Meet Ashleigh Rae Staton, a special education teacher, photographer, and creative. She’s happiest when she’s creating—whether it be building lessons or crafting images. Ashleigh’s work is centered around her passion for social justice and shared experiences. 

1. What does a healthy relationship look like to you?

Healthy relationships are built on love. Sounds obvious I know, but I mean real/health/minimal-ego love which is moving ever-closer to fearlessness. This love is action with the intention of fostering growth and well-being either for yourself or others. People do a lot of things in the name of “love” but I think we often confuse things we do out of fear with being loving; holding ourselves or others back, being controlling or manipulative. I try really hard to check my intentions, to ask myself if I’m behaving in a truly loving way. I guess what I’m really taking about is empathy, healthy relationships are built on empathy.

2. How do you set boundaries?

I think setting boundaries is loving. It’s necessary to set boundaries to love honestly without sympathy or being completely self sacrificing. I’m still mastering “the art of saying no”. To that end I’ve fallen in love with creating schedules, it helps me prioritize the activities and people I care about most, and creates ample opportunity for self-care. 

3. What does your self-care routine look like?

Self-care changes for me depending on what’s going on in my life. Overall, it’s taking the time to check in with myself. It can take the form of a formal meditative practice, or just acknowledging when a need I have isn’t being met. Being honest with myself and taking time to slow down and tune-in is the kind of self-love that allows me to build loving relationships with others. It also makes me a better artist. Art takes time, and if you’re an artist you have to allow yourself the opportunity to communicate what’s in your head with the world. When I don’t leave space for my artistic self-expression everything else in my life suffers.