When a friend recently posted a Facebook status about Ashley Burnett, a part of me freaked out. Sometimes it's sort of disconcerting when people show up in your life at exactly the right moment.
It's hard to decide on the right qualifiers to sum up Ashley's ambition and attitude. She's a lifelong dancer and Led Zeppelin fanatic, for starters. But what instantly struck me about Ashley is her dedicated work around body confidence.
Ashley created Strong Body Love in an effort to help creative female entrepreneurs gain confidence in their physical, professional, and personal selves. Her mission really resonated with me, and I was particularly fascinated by her Body Compassion Boot Camp. So fascinated, I demanded she sign me up for the six-week program immediately after we met.
I'm embarking on the journey this Tuesday, September 23, and if the following Q&A below gets you all goosebump-y, you can join me. Check out the Body Compassion Boot Camp page for more information on how to sign up before all the spots are snagged. And read my interview with Ashley below to get her one super simple tip for transforming your body image:
How long have you been coaching female entrepreneurs and what motivated your decision to launch your own business?
Ashley Burnett: Entrepreneurship is in my blood. My mom ran a successful dance studio for 25 years and now owns a vintage-inspired home décor shop. And her mother was one of the first female optometrists in the Chicago-land area. So, inherently, I've been an entrepreneur my entire adult life.
I began by teaching dance classes and choreographing, producing, and dancing in my own productions. This was in addition to dancing for various companies across the country, including for the beloved contemporary choreographer Sonya Tayeh of So You Think You Can Dance.
I've also run successful massage therapy and jewelry design businesses. After receiving health and life coaching certifications a few years back, I decided to put all my unique talents and gifts together and create Strong Body Love, where I support wellness and creative entrepreneurs in developing fierce confidence in their own physical bodies and the confidence to put their "bodies of work" -- their businesses -- out on larger platforms.
Why the name, "Strong Body Love"?
A.B.: Most everything I've ever done entrepreneur-wise has been related to the body -- dance, massage, health coaching, and jewelry. The "Strong" piece comes from my desire to help women build strength and confidence within themselves. And the "Love" piece... well, love is the way and the truth, so it only made sense for me to incorporate that into my work.
What do you think differentiates you from other body and career confidence coaches?
A.B. I bring a sense of humor and down-to-earth-ness to the work that I do, but I also dive in and get serious too.
I also think the embodiment piece is super important, and I teach my clients how to fully embody and express their unique selves in their work. When I'm helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses, I make sure we focus on that piece -- on really drawing out all of their unique qualities and incorporating them into their personal brands and their work.
I'm totally not into a cookie cutter approach or creating a business by following a template. As the great Dr. Seuss said, "Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You." We must accept and embrace that truth and feature all of our awesomeness in to the work that we're doing, and that's what differentiates us from others.
You were a dancer for many years. How did that experience impact your body image and confidence?
A.B.: When I was growing up, I was super self-conscious about my body. As a dancer, I was constantly comparing myself to all the other bodies in the room. I was one of the "bigger boned dancers." Though I wasn't actually big at all, it's easy to compare yourself to a bunch of tiny stick figures at an early age, and it was a challenge for me. We always had to weigh in, and I think that process instilled not-so-great habits (like going on the four-saltine-crackers-and-an-apple-for-lunch diet when I was 12).
But I think being a modern dancer and performer has ultimately helped heal that story and build my confidence over time, as well. I've learned to push myself out of my comfort zone -- sharing my work on much larger stages and scales than I would have otherwise, and that's truly what builds confidence.
Why did you stop dancing and pursue a career in health and business coaching?
A.B.: I was doing so much and had my hands in too many pots at that time -- dancing for others, choreographing and dancing in my own work, running my massage practice, and designing jewelry. When I threw coaching into the mix, I felt overwhelmed, and I knew I needed to focus on one thing and give it my all for a while. I was also getting older, and think I needed to give my body a rest after 31 years of rigorous dancing!
I'm excited to say though that I've actually just commissioned a dear friend and dance colleague to choreograph a dance solo for me, which I'll perform sometime next year. Dance is in my blood, it's one of my lifelines and I can't live well without it, but I think I needed that break for a bit to focus on creating my business.
How do you feel body image ties into overall confidence?
A.B.: Let's face it, if a women loathes and is disgusted by her body, she's most likely not going to have fierce confidence in herself. Chances are, she'll hold herself back from putting herself out there on a larger scale with her life's work for fear she doesn't look the part, that she's not good enough or deserving enough to have what she wants.
What we need to do is shine awareness on those old, limiting belief systems that we developed as children (statistics have shown the average age of the dieting saga begins at the age of eight), and create new patterns and beliefs that are empowering, positive, and full of acceptance and love. With that powerful shift in perception, our confidence will skyrocket!
What is Body Compassion Boot Camp and who do you think could benefit from it?
A.B.: Body Compassion Boot Camp is a unique virtual coaching program for women that combines emotional health with clean eating and enjoyable physical activity, resulting in a body they love and feel confident in, long-term.
By focusing on body acceptance first, women learn to let go of perfectionism, develop positive body image, and re-write their body stories to be ones they feel crazy proud of, no matter their size. The program is all about developing acceptance, appreciation, radical self-love, and confidence so we can all be positive and powerful role models for the next generation, as well as for the community we're serving with our life's work.
What's one easy, actionable tip any woman can do to boost her body confidence?
A.B.: When you're looking in the mirror in the morning and you find yourself talking trash to yourself (calling yourself "Cottage Cheese A**," telling yourself how ugly you are, being repulsed by your flab, etc.), instead, look in the mirror and work some reverse osmosis on that thought!
Find one to three things that you actually like about your body and think about why you're grateful for them.
For example, if I catch myself saying a negative thought about myself, I'll quickly interrupt the thought and find something I like about it and why. I might say, "I like my blue-green eyes because they're striking and they help me to see the beauty in life," or, "I love my big feet because they've taken me so many places and brought me so much joy throughout my dancing career." This helps us to get out the negative and start retraining the subconscious mind to think in the positive, allowing us to experience more joy and gratitude on a daily basis.
To learn more about Ashley and Strong Body Love, check out www.strongbodylove.com and be sure to sign up for her Body Compassion Boot Camp by Monday, September 22.