True freedom is when you can express yourself without having the nagging thought of how others will perceive you.
But many of us struggle with our identity and with our weak moments, and we feel threatened by the idea of opening ourselves fully. There is a negative stigma attached to being vulnerable. Some people see it as a sign of weakness, but should they?
I don’t think so. In fact, if you learn how to be vulnerable, then you automatically start staying true to your feelings and emotions. You cannot run away from your pain, but you sure can learn a lot from it and use it to become a better version of yourself. Being vulnerable is a sign of strength; it builds character, giving you a chance to empathize and connect with the world around you on a deeper level.
And our identity is a powerful tool. If you build it right, stand by it, and fall in love with yourself, you will find yourself closer to success and fulfillment. You are a gift to the world, and you can make the most of yourself by helping those who need help, just like you used to. To tell us more, we have an extraordinary person with us in this episode.
“Love God, love people. Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly. Treat people as you want to be treated. If you want to be great, be a servant.” – Jen Hatmaker
Jen Hatmaker is inspiring, funny, and the author of an impressive 13 books. She also hosts a podcast and is a sought-after speaker who tours all over the country every year speaking to women. Before getting on with our episode, let’s learn a little more about Jen and the incredible work she does—
Jen Hatmaker is an author, TV presenter, speaker, and blogger, who has worked selflessly towards women’s empowerment. She is also an advocate for recognizing and including LGBTQ people in the Chrisitan community.
Jen is the host of the award-winning For the Love podcast, where she and her friends share laughs and stories about everything they love. In addition, Jen and her former husband Brandon Hatmaker and their five kids together host the popular series, My Big Family Renovation on HGTV.
In her book, Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire, Jen, a New York Times best-selling author, shares a detailed roadmap to reconciling our inner convictions and outer presentations, poses tough questions, and provides thoroughly researched psychological tools with the goal of helping women live lives that are honest and ultimately transformative.
“We do not become stronger but weaker when we refuse to say ‘I need some help.’” – Jen Hatmaker
Lastly, Jen is also the chairperson and co-founder of the Legacy Collective, a community of philanthropists working together to use their wealth to make a global impact. Together, they support sustainable projects all around the world and give them access to funds.
Today is the perfect opportunity for you to learn about building a new identity, owning your truth, and loving your life with Jen Hatmaker.
A flourishing writing career, five kids, and a 26-year-old marriage — everything seemed to be going right for Jen. And then the pandemic hit, and Jen’s life turned 180 degrees. Her marriage came to an end, and she didn’t see it coming; it just took her by such a surprise that it felt like the floor was swept from beneath her feet.
“The end of [my] decades-old marriage … was a blindside and a real shock [that was] just compounded by so many other losses. So there was a moment last summer when I didn’t know … if I could handle it [any longer] — … the pain, suffering, loss, and ultimately the changes I didn’t want but came. I remember a few weeks of not having food, or sleep, … and I just remember thinking finally at the end of it that I can handle this, [even when] I didn’t want to handle it, but I knew I could. I knew I was strong enough.” – Jen Hatmaker
Certain situations in one’s life are beyond control, but what is within our control is showing resilience and strength. We may have been knocked down and feel hurt and angry or sad about the situation; it’s natural. Go on, take a break from all this, pause, give yourself the time and space to calm down. And then start reflecting, start learning, and adapt to the new situation. And just like Jen, you too might be able to learn something in your moments of weakness.
“I profess to believe about the human spirit, about what it looks like to have a healthy community. [I also learned] what integrity means. … You can put it to the most fiery test, and it’ll hang on — it is almost shocking. … So having every single one of my [life’s] pillars crash around me, … being left [all by my myself], left to figure out how to pick them up and reconstruct [those pillars] — … [I have] learned what I am capable of, and it’s a lot. I am actually good at this. I am not done.” – Jen Hatmaker
That’s the attitude we all need in our lives. The challenges we face are not something that we can run away from, but we can indeed be at peace with them. Feeling shame and a loss of identity can be an overwhelming burden to carry, but by picking yourself back up — supported by newfound wisdom — you can chart a course of recovery and greatness.
Many people in the world have experienced shame or loss or had an identity crisis in the last year related to either their careers, health, or relationships. The COVID pandemic really took a toll and impacted each one of us. And feeling shame or under-confidence about your identity or purpose is not so uncommon.
“We don’t get to control what other people think of us, … or what your [adult] children choose, but these are markers of … [our] identity. … [And the truth is that] we all care … about what anyone [else] thinks of us. We care about what our kids … or partner … or co-workers … think about us. But even outside of these opinions, we can just funnel it down to, ‘Who am I? What’s so good and beautiful about me? What am I meant to do on Earth? How do I [add] love to this world?’” – Jen Hatmaker
We all are beautiful, and we all are special. But it takes more than a few words for one to rise out of that pit of self-induced agony and pain of everything wrong in our lives. If you begin by looking deeper into yourself and find the characteristics that make you unique, then you’ve taken the first step to come out of your misery. Jen talks about how being vulnerable helps her jump out of her shame:
“I get to eject out of shame very quickly if I can choose to be … vulnerable. If I can just [tell myself that this] is how I am feeling, this is why I am overwhelmed, this is how [shame] is making me feel about myself, this is [how] I am working [on that shame], … for me 100 out of 100 times vulnerability has [given me] a beautiful return. It’s contagious. … I’m [just] better at this because I have practiced it.” – Jen Hatmaker
Even though it spreads, vulnerability is not a disease; on the contrary, it is just a part of us being human. The difference lies in how we perceive it. By being aware of our vulnerabilities or weaknesses, we put ourselves in a better position to handle stress and improve upon ourselves and the situation. And once you learn to be vulnerable, the only thing left is to serve and help others jump out of their shame. This is how your identity will be a formidable one — the key lies in vulnerability.
I grew up in a society or culture in middle Ohio where boys aren’t supposed to do certain things like show emotions or cry and where kids make fun of other kids for being vulnerable. I don’t feel like we had the capacity or emotional agility to allow a nine-year-old boy to cry in front of us and share his emotions. We weren’t brought up in a way that promoted vulnerability; everyone just had a mask on with a false sense of belonging, which is why I wrote a book called The Mask of Masculinity.
“As we look at all this pent-up rage, trauma, and absolute suffering that people are walking around with — turns out, sharing it with people is a pretty low-hanging-fruit solution. … It’s effective immediately. … It’s just tricky because somebody has to [find courage and] go first, but then it’s exciting because it is such a ripple effect, … and it’s really powerful. We can all do this. This is not just the work of influencers. This is the work of humanity.” – Jen Hatmaker
I can relate to how men were generally raised in our society, but the narrative for women was entirely different.
“One of the things I learned early on [in my childhood] was that … girls are responsible for the bad behavior of boys and men. … And our system reinforced that because men were always protected and victims were blamed and ostracized. … My community is almost entirely women, and so I spend a lot of emotional energy dissecting the narratives that we were handed as little girls.” – Jen Hatmaker
And that’s exactly what each of us must do: dissect the narratives and use our wisdom and knowledge to overcome this gender stereotyping. Embracing your vulnerability is one way of relieving stress and connecting with your inner being. At the same time, it also allows you to form close connections with fellow humans who find themselves on a path similar to yours. In a community, there is strength. Just take off your masks, and the world will be as beautiful as you dream it to be.
Guys, I hope you found tons of value and inspiration from this episode with Jen Hatmaker. We talked about so much more in our conversation, so be sure to catch up on what you missed by tuning in to the rest of the podcast episode here.
Before I sum up today’s episode of The School of Greatness, I want to share what Greatness means to Jen —
“[If] all the people at my funeral, every one of them [feels that I] loved them so much, and they fight [over] who they think was my favorite, and they all think that it’s them, that would be great for me.” – Jen Hatmaker
For all who want to know more about Jen’s work and projects, can check out her website here. And for a closer look into Jen’s life and getting regular updates, you can go ahead and follow her on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.
And for those of you who really love and enjoy watching my podcast, I would be really grateful if you could take out a few minutes and leave a five-star rating for The School of Greatness on Apple Podcasts. Share this episode with your friends, family, or whoever you feel would benefit from this.
It would also be amazing if you could tag Jen, @jenhatmaker, and me, @lewishowes, on Instagram and share a screenshot of this episode with your greatest takeaways from it. We’d love to hear from you!
As I get ready to end this episode, I just want to tell you that no matter what stage of life you are at right now, it’s always good to go after your goals and dreams because that is what makes you feel alive. So start planning and take action toward what you want. You are worthy, and it’s time for you to go out and do great.
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