Redefining Success: I Rose From My Own Ashes

This is part of a Q&A series featuring women who have found success on their own terms in the mindful age. For more stories like this, click here

The lotus flower, which blossoms from a bed of murky water and mud, is a symbol of human struggle and our search for beauty and success. Like the lotus, Ashley Johns knows firsthand how it feels to thrive from a dark place. Inspired by her own struggles with body image, Ashley founded Fierce Forward and has become a champion for personal potential, body-positive mindset, and compassionate self-care.

How do you define success?

I feel successful when I give my truest Ashley to the world—to my relationships and to myself. I have this quote I made up that is how I approach my life and what I do when I feel successful: „I don’t follow the rules, I follow my heart.“

How did you come to the definition?

I used to try to please everyone, put on masks. I used to think being successful meant what others who were successful were doing or being. But what I’ve realized through challenging experiences and through my journey is that it’s so much more than that: To be true to who I am, to live that truth, and to empower others to live theirs.

How did you define success five years ago? Is the definition evolving?

Five years ago, I was on this journey of self love, of fiercing forward, but then I found myself striving for more! I was lost in that chase.

I developed bulimia and body dysmorphia. I was so far away from myself, thinking that being thin was my route to success. I remember thinking, I’ve lost Ash in all this. That’s when I started eating again, nourishing my body—and maybe even more importantly—my spirit.

The key is to know that you will always be evolving. Challenges are the counterpart of success and finding out who you truly are. It is the challenges that make you stronger—and that is success.

What does a fulfilled life look like to you?

To be Fully Filled. We’re always trying to add or subtract from our lives on our quest to being happy, but fulfillment is in the moments that bring me joy and happiness, in the moments that I’m laughing so hard I could cry and pee in my pants, and in the moments I see others are happy.

When I ground myself in everything I have, and everything that I am, right in this moment, I feel centered, abundant, and grateful. That’s my definition of fulfillment.

What do you consider to be your #ActuallySheCan moment?

The day I stood in front of the mirror and didn’t recognize the girl who stood there, I knew I had two choices: I could keep running from my life and my self, or I could fierce forward! It was the first time in my life I looked at myself and said, “I choose you.”

What was the most difficult moment for you?

It’s been a culmination of moments that show up at different times in my life. These moments always present me with two choices: To look around me or behind me; at what was or is; to fierce forward toward what will be and what I want to be—or not. The most difficult part of these moments is choosing the hardest path.

What is the best advice you have received that you wish to pass on?

My mom has always said, “Ash, I support you.“ There is something so powerful about women supporting one another. As women, we don’t do it enough; we tear each other down and we compare ourselves. I live my life trying to build women up. That’s so powerful.

What are words of inspiration for someone else also facing a challenging moment for you?

You are limitless! Never give up and never stop moving fiercely forward towards what you want!

Written for ActuallySheCan by Julie Balter