If you met my family you would have a hard time believing that I am more of an introvert. I was extremely shy as a child. I was the quiet good student who never rose her hand to answer a question or ask a question.
All of that changed when I unexpectedly made Charger Girls. I went to auditions without thinking I had a chance. But it was a major turning point in my life. I was 18 years old playing the part of a NFL cheerleader. There was an expectation that when we walked in the room, we would be the first person to say hello, make conversation to make the other person feel comfortable. Being that I was incredibly shy, playing that role was hard.
I ended up not making it back on the team the following year proved to me that I didn’t know how to play the role. When you don’t make the team, you don’t get a thorough explanation. Just a big fat NO. Looking back I would have to say that the reason had something to do with the fact that I was young AND that I was socially awkward. I had a hard time to hold conversations with complete strangers.
I started working at a gym and since I was new I had floor duty. Which meant my hours on the clock were spent picking up weights and TALKING to members. If I wasn’t training someone, I was supposed to be talking to someone. A lot of what I was told to do on Chargers but without the uniform.
Conversations got easier and I started to find my own voice. I eventually made it back on the team when I was 21 and that’s when I embraced the role and talked to EVERYONE. It was always scary. But in my head, there was a job to be done and so I did it.
Five years later I was comfortable in speaking to anyone, WHEN I was in my uniform. Outside of CGs, I curled up hiding behind people, shy as can be.
I knew I could do it, but it was an act, not the conversations but getting the courage to talk to someone was an act. I pretended I was confident. I could do it, when the space felt awkward but overall I liked to stand on the sidelines.
For years I lived in this space, fake it til you make it, right? It worked, but the older I got, the harder it was. I felt the fake-ness was showing through. I was a total surface friend. Never allowing people to get to know who I was, mainly because I didn’t know who Ashley was.
There was a book I read that challenged my Identity. Who I THOUGHT Ashley was versus who was Ashley… I could be anything right? I thrived when it came to the days of meeting fans as a Charger Girl, but for whatever reason when I was in regular street clothes, I reverted to the shy girl. At some point, I’m not sure if the idea came from me or one of my mentors, but I remember a light bulb went on, what if the Charger Girl Ashley, the one who was outgoing, what if that could be the real Ashley? How would life be different?
You see I loved meeting fans. I loved to see their eyes light up. I always associated it to the uniform, but it dawned on me, I was the person wearing the uniform. The uniform didn’t give me any super powers to speak to people. IT was me, the girl in the uniform. The girl who told everyone that Charger Girls were nobody special, just women who love to dance wearing a uniform.
It was like a huge lightbulb went on. If I could be that with a uniform, then why couldn’t I do it without it? From that moment on, any outfit I wore became my uniform. I muscled the courage to step outside my comfort zone everywhere I go. Some days it’s waaaay easier than others but I do it. I look for an opportunity to make someone else’s eyes light up. That gets my juices going.
Lately, I don’t have to muster up the courage. I am realizing more and more that I don’t have to be interesting… just interested. It’s an amazing feeling to allow someone tell you their story. Becoming an outgoing person is more about other people. Sure I start the conversation, but the real beauty is seeing their outgoing side come out! Try it sometime… I dare you! 😉