I remember sitting across from my mom at the kitchen table in small-town Minnesota and I asked her: "Have I ever posted anything online that made you nervous?" She smiled, looked down at her coffee. "The first time you posted a photo of you in your underwear and bra I cringed," she said. "But then I started to read comments from women you were helping, and I knew your mission was so much bigger."
It all started three years ago when I finally decided to share the hidden struggle behind a seemingly successful woman: I hated my body. I candidly opened up about the things I had hidden from my followers due to fear and explained why I never post photos of myself. The floodgates opened, and so many messages started hitting my inbox from women who had felt the exact same way.
Since then, I've openly shared the highs and lows of my own complicated journey towards self-love. My story has had many twists and turns, but the message has always remained the same: Self-love is a choice. It's not an easy one, it's a daily one, and it requires more self-work than most are willing to take on. Over the last seven years, I've built a business that empowers people to do what they love and to pursue their wildest dreams. But my quest towards loving myself has taken more time and energy than my seven-figure business. Every day I wake up and face the mirror with a decision: Is today the day that I pick myself apart with hatred, or will today be a day that I see my strength and power and honour that?
Being thrust into the spotlight as a woman leading the self-love charge has been anything but easy, especially when real life is happening behind-the-scenes. I've publicly shared our struggles with fertility, our two miscarriages, and now my pregnancy. I've opened up about how our losses impacted the way I felt in my skin, I showed up when loving myself was the hardest act, and I never shied away from the criticism I received from strangers on the internet. Each message I write is shared with a single follower — someone I've imagined that resembles the child I once was — in hopes that I can be the woman that young Jenna needed.
Recently, I was named the newest #AerieREAL Role Model, and it's one of my proudest accomplishments to date. Since that first post three years ago, I've watched closely as Aerie has led the way in body positivity, inclusivity, and empowering women. I've been connected to their mission and have worked alongside them for years in the quest to truly lead women to find confidence within.
Arriving at my first shoot with Aerie at 12 weeks pregnant (and utterly taken over with morning sickness), I was reminded to just show up — real, not retouched. It was refreshing to watch women come alive on set, to see their beauty as unique. By the end of the day, we were all running around in our underwear and hugging one another. The gift of permission to accept ourselves and one another that was given to us in an unexpected setting.
Now, as I journey into this new season of life through pregnancy and motherhood, I am so excited to take the Aerie girls with me and share how powerful and incredible our bodies are. I'm excited to continue to keep it real when it comes to body talk, and I am so thankful to have Aerie with me, walking through this miracle every step of the way. We need to change the way beauty is defined, we need to shift the media messaging, we have to strive to be more inclusive in all ways, we need to be the representation we wish were seeing and we get the gift of being able to celebrate the incredible force that we are as women. I never dreamed that a small-town, size 10, Midwestern girl would be the one to change the world, but it's a role that I am honored to fill and every day I do my best to write a story that will someday become my legacy.