Ashton Sperle: “When we show up well to ourselves, we show up well to others.”


a series highlighting the emotions and personal practices of a hustler striving towards unwavering self-belief.

What is one thing in your life, positive or negative that has changed your perspective on self-belief?

The idea that we become what we behold has been on repeat for me lately. More than we realize, how we spend our thought life matters. We think things into being by dwelling on them. I’ve spent so much time dwelling on negative emotions or areas where I felt stuck, and while I fully believe in feeling all of our emotions, I also believe that what we spend our time, including in our thought-life and self-talk, deeply impacts our daily life. That said, I’ve found that practicing gratitude and being intentional to notice the beautiful things in life has majorly lent itself to a more positive experience of my day to day. As we behold the good in life, the beautiful things, the humans we’re connected to, we become better, more beautiful, more connected.

Have you felt accepted or like the black sheep throughout your life?

I’ve never quite felt like a black sheep, but maybe a light grey one. Entering adulthood, I’ve faced the question we all unavoidably do: ‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’ Except for in more creative circles, I’ve never felt my response to that question has been well understood – or maybe it’s that I still have some insecurity around saying that I want to be a creative, I want to make art for a living, I want to freelance, I want to build my own business to a high level of success.

In relation to the last question, what makes you, YOU?

Part of who I am will always be the people and places and beliefs that raised me, but aside from that, what makes me who I am is how deeply I feel and the curiosity I have towards people and life. I’ve always been labeled “too sensitive”, and up until my twenties, I believed there was such a thing. As a photographer, I realize that my deep sense of emotion is what leads to the art I create. I feel moments with people in a way most others don’t. I can watch the briefest moment of human connection and, without any further context, be moved to tears by the sheer beauty that comes with being alive and together. That depth of emotion and the questions it leads to are definitely the two traits that I feel refine who I am.

Photograph by @ypoursashton

“When we show up well to
ourselves, we show up well to others”

How would you define success?

Success is so relative to our individual circumstances. For some, success might be having their basic human needs met. For others, it might be about net worth. Personally, I’ve found my own success to be defined by meaning. I strive to live a meaningful life, to produce meaningful work, and to invest in meaningful connections. I consider myself successful when I can check those boxes. In the long term, success absolutely has to do with a stable life where I don’t have to stress over finances and can consistently enjoy the finer things in life, but if I don’t take a meaningful route to get to that point, it won’t feel successful at all.

How often do you reflect on life? Are these thoughts enlightening?

Daily if not hourly. I’m constantly reflecting on life – how beautiful it is, how wild it is that we’re all alive, how incredible it is that we can connect. For the most parts, the thoughts are incredibly enlightening.

Where do you feel most confident? At home? In professional environments? Nightlife?

I feel most confident when I’m surrounded by familiarity. Like so many people do, I struggle with anxiety and that’s always heightened in unfamiliar situations. I love the comfortability of knowing an environment, knowing my people, knowing the schedule — I think having an overview of where I’m at, who I’m with, and what’s happening helps me show up as fully as possible.

What does work/life balance mean to you?

I recently quit my job to go full time with photography for the summer, and with that my work and life balance have completely blended together. My art is inspired by life, and my life is inspired by my art. My business’s tagline is “honest moments of being alive”, and when I truly lean into that there is no separation between when I’m working and living.

That said, I worked service for the last two years and felt that my work life stole so much from the rest of me — I felt undervalued and like my purpose didn’t have room to grow. I recognize quitting my job was a massive privilege, but doing so was really the only road back to a healthy balance for me personally.

What do you think the key to having a healthy relationship with self is?

Healthy habits. This question gets me so excited! Our bodies are such magical places and are constantly fighting for us to live. Circling back to question one where I mentioned becoming what we behold, there truly is a science to this. When we focus on the good things in and around ourselves, we strengthen those neural pathways. The same is true for the opposite. By incorporating healthy habits into our life —stillness, getting our nutrients, connecting with people, movement, and whatever else you personally deem a healthy habit — we reiterate that we are worth our own time and that we are worth the time and effort wellness takes. When we show up well to ourselves, we show up well to others and a cycle is created and can be continued.

What is one thing that you value most in outside relationships? Friendships, family, romantic relationships, etc.

Curiosity in all directions. I try my best (and at times, fail) to host a space of curiosity in my closest relationships. I deeply value the relationships where we’ve made an effort to remain curious towards ourselves, each other, people who frustrate us, politics we don’t understand — the list goes on. When I can show up to a relationship knowing that we both believe we ourselves and all of the people around us are (for the most part) doing their best with the information available at the given moment, I feel safe, cared for, and able to both love and be loved well.

What does self-acceptance mean to you or look like to you?

Self-acceptance looks like holding space for the whole self while also allowing space for change. There are things about myself I love and things I don’t, things about my past and childhood I adore and things I wish I could erase — all of which makes me who I am. I don’t get to cherry pick who I am. I am who I am because of all the beautiful things my life has offered me as well as all the painful moments, the ones I wish I could do differently, the ones where I made a mistake. Self-acceptance is about holding a safe space for those painful parts to heal. It also is about offering yourself grace in the areas where you may have acted in a way you wouldn’t now. The idea I mentioned in the last question applies here too: I’ve always done the best I can with the information available to me at a given moment. Offering myself those words has been healing and has allowed me to welcome my whole self and whole story.

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