May 21, 2020
Kat is a Brooklyn-based online educator, digital content creator and female empowerment advocate. She loves God, a good Beyoncé dance party, + has an affinity for Ranch dressing (don’t take it away from her!).
Her vision is for women to know their beauty, identity and value. She is Co-Founder of the online publication The Refined Woman and host of The Refined Collective Podcast. She has also been a full-time photographer for the last decade with her work being featured in: GQ, Forbes, People, Who What Wear, US Weekly, and Glamour UK.
She believes in the power of story, that done is better than perfect, quality triumphs quantity, and that the journey truly is the destination.
The vehicles for her message are: her podcast, online courses, written articles, hosted leadership development workshops, speaking at conferences, and more. It has become a bigger passion in her life then she ever could have imagined.
Today’s show is freaking GOLD! Kat goes DEEP into her story, how and when to hustle, and how to avoid burnout. Kat shares her story of not knowing how to operate a camera to shooting celebrity weddings and New York Fashion Shows. Through her years of hustling to the top of her industry, Kat experienced some of the worst burnout you can imagine, including panic attacks in the middle of two weddings back to back. She goes STRAIGHT to practical, tangible tools, steps, and strategies to combat burnout, anxiety, stress, and overwhelm. Probably the most powerful and simplified fight plan that I’ve ever heard so if you struggle with anxiety or fear, you NEED to listen to Kat on today’s episode. If you’re ready to have your life changed, keep listening.
Kat Harris is Co-Founder of the online publication, The Refined Woman, and the host of The Refined Collective Podcast. She equips and empowers women to embrace their worth, value, and identity through storytelling. She offers online courses, downloadable devotionals, and mediation guides. She has also been a full time photographer for over a decade.
Kat is based out of Brooklyn and has lived in New York for almost seven years. She is currently loving living in New York, is single, and is writing her first book.
Kat has been a photographer full time for over a decade. For years she shot New York Fashion Week for different publications and brands. After her twelfth season of shooting runway, the exhaustion and burnout started to set in. Kat decided to leave. She felt God asking her what her purpose was, what legacy she wanted to leave, and what story was she inviting people into. Kat knew she loved photography and the power of an image. She felt like she was in the thick of an industry that told people they mattered because of what they looked like, what they wore, the number of followers they have, and their status. It felt as a woman that she mattered as a “what” as opposed to a “who”. She wanted to offer an alternative conversation in the fashion and lifestyle world that emphasized that you matter because of who you are and whose you are. She wanted people to know they are grounded, worth, accepted, loved, seen, wanted and chosen.
The Refined Woman was birthed from a place of really wanting to still be in the space of influence, fashion, and photography, but wanting to have a different conversation. For the first few years, it was a style blog for the working woman. It initially stressed Kat out to do styled posts. Again, she questioned what her legacy and why were. She started to do less styled posts and more “life in the in between” posts. These are the moments of imperfection, fumbles, or failures in her everyday life. She began to talk about how she was single and a Christian, what dating in New York looked like, her struggles with anxiety and burnout, and autoimmune disorders. She found that the more she began to share her heart and remove the Instagram mask of perfection, the more her tribe showed up. People say your vibe attracts your tribe, and Kat believes this to be true.
In the last three years she has transitioned fully out of styled posts and more into talking about faith and lifestyle. She is even in the process of writing a book to single women.
The Refined Woman has transitioned and pivoted so much in the last eight years and Kat now offers courses and curriculum for single women. She speaks largely to women who are trying to navigate what it means to be a single woman of faith in today’s culture.
A year or so after college Kat was working in the nonprofit world. She was always lit up by photography but didn’t think she was creative at all. Kat knew if she didn’t give photography a shot, she would never know if it was something she was good at.
While in between jobs, she was a contract worker for a planner in Dallas who was producing a 10 million dollar wedding. They flew Mike, a photographer from LA, to photograph the wedding and Kat ended up sitting next to him during the vendor meal. He was incredibly kind and a man of faith. Kat got his business card and glued it into her journal that night. Fast forward and Kat moved to LA and was working for another nonprofit. She knew she wanted to be a photographer and decided to reach out to him. She asked him for a job and he offered her an unpaid internship. She told him she couldn’t work for free and out of the blue he called her saying that he and his wife were praying and felt like they needed to offer her a full time job. Her first day on the job she was editing Usher’s wedding.
God really opened that door for her and she respects Mike so much. He taught her everything about photography and really poured into Kat. He taught her how to shoot manually and had her edit a ton of his images. He wanted to teach her how to take the perfect image that didn’t need to be edited in post. Kat worked for Mike full time for four years.
He shot runway a couple of times a year and Kat convinced him to let her tag along to New York. That was how she got her foot in the door. In her first runway show, she was one of two women in the photographer’s pit.
Eventually she started to shoot each season with Mike. If a brand couldn’t hire Mike they would hire Kat. She realized she was good at what she did. For so long she felt like a woman in a man’s world. She felt like her femininity was her liability. But, when she did her first editorial campaign that got picked up for national coverage she realized that being a woman was an asset. She got to bring her perspective of the world to the shoot and got to know the models throughout the day.
When she started her own photography business she realized that she was struggling to book weddings and shoots. She went from the top of the top to the bottom of the barrel, so she started hustling. She snuck into all the shows at fashion week and googled the designers to send them her photos. She got kicked out of a few shows, but got in to way more than she got kicked out of.
A year or so after she started her own business, she moved from LA to New York. LA was the land of dreamers, and New York was the land of doers. Her prices tripled and she started to get booked like crazy. All of her leg work started to pay off. Nothing about Kat’s business was overnight. It took years and years and a lot of hard work.
Kat learned that people say yes way more than they say no, you just have to have the gumption to go for it, ask, show up, and put in the work.
Every opportunity is an opportunity to grow if you choose it to be. Come into any situation with a beginner’s mindset. Come to learn. There is always room for growth and opportunities to lean into the unknown. Life is about not just running our businesses, but about taking the expert hat off, removing the mask of perfection, and coming from a place of humility.
Notice what you want to do when you feel uncomfortable. What if in moments of discomfort you chose to let yourself feel it and keep doing it anyways. We often live our lives to avoid discomfort. Growth only comes when we step outside the zone of comfort.
From the time Kat graduated college until she was almost 30 she was working off jet fuel–from the nonprofit world being overworked and underpaid to working multiple weddings a weekend while working in the photography industry. She had no days off and was even going back and forth from LA to New York. At the time, it felt exciting. In the moment she prided herself that she was working 80-100 hours a week. She had the “you sleep when you’re dead” mentality. This works until it doesn’t work.
Working off jet fuel is not sustainable for the long haul. A decade of not taking care of herself, doing anything and everything for the job, sleeping only a couple hours a night, skipping meals, and having no balance in her life eventually led to Kat having a full-fledged panic attack while shooting family portraits at a wedding. She had no idea what it was and thought she was having a heart attack. She was scared and humiliated. She had her second shooter take over and went to the bathroom and laid on the floor while shaking. Kat ended up going back out there to finish the wedding and choked the whole thing up to the heat and lack of food.
Then, the next weekend the same thing happened at another wedding. This time, it was worse. She was out for six hours of the wedding. She had to have her assistant constantly beside her because she couldn’t breathe. She thought she was dying and almost went to the ER. These panic attacks started happening again and again.
One happened at church and Kat ran outside. She knew something was happening with her body and she didn’t know what it was. She began to get rashes all over her body and food allergies. This was the first time she thought it could be anxiety or panic.
From there, her life went on a complete pause in order to get herself better. Her adrenals, nervous system, and endocrine systems were shot. Her gas tank was empty.
Burnout for Kat was a very visceral and physical experience. Anxiety started taking over her life. In a few short weeks she went from “normal” to being scared to leave her house. From there she went to counseling and did a lot of soul and spirit work.
Kat realized so much of what had been propelling her in her career was fear. Kat doesn’t believe that as humans we were created to operate from a space of fear or scarcity. She was driven because she loved what she was doing, but also because she needed to pay her rent. She said yes to a lot of things, even when she was beyond the point of exhaustion because she felt like she didn’t know when the next job was going to come.
If she wasn’t created to have a life of fear, but of wholeness, freedom, love, connectedness to herself, God, and others, what would her life look like? Kat knew she really needed to go back to the basics of her life. Before she even considered work, the rhythms she needed to implement into her life were getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night, eating three meals a day, making sure she had snacks on her, meditating and spending time with God every morning, moving her body five times a week, staying connected to community, and scheduling rest in her calendar. It took a really radical experience to shake things up. She had to realize that the way she was living her life was not working, not serving herself, and not serving others. If she isn’t able to love and take care of herself then she really can’t love and serve others.
The whole experience opened Kat’s eyes. So often we allow ourselves to be propelled by fear or we accept things that are so that don’t have to be so. We don’t have to be stressed out, anxious, fearful people. You don’t have to work 80 hours a week to run your business.
It wasn’t that Kat healed from anxiety overnight. She is five years in her journey and she has a lot of tools that support her. Life isn’t about the absence of fear. It is about our relationship to it. In those moments when fear comes knocking or anxiety starts to arrive you have to first figure out what you are afraid of and then figure out what is really true. Then, speak truth over yourself.
First, when we are feeling stressed or anxious, identify the root of it. Typically, what’s stressing you out isn’t that you haven’t answered all your emails. There is a driving force underneath the force. The churning below the churning. If you get curious and follow that all the way down to its root, it’s typically a narrative that is rooted in fear based on a past experience. An experience is real, but just because it happened before doesn’t mean that is your destiny to happen again.
Second, if you are living from a space of freedom, wholeness, love, groundedness, and trusting that you are safe, how would you be living? Replace the lie with truth. Take the thought captive. Sometimes we have to preach to ourselves. We teach ourselves what is true. Faith is leaning into the unseen. Faith is leaning into possibility. Your circumstances tell you something is real. You can lean into the possibility that things are going to work out. Then, you can make a game plan based off of that mindset as opposed to the mindset of scarcity.
Next, go back to the basics. When was the last time you ate? Do you need water? When did you last move your body? When you are stressed and depressed, often the last thing you want to do is move your body, but get up, dance, sweat, do something to move. Make sure you have protein multiple times a day. You don’t want your body to peak and crash. Take care of your physical body and give it fuel that serves you.
Finally, BREATHE! When we are stressed, the amygdala pumps adrenaline and cortisol in your body and signals the fight or flight response. In order to stop this, just take deep breaths! Make sure your exhales are longer than your inhales.
Try boxed breathing. Inhale for the count of 4, hold for the count of 4, exhale for the count of 6, hold for the count of 4 and repeat 10 -20x and this will activate your parasympathetic nervous system and tell your body that you are safe.
Additionally you can try EFT tapping. There are points in your body (chest, temple, etc.) that can signal to your brain that you are safe.
Try making a list. Get it out of your head and onto paper and make a game plan to tackle it.
Know that it doesn’t have to be this way. You do not need to walk through life anxious. You do not need to walk through life afraid. The agenda of fear is to keep us small, stuck, and hidden. That is not what we were created for.
Know your why. To walk out the now with the intention and strategy, you have to know where you’re heading. Part of knowing where you are heading is knowing why you are heading there. Kat had to get really clear on why she is here and what her propelling factor is. This acts as the filter system to all of her business decisions. For Kat, her vision is to empower and equip women to embrace their beauty, identity, value, and worth through storytelling. When different opportunities come her way, everything filters through this. If it is aligned with that, it’s a greenlight to move forward. If it’s not in alignment with her vision, it’s an easy no. Getting clear about your why and vision will help you create a framework of how to walk through today, and set up a 1 year, 5 year, and 10 year plan.
Another lesson Kat has learned in life and business is that she has the permission to say no. If she doesn’t Instagram for a week, her business is not going to fall apart. If she doesn’t answer that email at 11pm, her business is not going to fall apart. Teach people how to treat you. Be a strategic no person. If you say no to something, you are creating space for a more excellent yes.
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WASSUP FRIENDS. We’re Evie + Lindsey, co-founders of this wild partayyy called The Heart University. Our goal is to empower entrepreneurs to kick freaking BUTT in their businesses, dive down into the heart of their why and how, and serve you with all possible tools you’ll need to up-level your business game and CRUSH those goals of yours.
Whether you’re coming to an in-person workshop, joining our online course, or soaking up all the strategies via this blog or our podcast, we’re STOKED you’re here + can’t wait to see you out there kicking butt.
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