I am human.
This would have to be the simplest yet most thought-provoking statement anyone has used to describe themselves to me. Three words that encompass the very notion that we are all united as a human race, yet we have endless paths and possibilities we choose to take and develop in life.
When I sat down with Jenna Louise; a woman who is fuelled by determination, ambition and a strong sense of self, these three words were powerful and remained pertinent in my thoughts for days after our interview.
If you search Jenna Louise on Instagram you will find a plethora of her own workout videos, luxurious active escapes and motivational talks she shares with her 47k followers. To many it would appear that Jenna has the face, body and wise words of a well-scripted fitness enthusiast but there is so much more to this woman whose desire is to motivate, challenge and improve the health and wellbeing of her clients and community of supporters.
"It all starts in the mind," says Jenna, "When I wake up in the morning, I have to kickstart my body by getting out of bed and completing a high-intensity workout. This workout makes me feel good. Not only am I pushing my body, but I am calming my thoughts; training them to say, “yes I can!”’
It is apparent while talking to Jenna that beneath her wide, welcoming smile and contagious laugh she is slowly but surely building up her confidence. She is pushing beyond her fears and inner turmoil that has challenged her self-worth.
"The biggest challenges I have had to overcome in my career and in life would have to be leaving behind my life in Canberra," Jenna explains.
Jenna’s career was her life, working long full-time hours that left her feeling empty and unfulfilled. She wasn’t pursuing her love for the fitness industry and found her mental and physical health deteriorating.
I can hear Jenna’s voice tightening. I can sense that this time in her life had been debilitating.
She goes on to explain that she was in a very toxic relationship in which she felt smothered and no longer wanted to or felt she could make decisions for herself: "I needed to do something for me even if that meant leaving behind everyone and everything I knew."
Jenna’s bubbly quick-paced conversation is infectious; every time I speak with her, I can’t help but get swooped up in her aura. It isn’t because she is a personal trainer, educator or motivator, it is because she speaks openly and honestly and yet, she struggles with her own vulnerability every day.
Jenna continues explaining that one of the hardest times in her life was the day she picked up a few bags of clothes, put them in her car and left Canberra.
"Having to make a decision for myself that I knew would impact a lot of other people, that was hard," says Jenna, "And I had to sit with that for a long time. I had to work my way through overcoming the guilt that I faced as a result of making that decision. But, at the same time, I knew if I waited any longer to do it, I may miss the boat and I didn't want to make the people around me any more unhappy as a result of me not following my passion."
Instilling inner belief in people so that they can make confident decisions is what Jenna’s personal journey has led to in her career. Her mission is to nurture individuals to become self-aware and to push the boundaries both mentally and physically. Jenna reassures me that, for herself, her inner belief is still a work in progress and should be constantly challenged: "It is healthy for me to challenge my mind every day," says Jenna. "I have to put myself in an uncomfortable situation every day. I call this my daily dose of discomfort."
Negativity is powerful; it is uncomfortable to listen to and it can consume you if you let it. Jenna’s daily dose of discomfort is a way for her to destroy the destructive inner dialogue that pulsates through her thoughts. She explains it isn’t about strategies but more a way of thinking. It is about channelling negativity and using the strength and power behind it to get the job done. When it comes to her workouts and planning the programs for her online fitness business, she hones in on what can be done better and alters her mindset so that the negativity becomes a motivator to push beyond the ‘I can’t’ and make it ‘I can do better’.
Jenna is her own worst critic, constantly striving to make the most of her day and translate her inner demons into motivation for transformation. When I asked Jenna about her experiences with mental health and the foundation-building for a healthy, she said there is a part of her life that seems unclear and foggy, something she doesn’t usually open up about.
"There was a time in my life when I experienced an eating disorder," Jenna begins. "It is a grey area for me because I am not too sure how long it was happening for. I engaged in a bulimic habit and I say it is a grey area because I can’t pinpoint how long it was going for. But, from my late teens to early adulthood, 8 to 10 years, I struggled."
Jenna recalls the constant battle, one she dealt with alone. To this day, her bulimia continues to be a blurry subject because she is still overwhelmed by how much negative thoughts devoured her mental state. For Jenna, this part of her life was filled with inner demons relentless in telling her to purge. She felt guilty when she ate food and hated the feeling of being full. When the demonising thoughts became too much, she gave in, forcing herself to vomit three times a day.
The inner workings of our psychology fascinate Jenna and the more she extracts memories from this time in her life the more she finds correlations between her mother’s obsessive fitness and strict diet regime to her own experience. In no way was Jenna’s upbringing one of self-deprecation or fraternal insensitivity. However, through understanding her mother’s mindset, Jenna has been able to decipher how working out makes her feel and therefore better herself by setting lifestyle goals. Educating and offering a motivational voice for her network has given her a new sense of purpose, one that has led her to become an iconic mentor in the fitness industry.
"Support is critical, and recovery is possible," says Jenna, "Together we can achieve a healthier mindset overall. The more people that share, the more people will feel they are no longer alone."
Eating disorders and mental illness have often been taboo subjects that tend to cultivate behind closed doors. Bringing them to the forefront of society means we can all offer support for those who feel like they are trapped. Jenna is a strong believer in sharing stories in order to make a commitment to your own wellbeing. Sharing our experiences is a way to help others overcome adversity and be a voice of support.
Jenna is humble when she tells me she has merely scratched the surface of what she can share. She feels the more she talks about her eating disorder the more she can reflect and dissect the root cause of her past illness. Jenna’s mantra is to learn from each and every process life throws at you and discover how she can build resilience from these low points in her life.
When I broached the topic of social media with Jenna and how this has impacted on her work, she said that today comparisons are the biggest threat to mental and physical health because of social media. Everything is accessible and everyone has a voice.
"It is a powerful platform," Jenna explains, "It should be used for positive conversation and anything or anyone that lowers your vibrations and distracts you from a positive mindset should be removed. This person or brand no longer serves you. Build relationships with people you can learn from."
Jenna is a dedicated woman striving to encourage individuals to live mindfully, not mindlessly and do so in a way in that supports constant bettering of oneself. If you ever meet Jenna, rest assured that you will be greeted with a large all-encompassing hug. She is selfless and devoted and the fact that she goes through life giving it her all is testament to those who have struggled or are refraining from opening up.
"Everyone has their stories. I mean, look at mine. I can’t put myself above anyone because I am myself; just a human doing my best to make the most of my life and have a positive impact on other people."
And her parting words with me ring loud and clear in my head.
I am human.
R U OK Day 2019 takes place on Thursday 12th September. If you would like to make a donation, you can reach out here: www.ruok.org.au
If you know someone struggling, or you are facing difficulties yourself, you can call Lifeline at any time on 13 11 14