How I Found Self-Love and Respect By Advocating For Myself

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Before Peace Corps, there were many instances where I sold myself short, took less than I worked for, bent until I broke, and became a designated floor mat. I would shrink in situations that made me uncomfortable and gravitated towards being a peace keeper instead of being true to my core and exigencies. By being a peace keeper and labelling myself level-minded and conscious, I sold off bits of who I am to appease others and now as I sit in a small room in a country far away, I see how desperately I needed those pieces I so freely gave away. It became essential to me to rebuild my fortitude.


“I want to be virtuous and live with integrity,” I said many times before. “I want to empower other women and inspire those around me,” I said more times than I can count. Yet, I was passive and behaved in a way that didn’t align with my essence and the goals I had for the woman I was creating. I’d apologize when I didn’t need to and frankly, I got tired of hearing the word ‘sorry’ come out of my mouth when it wasn’t called for. It took me so long to get on board with the idea, not all relationships, friendships, and connections can or should be salvaged and restored. I had to release the desire to control what was out of my grasp, and work on areas of my life that would bring me peace and self-respect.


I wanted to empower women to be their best self and to be go-getters and dreamers and doers, yet, I was staying small and keeping my voice to a whisper in the background. It’s taken months of reflection, conscious writings, and deliberate changes to my behavior to understand my place in this world and where my soul feels most alive, but it’s here and now. As I write, I see more clearly. My journey in Peace Corps has forced me to break away from the shell I gladly hid behind; I saw that my voice and perspective is meant to be shared and adds values to the conversation. By advocating for myself and my ideas, I have a greater respect for my truth and capabilities.


It happened gradually, then one day, I looked around me and everything in my world was different. I wasn’t content with mediocrity or lack of consideration. I wasn’t content with ‘this is the way things are done’. I began to question power, procedures, and my new norms, and by having open and honest conversations while being cognizant of other’s perceptions and realities, I witnessed a pragmatic shift in my interactions, my confidence, and my relationships.


I was no longer searching for validation or affirmation. I gave myself the endorsement to go after what I want, to speak up when I am uncomfortable or have an idea for the betterment of a system, and to know that I am capable, valuable, and  decisive. By advocating for myself, I created the self-worth that I had always dreamed of having. It’s not easy getting to a place where you feel comfortable sending query emails, raising your hand, interjecting into conversations, sharing a different point of view or belief, but it’s so worth it. I spent so many years biting my tongue, but I want to walk the walk and talk the talk that I preach. I am so ready to take on 2020 with a focus on self-love, self-respect, and leaving everything I touch better than I found it.

6 Life-Changing Realizations I’ve Had During 2019

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There’s only a month left of 2019, and my 23rd birthday is quickly approaching. I’ve had a lot of revelations this year because I am living outside of my comfort zone and experiencing so many differing perspectives. This year, I graduated college, joined Peace Corps, and moved to a Caribbean island. I now know that I don’t have to be who I’ve always been, and I can heal wounds, forgive myself, and move forward. So here are big realizations I’ve had this year:


  1. An eye for an eye (revenge) is not how I’m going to live my lifeWhen someone does me wrong or I get my feelings hurt, I remind myself that it’s not personal; people’s decisions, opinions, and actions are often a reflection of how they feel about themselves or are formed by baggage that they carry. {Whether we choose to be transparent or not, we all have our own hurts, pains, insecurities, and shortcomings that we can either fall victim to or work through and heal; I’m choosing the latter.} When I can forgive and repair, I do it willingly, but there are times when it’s best to forgive, move on, and release the burdensome pressure. I’ve learned it’s best not to have long-term resentment, aggression, or anger towards others, it just hurts more as time passes. All in all, I believe in people and we’re all just doing the best we can, but when we know better, we must choose to do better. When it’s said and done, I know I have the power to remove myself from toxic situations and relationships.

  2. Letting go of things/people that I’ve outgrown has allowed me to spread my wings and recenter my thinking. When I set my mind to something, I invest wholeheartedly, but sometimes, the reality doesn’t match the truth inside my head. I’ve had to spend a lot of time working, growing, and learning about false realities I wanted and created to get to the root of my ideologies and beliefs. When I let go of the delusional of all the what if’s or could be’s, I started to have a clearer picture of my reality and the more positive direction I wanted to move towards. I realized I didn’t have to stay in the same state of mind I’ve always been in.

  3. Saying ‘no’ is so powerful. Setting boundaries is refreshing, and serves so many purposes in my life. Going off into the Peace Corps this year has taught me the importance of setting boundaries early on while also voicing my opinion and considerations. It’s allowed to me to devote my time and energy to my passions and do away with time fillers and wasters. I am not beneficial to anyone when I am over extended or a scattered brain. By setting boundaries and using my voice, I have shown others that I value myself, my time, and the work I’m dedicated to.

  4. Trusting in the season of my life has allowed me to breathe and find peace in my now. There have been many times where I feel unsettled and restless, wanting to know what’s next or why x, y, or z hasn’t happened yet. I have many short-term and long-term goals for myself, and at times that gives me a false illusion like I know what my future holds or what the next stage holds. I’m in an amazing chapter of my life right now, and I’m learning to just enjoy the moments as they come. I still challenge and push myself, but I’ve given up trying to ‘play God’ and map out my entire life. It’s okay that I don’t know what’s next. It’s okay that I’m single. It’s okay that I’m in this season of my life in another country.

  5. Hard work always pays off, tenfold.  Growing up in Indiana, I had many factors in my life that taught me about being disciplined, having great work ethic, and the value of genuinely helping others, and eventually, I developed the work ethic I have now. While in college, I took on so many jobs, internships, and extra curricular activities. I loved being a part of things greater than myself, being a team player. By working hard, I have developed skills and a value adding mindset that I’ll carry with me no matter where I go, and I learned the value of communicating well, showing up, and always doing the best work I am capable of. So if you ever feel like your work is taking you in circles, recenter your thinking and know that being a smart worker is a valuable asset.

  6. In order to grow, I need to invest in myself. As a volunteer working in the education sector, I have fallen in love with learning again. I am gaining knowledge from the time I get up until I go to bed. I apply myself, and believe I am capable in all that I do. That belief has allowed me to get positions within Peace Corps that allow me to enhance my ability to write and edit, it’s allowed me to get accepted in an online MBA program, it’s allowed me to read more books in a month than I ever thought possible. When I invest in myself, sky really is the limit. I hope you invest in yourself too and see just how capable you are. 

 

 

These views are my own and do not reflect those of the US government or Peace Corps.

5 Books I’ve Read During Peace Corps & The Purpose They Serve

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I’ve done a lot of reading and writing over the last five months since joining Peace Corps, but these are the top 5 books that have shaped me and reiterated key moral values that I hold near and dear to my heart. I hope they positively impact your own personal development, like they’ve done to mine. 

 

  1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl Unknown one of the most impactful books I’ve EVER read. This book gave me perspective and another way of looking at experiences throughout life. Dr. Frankl endured life in extreme hardships inside the walls of Auschwitz, and despite the meek and dehumanizing environment, his outlook and his views on life, one’s purpose, and the spirit of the human condition is one that inspires me in all that I do. His voice and actions brought light to some of the darkest  times in history, and he showed that believing in yourself and your meaning is vital. I’ve read it a couple times now because it’s so noteworthy and commendable, and you should too.

 

  1. Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates —  Unknown-1This book gave me guidance and reassurance that this life is meaningful, and you have to take baby steps before you can run. There’s so much I want to do, and see, and be a part of, and I have great respect for the Gates Foundation for their contributions to the betterment of life around the world and also willingness to learn to understand. I have always had been an advocate for education and being a lover of knowledge, and by Melinda Gates sharing other’s stories and experiences, it reminded me just how important it is to have school and education. In order to have education, there are many things to work on— health concerns, cultural norms, equality, etc. It’s a very eye-opening book that intertwines faith, triumph, and human connection. 

 

  1. The Alchemist by Paulo CoelhoUnknown-2This book gave me ease to trust in my journey and in myself. I was reminded that all twists and turns, ups and downs are all a part of the process and should be valued. It is not so much about the destination, but how we go about getting there. There are so many people we come across and connections we make along the way, and those are true gifts in this life. We grow throughout our journey, and the truest treasure isn’t things or places or even other people. You will find out what the truest treasure is.

 

 

  1. The Leadership Crisis by John AllisonUnknown-3.jpegThis book gave me confidence to trust in my own abilities and qualities. It reminded me that I can learn the technical objectives in a career, but there are already true qualities engrained in my character and being. John Allison is a libertarian, but even if you don’t agree with his ideologies or political stances, his book has great philosophies and strategies that hinge on honesty, transparency, team work, and personal responsibility. I recommend it to anyone in management or leadership roles, or anyone with an interest on taking on more personal responsibility. Great and challenging read!

 

  1. Four Agreements by Don Ruiz (also referred to as the wisdom book) Unknown-4.jpeg—  This book gave me tools to reflect on my own agreements, ideologies, and perceptions, and to be able to work through some of shortcomings. It’s a short read, but the book holds so much meaning to me and working towards my own personal freedom. You may have differing religious beliefs than Don Ruiz, but the 4 key concepts are virtues that I carry with me. These agreements have helped me be more loving, forgiving, and kind to myself. A must read!

 

 

 

For more recommendations, message me or comment below!

How Moving Abroad Reshapes Your Mind and Challenges Your Beliefs

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I left the US 4 months ago, and this is my month #4 reflection with the Peace Corps. Throughout the rest of September and the entirety of October, something special happened. 

To start— this month has been the most eye-opening and testing one yet. The reality of what I’ll be doing day to day has set in, and it can feel so daunting to accomplish and do all the things I’m meant to do here. It can feel overwhelming and isolating, but it’s also invigorating and I’ve found the purest joys here. This journey I’m on has called for the most advantageous version of myself; it’s required me to become more vocal, present, and understanding. It’s demanded that I listen to unravel the realities of other people and to leave any and all discernments at the door. I lived a more sheltered life growing up in small town USA; therefore, there are so many truths I’ve never been exposed to until now. 

You know that saying, you don’t know what it’s like for someone else until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes; Well, I don’t believe you can even truly understand then. You may have more compassion for them or can grapple with their candor, but when you can return their shoes after that mile trek and move out of that reality, it’s difficult to comprehend the longevity and lasting impact of their experiences. 

This month has been special because I’m beginning to truly grasp how little I know about the world around me, differing cultures and belief systems, and the people who occupy all the beautiful spaces around the globe. It’s inspired me to learn, to seek to understand, to hear, to observe, and to ask questions. 

Being inside of a classroom all day and teaching first graders, I’ve seen first hand the power of educating the upcoming generation. It’s been so exceptional for me because I’ve fallen in love with learning again, and that doesn’t mean in the formal sense of going to school to just learn during those specified hours. Any chance I get, I’m picking up a new book or finding a new topic I’m interested in or downloading a new podcast.

I want to learn more so I can understand more, and that’s what I’m working to teach the children I come in contact with. I want them to fall in love with learning and gaining knowledge, the way I have because education and the things they learn are something no one can ever take away from them. By learning, they are investing in themselves and that is the best investment they will make in this lifetime. 

So many of my kiddos tell about how they want to be teachers and doctors and police officers. They tell me about their dreams and their ideas because I ask them and keep pushing for them to expand. I never want them to lose their sense of wonder and creativity because those qualities will take them so far in life. Month #4 has reminded me that I am exactly where I am suppose to be with who I am meant to be here with. If you are ever contemplating moving to another country, do it, you’ll grow in unimaginable ways. 

It has been filled with adventures around Grenada, many beach days, and empty evenings filled with Netflix and writing, but nothing really compares to being in a place where I can share my heart and learn about others in such a vulnerable way. 

Thanks for following along my journey. I am always open to hearing other perceptions, truths, and beliefs, so feel free to reach out. 

*** disclaimer: all my views are my own, and do not reflect the views of the US government or Peace Corps ***

 

Month #3: Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean Reflection

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This has been a substantial month with many highs and lows, many realizations and conversations, and countless A-ha moments.

I’ve been living in Grenada now for two months, and initially when I first arrived and the following weeks, I felt like a tourist who was so caught up in trying to figure out my new norm that I was missing the whole point of my early transition and integration stages in a new culture. Through writing and honest conversations, I was able to identify some of my shortcomings and rectify them as this was a whole new avenue I had never been down.

I understood better that adapting and integrating while still holding onto the core of who you are isn’t a walk in a park; it challenges you in ways you never knew possible. 

I was hard on myself for that reason; I wanted to know and do it all right away, but I’m only human and things take time. Now two months later, I see the beauty in easing in and making genuine and authentic relationships and connections with those around me. 

At the beginning of September, I began working at a local Roman Catholic school in Grenada. On the fourth, I was officially sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteer by our Program Manager and the Ambassador of the Eastern Caribbean, Linda Swartz Taglialatela. All the training we had done for the last two and a half months in St. Lucia and Grenada was now worth it because we could be do actual meaningful work in our schools and around our communities. 

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The hands on learning in the Grenadian classroom from the kids and with other teachers has been so vital in my adjustment process. Yes, I’m here to help wherever I’m needed, to be a human resource and promote sustainable practices. I’m here to co-educate and share my knowledge, but the truth is, I am learning more everyday from these kids, fellow teachers, and community members.

I’ve gained an even greater appreciation for education, learning and sparking kid’s interest in gaining knowledge in all aspects of life.

The teachers I work with are so resourceful and creative, and I admire all that they bring to the table. I love sharing ideas and collaborating as we have great conversations about implementing new strategies, games, activities, standards, and classroom management.

I’ve started to explore my community more and take myself on walks (even though sidewalks are very scarce and these twisty rainforest roads make my heart drop). I greet every passing face with a smile, and often times, they already know me as Ms. DeBoer or Teacher Ashley. I talk to the baker about her baking tips and the shop owner about his saltfish bakes. There are a lot of side stands where people cook/ grill out and sell all kinds of BBQ food or Oildown, and I am constantly making new friends because I love food, but hate cooking. God bless, WhatsApp to stay connected. 

This life has required a new version of myself— one that speaks up, says hello first, leaves fear at the door, and steps miles outside of an ever expanding comfort zone.  

As a PCV, there are internal struggles you endure. You are no longer the person you were when you boarded the plane, bright eyed to take on this endeavor, and said goodbye to your loved ones. It can be very isolating at times to undergo so much self-realization and self-actualization that put your convictions and beliefs through the ringer. You’re stripped of your masks and comforts, and you have to face the person you are at the core. While I’ve been unpacking my own upheavals and fallibilities, I am learning to be kinder to myself and more appreciative of this journey. 

Month 3 has been a whirlwind where I’m actually in the school and living on my own, making lifelong connections with host country nationals and other Peace Corps Volunteers. I’m reminded that making human connections that are sincere and genuine is what life is all about! Thank you for following along my Peace Corps experience because it’s a goal to share Grenada’s culture and beauty with you all too. 

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**these thoughts and opinions are my own, and do not reflect the thoughts of the US government or Peace Corps**

The Importance of Having Friends Who Are Loyal, Inspiring, and Go-Getters

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As I grow, see the world, and learn, I always come back to one main purpose to life and that’s making connections. Who we love, know, and grow with matters and who we care for, share with, and inspire is just as important. 

I spent most of my youth living in Indiana, growing with the same kids I had known since kindergarten; those friendships I created on the playgrounds, at pop warner football games, and inside the classroom have been forever imprinted on my heart. Through ups and downs, parent’s divorces, lost loved ones, break ups, detentions, and so much more, I understood the importance of valuing the people in my life who showed me love and loyalty at a young age. 

I never wanted to regret not loving big enough, so I loved my friends fiercely and as if they were my own blood, my own family.

I could see the beauty in each flawed friend I had— I took note that we all have our quirks, and questionable characteristics, but the ones who are the most peculiar, most far fetched often need the most love. 

Then when I moved to Florida, I took my mindset about having quality friends over being friends with the masses. It’s wonderful to be kind to each passing face, but it’s also vital to choose people who choose you, and to show up for them, be a consistent motivator and supporter.

It’s easy to stay surface with friends, to gossip, to barely graze over the sticky situations; the challenge is finding people who are on the same wave length, who want to get deep and go beyond what the world sees. When I shared my heart, people began to share theirs and that’s when I built friendships on the foundation of trust, perseverance, and inspiration. 

As an adult, I see the importance of having friends who are not only genuine and authentic, but also have the ability to evoke your passions and inspire you to do and go for your dreams.

The day to day can be filled with chaos, dramas, or letdowns and let’s be honest, life gets in the way at times, texts go unanswered, weeks go by, but the most beautiful friendships and connections aren’t defined by how often you talk or hang out. It’s about how real and deep your energies vibe and connect;  it’s about having friends in your life who give you their perspective, who uplift your spirits, and inspire you to stand back up when you stumble. 

I am so lucky to have those friends from all walks of life with various interests, passions, and goals, but despite our differences, they show up for me, root me on, and I do the same. I love people I connect with fiercely because it really is that deep and those connections are one in a billion. Also, a lot of the most genuine friendships I have made, especially in adulthood, have been because I put myself out there, tore down my walls, made plans, and had 20 seconds of courage to just smile and say hi. So it’s so worth stepping out of your comfort zone to make life-long friends. 

So this is a little reminder to hug your friends a little tighter, say ‘I love you’ a little more often, and to put in the extra effort every now and then. 

Thank you to my best friends, and people I adore more than anything. Shout out to Livia for the FaceTime call that inspired this, you are my inspo!

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A New Perspective When You’re Feeling Less Than Special

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I hear it often, and it saddens me: 

People saying, “What, they think they are special? They aren’t special.” Their venomous words scream right into your face. It feels as though, a dark cloud is tapping on your shoulder, whispering a gentle reminder that rocks your core. “You’re a nobody, you aren’t special.”

The words echo again and again, as failures come rolling in, and the setbacks feel like hurdles you’ll never be able to clear. You start to think, ‘I am a nobody, nobody special.’ I’ve been there, done that too. I’m here to tell you otherwise, but as I write this all, I begin to wonder who I am to tell you different? Who I am to tell you all the thoughts in your head are just against you, to just feed your mind sweeter thoughts?

Am I a nobody too? 

Absolutely….. not. And neither are you. 

Am I not special because I don’t have the most beautiful face or the best voice or the sharpest wit or the most intuitive mind? 

Absolutely not. I’m special because I don’t have all the those things, and because I have other qualities that make me, me. Own that! 

I am Ashley Louise DeBoer, and that means something TO ME. It really doesn’t have to mean much to someone else because they may not know my heart or the way I think, or my energy might not be their cup of tea. Quite frankly, we aren’t going to be everyone’s favorite or second favorite; there will always be someone else with prettier hair, more money, MORE MORE MORE, but we aren’t playing a comparison game, at least not in this lifetime. We aren’t defined by the masks we wear, the amount of money or followers we have. 

It’s so much deeper than that, miles beyond the surface. 

As cheesy as it sounds, we’re all so incredibly special, so deeply important and unique. Not a single soul is the same as the next, so that ultimately means you are one in 6-7 billion. No one laughs the way you do, thinks the way you do, expresses themselves the way you do, dresses the way you do, experiences life the way you do. 

Each one of us is so special because we bring our own perspective to the table, even when we feel as though we are lacking or behind. 

The way you think and talk about your loves, passions, and ideas contributes to your beauty, your uniqueness. No one has lived this day the same way you have, and that’s pretty dang special, and that’s why I’m here to remind you that voice matters, your opinion matters, and your existence is validated, even when you feel as though you are sinking under the pressure. You’re suppose to be at the table, serving up all your thoughts because your perspective and perceptions should and can be heard.

So thank you to all the creatives, the listeners, the thinkers, the writers, the ones who say I love you first, the ones who show up despite the fears and reservations, you are our friendly reminder of the importance to value ourselves and all that being ourselves encompasses. 

Don’t worry so much about being something you’re not, the best thing you can be is you, as they say, “ be yourself, everyone else is already taken” So continue to see the badass that you are. Cheers to being REALLY, shockingly SPECIAL!