“Don’t care what other people think so much. Most insecurities come from caring so much about what other people think. If people don’t like me because I'm chubby, that’s their problem. Stay focused on what the Lord expects of you, not what other people expect of you. Take care of yourself for the purpose of taking care of yourself, not for the sake of other people.”