a shared voice

Earlier this year I was honoured to be invited by our friends at The Montauk Lighting Co. to be a guest speaker at a special Q & A event at the beautiful Mello House in Perth. Hosted by Marie and Gino, it was a very special lunchtime chat with leading members of Perth’s vibrant and innovative design community. It was a privilege to have the opportunity to tell them about my journey, to talk about the KWD design studio, and to respond to questions they had about the business of interior design.

I am not a public speaker. Being in front of an audience does not sit comfortably with me, and I inevitably feel incredibly nervous. My throat closes, and I feel like my mind ceases to think. However, I believe in facing my fears, of pushing myself outside of my comfort zone, and of giving back to the industry that has served me so well. As Maya Angelou said, “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.”

This event was a turning point for me. I felt validated. The warmth, generosity and support I felt from my fellow designers was extraordinary. They made me feel welcome, put me at ease, and gently created a safe zone where I could openly share my truth. The feedback and response from every person in the room was overwhelming, inspiring, and beautiful. We laughed, we were raw, and we took comfort in the knowledge that so many professional, experienced, intelligent and talented people, suffer from imposter syndrome. We are not alone.

Imposter syndrome is real, and at times, debilitating. A well-documented psychological pattern, it occurs when individuals doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’ despite evidence of their competence and achievements. Some people feel like they don’t deserve their accomplishments and that they have only achieved success due to luck or other external factors. Others feel like they are not as capable as their colleagues or peers and that they will be exposed at any moment for not having the same ‘pedigree’, qualifications or experience.

A search for perfectionism can lead to self-doubt and a fear of failure. Some feel like they have to live up to high expectations or that they are never good enough, or if they have experienced failure or negative feedback in the past, they feel like they will fail again. Imposter syndrome manifests in many negative ways. Self-doubt, lack of confidence, denying yourself opportunities, a fear of failure and a constant need for validation from others to feel good about yourself can often result in overwork to compensate for perceived inadequacies.

So how do we overcome imposter syndrome?

The first step is to recognise and acknowledge our feelings, and that it’s certainly not uncommon to feel like an imposter. Reframe negative self-talk and focus on strengths and accomplishments rather than perceived weaknesses. It’s also important to have a support system.

One would think that having operated a very successful and well-published design studio for over ten years, that employs 20 professional women, would be enough validation for me. On the contrary, the imposter syndrome persists. However having a proven track record of completing hundreds of beautiful projects for clients has indeed helped me make headway to eliminating self-doubt. But it has been a long, slow and at times painful process. It was only once I realised that I didn’t need a degree in interior design to prove my worth, and that my experience spoke for itself, that I began to feel comfortable with who I am. I was finally able allow myself the right to be confident, to know my truth and to stand tall in an industry that recognises, appreciates and acknowledges focus, hard work, dedication and talent.

I encourage you all to speak your truth, to face your fear and do it anyway, and to have the courage of your convictions. Remember you are not alone. Recognize your achievements, talk to your peers, learn to accept compliments, focus on learning and growth, and practice self-care. We are all humans trying to do what we can to make our mark on the world. Our best way forward is to support and encourage others, applaud their successes and acknowledge our own.

http://www.katewalkerdesign.com.au / http://www.kwdandco.com.au

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