Today we’d like to introduce you to Jennifer Norman.
Jennifer, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
It’s kinda crazy, but this year I turn 50.
Maybe it’s because I’ve taken so many dizzying trips around the sun, but recently I’ve felt the need to hit the pause button, sit in stillness and listen to my inner voice. It’s helped me discover my human purpose and lean more deeply into consciousness as a whole.
As I think about ‘my story,’ I think about the experiences that were put in my path to test, teach, strengthen, and ultimately allow me to share some meaningful lessons with others. These lessons all seem to underscore one key theme: compassion.
A little bit of background. I was born in South Korea but abandoned by my birth parents when I was one year old. I was soon rescued by kind-hearted people who brought me to an orphanage for care. Not before long, I was adopted into a loving family and raised in Smithtown, New York. Fast forward to becoming a parent, my first and only child has a rare genetic disorder that renders him severely disabled, both physically and neurologically. Needless to say, being his mom and a key catalyst in his fight for life is the most profound lesson in compassion that I have ever experienced.
I have come to realize that my purpose in life is to help others discover the healing power of compassion for themselves.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Being the youngest of six mismatched kids and always feeling oddly out of place, I developed an outwardly competitive spirit, but I also developed internally low self-esteem. I think a lot of people can relate to the idea that you can be perceived as having a certain level of smarts or looks or talent yet still feel really crappy about yourself on the inside. Part of the problem is comparison disorder – feeling like there are so many who do more or have more or achieve more or attract more and feeling defeated because no matter how hard you try, you come up short. Another part of the problem is workaholic disorder – feeling the need to clock insane hours and burn the candle at all ends to prove your worth.
I fell victim to these disorders and soon became my own worst enemy. I overworked myself and spent way too much energy striving for the approval of others. On the inside, my mental and emotional wellness was in crisis. I started smoking, developed bulimia and constantly talked down to myself because I felt I wasn’t good enough. It impacted my ability to maintain friendships and intimacy because I really wasn’t satisfied with myself. I didn’t love myself.
The turning point in my life was when at the age of two, my ‘perfectly’ normal, healthy son suddenly became weak and then critically ill. He was hospitalized and then fell into a coma that lasted three months. His heart stopped several times. The doctors had no answers but to say that my son had a rare mitochondrial disorder called Leigh Syndrome that had no cure and caused most children to die by the age of three. Being faced with the possible death of your child is probably the most painful experience imaginable. It can cause a lot of people to lose hope, but for some reason, perhaps the outpouring of love and light sent from so many people, I held onto hope that my son would make it through. And make it through he did.
This year, my son will be fourteen years old.
The journey from the day my son first became ill up to this moment has not been easy. When he was discharged from the hospital, he had a tracheostomy and a ventilator to help him breathe. Critical parts of his brain had been damaged from inflammation. He had to relearn how to speak and how to move purposefully. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, more doctors than you can imagine, and the most incredible home nurses came into our lives. Yet answers about his condition were still limited. We only knew that his body didn’t have the ability to make the amount of energy required to support normal life, that his disease was a progressive degenerative one, and that his prognosis was bleak. Over the years, my son would be in and out of the hospital more times than I can count. He would lose his ability to move or speak or eat by mouth. He would battle tachycardia, febrility, infections, hypertonia, hypotonia and seizures. But he would survive and show us that all of the things I used to care about were so unimportant. He would give me the greatest gifts of all — the will to live and love and show others just how blessed they are.
From my son, I’ve learned the difference between sympathy and empathy and compassion. The three terms are very much related, and sometimes they are used interchangeably, but here are the differences. When you have sympathy, you feel sorry for someone or about something. When you have empathy, you can understand what that person is going through. But when you have compassion, you actively do something to help that person. That is why compassion is so important. Thoughts and prayers are nice, but people who put their thoughts and prayers to action are those that will really help heal the world. And those people that truly learn how to love themselves are best able to spread love to others.
Please tell us about The Human Beauty Movement.
I recently founded a company called The Human Beauty Movement, The HBM for short. This new initiative is built upon the 20-plus years of experience I have in the beauty industry and is energized by compassion to heal the way we perceive ourselves, treat others and respect our world. The HBM is under development to be a socially-minded brand builder, product & service curator, and e-commerce platform that ignites radical inclusion, wellness and sustainability in the beauty industry and beyond. The first products to be launched by The HBM is a facial skincare line called Humanist Beauty coming out later this year.
A lot of people don’t know this, but there is a new kind of corporate structure called a ‘public benefit company’ that blends the for-profit business construct with a legal obligation to perform social good. The HBM is this type of business. Through a model of striving for financial success with an equal commitment to social benevolence, we are one of the few companies who have signed up to be in business as a force for good. We won’t cut corners, harm consumers or the planet in order to achieve financial gain like many other companies unfortunately do. We put people and the planet first, and we work to achieve financial goals while doing it.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I absolutely feel like Los Angeles is a great place to start a business like mine. There are plenty of like-minded individuals in this city that want to ascend to more purpose-driven living rather than settling for superficial glitz and glamour alone. Society is moving away from the notion of ‘work-life balance’ toward ‘work-life integration’. Los Angeles allows for this to happen both naturally and technically. People just need to be open to it.
- Website: www.the-hbm.com
- Email: email@example.com
Eric Ward (featured photo)
Taylor Cahill (all other photos)