I must admit: I’m a podcast fanatic. I’ve wanted to start my own podcast for a long time, but it took me several years to finally do it. Now, I’m loving every minute of the experience, particularly connecting with my guests. I have met so many tremendous people by simply inviting them to come on the show, and today's guest is another example of that. Jen Keefe and I connected on the “She Podcasts” Facebook group.
Jen is a podcaster and host of “Real Women’s Work.” She is also a voiceover artist, and she has a beautiful story to share about her struggles with anxiety and mental health, and how she found her way through. In today’s episode, she’s sharing more of that story with you.
About Jen Keefe
(2:00) Along with being a fellow podcaster, Jen also works as a voiceover artist and also shares her mental health struggles with her listeners and readers. She’s been featured in a variety of outlets, including Huffington Post, Parent's Magazine, and she was cast to read her writing at the live stage show “Listen to Your Mother.”
When asked how her business serves the world, Jen says she technically helps people bring their voices and visions into the world. But more than that, she’s learned over the past few years that through her work, she has become “the person that felt comfortable doing that and embracing my creativity and understanding that that really is a gift to the world.”
She continues, “I started my own podcast, and that is serving the world in a way that really excites me. I hope it's serving the world by giving women more of a space to talk specifically about how they work. And there's so much wisdom and lessons that come out of those conversations.”
Jen’s Work as a Voiceover Artist
(4:35) I wanted to know more about Jen’s work as a voiceover artist. She told me she started in the profession many years ago, thanks to her sister’s friend, a talent recruiter in Manhattan. But it was before the time of Facebook, so she started by calling around to radio stations.
Just like any business, Jen said, it’s not just about talent. “There's so much more that goes into becoming a voiceover talent and building a business around it, from getting coached properly, finding your genre, your niche, really where you're going to focus.” And then, of course, just as anyone in business knows Jen spent most of her time marketing, but for her it was marketing her voice.
Even after she started her work, though, her self-worth and confidence issues crept in and made her doubt her career choice. Then, after a traumatic first pregnancy, she put her voiceover career on hold. She only began pursuing it as a profitable business over the past year.
Facing Adversity and Refusing to Be Defined by Our Business
(6:50) As you heard in Jen’s story, her life shifted at one point. The adversity in her life caused her to press pause and walk away. When she came back, it was with a renewed with a greater sense of purpose and understanding.
Jen says, “Life did happen unexpectedly and not as planned. And life kept happening for a number of years and ultimately…made me really take a good long look at my self-worth and where my self-worth was.” When she began to shift how she saw herself, that’s when Jen says her life began to change.
Jen’s story of self-worth resonates strongly with me, and I suspect it will with you as well. For me, this whole entrepreneurship journey has been not just about the business side, but it's also been about coming into my own and stepping into my identity as a CEO. So much of that is tied to self-worth because I want to do my job well and take pride in the work that I do, but I'm also more than what I do. The struggle is learning to connect with the work that I'm doing and be proud of it, but not have it define me to the point that my self-worth is intrinsically tied to it.
As Jen says, our goals are tied to this self-worth too, because our goals should be measured not just in output and income, but also in terms of other growth measures. I believe that as business owners, it is important to be clear on our vision, know what we want, identify a strategy, and set goals. But the trick is to hold those goals lightly so that we don't get overly attached to them. That way, if things don’t work out as expected, we aren’t overly disappointed, and we're not defined by whether we've hit those goals or not.
Our self-worth and our right to exist is not dependent
upon whether we checked all the boxes on our to-do list.
Jen also talks about a podcast episode she heard, where the speaker found that most entrepreneurs feel like they hadn’t hit their goals halfway through the year. But when asked to recount what they had accomplished, it ended up being a relatively long list. Seeing the progress causes a mindset shift, and suddenly we feel better about all that we have done.
As I said in the podcast, let’s stop looking at what’s undone and what’s still outstanding, and instead look at all the outstanding things we have already done.
Business is a balance. While you don’t want to move too far to one side and define your self-worth based on your business’s performance, you can’t completely ignore the fact that businesses need to produce income to survive.
The “Real Women’s Work” Podcast
(11:45) I asked Jen to share with us her experience starting a hosting the “Real Women’s Work” podcast (something she’s done for just over a year now!) I love that she says it “has been so unexpected.”
Jen says, “[The podcast] has served me directly by helping me to see my value, increase my self-worth, and improve my confidence…all because of my conversations with guests every week. When I look back and even listen back to those first ten interviews and episodes, I can hear the shift in my own voice…I was just starting to climb out of the lowest point of my life, and I can hear that in myself in the conversations.”
Podcasting not only allows our listeners to connect and take away different nuggets of wisdom, but it also allows us as the hosts to learn from others, learn lessons, and gain strength from our guests as well. And, as Jen puts it, “seeing how capable and strong and smart and savvy and all-around amazing women are has strengthened me in a way that I just wasn't expecting.”
Something I find interesting is that I record my episodes days or even weeks before they air. But inevitably, whatever I'm talking about with my guests is relevant both at the time of recording and when it’s released. I learn something new both when I record and when I play it back.
“Stories Are Always Relevant”
(14:45) For us podcasters – and even podcast listeners – it is all about the story. Listening to others’ stories helps us connect with other people. And when I’m recording, whether alone or with a guest, my intuition tells me that somewhere, on some level, what I’m saying is what the world needs at this moment.
I’ve talked about Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic on this podcast before, but Jen brought this incredible book up again in this episode. In the book, Gilbert talks about the little ideas that nudge at us – our intuition. If we don’t respond to those ideas, they’re going to go to someone else because they have to come out into the world eventually. Sometimes, it’s up to us to take the idea and claim it as ours.
When Jen started the “Real Women’s Work” podcast, she was coming out of the lowest point of her life, coming out of a mental breakdown. The idea for the podcast was nudging at her. She took the hint and started the podcast. And, she says, “I’m so glad I listened.”
Starting a podcast helped her to engage regularly. In fact, that’s Jen’s word of the year: “Engage.” It forced her to be productive and to engage with other people. So that nudge from her intuition wasn’t just for the listeners – it was for her.
Jen Opens Up About Her Mental Health
(17:15) Jen’s story is so beautiful because of her willingness to be open about her struggles with anxiety and mental health issues. I asked her to share her story with the listeners and tell us how she used her intuition and chose to engage, which ultimately served her in her journey out of anxiety.
Jen says anxiety has been something she’s had her whole life (and I can relate). “A huge part of what led to my low point and mental breakdown a couple of years ago was not valuing and trusting my intuition, which of course, is not valuing and trusting myself,” she says. “When you have high self-worth, and you're valuing your own thoughts and wisdom and experience, that to me is our intuition.”
I so resonate with Jen’s description of anxiety and how it relates to intuition. When I think back to the times in my own life I’ve had anxious crises, it was when I was disconnected from myself, when I silenced my intuition and put the emphasis on other people's thoughts, or the “what ifs.” Anxiety shows its head when I become so external that I drown out my own inner voice.
As Jen puts it, “When we silence ourselves, somebody else’s voices are going to be in our head.” If we choose to listen to the voices telling us we aren’t good enough, it’s going to be a recipe for poor mental health.
Choosing to Engage
(21:00) Jen’s way out of anxiety and a mental breakdown was to engage. I asked her to tell me more about what it means to engage and why she decided it was so important for her.
Two years ago, Jen was coming out of a low point in her life. During that time, her sister, an avid runner, shared with her a quote by marathon runner Des Linden, who earlier had felt like she should have dropped out of the Boston Marathon because she started off so poorly. But instead, she didn’t:
“I was in third or fourth, and I thought, ‘I probably shouldn’t drop out,’ so I kept going,” Linden said. “I mean honestly, I felt miserable, and sometimes when you pick it up and just forget about how you’re feeling and just engage for a little bit, it can kind of turn everything around.”
That quote, says Jen, meant everything in that moment. Jen felt miserable. But she decided if she could just set aside her feelings and engage, she, like Linden, might be able to turn everything around.
“So that became my daily practice,” Jen says. “Just engage a little bit, get back into the world, reach out to people, do anything that’s productive.” But, she points out, that didn’t mean ignoring the feelings and never processing the mental health break, but it was a simple and straightforward task: “how can I engage in this moment?”
“Even when I felt like I couldn't possibly talk to anybody, I had already engaged by scheduling the interview,” explains Jen. “And so I had to engage by having the conversation, and I left that conversation feeling strengthened, empowered, connected, productive… Engaging is what turned things around for me.
Side note here: I love Des Linden. I remember hearing an interview from her on the “Another Mother Runner” podcast a while back when Des had just had a baby and was returning to running. She talked about how she knew it would be different, because she was different. And linking that with the idea of engaging is extraordinary. I love that “engaging” was a lifeline for Jen.
The Make It Work Moment
(25:30) In this week’s Make It Work Moment, Jen shares with us a challenge to live by her word of the year: engage. Even if you’re at the lowest of the low points, find a way to engage, even in a small way. If you’re doing well in your business and your life, think of how you can engage in bigger, bolder ways.
When you’re engaging, you’re staying busy, and this keeps negative thoughts from infiltrating our minds.
You can get a more in-depth look at this week’s Make It Work Moment through my weekly email. Just sign up here, and I’ll send you a Sunday morning message to reiterate what we talked about this week.
I so enjoyed my interview with Jen Keefe. To connect with her and hear more about her story, follow the links below.
Mentioned In This Episode:
- Work Your Inner Wisdom Website
- “She Podcasts” Facebook Group
- Jen’s “Real Women’s Work” Podcast
- Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic
- Des Linden – Marathon Runner
- Another Mother Runner Podcast: Interview with Des Linden
- Connect with Jen Keefe:
- Lee’s Book ACT On Your Business: Braving the Storms of Entrepreneurship and Creating Success Through Meaning, Mindset, and Mindfulness
- The Work Your Inner Wisdom Facebook Community
- Connect with Lee on Instagram: @lcmcdonough