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 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: You’re not good enough. You’re selfish. You’re overwhelmed and under-qualified. No one will care what you have to say. You don’t 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