ZERO: The life changing moment
—Katrina tells how she wanted to be a journalist since she was seven years old and that being “a communicator has been my purpose. I just ever deviated from this path. I’ve been so blessed to have a great career in television, print and radio journalism, covered lots of big events all around the world.”
—Three years ago she was reading the Sunday night news, Seven’s highest rating news of the week. “I was going through a divorce at the time and I suppose I was treating work as a bit of a bubble where … I was really sweeping the stress under the carpet. Stress has a way of manifesting itself in a way that you cannot ignore.”
—During the opening titles she had the panic attack out of the blue. “The thing about panic attacks which I didn’t know is it’s not a one and done situation. You then start to get anxiety about the anxiety, little things become triggers.” Katrina “constantly” felt panicky driving up a mountain to the TV studio or walking into the makeup room. “I really contemplated leaving my job because I just didn’t know how I would get through this. I had a choice. I could waka from from this calling … or I could knuckle down and relearn everything that I thought I knew about confidence.”
—The thing about confidence, says Katrina, “is up until that point I had thought it was my super power. I’ve always spoken on stage since I was a kid. Every play. Public speaking competitions. Debating teams. I just took it for granted so to then have this fundamental knock to my confidence and have to learn it all over again … it’s taken me just over three years but I’m happy to report that I’m back, I’m good now, and now I’m getting to teach other women what I’ve learned, which is great.”
—Sharon asks Katrina how she defines confidence: “I think we have two parts of us, the certainty that is within us, and then what we project to others. Confidence is outward facing, certainty is inward generating.”
—Katrina says she has discovered there’s a confidence gap between the genders with women placing a higher degree of importance on competence. “Even though I knew I was competent at my job I had lost the confidence to demonstrate that competence outwardly, or believe in it within myself, whereas men feel confident even if they don’t feel competent at doing something.” For Katrina, “confidence comes down to now being okay with being outside my comfort one and living a life with no regrets and following my dreams and knowing that no matter what situation I put myself in, I’m going to be okay.”
—Sharon asks why Katrina didn’t feel confidence, given that on the Sunday night in question she was “living the dream” she’d had since she was seven.
—Katrina says she “never expected” to have a panic attack on air and describes the feeling “as though I’d just done a marathon. It totally blindsided me, came seemingly from nowhere. It was the result of me sweeping all my stress under the carpet.”
—Sharon notes that “it wasn’t related to your job at all. It just decided to present itself at the most inopportune time … ‘you’re not going to ignore me anymore.’
—Asked what she had been ignoring, Katrina talks about her “amicable” divorce: “I have two children. When you separate a family you feel selfish, you second guess all of your decisions. For anyone who’s been through a divorce, even if you don’t have that toxic element of acrimony, it is still extremely stressful. I had been going as ‘business as usual, I can deal with this, I don’t need to stop and look at myself too closely’ and that of course wasn’t right.”
9.25: THE BASKET TIPPED ON THE FLOOR
—Sharon notes that Katrina would have felt “disappointed” that the place she felt safe was “tipped upside down like having everything in the basket tipped on the floor … and the only person you had to count on didn’t come through for you that day.”
—Katrina agrees, and says her job “was such an innate part of my identity” and to have that rocked caused “huge introspection.”
—Sharon imagines that in the three years since, Katrina has had to reflect on what is her identity and how much of it was tied up in her career vs her personal life “that wasn’t working.”
—Katrina calls her situation “the wake up call I needed to have a look at every aspect of my life and the way I saw myself, not just Katrina Blowers the journalist. What if that was taken away? … I had to look at the big picture of who am I if I am not that, and I need to be comfortable with that as well.”
—Sharon notes some people never have to face that or dig below the surface of how they present to the world. Says for seven years she has “been on a journey” and is “still not comfortable with the thought of that part of my identity being in my success I’ve built. I don’t know that’s easy to do.”
12.25 THE VIEW FROM THE MOUNTAIN
—Katrina says while “I feel like I have climbed a really big mountain” she isn’t resting on her laurels. “It’s a daily range of choices you have to make and you also have to analyse your thinking around pretty much everything … thinking, ‘is it coming from a place of ego or love or fear.’”
—Sharon asks how much self reflection Katrina needed, and whether she was introspective or reflective before her panic attack.
—Katrina feels like “a completely different person now. I don’t want to look back in judgement at who I used to be, because that got me where I am today, but I feel so much calmer and present.” She used to be more goal oriented, “not really stopping to look at why I was doing things or you know, stopping to congratulate myself when I achieved anything.”
—Sharon says her thinking used to be the same: “There’s the mountain, go climb it. I just used to lean into challenges with no thought about why. I didn’t know to know what I needed to know.”
—Katrina says she always had “huge amounts” of external validation in life and “needed something big to hit me at the core” to change things up.
—Sharon finds “there’s some truth to that” and says her role from childhood was “the hero, the star, the best. To question that was to question who I was. Like you, I got accolades for doing well, I use to equate me coming through for people with why they would be with me. I got so good at that that when I needed support, people didn’t support me because I attracted a limited number of people who could support me. Particularly family … I’d get comments like, ‘You’re fine, it’s you’, but no, on the floor, puddle, not coping.”
—Katrina’s family is still like that. She says one of the upsides of divorce is “you do lose a lot of friends, people do choose sides” and while early on that was painful, “they defined who I used to be and now I want to surround myself with people that are more reflective of who I am now.”
—Asked if she now chooses people in her life differently, she says she has “very consciously” chosen a new partner who is laid back and not like her previous A type choices. “He’s incredibly in the moment all the time. One thing I really struggled with in the past is just for joy’s sake. He encourages that playful child in me.”
20.00 ‘THE NUMBER ONE EMOTION WAS SHAME’
—Katrina tells what was on her mind walking off the set after her panic attack: “The number one emotion I felt was shame. I felt I’d really let myself down in the most fundamental way. I don’t feel that anymore. It’s a toxic emotion and it doesn’t do you any favours to feel shame.”
—Sharon asks if she kept it to herself.
—Katrina tells how a few people in the studio control room knew: “I just wanted to rip off my microphone and ear piece and get out of that studio. In my mind was, ‘Do not become one of those people who goes viral on YouTube’. I knew I had to fluff my way through. I had four paragraphs to read. I read the first sentence of the first paragraph and the last sentence of the last paragraph so it made no sense whatsoever, but I knew that was the cue for the director to roll the first story so that I could have some space.” She got “beautiful” support when she said she was having a panic attack but didn’t tell the news director or even her partner for two days because of shame.
—Sharon notes “shame loves shadows” but “the more we keep our vulnerabilities to ourselves, the less we’re going to heal.”
—Katrina tried the “old get back on the horse” approach but had another panic attack on stage in front of 1500 people.
—Asked what turned it around, she says she realised early on “that just me making a decision to change wasn’t enough. I had to get really comfortable with feeling nervous for the first time and having stage fright.”
—Katrina leant “heavily” into the research, believing as a journalist that science would have an answer in the shape of evidence-based strategies. She saw a psychologist specialising in stage fright and worked on strategies for coping when she felt fear in her body. “There are things you can do to dissipate that cortisol or adrenalin. One is by movement, so before I read the news I would go to the gym and do a really heavy workout, when I was at my news desk and started to feel those butterflies I would swing my legs from side to side or turn from side to side to dissipate that nervous energy.”
—She also started meditating to find out if the stories she’d told herself until then about achieving held true.
—Katrina: “I’m lucky I have such a big driver. I make an appointment with myself every single day, set my alarm for 5.30, I meditate then I journal and then I do ask myself all of those big questions.”
—She has also looked into the “science of body language” and “how holding powerful confidence postures it sends a signal to your brain that you’re perhaps more confident than you’re feeling. I’ve become so much more mindful of how I carry myself.”
—Sharon says she sometimes has “anxiety around, I think, belonging, or something around when I need to be the hero. I’m addicted to wanting to be the hero, what I’m doing is sitting with the feeling and saying it’s okay to be the way I’m feeling. If we deny emotions we’re denying aspects of ourselves. So me sitting with discomfort, anxiety or sadness has been very important in this journey of reclaiming me.”
31.52: SITTING WITH OUR SHADES
—Katrina found it “very confronting” when her psychologist told her we all have “shades” we need to stick with and be okay with, “but it has been incredibly insightful to sit with the shadows and not wallow, but look at, ‘Why is it I feel that way?’ and that’s led to some really big breakthroughs.”
—Sharon used to deny herself sadness, anger and disappointment but know “it’s okay to be that way, again, it’s not about the wallowing. I’m now less self conscious about not being heroic which is just fabulous.”
—For Katrina, “a really big breakthrough has been that confidence is not the absence of fear. I know now I can feel fearful or nervous or like an imposter in some situations and still be confident. It’s having the duality of those emotions and being okay with both.”
—Sharon: “I see so many parallels between you and I. It’s not take away from your experience but I really identify with … I redefined how I teach based on how I grew, and you seem to have done that as well.”
—Katrina says “exposure therapy” does work; she tested it by saying yes to lots of things.
—What struck her was feedback from women at events who would ask Katrina the secret to her confidence. She did one on one work with women CEOs who were “plagued by the same self doubt and insecurity I was.”
—One male CEO of an international accounting firm told her he became an accountant after a crash landing when he was a pilot stole his confidence and he gave up flying. He regretted not trying harder to rebuild confidence, “so I thought if I can show other people that it is possible to work through this, confidence is a muscle you can build, you just need to know the right techniques. You don’t need to live a life of regret. That is a huge value of mine. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and regret anything.”
—Sharon says it’s also one of her prime drivers: “Wondering how to play the game of life, how am I going to look back on this moment? The saying I have on my computer at home just drives me, ‘You know who you truly are in your last breath beasue that’s the moment you realised the person you could have been and it’s too late to change it.’ See the person you could have been. A huge part of it is vulnerability, the shame loves the shadows and to be vulnerable isn’t to be weak, vulnerability is the strength to be intimate and open in a moment where it’s a risk.”
40.00 THE VULNERABILITY HANGOVER
—Katrina admits she still struggles with a “vulnerability hangover” when she shares her story in a new forum for the first time.
—Sharon asks if it’s new for her to get support for being vulnerable: “That was a whole new world for me.”
—Katrina: “You get validation for being the strong one … so I guess to get it for I would have thought of before as showing my weaknesses, is a whole new thing.” Quotes Brene Brown: “Courage is contagious, and I really hope that by showing my courage to other women some of it can rub off.”
—Sharon takes that as “vulnerability is contagious. It gives people around us permission to take the risk emotionally so the way you’re doing it, the stories you’re sharing, your vulnerability, is giving others the permission to get in touch with what they’ve denied in themselves. That is courage, that is healing. It’s really profound.”
42: CLAIMING YOUR CONFIDENCE
—Katrina has a program for younger teenagers, inspired by her 12-year-old daughter and the social media education offered to her at school. “We’re giving our kids, some as young as 12, broadcasting platforms. It’s the new CNN, the new ABC. But we’re giving them no tools or even a discussion around putting your story out there in the world.”
—She comes at it from a positive perspective by sharing storeis of 16-year-olds who have used their online platforms to promote worthy causes.
—Sharon fears teenagers’ “sensitive” brains are not equipped to deal with social media and the public exposure it comes with. If she was queen for a day, “just after cocktails at 6pm my last action would be to shut down adult social media for everyone under the age of 16, until they’re old enough to have sex.”
—Katrina introduces the concept of “comparisonitis” which she talks about in workshops: “It’s a very sophisticated mindset that you need when you’re scrolling through other people’s perfectly curated feeds to be able to sit back and say, ‘I this reality or is this a construct?’
—Sharon: “I don’t think their brains are capable of it. I don’t think I’m capable of it. I still get FOMO and I’m old enough to know better.” Says she looks back at how she would have been on social media as a teenager: “I would have been mortified. I was such a dog. I would have been the first ever person trolled in internet history. I would help them be invented.”
—Katrina advocates for ‘Switch Off Sunday’ where one day a week we commit to even just an hour of mindfulness by switching off phones and says parents need to become more actively engaged around choosing schools that support what they believe to be responsible social media policies.
—She has found a way to appeal to teenagers about social media: “My way in is the whole seeing themselves as a brand, and reputation management, and having that celebrity angle. I tell them how to make their feed look really beautiful and to get more attention in the online space but for things they want to promote that their future selves will be proud of. Kids are just wanting attention but have to shift from things that could come back to bite them to things that will open up doors for them in the future. If you go in a certain direction you can get attention for the right reasons.”
—Sharon: “I think what you’re doing is vital.”
—Katrina advises having conversations with your kids that aren’t preachy, “but just get them to show you the stuff they’re looking at in an interested, engaged way. Try and see it through a positive lens as much as you can. It is really an innovative, creative space and an amazing way to broadcast your talents to the world or get job opportunities or connect with people. I think you need to shift your thinking.”
56.00: SCREENS AND THE FUTURE
—Katrina recently did a story at the Queensland Police academy about the trialling of new de-escalation techniques where police engage alleged offenders by looking them in the eye, asking their name, asking how they can help. “The senior officer said to me that he’s never seen anything like the new wave of recruits … this is the generation that has grown up with screens and they have a real problem with looking people in the eye and talking to them. They’re not used to it.”
—Sharon is saddened by going to cafes and seeing toddlers plonked in front of screens for two hours watching cartoons: “I could weep. That toddler is learning eye contact with a screen. This eye contact is the whole nurturing part of the brain, the compassionate part of the brain … it’s all being taken off the table.”
—Katrina does Claiming Your Confidence for adults via online courses, and in-person workshops. —She says her panic attack on the fateful Sunday has made her feel “I’m capable of so much more. It has made me feel both vulnerable and like I can move mountains. And it’s made me, I think, not only a better mother but a better journalist because I can really empathise with that lack of confidence and self-belief. I’m usually meeting people on their worst days when I’m doing stories with them and it’s given me so much more empathy.”
—Sharon thanks Katrina and talks how good slowing down feels: “There will be so many people who can relate to this and are gratified to know the person who presents so beautifully and perfectly on camera is human, vulnerable and still living their dream. That message is everything: we never have our shit together as we live our dream.”
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