What makes your soul dance?

Lovely, I know you’re tired.

I know you wish you weren’t pulled in a million different directions. It’s okay to feel like you’re in survival moment at this season in your life.

This doesn’t mean that you’re less than your beautiful self, but you can still take small steps in order to not just survive but thrive.

Share your smile with the passerby, send an encouraging text to a friend or call your mom.

Take time today to do something that makes you feel like yourself - it can be as simple as wearing your favorite outfit or lipstick color.

Remember to #bloomlovely.

P.S. Share inspiration from today and tag @bloomlovelyco for a chance to be featured. You can also follow along in your own Bloom, Lovely journal. Forward this e-mail to a sister, friend, or roommate who needs a little more beauty in their life. They can subscribe to receive Bloom, Lovely here.

Beauty is all around you. Can you see it?

Lovely, sometimes it seems like too much work to achieve beauty.

Buying all the right products, the trendy hair cut, the best-fitting outfit.

Beauty is not an achievement. It already exists within your heart, ready to be celebrated.

Today, let yourself delight and be grateful when you see beauty in the world.

Do not be afraid. It is there as a gift for your appreciation.

Remember to #bloomlovely.

P.S. Share inspiration from today and tag @bloomlovelyco for a chance to be featured. You can also follow along in your own Bloom, Lovely journal.

What to do when you just don't feel beautiful.

Lovely, you are disappointed at what you see in the mirror.

Somehow, your heart has believed the lie that you are not beautiful. But what if you could believe that you are beautiful, exactly as you are? How would that feel? Just for today, you will remind yourself that you are.

Wake up the hope in your heart that has been asleep for too long.

If you believed you were enough just as you are, you would be unstoppable.

Let this awareness rest in your heart and transform your life. Do you believe it?

Remember to #bloomlovely.

P.S. Share inspiration from today and tag @bloomlovelyco for a chance to be featured. You can also follow along in your own Bloom, Lovely journal.

How to stop people pleasing once and for all.

Lovely, you want to put your best foot forward.

You want to put on a brave face and smile when you feel sad inside. Sometimes you wear a mask that you feel is better to hide yourself from letting people see the real you. It's safer that way, you think to yourself.

If people knew the real you, maybe they wouldn't like you or accept you anymore.

You feel like a fraud.

Remember, the media has told you a story about who you should be and what you should look like. That story is the one you tell yourself. And the story you tell yourself becomes who you are.

What if - just once - you could be the real you?

Today, give yourself permission to remove the mask and be authentic. 

Remember to #bloomlovely.

P.S. Share inspiration from today and tag @bloomlovelyco for a chance to be featured. You can also follow along in your own Bloom, Lovely journal.

The one thing to remember before you compare yourself.

Don't compare yourself today.

Lovely, beauty is hard to pinpoint. What is it? It is more than a collection of parts or a set of traits. It is unique and personal. 

This is why we should never look at someone else and wish we looked like them.

Comparison robs us of our peace and distracts us from being the best version of ourselves.

When we compare, we lose our power and give it over to judgment and anxiety - two things that attack us and hold us back. Instead of wasting time looking around you, focus on being the best version of yourself.

You are exactly where you need to be in this moment. You have a path that is irreplaceable. Remember that you are on the right track. Run in your own lane. Today, you have permission to bloom.

Remember to #bloomlovely.

P.S. Share inspiration from today and tag @bloomlovelyco for a chance to be featured. You can also follow along in your own Bloom, Lovely journal.

Team of 4 women breaks 3 world records by successfully rowing the Pacific Ocean

It reads like a blockbuster movie title –“257 days at sea” — but this was the reality for four courageous women, who rowed the Pacific Ocean without support. Nicknamed “The Coxless Crew”, Natalia Cohen, 40, Laura Penhaul, 32, Emma Mitchell, 30 and Meg Dyos, 25, completed an epic 8,446-mile journey on Monday. Members of a six-person team, that also included Isabel Burnham, 30, who rowed from SF to Hawaii, and 26-year-old Lizanne van Vuuren. They broke three world records to become the first team of four, the first all female team, and the fastest team to row the Pacific Ocean. And they did it in a 29-­foot bright-pink rowboat named “Doris.”

On April 20, 2015, the volunteer team departed from San Francisco and arrived on January 25, 2016 into he Marlin Marina in airns, Australia after rowing 24 hours per day, seven days per week in two-­hour shifts, for over nine months. Their only stops were in Honolulu, Hawaii and in Apia, Samoa to restock the boat with supplies and assorted freeze­-dried foods.

The crew were motivated by a desire to raise awareness and £250,000 to support two chosen charities, reast Cancer Care and alking With the Wounded. In their words, “everyone has their own pacific to cross. This project is all about creating an awareness for women facing their own challenges. We’re doing it for everybody. This isn’t something we are just doing for ourselves. We’re hoping to… inspire [others].”

As with any goal, preparation was required. The team trained for years and enlisted a support committee, including sport psychologist, Keith Goddard, who equipped the women with mental tools to face the challenges ahead. e trip “was a mindset journey more than anything,” Cohen told Women in the World, whose favorite mantra came from a necklace she wore, which said “ am in charge of how I feel today and today I choose happiness.”

Despite their preparation, she confessed that some legs became mentally grueling and difficult to endure, such as when they battled winds of “30 knots” and “40-foot waves.”

Mitchell described long, dark stormy nights, where it was impossible to see treacherous oncoming waves. These were challenging moments, especially combined with the struggle of “staying awake, because we never got more than one-and-a-half hours of sleep at a time.”

While stuck in the Doldrums, Mitchell said, “the currents were against us. We were pretty much going backwards a lot of the time. We were having to row every session as hard as we could and we still weren’t making any ground… That is when I struggled the most.”

In such low moments, the team united and fueled each other by shared conviction and humor. For Mitchell, “at no point was there any question that I was going to stop… Until we had achieved what we had set out to do, it was never going to be over.”

Added Cohen: “We are such an unbelievably strong team of women. That was key to the success of this trip. We kept each other going. There was continual laughter. I have never laughed so much in my life. We kept each other motivated.”

The crew were motivated by a desire to raise awareness and £250,000 to support two chosen charities, reast Cancer Care and alking With the Wounded. (Losing Sight of Shore)

When they were not battling life­-threatening weather, the team witnessed humpback whales, schools of fish, and herds of sharks that followed the boat for weeks. What they termed their “odyssey” afforded peaceful, spiritual experiences, as well. “You can’t help but be in a meditative state when you’re out there on the ocean. She’s absolutely mesmerizing, as you watch the undulating waves rising and falling, the clouds passing overhead, or the birds soaring in the sky. Everything that happens out there is meditative,” Cohen said.

Asked to share insights that would help someone looking to tackle an insurmountable goal, Cohen said, “you have the power to choose to do anything you want to do. With a little bit of self-­belief and trust in yourself, anything is possible.” For more on this story, Emmy ­award-winning documentary filmmaker Sarah Moshman (he Empowerment Project) followed their journey via footage shot by the women themselves and will release the film, Losing Sight of Shore, later in 2016.

The women continue the fundraising efforts from their homes in the United Kingdom. Readers can contribute by visiting www.coxlesscrew.com.

Ashley Crouch writes and speaks on women, beauty and leadership issues and lives in Manhattan. Find her on Twitter.

 

This article first appeared in Women in the World / New York Times by yours truly.

Bloom, Lovely Helps Redefine Beauty

On Thursday, I will be launching the Bloom, Lovely journals to the world! I have been working on these journals for months and so excited to finally make them available. (If you're wondering, you can get them here.)

Along the way, people have asked a lot of great questions, so here are some answers. 

The Story: 

This product was created by Ashley Crouch and a team of women entrepreneurs as a response to the problem. Ashley spent years in Manhattan in the fashion and media industry, working with models, photo shoots, at Fashion Week, pitching stories for press, and writing articles. In the process, she learned how limiting messages about beauty in the media sabotage women's self-esteem. She saw how a culture of fear has created competition amongst women and undermined their ability to forge strong relationships and celebrate, rather than begrudge, each others' talents. Her experience opened her eyes to the problem and gave her media literacy to combat her own body image issues.

But that wasn't enough. Head knowledge must convert to heart knowledge for life-changing results. Ashley wanted to create a product that would both education women, but be a fun, daily companion to remind women of their worth every single day. Incorporating her own proven techniques, and drawing from years of experience, she has created this product that will reach women where they are and help them feel beautiful, empowered, and equipped to live their best life every single day.

FAQs: 

Q: Where did the name come from?

A: Bloom, Lovely was inspired by the concept that we are all lovely. I wanted to find new adjectives to describe women beyond “hot” “sexy” and other tired terms. Then, I wanted to encourage women to blossom, open, and radiate their true beauty from a heart free to love.

Q: How long is the journal?

A: Bloom, Lovely is a quarterly journal, so this one will be part I of IV. Each has approximately 100 pages, including 4 hand-lettered “mini-posters” with beauty quotes that you can remove, frame, and hang around your home for inspiration. 

Q: Are the pages dated? Do I have to start on a particular day?

A: No. The 4 journals will total 365 pages and many users may want to begin the process as a New Years Resolution. But, they are left intentionally open so that you can start the journey at any time during the year. They are synced with the app, but the goal is to allow you to start whenever you feel inspired without fear of missing the cutoff. Now is always the right time. 

Q: Is it faith-based? What are the sources for the quotes?

A: Bloom, Lovely collects quotes from over 300 thinkers, from Confucius to Audrey Hepburn, Taylor Swift to Aristotle. Users are accessing a collective body of wisdom, making it relatable to women of all backgrounds and faiths.

Q: Does it go with the Bloom, Lovely app? 

A: YES! The Bloom, Lovely journal is a companion for the Bloom, Lovely app, which is available FREE for iPhone and Android online. The quotes sync up, but the journals have a quick question for reflection and lined space to write your meditation for each day. 

Q: How do you know it will work? 

A: Lasting change happens through daily repetition over time. Scientific studies prove that individuals have the power to rewire the neuro-pathways of their brain through knowledge, conscious choice, and repetition. Over time, the Bloom, Lovely journal will be a fun way for women to change the way they think about themselves and redefine beauty. 

Q: Are there more cover designs? 

A: Bloom, Lovely is a quarterly journal. This is the first journal in the series and each one builds on the other. Each cover will be unique… stay tuned for more designs!

Q: Can I get a dedication written inside for a friend? 

A: Each Bloom, Lovely journal comes with a dedication, "This journal is dedicated to every woman who desires to be beautiful, that she may know she is." The first 100 buyers can request a hand-written note included. 

Q: Do you ship internationally?

A: I'm working on it. If you want a journal and you live out of the country, please e-mail me: ashley@ashleyncrouch.com (I've been getting requests from Mexico, Ireland, and Australia. 

Q: What age is most appropriate for the journals?

A: Every woman desires to be beautiful, no matter the age. But due to the thought-provoking questions, I feel these are best for girls ages 15+. They also make great gifts from mothers to daughters, or for both mothers and daughters to enjoy them together and build a legacy of positive affirmation. 

Q: I heard you helped launch Verily Magazine. How is this different? 

A: Verily is an online-only magazine that delivers content on a variety of topics every day. Bloom, Lovely is a print journal that addresses beauty with a quote and quick question for reflection every single day. It is designed to help you train your brain to think of beauty in healthier ways. 

Jeannie Gaffigan is a Role Model for Modern Women

The Jim Gaffigan Show debuted on July 15, proving that the public is interested in the daily mishaps of a father of five who hates hot pockets and loves bacon. Despite Jim’s steady rise to popularity in recent years, fans knew little about his wife except that she was a “Shiite Catholic” who could “get pregnant looking at babies.” Until now. The New York Times featured the elusive Jeannie and millions discovered what a quiet powerhouse she is. She wrote, edited, produced, and helped create the Jim Gaffigan Show, down to the “crumbs on the table”—while taking care of their five children in a two-bedroom Manhattan walk-up. As she told the Times, “I didn’t understand that it was going to be 80-plus hours per week for three months, and my kids were going to have to come to the set, and my house was going to have to be like Downton Abbey.” Jeannie’s close involvement with her husband’s popularity stems from her deep background in the arts.

After marriage, Jeannie relinquished her life in theater and became fearlessly dedicated to furthering her husband’s career. She was the writer behind many of his most famous hits: “She channeled her comedic sensibilities into Jim’s voice, helping cultivate his brand as a father, a die-hard food enthusiast, and an all-around genial guy. While Jeannie worked in the background, Jim became the king of the clean comics,” the Times noted. Although she allowed her own career to take a backseat (read: “gave it all up”) for her husband, Jeannie offers modern women a lesson about what it means to have it all.

“Behind every good man is a good woman,” the saying goes. While some might find this flattering, to many modern women, this is an irksome idea, a relic from a past where women lacked opportunities equal to men. Why should the woman be behindthe man? Modern women out-distance men in many areas, graduating from college athigher ratesout-earning men in most jobs, and getting married at a record-high age of 27. Most of my friends in New York City are single and ambitious. We secretly huddle in booths and confess that we are afraid of commitment. We thrive on being independent, pursuing our careers, traveling the world, writing a book or two; after all, we are encouraged to Lean In. Conversely, women who desire to stay at home and raise a family face shame for “taking up space” in elite Ivy League universities or getting an MBA or medical degree. In pursuit of equality, our culture seems to encourage women to pursue complete autonomy instead of acknowledging the value of men and women pooling their resources.

It’s understandable. High-achieving individuals want to make a difference. As Professor Clayton Christensen explained in his 2010 Harvard Business School commencement address:

“When people who have a high need for achievement . . . have an extra half hour of time or an extra ounce of energy, they’ll unconsciously allocate it to activities that yield the most tangible accomplishments. And our careers provide the most concrete evidence that we’re moving forward. You ship a product, finish a design, complete a presentation, close a sale, teach a class, publish a paper, get paid, get promoted. In contrast, investing time and energy in your relationship with your spouse and children typically doesn’t offer that same immediate sense of achievement.”

Every individual wants to feel like they are living a fulfilling life; 90% of millennials want to use their skills for good and over 50% are willing to take a pay cut to enter employment they really care about. No one wants to be insignificant, but the confusion about needing to choose between work or family lies in a misunderstanding of power vs. influence.

Many people think that to have influence, they have to be the public face of something. But often, the face is merely the talking head for the committees, speechwriters, advisors, and hosts of people who work tirelessly behind the scenes to advance the message. As Jeannie Gaffigan said, “I’ve been able to have complete creative fulfillment in this relationship without being the front person.”

If we had a better understanding of the value of all types of roles—including the less-public ones—we would put less pressure on ourselves to conform to society’s expectations. Women would feel the freedom to maximize their unique potential in whatever unique situations in which they find themselves. As Stephen Covey counseled, we should operate within our own “circle of influence” to be the most effective.

This is precisely why Jeannie Gaffigan is a role model and a breath of fresh air for modern women. When asked why she gave up her career, she says, “I’ve also been able to have five kids. . . . [I]f I had said, ‘I need to go my own way,’ I would have taken the resources away and split the resources, instead of pooling the resources. . . . I care more about Jim’s career, his material, more than anyone else in the world except him. We’re on the same team, and we’re going for the same thing.” As Jeannie Gaffigan illustrates, influence can be found anywhere, even at home with the kids.

This article first appears on Acculturated by yours truly.