The About Page of Joy
Hi, I'm Ash!
You probably clicked on the About Page because you, like so many before you, thought:
“WHAT KIND OF CLASSY BROAD NAMES THEIR BRAND “THE MIDDLE FINGER PROJECT?”
I know. Please introduce me to your mother.
The good news is, this is not the website for a rebel punk band from the 90's. Rather, The Middle Finger Project® is an edgy personal reinvention company teaching the art of American confidence.
Because even though we Americans are lots of things—tacky and loud, terrible at voting, zero taste in footwear—there is one thing that we're better at than anyone in the world:
American-style confidence is the reason why more businesses are started in the United States than anywhere else. Why we've got that annoying go-getter, “can-do” spirit. Why Hollywood exists, why Silicon Valley exists, and—admittedly kind of weirdly—why the entire country exists. The American people are innovators who value ingenuity. We grew up being told that we, too, could become president someday (and as you can see, that shit wasn't a lie), that risk equals reward, that you need to fail 10X and get back up. Competition is a form of social validation, and “whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're right.” (A quote from who other but Henry Ford?) Culturally, we believe in confidence. We believe in it the way most people believe in religion. And, we believe in scrappiness, too. As a result, we're taught a much different mentality than many other cultures in the world. While the horizon line in Russia symbolizes exile, the horizon line in America symbolizes new opportunity. We're all about new opportunity—and we're very good at marching boldly toward it. New frontiers. Brave new worlds. Innovation. Adventure. Ingenuity.
So, who better to help you reinvent yourself?
While this may sound like an ethnocentric treatise on American exceptionalism, this is not a statement about superiority: this is a meditation on cultural values and how you can cherry pick what's useful to adopt as your own. (For example, please take our confidence but definitely leave our hot dogs, LOL.) In today's economy, the internet has democratized opportunity in a way that we've never seen before—which means that more opportunity is available than ever before. However, the governor that holds so many back is not what's out there, but rather, their belief system around what's possible.
Most people are driven by self-doubt instead of self-confidence. They make decisions based on worst-case scenarios, rather than the opposite.
On the other hand, Americans are, indisputably, excellent at being willing to look past challenges and find a way to make it work. It's part of the cultural DNA. And it's what I've spent the last decade analyzing and, dare I say, packaging into a helpful series of no-bullshit love letters designed to help you get more confidence in your life.
The Middle Finger Project is an ongoing discussion about cultural values and how they serve us, or harm us—and when we need to flip the metaphorical bird to the ones that aren't doing us any good. As a once-poverty-struck American who has greatly benefited from the “go-getter” mentality—I grew up on welfare in a rural Pennsylvania trailer park with a single mom who had crippling social anxiety, and am now known as a global thought leader with a book published by Penguin Random House while I travel the globe and write and speak—I've been asked many times, “Why do some people rise in spite of their circumstances, while others become a victim of theirs?” And the most surefire answer I've uncovered, after a decade of researching this very question with readers around the world, is this:
What you believe about yourself will either murder your chances or save your life.
Over the years, I've had the pleasure of leading and attending many in-person retreats around the globe.
I'll never forget one of the participants. She was a shy forty-something red-head who tried very hard not to draw attention to herself; she was sweet and soft spoken, when she spoke at all. She seemed a bit like a wounded deer; fearful, cautious, innocent.
It wasn't until one day, I heard her crack a fiery joke at lunch: our whole table, myself included, cracked up. Slowly, she revealed herself to us, but the stories she told were heartbreaking:
- Her husband called her “fat,” “stupid,” “lazy.”
- She wasn't allowed to have a social life or any friends.
- She wasn't allowed to work.
- She wasn't allowed to have her own money.
- She wasn't allowed to make her own decisions.
- She wasn't allowed to have an opinion.
Her job was to mother the kids, put food on the table, provide sex, look pretty, and keep her mouth shut.
The only way she had been able to come to the retreat was by convincing him it would help her “lose the weight”—and, thus, be more attractive for him. What he didn't know was, he was the weight. She was planning to leave him, but needed to build up her confidence enough to do so. That's what her middle finger project was about.
I met another woman there, too: a wonderfully jolly, big-hearted woman with an infectious laugh. She was an instant friend, her joyous energy permeating the whole room. As we talked, I learned of her parents and the way she'd been raised: “Peggy, you'll never amount to nothin' looking like that. Peggy, you'll never get man. Peggy, what's the matter with you? Peggy, why can't you be more feminine? Peggy, why are you so weird? Peggy, don't embarrass us. Peggy, our love is conditional upon you being someone you aren't.” When it was finally time for Peggy to go home, I showed up at her room, ready to give her a big hug. She wouldn't answer the door. She couldn't let anyone see the real her: the one who wasn't always putting on a show.
A third woman I met was so, so cool: we connected and made plans to do dinner right before she was leaving. It was her last night, and she wanted to celebrate. So, I happily got dressed and hung out in the lobby, where we'd said we would meet. After ten minutes went by, I had a seat on the sofa. After 20 minutes went by, I picked up a book. After 30 minutes went by, I started to get worried. I didn't have her number and didn't know how to contact her. Finally, I returned to my room and found a note: “I'm sorry I bailed on you. It's just that you're so cool and I'm so not— I just thought you'd be bored out of your mind, sitting across the table from someone like me.”
That note broke my heart—that was the farthest from the truth. But, it was her truth. And how many other times had she “left a note on the door” and missed out on an awesome connection or opportunity because she was lacking the confidence to show up?
All of these stories reflect the experience of many women, and the theme is recurring:
I DON'T trust my voice.
Perfectly capable women who had been gaslit, minimized, and made to feel weak, dependent, faulty, whether at the hands of a partner, or at the hands of society. Women living by false narratives: that if they do X, they are selfish. They aren't good wives. They aren't good mothers. They aren't good daughters. They're stupid. Incapable. Foolish. Can't trust themselves to know what's best.
Of course they aren't out there, starting fires and “following their dreams”: they're too busy trying to convince themselves they're good enough to be in the room.
It's my hope that The Middle Finger Project is the one place you can go where your dreams aren't crazy and you can find support to help you figure it out. I want to help you quit the job, leave the relationship, do the “crazy” thing, get on a plane, trust your gut, start that business, find your voice, and go, go, go. While my work proudly reaches readers all over the globe, I make special efforts to to help rural, economically disadvantaged groups gain the confidence, skills, and knowledge they need to kick ass—and become whoever they want.
And, of course, the proverbial middle finger is directed at outdated ideas and antiquated belief systems holding so many back:
- You should just be grateful for what you've got.
- A woman's place is in the home.
- It's your job to make him happy.
- Don't stir the pot.
- Smile and look pretty.
- Who do you think you are to do something like that?
- Don't be so selfish.
- That's not for people like us.
- It is what it is.
- Don't complain.
- Money's the root of all evil.
- You won't make it out there.
- You belong here.
- Don't betray your family.
- We're all you've got.
The Middle Finger Project SERVES AS A counterbalance,
creating smart, irreverent content that encourages, motivates, and provides modern-day confidence & success training for upward mobility and a mean self-reinvention.
Through the edgy, fun newsletter, my brand-new Unintimidated podcast, and our social channels, The Middle Finger Project mentors those who have traditionally felt stuck or trapped in their circumstances, and lack the access, confidence, or cultural capital necessary to break free.
Here you go baby, here's a crowbar.
Reinvent Yourself in 2022 Alongside Ash Ambirge, author of The Middle Finger Project, with her new weekly column: UNINTIMIDATED
Quit your job. End the relationship. Do the “crazy” thing. Get on a plane. Trust your gut. Start that business. Find your voice. Take no shit. Believe in your ideas. Go, go, go.
Enter your email to SUBSCRIBE NOW TO ASH'S NEW COLUMN, UNINTIMIDATED, TEACHING YOU THE ART OF AMERICAN-STYLE CONFIDENCE & SELF-REINVENTION
No pay walls. No bullshit. No meditations.
“I just wanted to say thank you for sending the only emails worth reading word-for-word.” —Kate Downes
About Ash Ambirge, Founder
Hi, I'm Ash!
I'm a Frank's Hot Sauce devotee (leading with obvious priorities), society & culture writer, author, blogger, and new podcaster. I recently published a book with Penguin Random House on beating the shit out of imposter syndrome (so far, the book has been translated into Russian, Finnish, Polish, and Ukranian!), I've won a Webby Award for my irreverent voice in the self-empowerment category, I've keynoted speeches everywhere from London to the Caribbean, I teach creative writing as a tool for self-reinvention, and there is literally not a grilled cheese I will not burn.
YET, MY BIO USED TO BE MUCH DIFFERENT. (NOT THE GRILLED CHEESE. ALWAYS BEEN BAD AT THAT.)
Trailer park girl. Mom with debilitating social anxiety. Scranton, Pennsylvania. Food stamps. Medicaid. Writing checks to buy a roll of toilet paper. (So not cool when you're 15 years old going through the supermarket line, and your crush happens to be the cashier. )
I grew up in Susquehanna County, right on the border with upstate New York, and it's one of the most beautiful places on earth—and also a place with limited opportunity. I was terrified of being stuck in the same cycle of poverty I had watched my mom endure, so I became determined to do everything perfectly: straight A's, captain of the volleyball team, played in tournaments year-round, AP Calculus and English, editorial for the yearbook, represented my high school at the Hugh O'Brien Youth Leadership Conference, worked an after-school job serving pizza and ice cream at a local joint in town.
So when senior year came along and the billionaire magnate and chairman of Monster.com, Andy McKelvey, showed up at my high school to offer a fully-paid scholarship to college? I freaked.
In order to qualify, I had to demonstrate financial need (check!), and also needed to exemplify something else:
This thing called “entrepreneurial spirit.”
I didn't even know what the word “entrepreneurial” meant back then. I remember going to Google it! Nevertheless, I put together a case for myself and applied.
As part of the interview process, we were instructed to bring a tangible object that demonstrated our so-called entrepreneurial spirit—because clearly they wanted to torture us. In the waiting room, there were kids with saxophones, kids with chicken coops, kids with youth group projects. I had thought long and hard about what I could bring—how could I put my mind into an object?—but finally, I had come up with something. I didn't know if it would work, but I had no choice. And so there I sat, my hexagon-shaped box in my lap.
When my name was called, I went into the room and closed the door behind me, and when it was time to showcase “my object,” I began. Each side was decorated with a small, scaled down version of something I was proud of achieving: I had scanned awards, newspaper articles, volleyball accolades, clips from the stone wall I had built in front of the high school in memory of our dear friend, Jill. I went through each accomplishment, opening one hexagon-shaped box to reveal another, smaller hexagon shaped box, talking about the things I thought qualified me as a leader—the only “entrepreneurial spirit” I had at that age. I went through this process three times, and then finally looked up at Andy McKelvey, who was seated in a dark corner in the back, and said:
“But none of that is what makes me a future entrepreneur.”
And then I reached for the final, smallest box in the center. I removed it and placed it on the desk. Then, I lifted the lid.
Inside was a small, red heart. The tangible object that no one could see, but was very, very real.
Thanks to that scholarship, I attended a $40,000/year private school outside of the Poconos (#WILKES #REPRESENT), and it was the beginning of an all-new life. Andy McKelvey offered his mentorship and resources, and I did everything I could to learn. I spent my 18th birthday at a McKelvey camp in Western Pennsylvania, learning success principles that would help us succeed. A part of the bargain was that we would go back to our hometowns, someday, and give back to the local community. I went every summer, faithfully, and volunteered.
My mom and I couldn't believe our luck.
Yet, a mere few months before I'd walk across the stage at Wilkes University, I got a phone call:
“Your mother is unresponsive,” they said.
She had passed away, suddenly, from a blood clot that hit her lung, and my final semester in college was full of coroners, funeral homes, and learning about the intricacies of what really happens when you get cremated. I remember yelling at a man from the phone company, who refused to turn off service without an original copy of the death certificate in hand. I remember trying to finish my senior thesis. I remember getting frustrated by a Freshman English class that I somehow missed Freshman year, as my AP credits hadn't transferred properly. I remember completely forgetting, one day, to show up to a class—which was actually unusual, since I was the one teaching it.
And in May, I graduated without a home to return to: not in Susquehanna County, and not at Wilkes University.
I had to reinvent myself again.
I started my corporate career in Philadelphia—and suddenly I had to figure out all sorts of things I never had to know in my small town: how to speak with Fortune 500 clients, how to order a martini, how to navigate traffic, how to show that I wasn't just some country bumpkin, but a real player who had something to bring to the table. I hadn't even been to a Starbucks, ever, let alone know how to make coffee for the office. (My mom had always just used two scoops of instant.)
There was a lot I had to learn, and not just superficial things, but also life skills things—things my mother hadn't been able to teach me: How to speak with authority, how to have my ideas taken seriously, how to stand up for myself, how to have confidence when doing scary things, how to network, how to deliver an elevator pitch, how to handle a dispute, how to be convincing.
Fortunately, I had spent a lifetime camouflaging my shortcomings: I became a very good salesperson for myself, emphasizing the product benefits—my brain, my work ethic, my ideas—and learning how to minimize the less desirable product benefits. So, I did what I always had:
I reinvented myself forward.
The more I reinvented myself, the more second-nature it became.
I received quick promotions, started working in advertising for a magazine, won an award for the most number of deals closed on first meeting. At the same time, I had enrolled myself in grad school, deciding I wanted to pursue my writing career. I studied Linguistics, and began writing every night.
Eventually I'd reinvent myself again: I started my own freelance marketing company and began working with tech start-ups around the world, known for my personality-driven brand work.
At the same time, I became a digital nomad who learned how to reinvent myself with every new country I visited. I spent several years in Santiago, Chile, right when they were one of the first countries to offer a seed accelerator for foreigners who wanted to come to Chile, traveled to Europe, lived in Spain, became obsessed with London, spoke at conferences around the world, and kept traveling, learning, discovering, building my arsenal of cultural capital:
Refining my social skills, mastering the art of self-presentation, learning how to communicate with power and grace, making connections, stretching my mind, up-leveling my business skills, learning how to do things in new ways, and layering in new habits and ideas from a variety of different cultures.
Along the way, I also began documenting what I was learning about self-reinvention, and how we can seek meaningful work and live lives we're proud to live, no matter where we're starting. I fired up WordPress and decided that “The Middle Finger Project” seemed like the perfect name: a homage to the Dream Zappers, to the armchair critics, to the outdated ideas that keep so many people small, unchanged, “safe.” Because the truth is, life is just one big, long personal reinvention.
IF YOU'RE NOT REINVENTING YOURSELF, YOU'RE NOT ALIVE.
Most recently, I reinvented myself once again when I became an author with Penguin Random House, having published a book on overcoming imposter syndrome. This brought me to exciting new meetings in Manhattan with publishers, editors, marketers, publicists, designers, copyeditors—and even people who were tasked with bringing me coffee. #SURREAL
We got the call from The Today Show when I was standing in Penguin's offices with my agent, and then I just kept shitting myself when I found myself as a guest on BBC Radio London, getting phone calls from Jenny McCarthy for her show, having my opinion published in The New York Times, being featured in magazines and in airport bookstores and getting to walk in and sign stacks of copies, like I weren't just a shy, small-town girl growing up in a trailer park a minute ago.
Penguin Random House UK bought the rights to the book, too, so I flew to London to meet with them in their offices, and then found myself schmoozing at high-falutin places like The Arts Club (thanks, Parm!), brunching at Chiltern (helloooo, David Beckham), brunching with my editor on The Bloomsbury Hotel terrace, hosting a business retreat in a swanky boutique hotel in the Cotswolds, flying women in from all around the world to do personal brand makeovers in a gorgeous Georgian townhouse in London. (When you get me, a NYC photographer, a Norwegian wardrobe stylist, a British makeup artist, and a California brand designer all in the same room…lookout!!!).
And through it all, I felt SO NORMAL. I wasn't scared, I wasn't intimidated, I wasn't nervous: I was overjoyed to be living my life and saying “YES” to big opportunities.
And that's what I want for you. The confidence to say YES to anything you damn well want. To pursue it with a dagger in your hand. To not shrink or make yourself small. To feel like you are unstoppable.
Because when you feel like you don't belong in a room, you stop entering them.
And that's what The Middle Finger Project is about: having enough nerve to enter any damn room you want.
So, come hang with me! 👋 Let's make you confident as hell and let's reinvent the hell out of your life and work.
Start by subscribing to my new weekly UNINTIMIDATED column, below—brand new for 2022!
We'll talk all about upgrading your life—from killing your elevator pitch, to learning how to make people instantly like you, to giving great speeches, to negotiating gracefully with clients, to getting great at asking for money, to handling yourself with elegance and power, and sooooooo much more. If you aren't sure how to do it—or feel like a silly boob like me, half the time—there's a tutorial on it!
To reinventing the hell out of yourself,
Founder and Author, The Middle Finger Project
Host, The Unintimidated Podcast
Suspicious of Fish Since 1984
Reinvent yourself in 2022 alongside Ash Ambirge, author of The Middle Finger Project, with her all-new weekly column, UNINTIMIDATED
Quit your job. End the relationship. Get on a plane. Do something “crazy.” Follow your gut. Take no shit. Believe in your ideas. Go, go, go.
Enter your email now to subscribe to unintimidated, teaching the art of american confidence & self-reinvention
No paywall. No bullshit. No meditations.
“I just wanted to say thank you for sending the only emails worth reading word-for-word.” —Kate Downes
Media Bio – Long
Ash Ambirge is a society & culture writer, blogger, and founder of The Unintimidated Confidence Co., an edgy personal development newsletter that teaches the art of American-style confidence & self-reinvention for women.
Ambirge is also the author of THE MIDDLE FINGER PROJECT (Penguin Random House), an irreverent personal development book about overcoming imposter syndrome, charting her journey from growing up in a trailer park in a rural community north of Scranton, PA, to becoming a global entrepreneur, author, speaker, business woman, and mentor to other young women worldwide. The book has been translated into Russian, Finnish, Polish, and Ukranian, and her ideas have been featured on The BBC, The New York Times, the Jenny McCarthy Show, Entrepreneur magazine, Real Simple magazine, and, surprisingly, in the Instagram stories of moms everywhere, who do not seem to mind the title.
She looks terrifying in pastels, has a self-described “horse laugh,” and can often be found trying like hell to boil the perfect, peel-able egg. (Not for the faint of heart.)
Media Bio – Short
Ash Ambirge is a society & culture writer, blogger, and founder of The Unintimidated Confidence Co., an edgy personal development newsletter that teaches the art of American-style confidence & self-reinvention for women. Ambirge is also the author of THE MIDDLE FINGER PROJECT (Penguin Random House), a book that helps young women overcome imposter syndrome, and her ideas have been featured on The BBC, The New York Times, the Jenny McCarthy Show, Entrepreneur magazine, Real Simple magazine, and, surprisingly, in the Instagram stories of moms everywhere, who do not seem to mind the title. She looks terrifying in pastels, has a self-described “horse laugh,” and can often be found trying like hell to boil the perfect, peel-able egg. (Not for the faint of heart.)
Media Bio – Micro
Ash Ambirge is a society & culture writer, author of The Middle Finger Project (Penguin Random House), and founder of The Unintimidated Confidence Co., an edgy personal development newsletter that teaches the art of American-style confidence & self-reinvention for women.
“Ash Ambirge is a whole mood, and trust me, you want to be in it.” —Sarah Knight, New York Times bestselling author of The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck