Marie-Claire Ashcroft about choosing the sunnier side of thingsApr 14, 2021
Marie-Claire Ashcroft is a good friend of mine and I’m so happy to introduce this powerful and joyful woman to you! Marie-Claire is a «professional rebel», as she calls herself and she creates awesome photos of people while at the same time helping them express their true self. Our talk combines the calmness of a trickling stream and the effervescence of a bright and colourful firework display. It’s full of laughter and joyful bliss but also holds space to talk about Marie-Claire’s troubled past and how she became who she is today. I wish you loads of joy listening to this episode!
I met Marie-Claire in London at Denise Duffield Thomas’ «Lucky Bitch Live Event» 2015 and we’ve been good friends since then. Marie-Claire works as a photographer that not only takes photos but makes sure that you’ll be shining as your true self!
«To me, it’s not who you are that stops you from being happy, it’s who you *think* you are», Marie-Claire
«A lot of people are living a false identity. I help people see them who they really are», Marie-Claire
We talk about how people sometimes think that we’re too joyful or are taking life too lightly and aren’t being serious enough. Marie-Claire simple says to that: «It’s people like us that are able to embrace that lightness. We have seen the incredible darkness but we just choose not to live there».
«We chose the rainbow and the unicorn way», Ronja
What brings you joy?
People, being cheeky, mischievous and naughty, playing, googly eyes, dancing, face painting, getting the paint and the glitter out, having fun photo shoots, putting my favorite music on… You have to watch the video to see Marie-Claire sparking joy even while only talking about these things! : )
«I think a lot of grownups just forget to connect to their joy and their playfulness and their creativity», Marie-Claire
Life with Marie-Claire is a lot of fun. Make sure to listen to the episode to hear her hilarious stories about wearing fake moustaches on airplanes or sticking googly eyes on statues… : ) : )
Marie-Claire says that she misses the interaction with people without masks and tries extra hard to share a smile with her eyes and a nice word to someone at the supermarket or out on the streets.
«I enjoy having the sunnier side of perspective», Marie-Claire
«Just having the feeling of «I can choose», this is so empowering», Ronja
Marie-Claire says that she had a painful childhood, she got bullied, had very low-esteem and suffered from depression. «I wore what I call a sad sack. It’s invisible and it just weighs you down. Your energy is so heavy, you can’t get up in the morning, everything is such an effort, even choosing to see the sunnier side of things is really difficult. I have developed a process in the work that I do with people before I even take their photo – it’s called «sad sack to superhero» and it’s about realizing that you can take this horrible heavy smelly sack off and be the superstar you really are. You do actually have that choice (though it might not feel like it!), and it’s that which is the voice of imposter syndrome - it’s that thing that steals the true essence of who you are».
«If I don’t remind myself who I am every single day, then the darkness can take over», Marie-Claire
«It’s not denying it, but it’s choosing to not connect to something, that isn’t your true self», Marie-Claire
«Feel the feelings and sort them out, after you’ve really felt them», Ronja
«Everything you’ve learned makes you the person you are», Ronja
Marie-Claire says that it’s so easy to let that identity that you’ve created on the basis of bad experiences put a false lens through which you see your whole experience of life. «It’s like being a horse. They put the blinkers on you, and you don’t see any other alternative to the reality that you’ve created for yourself, just based on a particular experience».
«These small nuggets of experience don’t have to cloud your whole experience for the rest of your life», Marie-Claire
What was a turning point in your life?
Marie-Claire recounts, that she used to be a people pleaser, doing what people expected from her and trotting on a career path that wasn’t aligned with what she really wanted: «There was always a part of me that wanted to self-express», Marie-Claire adds. «But I didn’t let myself and I didn’t see myself as that type of person, so I thought I might as well just do what I should».
«The further I went from being who I really am, the more depressed I became», Marie-Claire
From a bonus that Marie-Claire received at her job that she hated but was good at, she bought a camera. Marie-Claire says that she was always bad at remembering things and that her childhood experience wiped out her memory, so she wanted to capture moments with her camera to remind herself that life wasn’t as bad as her brain was trying to make out. Marie-Claire eventually resigned from her old job and started her own business called «Fluke Photography», but despite finally working as an artist and being able to travel as she had wished to, Marie-Claire had a mental breakdown: «I’ve created something that I thought I wanted but I still wasn’t happy. I realized that I kept choosing from the outside, rather than from the inside».
That’s when Marie-Claire started doing the happiness work, as she calls it. She consumed a lot of material about different topics and started learning about meditation, sports and spirituality: «I knew that this wasn’t my story and that I had to fix my depression and heal it».
Marie-Claire remembers that she suddenly started to see herself in other people too and she thought to herself: «Hang on, if I’m making myself happy by learning all of this stuff, why don’t I share it? The first business that I had came from a desire to do something I was good at, and feeling like I had a purpose, rather than just a job. But then as my business evolved, I started a second business «Professional Rebel», I realized that my purpose then was healing people so they didn’t feel like they were going through this on their own. I knew that if I could get past it myself and find a way out of this, then it seemed very selfish to not share that with other people too».
Marie-Claire adds: «You pick up the pieces that have fallen all over the floor and then choose which ones you want to pick up and carry on with, I think that’s just a part of life. It’s not welcoming things like that, but being okay when they happen: “I’ll be okay with all this, I’ve just got to ride that wave of whatever is going on right now».
I like that analogy with the wave, because you can always choose to jump off the wave and take a plunge into the blue water at some sunny beach! : ) Or you can choose to ride on the wave for a bit longer until you’re strong enough to jump on another wave that takes you to that said sunny beach. Figuratively speaking.
Marie-Claire adds another analogy: «When we’re talking about stuffing your emotions down and putting a smile on your face, to me it’s like when you have a beach ball and it’s full of air and you have a challenge that is called “how long can I push this down and hold under the water”. You go like “uh, I can do this, I can do this” and eventually your arms will get tired, and you let go and the beach ball will just smack you in the face, because you can’t keep suppressing parts of yourself».
Marie-Claire says that she treats her depression now like an unwanted family member that turns up at your house for the weekend. You’re not terribly happy about it but you’ll let it stay and you’ll even make sandwiches and prepare a place to sleep for it. Treat yourself to whatever you need during those moments and kindly but firmly shove it out of the door on Sunday evening.
«Your body is always trying to tell you something», Marie-Claire
Marie-Claire explains that today she can feel it when something’s not right and she’s having a tight feeling in her chest. It might need an ugly cry or a tantrum, but it allows the bad feeling to leave your body. «You’ll feel so much better once you’re on the other side of it».
«Let it work its way out and then it’s not there anymore», Marie-Claire
«The magic of your boundaries is, that when you’ve set them, you don’t have to push feelings or people away», Ronja
Marie-Claire adds that often times those feelings that come up aren’t even related to now. It’s things that find their way back all the way from the past and it’s so important to not suppress it and let it out. «When you’re off the beaten track on the wrong way for you, that’s when the “feeling you don’t want to feel” comes in. It’s your inner GPS guiding you back to what’s right for you».
I really like to connect with my future self in those times, because – as I’m rather stubborn – she’s the one I gladly take advice from during such moments, because it’s coming from my best self and not from the outside. (My UA Jonathan is another voice I listen to...if you want to know what a UA is, sign up here: www.joyismycompass.com/ua)
I ask Marie-Claire if she has any idea why people in our western society often suppress their true self and do things only to please others.
Marie-Claire says that it all starts in childhood, when you learn how to get the approval from your parents and then from your teachers and classmates: «You’re always looking outside of yourself for “being on the right track, having a good job, and this is what you do next etc». You need the acceptance, so you start hiding things from yourself and that goes on and on during high school, university into the work life. Nobody comes at one point and says that all the things you’ve stuffed away in those past years is actually you, your talents, your interests, your creativity.
In school – and that’s something that I dislike a lot about our school system in Switzerland too – you always concentrate on the children’s flaws instead of the things they’re naturally good at. There’s also just one accepted way to learn and if someone learns better in a different way, there’s no time and space for that.
«You put out your authentic work and the magic will happen», Ronja
Do you have a process you guide everybody through that works with you?
Marie-Claire answers, that she works very intuitively and has her own unique signature system. She is currently building a membership community for creatives and business owners who need courage and confidence. «It always starts with knowing yourself and realizing which parts are just cloudy by a dirty lens. It’s clearing that lens and seeing yourself more clearly».
«I believe that you cannot move on to the next step of any work, until you’ve actually got a good foundation of who you are and how you see yourself», Marie-Claire
What is your message to the world?
«Stop letting the past experiences ruin your tomorrow and your today. You don’t know how long you’ve got. Fill every moment with joy and mischief and if there is a sunnier option, choose it, because why would you choose the other one?»
And with these words, which resonate so much with me, another wonderful talk ends. Thank you so much for listening / reading / watching and thank you, Marie-Claire, so much for sharing your colorful and joyful wisdom with the world!
People and resources we talked about:
- Denise Duffield-Thomas
- Book: «WTF am I doing with my life?!», by Marie-Claire Ashcroft
This is where you can find Marie-Claire:
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