The Art of Jenn | The Art of Her Project
I have had the absolute pleasure of getting to know Jenn a lot this year. She is the absolute picture of authenticity, and her ability to say the most incredible and thought provoking things in the what can seem like the most mundane of moments is beyond inspiring. Just by being her and interacting with those around her, she inspires. She mentions in the interview below that she could see herself public speaking in the future, I think this could be a the perfect place for her to shine. -- If you don't know Jenn, you need to.
Her conversations below about trusting that you are enough, is so aligned with what we believe around here that I am just beyond excited to share this with you. She has seen some things in her life, her journey wasn't easy, and through it, she learned about loving herself and consequently, she walks through life gracefully extending the same belief in every woman she meets.
This is the Art of Jenn.
This is the Art of Her.
Jessica: Tell us about you, The woman.
Jenn: My name is Jenn Hagar. I am a mother to Aiden, wife to Jason, daughter, friend, entrepreneur, and so much more. I come from Gilman, Illinois - a small town in the middle of the state (and the cornfields). I'm just a small town girl, living in this lonely world.
Currently, I work with the Sandbrook Group as a small business solutions expert and licensed insurance broker. My passion is providing locally-owned and operated small businesses or solopreneurs the health insurance and employee benefit options that they need to be able to pursue their passions. In addition to my career, I also serve on the board of directors for a local non-profit organization, Reach for the Stars. It focuses on utilizing astronomy and STEAM activities to combat anxiety and mental health issues in youth.
We all heard a lot of the phrase pivot from the last couple of years. My life has had so much pivoting that it was more like pirouettes. The biggest obstacles that I have had to overcome has been my mindset regarding perfection. Coming from someone who has overcome health conditions, domestic violence, body dysmorphia, gender inequities in the workplace, toxic corporate culture, and more; the biggest battlefield of my life has been my mental health.
Jessica: Tells us about Your Story.
Jenn: My life has taken many unexpected detours along the way. From my original plans of being an aerospace engineer going up in smoke with the events of 9/11 to being a survivor of the mean girl in my head there are so many reasons and motivations for me being a part of this project.
This chapter of my story could be entitled, "It's Ok for Resilience to Be a Bad Word." While I am the picture of a survivor, resilience, and strength - I have also never felt like I was enough. I would be happy when....insert random number, goal, or moving target. Whether this was in relationship to success in my career, my weight and body image, or my family life in general - I was not giving myself permission to celebrate my success.
My message through Art of Her is simple. You are enough. Right now, perfectly imperfect. It is normal and healthy to celebrate your accomplishments, feel fulfilled, and still want more.
Jessica: Tell me about a specific experience as it surrounds your story of what you had to endure or work through as you pushed to rise?
Jenn: This is a hard question to answer for me, mainly because I feel like there is a daily battle to rise. I feel like this road to happiness has been like the rising and falling of waves on the ocean. When thinking on my past I have gone through or around many obstacles - each having provided a redirection to what I viewed the path to fulfillment and success.
I have worked through multiple changes in my career, a divorce, a cross-country move, a high risk pregnancy with many complications, falling in love, surgery, and so much more. When I think about rising though, none of that is what I think of. I would be negligent if I didn't put in my key phrase of "embrace the suck" because not every moment is good, but those are fleeting. Rising reminds me of gratitude, the thought that this is my situation for this moment and I will live in the happiness that is my reality....and work really hard to make my dreams come true.
Jessica: What surprised you about yourself in the moments surrounding the event?
Jenn: What surprises me most about mental health is our inability to talk about it with others even though most everyone can identify with feelings of self-doubt, lack of self worth, or perfectionism. Individuals feel that struggle make them less than, when it reality it leads to the biggest breakthroughs. All of my experiences have given me knowledge, compassion, and a deep sense of gratitude for those who love and support me.
Jessica: What surprised you about others as it is connected to your event?
Jenn: People love me for who I am, perfectly imperfect....the person who was my biggest critique was the mean girl in my head.
Jessica: Do you feel being a woman had any significant bearing on this event?
Jenn: Being a woman has had a profound impact. I have lived my life in a space where I was always "too" (smart, funny, fat, outspoken, opinionated) insert your adjective. As a woman I feel like I was asked to water down my ambitions for what was suppose to fulfill me. Success was suppose to be achieved within certain parameters. In a lot of ways I felt like I was constantly compared and pitted against other women and therefore isolated myself from a community of women that would support and uplift me.
Jessica: What would you say you learned about yourself or others during or since this event?
Jenn: When you let people see your authentic self, struggles and success, you give them a unique place in your life. The right people will support you and you will grow and thrive. I have learned to make space for myself to live in the AND.
I am unapologetically chasing my dreams AND stepping into my definition of success; spending time with my family and friends AND making space for me time; living authentically AND loving where I live; loving myself as is AND working to make that person better everyday; supporting my community out loud through service AND encouraging others to do the same; releasing the things that no longer serve me AND working to heal myself from the inside out.
Jessica: How did it Change you?
Jenn: The biggest change in me has come from allowing myself to step into authenticity. I don't think there is a before and after for either my struggles or success, there is only during. Each day I make choices based off of the cards I am dealt. I have to make a conscious decision not to be paralyzed by fear or motivated by guilt and expectations. For the first time in my life, I am making choices with my priorities in mind - which yes, include prioritizing myself and my mental health. Is it perfect, no! ...and that's ok. I will live in my authenticity by accepting the responsibility for my decisions, releasing my need to control things that are not of my capability, and stepping into joy.
Jessica: How have your values changed?
Jenn: Honor, trust, and loyalty are the three ideals I have always held in high regard. These three qualities mean family. I strongly believe that family doesn't all have to be related by blood. There are all kinds of words that I value; integrity, authenticity, intelligence, humor, this list could go on forever.
Jessica: What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?
Jenn: You are your worst critique. Love yourself as is, you are enough.
Jessica: What would you say has helped you along your healing journey?
Jenn: My husband has really helped support me in opening up to healing from a lot of trauma. His unconditional love allowed myself to heal at the speed I needed to, which frankly was slow moving like a glacier. No matter how impossible I was, he has loved me as is through it all. His love gave me the permission to love myself in the same way. He's a keeper.
Jessica: What is your story of now?
Jenn: My story now? I am a warrior. Not just for myself, for my family, friends, and causes I champion. My energy, focus, and heart are always intentionally focused on staying in integrity with being my authentic self. Yes, that means somedays I don't leave my house and I "embrace the suck" because that is all I have to give. Even on those days I am giving 100% of what I have to loving myself and others. I am giving myself permission to be all that I am, perfectly imperfect just the way I am.
Jessica: How would you like people to describe you or see you? Why?
Jenn: Authentic. I would like all the descriptors to roll into that word. Why? Easy, being authentic is the hardest thing we as women do, it's being strong enough to stand up for your beliefs, it's knowing that people pleasing will not make you happy, it's putting your effort and intention into things that bring you joy. I want people to see me living my life out loud.
Jessica: When in your life, so far, have you felt most confident and why?
Jenn: Right now. I am surrounded by people who love, accept, and support me for who I am.
Jessica: Describe when you felt most attractive.
Jenn: The most attractive I have ever felt is when I look at pictures of me with Jason (my husband). There are those rare moments that get caught where you can see just how much we love each other. It's like a glimpse into our happiness. That to me is beautiful.
Jessica: Have your perceptions of what being 'attractive' means changed over time?
Jenn: Looks are fleeting - confidence and joy are the definition of sexy.
Jessica: What is the ongoing challenge you face?
Jenn: Knowing that it is 100% ok not to always be ok.
Jessica: It would be really interesting to hear about any ambitions you have for the future?
Jenn: Who knows what I will end up doing in the future? I have not yet ruled out world domination. It's more likely that I will write a book or do some public speaking.
Jessica: Do you believe growing up female affected these ambitions?
Jenn: Ha! I think it gave me material to write about, but I never thought it would be something I would do growing up. I was actually told by a teacher I was the worst proof reader she had ever met.
Jessica: How do you think you bring a woman is perceived by men?
Jenn: While I would not speak for the male race, I believe that there are good and bad among them. The good ones know women are a resource of wealth, love, and knowledge. Complicated, beautiful, strong, loving, compassionate, nurturing, and so much more are some of the things I believe that men see in us. But we are also a force of nature. When they say nature or nurture - they are talking about women both of those times.
P.S. If men could stop saying she has "a good personality" as code for them not finding women attractive that would be great.
Jessica: Are there any myths you would like to bust about growing up as a female?
Jenn: Growing up in a small farm town I felt like my world was limited in what I could do and that marriage was needed for me to be "complete". My dreams were meant to include 2.4 kids, living within 60 miles of where I grew up, and a job was something that would be assigned based off of what was available so I could "live the dream". That wasn't my dream and I know now that it is ok to want something differently than what society tells you is the definition of perfect.
Jessica: What do you wish other women or young girls knew about themselves?
Jenn: The world will see your beauty, intelligence, and compassion far more than you will ever see it reflected in the mirror. As women, we are are own worst critics while being everyone's else's biggest supporters. It's ok to cheer for yourself too.
Jessica: If you could talk to advertisers right now about advertising to women, what advice would you give them?
Jenn: Women are craving authentic connection in all aspects of their life. Advertising to who we are, and not who society thinks we should be makes a larger impact. As we start to see representation of what real bodies look like we move one step forward. I would like to see the day where that is not considered brave or revolutionary by the advertising industry.
Photography by Jessica Korff Studios
Makeup by: Renee Lanz | Radiate with ReneeJ
Dress Draping: Dresses draped and created by: Jessica Korff