SJ: As you begin to discover who you are, there’s the pressure to cave in and be who everyone else wants you be. Fight for yourself. Have your own identity. Be authentic, and be genuine.
TR: How has blogging helped you get through those tough periods in your life, particularly the end of your 4-year marriage and divorce at age 23?
SJ: I started blogging approximately three years ago. I was married and I eventually found out that my husband [at the time] was expecting a child with another woman. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get a divorce and I was in a lot of pain. After having gotten pregnant at 13, I always did what I thought I was supposed to do in order to fix that. I started to write about these emotions and people really began to respond to my transparency. My followers started to share their own stories with me, and through that process I made it my life’s mission to create work that would allow myself, and others, to be more accepting of themselves. I realized that I wasn’t alone and that we were all hurting and broken.
TR: Describe that aha moment when you said, “Enough is enough. I need to stop punishing myself for this pregnancy, and live my life.”
SJ: I was introducing my father at a conference, and began to speak about my journey and how I was trying to loosen myself from the shame of my past. A 50-year-old woman came up to me and told me that she too had a child at age 14 and was beginning to forgive herself—35 years later. At that point, I realized that 35 years was too long to allow one mistake to define me. I didn’t want to carry that shame any longer.
TR: How have readers responded to your book?
SJ: It’s been pretty incredible. They read my story and tell me that they see so much of themselves in me, while others tell me that although they weren’t a teen mom they still identified with how I had low self-esteem. People are seeing bits and pieces of themselves in the story. A lot of people feel isolated.
TR: What’s the best part of being Sarah Jakes?
SJ: [Laughter.] I think that I’m finally really loving myself. This is the first time in my life where I’m not living for anyone else. I’m not paying for anyone’s mistakes. I’m being who I am. It’s very liberating. The most incredible part about that is when you show your authentic self to other people, it feels good to be received so well. All of your experiences make you who you are. It’s been an incredible journey. It’s all a result of me loving myself.
TR: As a 25-year-old divorcee, how might you advise women, particularly those in their 20s, who are looking for a partner to eventually marry?