Jennifer Chambers writes from the kitchen table of a full house in the Northwest. In a car accident at 15, she sustained a brain injury that caused her to relearn every faculty of life from walking and talking to tying her shoes. She is co-owner of Groundwaters Publishing LLC and has appeared in media outlets like Redbook,, Blogtalk radio, and various websites. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies as well as e-books. She attended the Iowa Summer Writing program to workshop her first novel, Learning Life Again, prior to publication, and three of her other books have been published since.Teaching creative writing and inspirational speaking are her favorite things to do. Otherwise you can find her traveling cross-country with her family, hoping to add to her life-list of roadside attractions, or playing the ukulele.

“Everyone has an invisible sign around their neck saying, ‘Make me feel important.”- Mary Kay Ash, Mary Kay Cosmetics
The founder of a makeup company might seem like an odd person to quote from for those who know me. Makeup is not something I’m good at. As an analytical thinker by both family and persuasion, I’ve been taught that appearance is an illusion and that my time is better spent improving my interior rather than my exterior. There is a certain amount of truth to that, and my inner sexy librarian would agree.
However, we live in a world where appearance is often valued above all other things, no matter how much my “logical” values want to disprove that. My own body image was colored by that dichotomy as much as anyone else’s is.
I grew up through my teens with a sense that I was a person of euphemisms- “large-boned,” “just healthy,” a person with “birthing hips,” or my least favorite and the most patronizing, a “big girl.” My grandmother told me regularly that I was “too big to wear those clothes” or that I shouldn’t eat because “you don’t want to get too fat,” which she snidely said at my baby shower when I was three months pregnant with my first child.
As a freshman in high school, I tried out the trends with varying degrees of success, but became everlastingly grateful for the 90’s grunge trend. Fashion dressing out of thrift stores? I can hide in that. Army/Navy surplus? Yes, please. It was a style, and a time period, that seemed to allow for uncomplicated individuality and couture divergence from the norm.
Things were curtailed when I was walloped during a car accident with a traumatic brain injury. My complete sense of self was dissolved throughout the course of my recovery. I did not know my own name: let alone who I was supposed to be. The injury gave me a feeling of insecurity on a primal level. Going back to high school after I was considered stable, I began reinventing myself by focusing my value on my appearance, since I couldn’t be sure of what was going on in my own head. When I had facial reconstructive surgery I quite honestly didn’t recognize myself. My wardrobe began to be filled with a lot of short skirts and low tops owing to the fact that the only way I felt valued was for my perceived feminine assets. I was reprimanded more than once about being that girl who lounged on the wall outside the Library so that a certain boy might be able to look down my shirt.
This translated into a very skimpy feeling of self-worth that expanded in college. With my new brain I was always struggling to translate the social code of acceptance. It too often led to the lowest common denominator. How I looked was my currency. Then my healthy workouts stopped when I became involved with an untrustworthy relationship.

I cashed in my self-worth completely when I found myself in Europe, abandoned with no money by the abusive boyfriend whom I’d taken there, in the middle of a snowy street wearing a pair of too-big jeans because I didn’t care about myself enough even to buy clothes that fit. I was ashamed to be in that situation but blamed it on my body, my stupid, impaired body that wasn’t even good enough to stand up for during the previous months of pilfering, abuse and assaults. In that moment I blamed myself because my body wasn’t the normal dominant commodity, when I should have blamed the exploitative abuser.
For a person who values action, having seen how drastically things can change in a moment, it now seems such a waste to have felt bad about myself. Even though it took a long time to feel better, standing in the snow that day was a turning point. This body is the only one I have. I should treat it in a loving, compassionate way so I can extend authentically to those around me. Learning to love the disparate, beautiful mess of humanity we all inhabit daily was the key. I’ve just got to own it and it has and will empower me.
We should all free to be whoever the hell we want to be in and shut out all the noise that says we aren’t sterling. It is human to be smart and to be vulnerable at the same time. It’s all right to love myself first and then to love other people. I choose those around me who are supportive of me and my efforts, and that helps reinforce my decision and resolve for what lies ahead.
It’s my 2014 goal to refine how well I treat myself. For me, that means buying clothes that fit and look great. I have the right to find clothes that look amazing just like anyone does no matter my size or disabilities. I’m making an effort to wear makeup, because I’m finally old enough to comprehend that I can do whatever makes me feel good. That sexy librarian inside me deserves to play.
I think more of us need to acknowledge that we all wear those invisible signs. Everyone has their reasons not to feel good, but if you’re not your own unparalleled advocate than why should anyone else be? I am important, and so are you. We should treat ourselves like it and not sell ourselves short.
Plus, I’ve learned not to be so damn serious. That helps!
I’ll talk about how I learned to feel better about myself and became my own best advocate when I present my “Self-Advocacy Toolbox: Steps for An Empowered Life,” at The Body Love Conference on April 5. Stop by and talk to me about what makes you feel empowered. I’ll leave you with this:
"You are the conductor of your own attitude!
Nobody else can compose your thoughts for you." -Lee J. Colan

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