This is a love story.
It’s not a traditional story, though.
This is not a story about couples, and it’s not a story about loving a pet, a country or even a donut. It’s a love story about all of us – about celebrating what makes us special, what makes our hearts soar and the ways in which we can honor our own process (even when we’re afraid).
To sort through all the debris that sometimes gets in the way of finding and honoring who we really are, there are some big questions to ask ourselves …
What do I want?
How do I take care of myself?
What’s my heart detector saying?
If you were sitting in a room with Jennifer Louden, those are just a few of the questions she would probably ask you to answer.
It’s doubtful she would focus much on your favorite color or how much you enjoy living in Washington. She would get right down to the nitty gritty, and ask you about your heart. She is very interested in knowing what you do with it, how connected you are to it and how you share it with others.
Jennifer has written eight books on well-being and personal wisdom that speak to these very concepts. Her books have sold a million copies, and have been translated into nine languages!
Though words are her specialty, her journey began at the age of 19, when she attended film school at USC. Much to her surprise, she found the experience to be disappointing. “It was soul crushing for a lot of us,” she says. “Over the next four years, I got more and more stuck creatively. I was trying to push and control things, and then I just surrendered. That’s when the title for the first book popped into my head – The Woman’s Comfort Book. That was the beginning of it all. Those leaps we all take – whether they start with an idea or a word or someone saying something to us – we have to trust that, and keep taking a step towards it.
“It’s so important for girls and women to know. We get an idea for a company or a business. We want certainty, or we want it to be a clean trajectory, but that’s just so rare. That’s not how things evolve – especially the creative process. Ideas take years to develop. It took me about two years to fully trust my idea.”
Soon, that idea of hers turned into invitations to teach and speak about the topics in her book – which later became a series – filling a need for comfort and self-love in a way that truly spoke to people. She began appearing on television (including Oprah!), was quoted in national magazines and even penned a regular column for a Martha Stewart publication.
Today, Jennifer’s gifts to others extend beyond books and into a blog full of inspiring stories and bits of wisdom, mentoring and one-on-one guidance. She regularly speaks at events across the world, teaches at retreats, leads workshops and helps women everywhere find more balanced, soul-filled lives.
Jennifer’s journey is a perfect illustration of the fact that your true purpose often finds you after you think you’ve already discovered what it was.
How to Live Without Holding Back
Much of Jennifer’s teachings center around the core
idea that living from a place of freedom, without holding back, is the only way to live.
On her website, she defines not holding back as telling the truth, being vulnerable, building your life rather than the one being sold or preached to you, opening your heart and savoring everything – even when pain and loss crack you in two.
“No holding back doesn’t mean bungee jumping, running a Fortune 500 company, or having it all,” she says. “It means you sniff out, again and again, what’s beckoning you and follow that and serve that fully. No holding back can be a bit ruthless and that scares me, but so does the alternative – staying in a safe bland no-person’s land where the true depth and sparkle of life is never felt and never shared.”
Jennifer also believes that one of the biggest ways to get to a place of not holding back comes from learning to trust ourselves.
“I am constantly learning to listen to what it is I want,” she admits. “Some women deeply know what they want, and they listen to it. You can feel the difference in your body.
“Don’t automatically look outside yourself to a friend or Facebook or an expert in a magazine. First, just pause and say, ‘What do I think? What do I want? Where is my desire?’ It’s important to remember that you have a choice.”
Advice to Girls Who Want to Be Writers
Jennifer learned some valuable lessons when struggling through film school and unexpectedly finding her true calling. Throughout her 23-year career as a personal growth pioneer, she has also learned a lot about the power words have to change lives. Her advice to those interested in sharing their message with others, is:
“Be as curious as Harriet the Spy. That means be curious in real life, not just online. The best writing of any kind is the kind that’s rooted in sensory experience. Describe something that makes people feel like they’re there. The drape of a scarf, the pink and the folds and the way it looks with tweed, the shape of your face.
Learn to trust your instincts. If you’re constantly overriding your instincts in life, you will echo that in your creative process. Keep refining what that means. Ask yourself, ‘What did I know then and what do I know now?’ That’s the same thing we do when we’re writing – constantly learning and going back and rewriting. If we try to know everything before we do anything, we’ll never write a word. We’re building a bridge into uncertainty.”
Her Girl Scout Inspiration
Jennifer was a Girl Scout in grades 4-8. Her mom helped out with her troop and, as Jennifer recalls, “We had all the cookies for sale in our garage. I thought it was very cool to have all the cookies at our house.”
She fondly recalls attending Girl South camp at Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Florida. “I was scared to be away from home, and it was a big deal,” she says. “I remember the cabins. We had to do something in the woods, orienteering and knot tying, which I was horrible at.
“What I loved about Girl Scouts was the sense of belonging to something. It was about more than getting badges. I liked all of us getting together.
“I was very underweight, which was not cool. I was flat chested and skinny, and had bad skin. I often didn’t feel like I belonged. I wasn’t one of the popular kids, and was always on the outskirts. Girl Scouts felt like a safe place to me, and there weren’t cliques. We were in something together.”
A Few Parting Words
Jennifer is a walking, talking treasure trove of wisdom. She has a beautiful way of saying just what needs to be said in the most loving, compassionate way. Here are a few gems from her interview with us:
- I wish for girls to have real-life experiences that aren’t mediated by or captured by media. Without that connection to reality, we don’t have a connection to ourselves. That’s the whole richness of life.
- Awareness in any form is our best tool. Reactivity is what sinks us.
- When I got older, I learned that it’s all about how much compassion I can have for myself and still take care of what needs to be taken care of. I think that self-kindness and self-compassion help you embrace your humanity.
- Don’t ignore the need to take care of yourself.
Find her on Twitter for more daily doses of wisdom and peace.