Bold Brilliant Beautiful You | What I Need…

by , posted on March 27th, 2014 in Bold Brilliant Beautiful You

BBBY project - I need

It’s the end of the month and here I am writing a response to March’s Bold Brilliant Beautiful You challenge. I’ve known about it since February and yet, I’ve sat on it. More honestly, I’ve avoided it.

When I started out on this BBBY project, I was filled with enthusiasm. I’ve always like the start of projects. I keep dozens of notebooks filled with ideas for projects I’ll never finish. I would be embarrassed, but I’ve come to a place in my life where I refused to feel ashamed for that sort of thing anymore.

Honestly, I think on some level, I don’t execute these projects because I lack the time and resources, but because I don’t want to sully them. When things are an idea, they’re crisp and beautiful. There’s no one saying, “That won’t work because x, y and z!” before you’ve even started. They’re a beautiful blank canvas you just know is going to be filled with the most amazing, incredible painting ever. For me, it’s the potential.

Now I view the process of generating ideas that will never become more than a list on paper as an exciting exercise just for me.

I guess what I’m saying is, the reality of this project has finally hit and I’ve been running from it. The truth is, I see this prompt as asking for help. And that’s something I rarely, bordering on never, do.

Don’t get me wrong, I see no shame in others asking for help. I love it when people ask me! It makes me feel useful! Honestly. It’s why I do what I do! I think the world would be a far better place if we all just said what we needed. I’m not sure if it’s a American thing (we are a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps country), it’s a woman thing (we haven’t always been conditioned to speak up), or if it’s just a personality thing (being a fiercely stubborn type). Whatever the cause, it’s a shame. Of course I say that as someone who is part of that shame.

But there’s a sense of security that comes with thinking you can do it all on your own. It’s false security sure, but even false security feels like the real thing until it crumbles. By thinking you can do it on your own, you don’t have to let anyone get too close. They never see the cracks in the armor.

And let’s be honest, there’s good, solid historical reason for not exposing those cracks; those parts of you that are soft and tender and when hit can inflict great pain. They’re what the opponent aims for.

But the question becomes, who am I fighting?


And it’s not just fear that keeps me from saying what I need, it’s the commitment that comes with it. Once I speak those words, I need, put them out into the universe, there’s no turning back. If I say, “I need to break up with social media” or “I need to make a living,” I better pony up. You can’t just say you need to eat healthier and expect it to happen without any kind of investment. It takes work. Wants and needs are two different things. Wants are wishes. Needs require work.

So today, I’m finally pushing through the fear and anxiety I feel. I have no idea in what form the answers to my needs will come, or if they will come at all. But this list has been on my mind for some time now. It even keeps me up at night. I’ll be honest, it’s very personal and very long, so you might want to skip it.

Deep breath…

I need to make an income. This blog has been amazing on a personal level and has taught me so much professionally. It basically kept me sane as a stay-at-home mom and helped me sharpen my skills. But it’s a lot to maintain and there are costs to maintaining it. And while it’s lead to some nice, high-profile outside jobs working for PBS, Disney, etc, I still haven’t earned a living wage since I left the “real” workforce even though I put in more than 40 hours a week.

I need space to think. For me this means stepping away from social media and carving out a physical space of my own. We live in a tiny house. Dave and I both work in it. If I’m going to continue writing, drawing and publishing, I need a space where I can think without distraction. Truthfully, I didn’t realize how much of a loner I was until I had young kids. I really, really need my alone time without noise from others in order to function. I am incredibly cranky when I don’t get it.

work space

I need a team OR I need to accept I can’t do it all and make adjustments. The problem with having a team to help you run things is that you also need to pay them. I have so many ideas for this space—videos, writing workshops for kids, classes that help parents bridge the gap between school and home (and make learning fun and not a complete stress-fest of testing)… I see a whole audience of parents, like me, who aren’t yet ready to yank their kids from the school system but also recognize their kids aren’t learning anything during all the standardized testing. They’d like to give their kids some meaningful activities they can do outside of school. Of course, all of that takes people and money. And while I have no trouble running a non-profit, it’s the world from whence I came, I need to make enough to put food on our table. I need to make sure the people helping make enough to put food on their tables too.

I need to commit to a direction/job title. I have been extremely lucky to work on so many amazing projects in my time. I’ve created this space, produced a video series, written for some powerhouse family brands and I’ve just recently taken on my first design client. (Super excited about that one!) And that’s all just the online stuff. I have a whole history before that of speaking at universities, developing internship programs, staffing large teams, and teaching. But I’ve never been able to leverage that into something more sustainable. I want to make a go of this site, but I won’t do it by selling my soul.

image ©Dave Cooper

I need to stop fearing that I’m not relatable. To be honest, I don’t care to be anymore. I won’t change things about me to make you like me more. I’d just end up disappointing us both. I hope that you find me to be a kind and thoughtful person. But if I stress you out, or cause you roll your eyes, it’s okay. We can part ways. I say that out of absolute respect for both of us. I hope you find someone who makes you feel passionate about the things you want to feel passion for. There’s room enough for all of us in this world.

I need someone to clean my house. But then again, don’t we all.

Now if you’re feeling up to it, tell me something that you need. While potentially anxiety inducing, there’s great power in speaking the words. I’d love to hear your voice.


About the Bold Brilliant Beautiful You project:

Throughout the year, I’m joining forces with some of my blogging friends to motivate and encourage ourselves and others to be bold and step out from behind the lens, projects, and mama status to show ourselves. That’s right, we’re doing something just for us.

And we’re inviting you to join us! Each of us has something bold, brilliant and beautiful inside—whether it’s a dream to ask for a promotion, wear those sparkly shoes in the back of our closet, or start a non-profit. The #boldbeautifulbrilliant project is a support group for all of us seeking to be real and vulnerable. No judging, no questions, just support and words of encouragement.

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30 Responses to “Bold Brilliant Beautiful You | What I Need…”

  1. Eden Says:

    March 27th, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    This post took so much courage, and I can relate to so many of your statements. (My I Need post sits half scrawled on post-its with what feel like superficial socially acceptable “needs” and tasks that need to get done to move forward.)

    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    You know what Eden, I think that’s what took me so long too. I wanted to be really and truly honest. I can easily slide into that superficial thing. Maybe because it’s popular, maybe because that how internet-based publishing typically is now or maybe it’s just out of fear.

    But it’s not me.

    In fact, for most of the things I write, I find myself back-pedaling because I know surface is what’s popular. And if I want this blog to ever be a source of income, it’s something I thought I needed to consider so I’d be more “likeable.” Or, in other terms vanilla, which is a mighty fine flavor but you can get anywhere.

    I do hope that you’re able to eventually write your post. I would love to read it. xo

  2. Caroline Says:

    March 27th, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    I love you, my friend.

    This was beautiful and honest and exactly YOU and everything I love about you.

    I need many of these things too and you articulated them so well. If I can do what I love and earn a wage and still be available for my children that’s perfection for me. I suppose that is what I need.

    I am proud of the artist you are evolving into. I have always seen you as a real, true artist and the words of this essay (in my opinion) are your acceptance of that fact. It’s meant to be.

    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    I told you last night, but I’m going to tell you again, thank you for this.

  3. Sandra Says:

    March 27th, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    My “I need” post is also sitting half written. What a wonderful post and I can soooo relate to not being able to ask for help AND to that to & fro of trying to make everyone feel comfortable. Yes to the “stressing you out or cause you to roll your eyes”.

    It’s just too tiring to hide who you are and lessen your passions

    And I don’t know if I’m brave enough to write my own post. There. I said it.

    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    Don’t underestimate yourself, but I totally understand if you skip this one.

    I know we’ve had this conversation before about the eye rollers, but how much better do you feel now that you’re being more true to who you are and not investing energy in the haters?!

    Sandra Reply:

    Yup. And I’m MUCH MUCH more picky about who I hang out with and when. I have reached my lifetime allotment of blather/cocktail party chitchat and avoid any event where I just won’t fit.

  4. stacy Says:

    March 27th, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    You guys are bounds ahead of me. I haven’t even had the courage to make a list of my “needs” yet. This month proved difficult for me, but enlightening as well. It certainly instigated a period of growth for me I had not intended as I can see it has done for you as well. One thing I know we also need, is each other. And I am so glad to have found this tribe of bold, brilliant, beautiful women!! Love you woman.

    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    You are so right about that. We DO need each other. I know that it’s through my supportive group of friends that I’ve been allowed to grow into my own. Thank you for being a part of it.

  5. Leslie Says:

    March 27th, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    Well done!! I relate to so much on your list and I have been slowly making these things happen for myself too. I LOVE my studio space, it’s an entire room all to myself. It’s taken a number of years for me to claim it, but it really is all mine now. Also, I have someone clean my house. It’s amazing. Really worth the investment. Think of it this way, you will be investing in yourself, by giving yourself more time to do the work you want to do. Good luck with everything!! It’ll happen, these things just take a little time. xoxo

    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    It’s definitely an investment I’d like to make one of these days. *le sigh* ;)

  6. Alexandra Hedin Says:

    March 27th, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    You are a rockstar Jen. This is such an inspiring post – love.


    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    Thank you Ali! Sending you smooches right back. xx

  7. Birute Efe Says:

    March 27th, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    I have decided to write down my “needs” before I read yours, Jennifer, because so many times I read your posts and I relate so much to you, but then I think it’s because I really like how you write… :) Anyway, after having your page open from breakfast till midnight tea time I sat down to write my ‘needs’. They were: 1. I need to make money. Somehow. With my blog. 2. I need to learn how to say ‘no’ much firmer. 3. I need to find working/creative space for my blogging and crafting moments, since we are moving to the farm. 4. I need to learn the language of the country I live in now (it’s been a year, girl, get it together). 5. I need to start something fun and beneficial for the community women. They need that here. I do have few ideas in mind but too shy to start anything. SO here you go, my needs. IT feels better now since I wrote them down. Thank you, as always, Jennifer, for inspiring me…

    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    Oh how I completely relate to everything you wrote. Well, except for the number 4. Although we’ve dreamed of living abroad for a little while, just not sure how to make that happen yet. You are an amazing woman!

    I am so happy that our paths crossed.

  8. Deborah Says:

    March 28th, 2014 at 12:14 am

    Beautifully said Jen. I love what you wrote about not changing for someone else to like or relate to you. So honest and true.


    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    Thank you Deborah for that and your unwavering support all these years. I am beyond lucky to have you as my cheerleader!

  9. Mary Says:

    March 28th, 2014 at 8:55 am

    Thank you so much for this. You are so brave and I completely identify. And as with some of the women above, I have my list scrawled in several journals, and some days I feel like the very idea of looking at it gives me anxiety. The thing that you wrote that resonated with me most was how you didn’t realize how much of a loner you were until you had young kids. I was always told how I was such an extravert for a lot of my life (I think because I was an actress for many years). But my thirties, having my 2 young daughters, holding down the house (and cleaning it) while launching my art business has taught me that I am WAY more introverted. I covet my alone time. Create best when I can work uninteruppted and in a flow state. I’ve realized that part of me feels “bad” for working from home. It is so nice knowing that I am not alone. Finding a tribe of creatives (a lot of them moms to boot) has helped me continue to forge ahead in my creative pursuits. So thank you.

    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    Mary, thank you so much for commenting. I can’t tell you how good it is to hear I’m not alone either.

    I ‘present’ as an extravert. And for many years I thought maybe I was because I love cities and markets, but something never really felt right about it. Sure, I will chat it up with people at parties and I will get down on the dance floor like nobody’s business, but I absolutely need my alone time/time inside my own head.

    ps. This post was written in one of those ‘flow states’ where I was home alone and able to write without interruption. Sometimes, I feel I’m my truest self in those moments.

    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    pps. Saw we’re ‘We Are the Contributors’ Alums. So cool!!

    Sandra Reply:

    Yes to you and Mary realizing that you are introverts. Me too – and I’m the mom of a big old extrovert whose love currency is interaction. It’s been an “education” about needs and how not to take it personally if I need some recharge time.

    I too present as extroverted. Well, I USED to present as more extroverted! I think I might be in the middle – I’m going out to an instagram food styling event/contest on Saturday night and can’t wait to hang out. BUT, I need my SNYT alone time on the weekends too.

    Megan Reply:

    Wow. I am so happy to have read this!
    I feel like I could have written Mary’s response myself, though much less expressively.
    (Thank you, Jennifer, for bringing such personal truth to the forefront so that we can have a conversation about this and recognize our true needs as well, without remorse.)
    Like Mary and you, I appear to everyone an extrovert and often struggle to claim quiet time to do my own work (I’m a SAHM and artist/art teacher). I’ve often felt guilty about not relishing the time I’m privileged to spend at home with my children, which my husband is quite jealous about. My moments when I am completely alone are rare.
    I think I’m echoing what Mary, you, and others have expressed: a NEED for social balance. This sounds so cliche and I wish I knew a more effective word to express it, but I sense that it’s a craving to belong to a group of like-minded individuals (which humans as herd creatures have a tendency to do whether through religion, politics, or other channels) while maintaining that precious and elusive alone time.
    I’ve searched for my creative tribe, and it’s so nice to have found so many creative moms here. Thanks, again, Jennifer for creating ways to bring us together.

    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    Meg, you made me cry a little just now. Thank you so much. I think it’s important to be honest. I really do. I don’t think there’s any room for shame when we’re honest and open.

    I know exactly what you mean about not relishing the time. Dave, my husband, worked out of the home for many years when the kids were little. He was jealous of my time with the kids (and how they seemed to bond with me), I was jealous of him getting to listen to music and eating lunches that weren’t ‘kid-approved.’

    I think I can also talk about this so openly now because I’m not in the thick of it anymore and I see that even though I didn’t maybe relish every moment or even play with them 100% of the time, the kids turned out great! I think they appreciate space as much as I do. In fact, my daughter is a mini version of me in that way. She needs her alone time to write, draw and read.

    So I guess what I’m saying is I don’t feel any guilt now. You should never feel guilt either.

    Sending lots of love!

  10. Jennifer Says:

    March 31st, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    Never feel shame when asking for what you need! (If we could all follow this we’d be all set!). I liked this post! I also really really love that framed print/poster in the photo – is that unique or would you ever mind sharing a source ?? Thanks!

    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    Isn’t that an amazing poster?! It’s displayed in this shop. Next time I’m in there I’ll ask them where they found it!

  11. Elizabeth Says:

    April 1st, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    I could have written this list myself. It happens every now and again, but I think some big time reevaluation is in the air these days. These days, I don’t even know what I need to get my life on track (aside from an actual unplugged vacation). It seems we are all so good at expanding just past the point we can actually deal with. Can’t wait to see how you approach your list and the project overall.

    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    “It seems we are all so good at expanding just past the point we can actually deal with.”

    That is so perfectly stated. I wonder why that is. Is it a function of the times, or is it a personality thing? All I know is that you’ve given me some perspective today. Thank you for that.

  12. Jessica Says:

    April 3rd, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Thank you for sharing this in such an honest way. I haven’t written my needs post because I just couldn’t find the voice for it – for the same reasons you hesitated and put it off until the end of the month. Your writing is so genuine and is totally relateable. I’m very happy to have stumbled across your blog through BBBY and can’t wait to read more.

  13. Tina Says:

    August 19th, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    I came across your website, and fell in love with your framed Dalai Lama quote…along with your site. Could you please tell me where you purchased it? I love it.


    Jennifer Cooper Reply:

    Hi Tina,

    Yeah, the picture of that quote has been super popular. It’s so lovely, isn’t it? That photo was taken in a local shop near me that’s now closed. They had it as a store fixture.

    But I did a quick internet search and think you can find it for purchase here:

    I’m not sure if you can find a cheaper version somewhere. I will tell you the one I saw in person is very large, hence the price. :)

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