We are not defined by our experiences

Insight from Thriving Women.

What a joy it is to get to know Jessica Paige Carter—a beautiful woman with a big heart, who has an amazing story and loving words to share. I know you will be inspired by her, as you read our conversation together below. Also, enjoy viewing a selection of her gorgeous photography work in the gallery of photos displayed at the end, along with how you can connect online.

BY&T Community, Meet Jessica!


Jessica & her husband Chris

Be You and Thrive (BY&T): I am always amazed by how many roles we juggle as women—and you are no exception! You have a career as an Emergency Department nurse, you have a photography business and you’re a mother and wife. Do you make balance and self-care a priority?

Jessica Paige Carter (JPC): Oh yes, of course! I think that should be one of our number one priorities. I’m reminded of the old adage that says, ‘If you don’t put your oxygen on first, you can’t put anyone else’s on.’ Aka: If you don’t take care of yourself first, you can’t do all the things that you’d like to do or need to do!

BY&T: What are some of your secrets to keeping life balanced as you manage dual careers and caring for your family?

JPC: When I was working full-time as an ED nurse, I started to feel a real lack for a creative outlet. I grew up as a really creative person and I realized that filling the void of creativity was very important for me. This made me branch back into photography. I think that even though it is now a business of mine (and a lot of hard work!), it fulfills a large part of my life that was missing.

I believe that finding your passion helps you be balanced and is very important.

I also take time out for myself. I was raised as an only child and it’s really important for me to have quiet and alone time to regroup, meditate and have things that are rejuvenating for me. And of course we make family time a priority as well.

BY&T: I love your thoughts about the importance of finding our unique passion. As women I see a lifestyle pattern that includes: get an education, begin a career, have a family. But we often forget to go back to that first love (our passions). And that’s the heartbeat that keeps us happy and balanced.

You recently posted a quote on social media that spoke to me. It said, ‘You can overcome anything.’ And then you shared:

As a child I struggled with watching my single mom battling an addiction to drugs and alcohol. She was never able to love herself more then the drugs. She loved me so much—but everything else got in the way.”

I’d love to talk about the word, ‘overcoming’ with you. I think we all have difficult stories from our past and even our present. And these experiences bring shame, hurt and confusion. In your experience you said, ‘You can overcome! You can beat the system and the people who tell you to just lay down and except it. Love yourself and rise above.’

Can you describe how you began to realize that you could overcome these childhood experiences?

JPC: I think that it took me quite a while to realize that I am not my experiences. I think that it was a slow realization that ‘you are not what has happened to you.’

A big change in my life was when I realized I was a survivor and that I didn’t need to be defined by these things—that I could change my perspective on what had happened to me.

If you really start having acceptance for yourself and try not to look at the things that have happened to you and blame yourself or feel guilty for these things—because truly they are out of your hands—you can overcome.”

You have to start living in the now (and hopefully now is a place that you want to live) and if it’s not, I truly believe you could make it into something that you want to live in.

BY&T: You are speaking my language! My desire is that through the development of this passion project (Be You and Thrive) and being a liaison for women to share their stories with one another, women will be offered hope and the realization that it is possible to move past their setbacks—and that each of us can actually grow from them.

Do you think that we can experience growth through our difficulties?

JPC: I think that everyone has a struggle and everyone has a story. And I learned very early on, not to compare my pain other people’s pain, because everyone’s darkest moment is their darkest moment. That is their lowest low. You can’t compare my lowest low to anyone else’s. And, yes, I think that we do all grow from them.

You can’t experience joy without having pain. And I think the more you’ve struggled and the more you’ve overcome, the more the good times and the joys of life become evident and better to experience.

BY&T: I find your words such an incredible fact. It’s so strange as a human to understand that through the most difficult journeys that we go through, when we finally get on the other side of them, we can look back and experience the awareness of the growth, the joy and the gratitude! It’s a beautiful gift. So hold on ladies—this is just a season of your life, right?

JPC: Yes, it really is what gives the balance to life. I guess that’s what it’s all about!

BY&T: As a younger person you fought forms of abuse, self-hate, rejection and more. And you now give hope to others by sharing, ‘You are so much more than you can imagine.’ I think that everyone reading our conversation has at one time or another, felt like they weren’t good enough—myself included. What are some of your thoughts on self-worth?


I want you to think about one person in your life who truly loves you or truly loved you. And think about how they see you and think about how you see them.

• Now try to look at yourself that way.
• Try to form and create self-love through little steps. (One simple thing that would take about a minute to do, is to consider how much stress we put on ourselves and how many things we try to juggle.)
• We forget to look at ourselves the way we look at all the other people that we are trying to care for and love.

Try to see yourself as the world sees you.

BY&T:  That is so beautiful. Isn’t it the truth that our love for others is so great, yet we forget to love ourselves with as much commitment and passion, forgiveness and empathy? So how do we love ourselves a little more? How do we accept ourselves and realize we have a purpose?

JPC: Women really have to sit down and concentrate on what it is that your heart is telling you. What is it that your soul is telling you? What brings you the most joy? What makes you excited? What is something that you would want to wake up to in the morning and work towards?

I think that each of us have so many purposes—I don’t think that there’s just one purpose. So grab onto something that brings you joy and pursue it no matter what. There’s going to be ebbs and flows in life. Let your soul and your heart guide you to where you need to be, and make your brain follow.”

BY&T: Embrace it. Accept it. I think your words tie in beautifully with realizing our own worth. Once we realize our worth and practice self-love, all the sudden we do see our purpose, gifts and capabilities.

Earlier, when we talked about loving ourselves as we love others, it reminded me of my passion to celebrate and honor people who have impacted our lives. Especially those who have mentored, inspired, who are leaders and believers and those who care and love! I think a good closing to our conversation would be to hear about someone in your life that has been a mentor to you. Who can we honor and celebrate through this story of yours?

JPC: When I was young, a lot of the adults in my life had disappointed me and let me down. It was hard to find someone that was older, that I trusted enough to build confidence in and not just rely on myself. On my 20th birthday I found out that I was pregnant with my daughter.

And life up to that point had been pretty rough. Truthfully, (and I’ve said this over and over again), she has truly, truly, truly, saved my life.

BY&T: You’re going to make me tear up…

JPC: I’m tearing up as well because she gave me a reason for living and a reason to be a better person! I knew that my life would truly matter to someone else and that I could impact this world through my daughter.

I’m definitely not a perfect mom—I don’t think anybody is. But she has taught me so many lessons. She’s so genuine, so kind and such a natural, beautiful old soul from the moment I met her. She is an amazing person that inspires me still. She is creative, musical, talented and outgoing. She’s a friend with everyone. I don’t think that anyone who meets her has ever disliked her. She is the most likable person that I know. She teaches me, just as much as I teach her.

BY&T: (As my throat knots and heart feels full). She sounds like the definition of unconditional love.

JPC: Yes, she is. I’m so glad to have her on this journey with me.

BY&T: What a gift! And as a reminder, you bore her Jessica—which to me speaks volumes! A lot of the qualities that she has, came from her Mama. You are an amazing gift to her as well.

About Jessica.

My name is Jessica and I am a thirty something wife and mother of one. You can find me on my days off relaxing on the couch, working on my laptop and drinking coffee or Pinot Grigio depending on the time of day. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right? I was born and raised in Northern California but I call North Carolina home. My daughter’s name is Ava Belle and she is 12 years old in the 6th grade. She is the light of my life and if you met her you would love her too! I also have a 5 year old rescue dog named Ella Bella. She is the queen of our household. My husband’s name is Chris. He is a Sales Rep for a beer distribution company. We just got married last year but we’ve been together for 8! He is the funniest person I know. He is my best friend and my rock. We live in Winston Salem, NC. I work full time as Registered Nurse in a busy Emergency Department and I own my own photography business. I am a creative at heart and love to tell stories through my pictures.

Visit Jessica online: Website, Instagram and Facebook


All photography rights: Jessica Paige Carter Photography.


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  1. Samantha
    January 12, 2017, 9:45 EST

    This is such a beautiful story of grace. I am reminded of how after experiencing pain, when joy comes again, it is in a deeper and truer form for me. Thanks for sharing D and Jessica!

    • MightyD
      January 12, 2017, 2:59 EST

      I love your comment about after experiencing pain is deeper joy. Thanks for sharing Samantha! xo~D

  2. Marquette LaRee
    January 12, 2017, 10:03 EST

    This is such a beautiful interview! I love that she was able to grow from her trials rather than sink in them. And her photography is gorgeous! That one with the couple on the ledge is beautiful (and slightly terrifying)!!

    • MightyD
      January 12, 2017, 3:00 EST

      Jessica is so talented! When she shared her gallery with me (many more photos than I was able to share here), I literally was in tears! She is able to capture so much emotion in her photography! And her story is beautiful! Thanks for your kind comment Marquette! xo~ D

  3. Leslie Phillips
    January 12, 2017, 10:57 EST

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, passions, struggles, life experiences… Especially what you went through as a child and how you’ve gotten to the place you are today, internally and externally. The day to day acceptance of who you are, seeing yourself through the eyes of someone who loves you unconditionally..Both are a continual inconsistent struggle, for me. But so necessary and something I’m trying to work on. Looking back at what you said about overcoming and letting go of what’s happened to you and the things that were out of your hands…my struggle comes more with letting go of the things I’ve done and still continue to struggle with. Forgiveness of myself does not come easy. But I don’t see how to move on and overcome without it.

    So again thank you for your authentic and deeply inspiring words of your truth and your story. Awesome!

    • MightyD
      January 12, 2017, 3:03 EST

      Such beautiful and heartfelt thoughts you’ve shared Leslie, thank you. I agree, that we stay ‘stuck’ or static if we don’t practice grace and forgiveness. We are so worthy of letting go and living in all that today offers us. I am so glad Jessica’s story spoke to you! Her story is empowering, as is yours. xo~D

  4. Dedra
    January 16, 2017, 8:41 EST

    I loved everything about this post. Beautiful!

    • MightyD
      January 17, 2017, 5:14 EST

      I’m so happy it spoke to you Dedra!
      xo~ D