Liar, liar

To many people I seem fearless, and in some ways I suppose I am. I’ve always been motivated, out-spoken, maybe a smidge over-confident, and largely self-assured. I’ll rock a swimsuit at 30 pounds overweight, dance and sing along to Taylor Swift at the top of my lungs (not sorry), and share my thoughts and opinions on any variety of subjects without necessarily being asked. I’ve jumped out of airplanes, moved continents on a whim, joined the army (and crushed it) because a boyfriend told me I couldn’t, and given birth with my husband half a world away. I strive to be honest and real and to encourage self-acceptance and authentic living. 

That all sounds pretty amazing, right? But sometimes I feel like “fearless” could be code for bitchy. I have a sarcastic sense of humor and unfortunately can come off as a little insensitive or brash. I was raised to not to give AF what strangers think of me (I’m not rude, just not a people pleaser) and am also not inherently outgoing; those things combined mean I apparently often seem stand-offish or unapproachable to those who don’t know me. I’ve been called intimidating a lot, which always surprises me since I actually consider myself to be a very kind and loving person. What I am trying to say is that I’m not sure being called fearless is always a compliment. I am happy to say, though, that peoples’ initial perceptions and assumptions about me usually change once they take a few minutes to get to know me. The thing is, I may be “fearless” in some ways, but I am far from perfect and definitely a work in progress. I am happy to admit that and to do all the work it takes to be the best version of myself that I can be. And I will do that work out on the open, not behind the filter of an Insta-perfect life or by telling people what they want to hear. You see, I don’t want to edit myself or be anything other than authentically me for anyone – because honest to god I think that despite all my flaws and my insecurities (yes, I have them) I’m a pretty cool chick. Take it or leave it. And yes there’s a level of self-confidence that comes with that. 

But. 

But being confident isn’t the same as being free of fear, and I have some pretty big fears. My very biggest fear in life is my children dying, followed by my husband dying, closely following by my fear of myself dying before I feel like I’ve really lived out my purpose in this life (whatever that is). For a long time failing at this career pivot/blogging endeavor was up there on the list. People have been encouraging me to start a blog for over ten years, and for all those years I resisted. Why? Women often find my stories and blunt humor amusing and relatable and tell me that I help them to feel better about themselves and their own lives and challenges, which is probably the best compliment ever, and I always dreamed of reaching and helping a broader audience through writing. Writing also helps me. It helps me clarify what is going on in my head and in my heart, communicate my thoughts, and fulfills my desire to create. On top of all that – despite going to school (and spending lots of money) to become a doctor – my soul’s calling has always been to be a writer. In fact, it has always felt like a secret identity to me. When asked what I do for a living, I answer “I’m a physical therapist” or that I mainly stay home with my kids. But in my head I long to say “I’m a writer” because that’s what feels authentic to me. I truly believe it’s who I am. So what’s taken me so long to get this thing started? I have a lot of excuses, but it probably boils down to one thing: fear.

“I don’t know what I want to write about yet,” I’d say. But the voice in my head was telling me there’s nothing I have to say that people would want to read. That the “mom blog” market is saturated by women much more accomplished and savvy than I. That my story has been told again and again. That what I have to say isn’t special or relevant. That I’m not as good of a writer as I thought I was. Browsing the top “mom blogs” to see what was out there did noting to reassure me, and actually made me nauseous: I hated the staged, overproduced images of beautifully blown-out moms and adorably-dressed kids strategically placed among delicate fonts and handy tips on crafts or DIYs or how-to’s, but at the same felt inadequate knowing I’d never live up to that standard. Most days (especially since COIVD) I wear my workout clothes and no makeup, and my kids refuse to wear anything other than the same handful of raggedy outfits that most definitely don’t include anything as fancy as jeans. Crafts at my house these days are more along the lines of kinetic sand which I then find tracked all over the floor, and my “how-to” would probably focus on how to find a safe space in your own home to calm down before you lose your shit on your kids. (I like to lay my face down right on my cooling kitchen counter and just breathe in the middle of the chaos, FYI.)

“I’ll do it when my kids are older and I have more time,” was another thing I told people. But the voice in my head was telling me that it’s selfish to carve out time for myself. I’m not worth it. That taking care of everything and everyone else is more important and more deserving of my time and energy than pursuing my dream. That I couldn’t possibly manage a writing commitment because I’m too overwhelmed already. So I’d watch my friends grow their businesses, read stories about women turning their visions into reality, and feel proud but also slightly envious when someone I loved and admired took a risk on a dream, while I still felt so far away from my own. 

And then there was (is) the fear of failure in a more practical sense. Because as much as I love writing just to write, I don’t want this to be a hobby. I want it to be a career. I want to make good money doing something I love that is also fulfilling to me and allows me to help other women. Being a physical therapist has been a wonderful career but it’s not my passion. If I am being completely transparent, I dream of a success story including building a kick-ass community of women, authoring a best-selling book, hosting a successful video/podcast, and earning enough cold hard cash to finally pay off my student loans (context: they are substantial). On the flip side, I don’t have any experience in the marketing or publishing or blogging world, or any contacts for that matter. I’m just a (mainly) stay at home mom with a passion for writing, a laptop, and some perspective who’s trying to overcome my fears and self doubts and take a chance on a dream. 

So let’s recap what the internal voice of this mostly self-assured, confident, “fearless” woman has been saying: Youre not good enough. Youre selfish. Youre overwhelmed and under-qualified. No one will care what you have to say. You dont deserve to bring your dream to life. You’ll fail, so what’s the point in trying. 

Listening to that stuff is scary, but it’s time to call bullshit on that pack of lies. Because if I want to live an authentic life it means I need to stop living small, step outside my comfort zone, and be one of those people who takes a risk and chases her dream instead of reading about others who are achieving theirs. It means setting an example for my kids by setting boundaries around myself and my time and energy as a woman and individual who is more than just a mom and wife, and making room to pursue my passions instead of just running myself ragged with mundane shit that won’t matter tomorrow let alone ten years from now. It means I need to bitch-slap (or at least politely acknowledge) that internal voice and say “No thanks to the shitty and minimizing self-talk, I’d like to proceed with reckless abandon, please, regardless of the outcome”. I am 40 years old. FORTY. And while that still seems young, it’s old enough to admit that I am grown and it’s time to stop living for everyone else, and start living my purpose. Every day counts. 

So there you have it and here I am: refusing to believe the lies I’ve been telling myself, refusing to limit myself, and posting this shit like a boss. Taking the first step in carving out a community where I can inspire authentic living, share my ideas and my story, and support others in knowing they aren’t alone in this crazy thing we call life. Maybe five years from now I’ll recall this first post fondly while making an appearance on the Today Show, or perhaps by then this blog will be a distant memory and I will be lost even deeper in the dark hole of codependency I currently share with my children. Regardless of the outcome, its all ok. At least now I can say I tried, and even that brings a smile to my over-confident face. 

Alright ladies, now it’s your turn. Please leave a comment below and tell me what fears have been holding you back from living your best life, and how you dream of overcoming them. Or better yet, tell me a success story, big or small! Your work and your victories are inspiring. I promise. Love, Jenna 

40 thoughts on “Liar, liar”

  1. My first time interviewing for my podcast I thought, why would anyone ever want to talk to me? 61 episodes in I’ve never had someone tell me no. You have a great voice and I know that you will go far! Like I tell Justin if we sink at least there is a whole lot of stories left behind. Congrats!!

    1. This is so true! Honestly Lauren you doing your podcast is one of the things that inspired me to do this. I’m like, this girl is creating content around something she is passionate about and is succeeding at it, so why can’t I? Keep doing great things!

  2. Wow. I absolutely loved this. Your ability to speak openly and honestly, and to be vulnerable while being incredibly entertaining and heartfelt is impressive Jenna. I LOL’d, smiled, made sad faces, and felt my heart swell with pride at what you’ve done here, and I admit my eyes teared up with the resonance I felt as you spoke about fear. All those emotions from reading just ONE post. Bravo!
    I also appreciate that I don’t have to be a mom to relate to what you’re saying. I struggle with the same fears about not accomplishing anything worthwhile or living my life to the fullest, or feeling like I’m “not ready yet”…and experience the same thoughts of inadequacy and fear of failure if I DO try.
    But, reading this has truly inspired me and made me look at things through a different lens.
    I appreciate you and what you’ve shared immensely. Keep it up!!! 🙂

    1. Thank you sister. I really appreciate your comments and feedback. I know you especially can relate to a lot of what I was saying because our personalities have some serious similarities. Thank you for supporting me!

  3. This is so inspiring and speaks to me on so many levels. As a boy mom with an Army doc husband 1/2 way around the world right now- it is so easy to get lost in the mundane stuff. Looking forward to following your adventure- thanks for sharing and keeping it real.

    1. Ugh. Momming with a deployed spouse is hard, especially for someone like you who also has a demanding career – you are a true superhero! Yes it’s easy to forget that when you are wiping snotty noses and eating cold leftover chicken nuggets for dinner. But if you ever need a reminder just reach out to me! I’m a big believer that all those mundane moments often add up to something amazing, and I know Sarah that you are doing great things.

  4. This was great to read … especially the part about fearless not necessarily being a compliment and having layers to it. Those concepts need more voices … loud ones. Your vulnerability helps that move forward and I’m so appreciative. As for fears? I share the dying one from time to time … I wonder what it really stems from … but almost like there’s not enough time now that I started to learn how great this life really is. Fear of missing the moments that I didnt embrace and savor enough when I was younger. And I think every day I appreciate something in the moment and spend time on connection, I’m overcoming that fear. Oh and spiders. Fuck spiders.

    1. Ha! The spiders! Yes I believe my fear of dying comes from feeing like there is so much I don’t want to miss out on. Not seeing my kids grow into men would be the very worst, but there’s more than that. Because as hard as life can seem some days, there is always SO much more to be thankful for than not, and I fear that I am so busy DOING instead of BEING that I am going to miss out on it all without taking time to stop and appreciate it. It’s a constant battle that’s for sure.

  5. If this is your first post, then I can’t wait to read your other posts! This is your calling, this is SO YOU! Thank you for putting it all out there and giving us the opportunity to relate to your story! Congratulations!

    1. Thank you Eun. You have been one of my biggest fans and I’ve appreciated your encouragement so much along the way. And of course you taking the plunge with your cake business and watching it take off has been super inspiring to me. You are amazing!

  6. My fears have surely lessened as I get older. My biggest fears are failure, letting others down, and losing my only child. All the self talk, therapy, and self help in the world will not help. It’s a me thing that only I can let go of. I have all the best advice for friends and people I mentor….but, I am a hypocrite at best and don’t believe a word I say if I was saying it to myself, which in actuality is something I do most all day long lol!

    Love your first blog and bio and can’t wait to read more. There are some serious similarities between you and I and as such….you have inspired me to take that step I have been wanting to take for a long time now. Thanks for sharing your truth!

    1. I think there is a little bit of hypocrite in all of us. No matter how “real” I strive to be, I can’t say I take my own advice 100% of the time. I think you, like me, though realize that we are a work in progress, and if you are willing to intentionally do the work, then you are winning in my book. What is the step you are taking? I want to hear about it!

  7. allison stordahl

    yes GURL! love this SO much! Fear stops us too often! KUDOS for you for jumping in! You are such an inspiration!!!

  8. Hi there. Well loved reading your first post. Really loved that you are sincere person and did you really jumped from an airplane? I need to tell u what I did …lol.
    My main challenge in life for me was moving from my country. GUATEMALA. I had my perfect life there. But to tell the truth I love living in the U.S. A
    I miss mainly my family and FOOD. Many opportunities here, and my family have been filled good friends.
    With that said cheers for what will come and wishing you all the best. Dont forget Chelsea Park! Glad that I meet u. U are a strong woman and believe me I relate being a boys mom.

    1. Thank you Andrea! Yes you are a little powerhouse and I’ll continue picking your brain for boymom strategies! Thanks for sharing some of your stories with me this past weekend.

  9. My ultimate fear (at present moment)…
    Holding the line of decency and accountability with my kids, in a sincere effort to not raise assholes, and then being punished for it in the future with kids not wanting to have adult relationships with me. I know in my heart it doesn’t matter, I have to do my best to raise decent people who will improve humanity, but in my head I’m terrified everyone who says “if they respect you then they’ll want a relationship with you as adults” is wrong.
    Plus I really like to have fun and it’s not always fun to be responsible for 5 kids and 1 immature husband LOL.

    1. Thank you for sharing. Yes there is always the fear of the unknown, and what will happen down the road. But you are being intentional about your parenting, and the fact that you are putting thought into it shows you are a good mom who loves her kids and wants the best for them. Not raising assholes is important, and I guarantee your kids will probably be better behaved than mine over the next decade. I need to be more accountable with mine but most of the time I am too lazy or overtaxed to enforce anything. The struggle is real!

      1. What a great first post! So much to unload but done so eloquently. I didn’t know there would be homework….
        Fear is a sneaky bitch, obvs I have all the “tragedy is coming for you” fears that so many of us are plagued with. My self fear is that my content is a guise. Fact is that I don’t feel like I have any particular goals, I’m not searching for a bigger purpose, I am (seemingly) perfectly content. Work, kids, house…check,
        check, check. Surely that’s a problem, right! Like I should be seeking a higher purpose, finding or chasing a passion, anything? But i’m not, and the fucked up part is that that is my fear. That at some point in the future i will look back and realize I missed it. I missed my chance, I didn’t do what i was suppose to do, i didn’t feel what i was suppose to feel. Hell, i’m starting Graduate school because i feel like i should. My husbands moving away for a year, i’ll be single parenting my 3 kids and working full time, so why not add Graduate school because what better time that now? So there you have it, my big fear is that I’m
        not doing enough, that being content is not enough (in my eyes and in anyone else’s).

  10. Dayna Herbert

    This is amazing! Excited to go on this journey with you! Love your honesty and vulnerability and know we all can relate. You rock…keep doing you! ❤️

    1. Thank you Dayna! You’ve always been such a beautiful and inspiring person to me. Single-momming it, having a career, and still managing to take time to nurture relationships and have fun along the way…I love it! I know it’s not always easy and I hope you know that you are doing a great job.

  11. I already love ya but this makes me love ya more! Love the humor, vulnerability, authenticity and heart all wrapped into one post! Your gonna rock this!!

    1. Thank you Jennifer! I’ve enjoyed reading your blog and am inspired by the business you’ve built by following your passion. You are an amazing person and I am happy to know you and your family!

  12. This is so inspiring to me – I feel the exact same way about a greater purpose in writing, but have always been too afraid. I AM a people pleaser and knowing I couldn’t please everyone with my writing terrifies me. THANK YOU for doing this and being a leader! You’ve already inspired at least one person – me – to do more and go for it. Thank you! ❤️

    1. Wait, a Johnson being a people pleaser?? You don’t say! Lol. Luckily Kate you are one of the most authentic, kind, and joyful people I know and you bring so much goodness into this world already. I can only imagine you would do the same through writing. What are you going to do?

  13. Congratulations Jenna on starting your blog and chasing your dreams! This is amazing and I love your mission to create a space for women that is authentic and real-life because I totally cannot relate to those mom blogs you described either. I am always left feeling inadequate for trying to be a good mom and also have a successful career. The struggle for a work-life balance is real and it really resonated with me what you said about running yourself ragged over the mundane parts of daily life. That is such an important perspective to keep and I am working each day to focus on my relationships and what’s important in my life that makes me feel happy and fulfilled. Some days I succeed and some I fail miserably. I’ve missed you after the Army took us to different places but I look forward to reconnecting through this journey!

    1. Thank you Tracy for taking the time to read it and for your comments! I’ve admired you ever since we had babies side by side and you jumped right back into being a doctor, married to an army doctor. You guys have worked so hard and been through a lot over the past 10 years and I continue to be proud of and impressed by all you are doing. I know it can’t be easy and I 100% relate to feeling like some days are successes and others are failures. Sam and I always say that love can make up for a lot of things, and I know that even on the imperfect days your boys know without a doubt they are loved. Keep up the good work, mama. I hope we can reconnect in person some time soon!

      1. Thanks Jenna that means so much to me!! Very true that love is the most important thing and I appreciate your comment about the imperfect days. It’s easy to forget to give ourselves a little grace when things don’t go as well as we’d hoped. We are in the midst of a move as you may have heard, but would love to catch up more once we’re settled!

  14. I saw a tag to your blog and I remember how much I enjoyed it. You’re the real deal Jenna. Now get in here and write some more. This site needs some fresh posts .

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