Spring Back Series #3: Embracing Authenticity with Luvvie Ajayi

Episode 03

Each day as we inch closer to summer, we are reminded of all the possibilities that surround us daily. The leaves on the trees are becoming greener by the minute, the grass is finally dense and fluffy, flowers are pushing their way through the dirt. And just as the earth evolves, so do we. That’s why we wanted to bring you the Spring Back Series. After a particularly hard year or winter, it’s hard to remember all that we learned the year before. It’s even harder to put those lessons into practice and find ways to evolve into the people we were meant to be. So today we are springing back to an episode we love featuring the one and only Luvvie Ajayi. You may know her as the New York Times bestselling author of I’m Judging You or as a speaker and podcast host. She exists beautifully at the intersection of comedy, media, and justice. She encourages all women to embrace their authentic selves and continually strive to be the best versions of themselves. So let’s spring back to Luvvie’s first time here with all new commentary from Jen about the impact of social media, the three steps we can take to be true to ourselves, and Luvvie’s new book, Professional Troublemaker. 

Episode Transcript

Welcome to this week’s episode of our Spring Back Series. We hope you’re having fun listening to some gems from some of our most amazing conversations we’ve had during the life of our little podcast. I mean, honestly, it is uncanny how what we’ve been talking about over the last year, two years, even three years truly stands the test of time and hits us right where we live even right now, even more so, maybe, than when we first recorded it.

This week is no exception. Real quick, informal poll, raise your hand if you have ever felt fear. Okay. Hi, I’m just being silly. Of course, it’s all of us. We know what that feels like. Fear is one of the most  ubiquitous emotions in the world. It is a present that comes in packages of all shapes and sizes that hits you when you least expect it or sometimes when you most expect it.

And even what seems like teeny tiny fears can end up just holding us completely back from so many things. I mean, I know I 100% operated out of fear for years, maybe decades, even. For me, I think unfortunately, one of the biggest things fear holds us back from is being our authentic true selves. I mean, it just takes us right out of our bodies. It takes us right out of our families, right out of our world. I can think of times in my own public facing career when fear had me so hamstrung, fear of negative responses, fear of being canceled, fear of saying the wrong thing, fear of criticism. Honestly, fear of leadership that I lay in bed at night. It stole all my joy. It stole all my peace because consequently, that fear kept me silent. That fear kept me pretending. And I will tell you right now that is the quickest path to unhappiness you could ever take in your life.

That sense of being disintegrated, because fear has caught your mouth, fear’s caught your tongue. I mean, it really shaped the way that you perceive yourself and how you fit in the world and what is possible in front of you. So in this episode of our Springback Series, we are revisiting a conversation I had with Luvvie, an absolute fan fave. Luvvie was in our For the Love of Moxie Series, so definitely check out that full convo if you haven’t already, there’s so much value there. That’s one of the best series we’ve ever done. So I guess it saddens me that in the time, since that series, which has been a minute, authenticity is still such a struggle for us, particularly us women.

I think that’s true. I’m not a man, I can’t speak for men, but I feel like it disproportionately affects us. The truth is that the world makes it hard to be yourself. It does. You’re not crazy. We are not set up to live sincerely, to live genuinely and be rewarded for that, right? I mean, I know so much ink has been spilled on this, but look at social media alone. Is any of that real? Is any of it real? Is anything there unfiltered? Ah, we talk about this just so much. It’s just that this sense of everybody else’s highlight reels it is not a true reflection of real life. Guys, mine isn’t. Mine isn’t. The stuff that is actually going on right now in my house will never see the light of day on social media. I deserve privacy and so do you.

I’m just telling you, you’re only seeing some of it, okay? People out there are hurting and they are struggling and their kids are struggling and things are hard but we don’t get to see all that. So it gives us the impression that we’re alone, right? And it gives us the impression that who we are is just not enough, it’s just not cutting it. We don’t look good enough. We’re not young enough. We’re not cool enough. It’s disheartening, I guess, that even in a season now, when we’ve been stripped to the basics of who we are, really stripped down to the bones of what matters, that still the pressure to be something we’re not can deeply affect how we are moving in the world, how we feel in our body. What we think of when we’re laying in our beds at night.

So in the spirit of not being a total Debbie Downer, sorry, because I think there has been some progress around this discussion. I really do see this topic broached so much more among the people I follow and the books I’d like to read, the leaders I am listening to, and I’m glad for it. I think that the women we respect and admire are peeling back the curtain and saying, “This is a lie and this is fake and this is stupid.” I mean, I know for me, I am slowly learning how rewarding it can be to be unapologetically myself all of the time, no ifs, ands, or buts. And it’s interesting that on the other side of that, the satisfaction of actually feeling known for good or for bad. Know me and like me or know me and hate me, but know me, right?

I am who I am, and that is real and that is genuine and I have integrity inside of that. It is freeing. That is liberating to me. So here’s the deal with Luvvie. As we talk about fear and finding the courage to live authentically, she had tons of firsthand experiences with fear to the point, and I love this story, but she almost didn’t do a TED talk out of fear that really and truly ended up changing her life simply because she was doing a battle with imposter syndrome. So think about this for a second. Everything she knows, everything she has shared with us, all that goodness, wouldn’t exist if she hadn’t embraced her authenticity and kicked fear out. It’s a really big deal to think about all the incredible work that we now have gotten to experience from her because she got to the other side of fear.

So here’s just what I think I want you to know if you’re listening, you’re not the only person who’s afraid. You’re just not, you’re not alone in that. We’re all afraid. We’re afraid of what could happen. We’re afraid of what might happen. We’re afraid of what might not happen. We’re sometimes afraid to speak up. We’re scared of hearing no, we’re scared of being different. We’re scared of standing out from the crowd. We’re scared of dissenting. Sometimes we’re scared to do the right thing, because our personal sub culture or community won’t receive it well, right? So we let fear make us feel like we’re either too much or we’re not enough, or maybe both at the same time, that’s weird, and it actually ends up controlling us. But if we want to live from a place of realness, we have to get in front of this.

So most of you know Luvvie, of course, as the New York Times bestselling author of I’m Judging You, her first book or as a speaker and podcast host, who is living brilliantly at the intersection of comedy, media, and justice, she threads the needle well. She’s part of the genius brains behind the Share the Mic Now movement, you remember that? I was a part of that last year. Very, very powerful work, just such amazing conversations came from that experience. We all got to listen and learn from some of the most amazing women on the planet, honestly. Truly, truly incredible. So Luvvie’s newest book just came out in March of this year and it’s called, this is so on brand for her, it’s called Professional Troublemaker: The Fear Fighter Manual.

So I don’t know about you, but I’m actually trying to be a professional troublemaker, the very best kind, this tracks for me too. She shares all of her wisdom and the wisdom of her Nigerian grandmother, which I love when she talks and writes about, on how we have to get right inside ourselves before we can do the things that scare us, right? And then how ultimately, to use our voice for the greater good by connecting first with our authenticity. The whole goal, as Luvvie says, isn’t to be fearless, but rather to acknowledge our fear and go forth anyway. Honestly, that’s it. That’s the deal. So empowering. She’s such a good leader. She’s lived it. She teaches it and she shows us the way. I have loved Luvvie for years. I remember the first time I encountered her work and I met her through humor. I met her through comedy because guys, nobody is funnier.

Her satire work makes me scream with laughter. And she has that sharp wit that makes me so envious. She’s meant to be funny on this earth. And then of course I followed her everywhere and began to really get a sense of her heart for justice and for women and for building a beautiful life, for building companies, for building cultures. She’s a powerfully profound person in way more than one way. She is smart. She is interesting. She is savvy. She is funny. She’s a good friend. She’s putting her hand to all the right things in the world as far as I’m concerned. So I’m tickled to bring this one back. This one has legs. It has legs forever, but it definitely has legs right now. So enjoy this throwback conversation with the absolutely fantastic and married now, Luvvie Ajayi Jones.



Books & Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual

I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual


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