Jennifer Buffett

February 2, 2011
Jennifer Buffett

There are those women who touch us, DEEPLY. You know the ones.

The woman whose very presence pierces our heart and BREAK US OPEN even wider to the woman we are supposed to be.

The woman who inspires us to sit inside our darkness, our fear, and our truth.

The woman who forces us to rise up and unleash our most alive and powerful self.
The woman who changes us. FOREVER AND FOR GOOD.

Jennifer Buffett is one of those women.

Last September I had the great privilege of hearing Jennifer speak at the Women and Power Conference at The Omega Institute. She took the stage and shared her most heartfelt, gut-wrenching, vulnerable life story. There was no sugar coating, no glamorizing, no idealized version. This was down and dirty.

This was the “someone might get hurt, someone might get offended, someone might feel betrayed, someone might not understand me” kind of story.

As I listened to Jennifer share her most intimate and personal story, I saw myself.

I felt EVERYTHING about who she used to be when she was a woman who made herself small and literally LOST HER VOICE.

But through her remarkable courage, Jennifer not only found her own voice and unleashed her most powerful self; she empowered thousands of other women to do the same.

After witnessing Jennifer speak at Omega, I knew I had to reach out to her. I contacted Jennifer and asked if she would be willing to do an exclusive interview for Real Beauty Is. I was deeply moved by her response:

Hi Lori,

I am grateful for your email. Thank you…

I, like you, have been saved by beauty… We all seem to walk this dirt road away from ourselves and we become so parched and we forget… But then by some act of grace or remembering, our inner sign-posts or tiny voices whisper to us and lead us back… To who we really are. It’s like the flowing waters get turned back on again…And we cannot believe what was there inside us all along. Feeling beauty is a BIG deal.

I am glad that my sharing at Omega touched you… That was my hope and intention… And also to free myself. To really “say it” as it is and how I was and am no longer and why.

So… Happy to help in any way. I often feel the pull between wanting to savor the world and save it (although I really believe it’s in the saving ourselves and opening our hearts we accomplish much, “saving others” doesn’t really work). So I will savor as I go ….

Be well and thanks,

It is with great excitement and honor that I share with you the extraordinary Real Beauty Is Interview with Jennifer Buffett.

Jennifer talks about self-love, the decision to be worthy, figuring out her place in this world and MUCH MORE.

RBI: How do you define real beauty?

Jennifer: Self-love is real beauty. The natural world is our connection to ancient, deep and real beauty. No one can make something more beautiful than mother-nature can.

We often mistake “fashion” as beauty but fashion is something else. Beauty is something you FEEL in your heart and is also an attitude.

People I know who are really beautiful possess a deep sense of love and ok-“ness” inside. Everything is as it should be. Even the struggles and the things that are difficult. When we can go into the heart and in our souls and know that these struggles are our opportunities for learning, evolving and growing – THIS is beauty… This beautifying of (and becoming) of our souls makes us wiser, stronger and more beautiful.

RBI: What are some things you do to feel good about yourself?

Jennifer: Doing and being a part of good work and good work with colleagues, preparing and sharing meals with my husband and friends … Hiking near my house and taking care of myself. I feel really good when I am able to give quality time to my relationships – listening and BEING very present with people in my life. I feel good when I have time to be still, quiet and contemplative. I feel good when I rise to challenges – like giving a great speech that is meaningful that connects to people’s hearts, and when I really step up with my heart in my work and leadership at the Foundation.

RBI: What advice would you give to a woman struggling with her self-worth?

Jennifer: What not to do? Do not isolate yourself. I used to wall myself off from others until I felt better. My experience is that this makes the struggle harder.

Surround yourself with people who mirror back your goodness and who help you feel seen, heard and valued – not depleted. If no adult does this for you try animals or children! They know how to give unconditional love and will remind you how to do this again!

What to do? Anything creative! Move! Get out of your head! Creative acts are healing. Self-discovery is an antidote to low self-worth. This could be learning a skill, planting a garden or helping someone in need. If we give something worthwhile of ourselves to another, our actions tell our subconscious mind that we must have it to give! Participate (in anything positive). Show up. Learn. Inertia and isolation are demons to look out for. Lastly, I’d say that we either spend our lives experiencing the world affirming our worthlessness, because of our own negative beliefs about ourselves, OR we believe in our worth and the world affirms it! The decision to BE worthy lies with us. The world is just a mirror and will fall in with our choice.

RBI: How did you figure out your place in this world? How did you know when you were doing exactly what you were meant to do?

Jennifer: I am still trying to figure out my place in the world and see this as an ongoing evolution. I ask myself all of the time, “what’s my best and highest role? Is it time to listen and learn or is it time to act? How can I make small, personal, loving differences every day as well as big and bold lasting ones too?”

I think I figured out my place in this world by making a commitment to figure out my place in the world. I realized this wasn’t just for me but that me finding my way could result in positive impact for others and I wanted that. You first must find and connect to your passion and what you believe in and stand for. Then you have to believe and act as though you are entitled to a place and a voice and a role in the world that is meaningful around your passion. Then you have to start to wear and fill those shoes and walk around in them. And remember, no one acts alone. As I assemble a team and partners at the foundation to accomplish our vision and our work, I realize I am in exactly the right place and we are all aligning, harmonizing, bringing our gifts and doing what we are supposed to be doing separately and together – like a chorus or an orchestra.

I saw myself in so many girls and women I met around the world, and them in me, women and girls who were struggling to surmount great obstacles, I felt such compassion and connectedness to them… This is when I started to see my place in the world. I realized that I could help amplify their voices and tell their stories, support them and value who they were and what they were about.

RBI: How important do you think it is for women to support each other?

Jennifer: Immensely important. This is so key and such a key. We’ve experienced hundreds of years being socialized to be separate, to fear one another, compete for a limited supply of jobs, resources, status, men; you name it, and not support one another. This was, and is, a great weapon of patriarchy – keeping the women separated by artificial ideas like class or race and therefore dis-empowered.

But we have a huge opportunity to realize that it’s US who can switch things over to an ABUNDANCE model by not acting like this or participating any longer. But ONLY if we break down the illusion of barriers and work together and commit to supporting one another…

I am not less if YOU find your voice or power for example – WE ALL GAIN. It may not feel this way sometimes because some old wound where we got left out or hurt is being touched again. So we need to somehow move out of our wounds and wounded-ness and out of a scarcity mentality and believe in our unique contributions and the unique contributions of other women who will enrich us beyond belief and create and join in a massive chorus!

When there are few resources and we are competing for them, and if we are deeply in fear as a result, THIS is what we will keep finding and creating more of – few resources, competition and fear.

However, if we support one another – we create more, more places at the table, more room, more positions of leadership and decision making, more creativity, more sharing, more possibility, more support, more of whatever and all that we decide, we will find and create more of everything! But WE have to BE the change. We can start by practicing supporting one another daily, by respecting ALL women and girls we encounter and those we will never meet, and by giving ourselves the respect and love and whole-ness (not more woundedness and separation) we also deserve. We will reap what we sow.

RBI: When you are confronted with fear or self-doubt what helps you move through these feelings?

Jennifer: Realizing that they are just feelings, they are not ME and are not real. Your feelings are not you. Ego is usually the culprit, granted, a powerful one. Feelings are like clouds passing through and you are the sky. I look back at times where I had terrible fear and self-doubt about something, and I remember that when the time came, I actually experienced the event positively. Things went just fine! I also tell myself, “I am enough”.

RBI: What’s one of the MOST important things a woman can do to empower herself to feel good.

Jennifer: Stop seeking your value by bargaining for it as though it’s an exchange you must have outside of yourself. We say to ourselves, “if I do this for you or I reach some lofty goal, then you’ll have to value me”… We need to stop thinking in terms of an exchange as though we are not implicitly good, capable and worthy. Practice self-love and self-care and realize it is not selfish but self-love. Learn as much as you can about all of what “self care” really means. It doesn’t mean self-medicate.

I remember recently feeling an actual wonderful bodily feeling I would describe as “full of myself” and I realized that I had always shied away from that “full feeling” and that for me it had a bad unconscious connotation. But in this moment I felt full of me, like all of my light and energy could shine through me – I realized the terrible mistake I had been making.

RBI: What do you think needs to happen in order for a woman to truly break open and blossom into who she was meant to be?

Jennifer: She needs to somehow get conscious and clear about all of the beliefs and programs her family and society lopped on top of her that taught and shaped who she thought she needed to be in order to be “good”, “beautiful”, “desirable”, etc. That she accepted as truth. I recognize that this is no easy task, however. I think the “breaking open” happens when she is able and courageous enough to face her fears around the consequences of questioning and not going along with the imposed ideas any longer if they do not suit her – ideas that have held her from her natural and true self. The self only she really knows. Then she needs to forgive all who gave her these false ideas AND most of all, forgive herself.

Imagine a set of steel braces around a tree. The tree grows and wants to send off shoots, branches, leaves and flowers the way it wants to grow and be, but the braces clamp down and decide how the tree will or will not grow. The tree acquiesces and grows within these limits. We perhaps experience something like this. We may actually like some of the ways we were socialized, some of it might feel OK and comfortable and some of it never made us feel good or served us –EVER!

So I think somehow getting out of oneself and out of one’s comfort zone to deeply see the patterns, beliefs, programs and limits clearer is the only way to be able to practice conscious choice to move forward and be re-born, be able to take the braces off and chose differently. I love the image of a bud breaking open and then blossoming. It’s such a perfect metaphor for the experience girls and women have. My own experience is that women break open and blossom from, often times, very painful experiences of loss and crisis. Everything cracks apart. But then she has an incredible opportunity, after being broken open, to ally with herself, to meet her beloved inside herself, that is, her true self, and to blossom. 

RBI: Is there a moment in your life you are most proud of?

Jennifer: I was really proud when my husband and I were honored for taking leadership through our Foundation empowering girls and women worldwide at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. I stood on stage on behalf of the shy young girl I used to be and all of the girls and women I had ever met in front of a global audience. I am so proud of and inspired by the girls and women I meet who are taking their power and choosing to love themselves and go forward after being wounded and almost destroyed. Girls and women are working to change the world through their hearts, and I feel so honored to be playing some small role in supporting them and the boys and men who love and walk with them.

About Jennifer

Jennifer Buffett is president and co-chair of the NoVo Foundation, a philanthropic organization focused primarily on the empowerment of women and girls. She shares leadership of the foundation with her husband Peter Buffett, a composer and son of investor Warren Buffett.

In 2008, NoVo joined forces with the Nike Foundation, committing $90 million to The Girl Effect, a global campaign that promotes the powerful social and economic change brought about when girls have the opportunity to participate.

Learn More About the NoVo Foundation HERE

Watch Jennifer’s Keynote at Omega HERE

Learn More About The Girl Effect HERE


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