Jen Widerstrom Opens Up About Why She Wanted to Change Her Entire Persona
The Biggest Loser trainer opens up about her fear of losing control and losing herself.
Most of us tackle life by fighting for the things think we want—whether that's a career, a relationship, a lifestyle, or endless other markers of success. But sometimes when we're so focused on reaching a certain level of achievement, we end up losing a part of ourselves along the way. One day we look in the mirror, and realize that we don't recognize who we've become, which is what happened to me in August of last year. It was like I was asleep for years and suddenly woke up to realize that my life was no longer what I truly wanted it to be.
The Breaking Point
I had just come off a whirlwind few months, going city to city, interview to interview, assignment to assignment. I was on the edge of feeling totally burnt out and knew I needed to take some downtime for myself. So, I gave myself a week off. (See Why Burnout Should be Taken Seriously)
For the first time in what felt like a long time, I was alone. There was no project, no boyfriend, no responsibility in front of me—nothing I could take on or put my mind, heart and soul into. Without that, all that was left was me—and it hit me that I was actually very unhappy with myself. (Related: Your Guilt-Free Guide to Taking a Mental Health Day)
It took pressing pause on my life for me to realize that while I was doing everything I was 'supposed' to do—dating the right guy, getting TV gigs, growing my Instagram following—I wasn't being my true self in any of those scenarios.
I had gotten so carried away with all the things I felt that I needed to do to stay relevant that I stopped doing anything that reflected by true and authentic self. That moment was the wake-up call I didn't know I needed. (Related: This Woman's Epiphany Will Inspire You to Accept Yourself Just As You Are)
After my week-long self-reflection, I knew that something had to change.
Learning to Be Jenny Again
My gut reaction was to start by changing everything around me, which meant the people I surrounded myself with, the projects I was taking on, and my circumstances as a whole. But when I started to do that, I felt even more isolated.
I realized that my circumstances and the way my family, friends, and acquaintances behaved, was out of my control. The only thing that I could change was myself. Admitting that I was the problem was scary, but it also meant that I could be the solution. I learned to take a step back in certain situations, pause and assess my reaction. In doing so I learned to tame my own emotions and check myself every time I started to worry about what everyone was doing, what they were thinking, or analyzing their actions toward me. The less I expected from others, the less disappointment I felt.
It wasn't overnight, but month to month I learned to stop blaming the world around me and started taking control of my own emotions. I started listening to the things I really, truly wanted to do. I started turning down projects that didn't ignite a passion in me. I stopped being around people that weren't adding value to my life. I stopped putting myself in situations where I struggled to be my true and authentic self. (Related: I Practiced Saying No for a Week and It Was Actually Really Satisfying)
But the need for validation was still overpowering. It's challenging to no longer live up to the image you've spent years creating. So I decided to create little visual reminders for myself to help keep me on the right path. For starters, I began wearing my Widerstrong ring every day. It was something I created to embody strength and courage. By putting on every morning and looking at it in times of stress and unbalance, it became a source of encouragement and support.
I also changed the background of my phone to a picture of my 3-year-old self. Every time I look at that photo, I'm reminded that I don't need to cultivate more than the person I see right there. Being Jenny is enough.
Today at 36 years old, I no longer want to have the persona I'd built for myself through my career, nor the identity that the world has assigned to me. I'm okay not being Jen Widerstrom from 'The Biggest Loser' all the time or the hard AF trainer that's always strong in the face of failure. For the first time, I'm fine just being me, and am open to failing from time to time.
By making these small changes to my life and reminding myself to put me first, I have finally tapped into a person that I am proud of. As a result, my relationships with my family have deepened, my career path has become clearer, and even the kind of men I'm attracting has changed. Everything in my life now better aligns with my happiness. (Related: 9 Smart Career Tips for a Bright, Successful Future.)
By sharing my evolution, I hope I can inspire others to realize that you don’t have to continue down the road you started on. You have the freedom to make new decisions and be the solution you need. Every single day, you have the opportunity to redirect your thoughts and actions and without apology to finally bet on yourself.
Do not wait for the world to change and don’t ask others for permission either. Be responsible for your experiences and for building a life that makes you the most prideful and peaceful because, at the end of the day, that's what matters most.