Katherine McNamara // #sheisjoyful

As always, I love when it’s time to post a new interview, because they’re such nuggets of wisdom (even if I do say so myself) and the women featured are always an uplifting, positive force of energy injecting a little inspiration, real talk and who-run-da-world vibes into our day. So, it goes without saying that I am really excited to share this interview with you. I recently sat down with the oh-so-lovely Kat (who was so sweet and ridiculously generous with her time) and had an incredibly inspiring, candid chat where we covered everything from self deprecation, to kindness, to life lessons to social media to women supporting women, following your dreams and if you can believe it – even more … and I am bursting at the seams to hit publish and share our conversation with you, for you to feel all the feels and the incredible inspiration I felt when walking away from our chat. There are so many heck-yes-I-can-take-on-the-world-slash-gives-me-all-the-goosebumps moments throughout this entire interview, so believe me when I say, you’re about to be hit with a big dose of inspiration. Put it this way, I struggled to cull the number of quotes that I pulled from the interview to feature throughout – there were that many gold nuggets of wisdom.

You may know Kat from her hit show Shadowhunters, based on the book series, where for the last 3 seasons she has played Clary Fray. Part and parcel of being the lead in Shadowhunters comes with a large following of dedicated fans, and what is clearly evident after our chat is that Kat is determined to use her platform to effect positive change. She is a strong advocate for supporting one another and champions that we are, in fact, stronger together. What I particularly love about Kat is how real she is – she could easily put on a mask of a peachy perfect life and relationship with herself but instead, she tells it like it is – she struggles like we all do, she is self deprecating, she has to force her butt out of bed some mornings to go to the gym, she has to work on reminding herself to slow down…. just like you or I. I also love how inclusive she is and how grateful and kind she is to her fans and the Shadowhunters community who she speaks so fondly of.

For me, kindness and women supporting women is where it’s at and Kat so sweetly echoes these sentiments in all that she does. It was so refreshing chatting with Kat and hearing, in her own words, so much of what For, She Is You stands for. I was pretty much fist pumping every answer and thanking Kat for her honesty and keeping it real. It also served as the perfect reminder that we are truly all cut from the same cloth – no matter what our story is or what walk of life we are from, as girls, as women, we all share the same thoughts, insecurities, struggles, fears, lessons and dreams – they’re just packaged a little differently for each person. Which is exactly why we need to continue inspiring and empowering each other, keep being real and telling it like it is and lead by example for generations to come. We’re in this, together.

I love that Kat was surrounded by fierce, badass women growing up, who (possibly without even knowing it) were forging her outlook and life philosophy that women can be whatever and whoever they want to be –  No labels. No restrictions. No limitations. But rather exceeding expectations and defying the status quo- This also paints a much larger picture of the catalyst behind her drive, determination, hard work and anything-is-possible mentality. There’s always a way to make it happen.

Kat is an advocate for self love and reinforcing the importance of loving yourself first and foremost, and I love that she dispels the myths on ‘normal’ –  there is no such thing (can I get a HELL YES!!!) the labels are there to be defied, because, well, who the heck came up with them in the first place? They are so subjective to one persons opinion. Instead, let’s celebrate the fact that we are all unique – it’s what makes us and it means we each have something special to offer the world because there is nobody else like us.

Kat is level headed and (so!) wise beyond her years, she is incredibly mature and equipped with knowledge that far exceeds her time on earth so far, she radiates love and kindness, she is genuinely empathatic and caring, she is incredibly smart, and a positive force who has such a profound level of consciousness and awareness; she wants to help people, she wants to promote positive messages and she wants to effect positive change by inspiring and empowering others. And, she’s only just getting started.

Meanwhile, I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to Kat’s stance on kindness – it was like she was tapping into my thoughts and pulling words out of my mouth – as she spoke I sat there and nodded and yes’d and mm’hmmd and couldn’t agree more’d. Talk about same wave length. She speaks of the ripple effect of kindness and how if we all just do one nice thing every day, that multiplies and grows and the effect that has is immeasurable and so powerful. I love the simplicity of Kat’s philosophy on kindness – look at things from someone else’s perspective, start there. We’re all just human beings trying to make it in the world and if we could really pare it back, take away all the BS and lead with empathy from a more simple perspective, knowing that ultimately we all just want to live our version of a happy fulfilling life, this world really would be a much kinder place.

Kat’s positive outlook on life and theory that if you believe something enough, you can make it happen give me all the goosebumps, because it’s something I so very strongly believe in too. Her thoughts on dreams, positivity, empowerment and living your best life are such reinforcements that dreams can (and do!) come true if you work hard enough and believe in yourself.

So if you already know her or are a fan of Kat and her work, this interview will undoubetly make you love her more… and if you don’t know her, you’re welcome – you’re just about to be filled to the brim with inspiration and heed some very practical advice and ‘old soul’ wisdom that comes from lessons learned and life experience to date that will benefit you no matter what aspect(s) of you and your life you’re seeking to improve – whether it’s finding your passion and chasing your dreams, tapping into that self love bank, empowering and inspiring the women around you or learning to love you for you and all the ‘weird and wonderful’ things that make you YOU. I hope Kat’s interview gives you that little nudge you need to keep going, keep growing and continue to light up the world with your spark – cos aint nobody got what you got girl, so keep being you, keep doing you and you can’t go wrong. Without much further ado, it’s over to Kat…

 


Katherine McNamara

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KATHERINE MCNAMARA // ACTRESS

 

One word you would use to describe yourself?
Joyful.
I’m realising a lot of things in my life lately and for that I am truly grateful, one being I have realised how joyful I am and what a gift that is. #sheis joyful.

Katherine McNamara

What would you tell your _ year old self?
I would tell my 15 year old self: just keep going, remain positive, keep your head up and focus on the people that are real and are there, in your life, as a positive force.

It’s so easy to take things that are happening externally and think of them as being something that is your fault or you should be doing something about, but really that’s just life and it’s more important to focus on the big things as opposed to all of the little things life throws at you.

Why is it integral for girls and women to champion, support and build one another up and in what ways can we do so?
I think it is the most important thing for women and girls, really for everyone, but you know we focus on it in this group of women and girls because that’s where we can see a prevalent problem. Like you said, there are a lot of women who focus on competing with one another and a lot of girls that do the same and whether it’s in the media or their schools or communities, when girls and women do that, they think that is just how life is, that it’s the norm and the way of the world… but it’s not and it doesn’t have to be that way.

Something I always try and advocate for is that we’re always stronger together, we’re always stronger when we build each other up instead of trying to tear each other down because ultimately every single person is a unique individual and has something to offer. No one is made exactly the same and there’s such a beauty in that. Right now we are in this culture where the focus is on everyone being perfect X or having amazing Y. And I think we’re losing a bit of the gift that is the beauty of imperfection in the world, through that everyone being unique provides an opportunity for them to have something that only they can provide to the world. And something that only they can do to make this world a better place, or help other people or contribute. And by fostering everyone’s individuality and by helping to build that, in each other and encourage people to pursue those things that make them unique and make them individual and make them happy, it can only provide an exponential effect and have the whole be greater than the sum of the parts. And hopefully have a greater effect on the world to make it a better, happier place.

‘I’ve seen that as a woman you can have whatever you want from your life if you work hard enough. You’re not limited. You don’t have to choose between anything because if you want it, there’s a way to make it happen. .’

Katherine McNamara  Katherine McNamara  Katherine McNamara

How have you learnt to defy labels and be strong in the industry that you’re in that perhaps girls and women can apply into their everyday lives?
I have always been the different one. I was always the weird one. When I was younger I was born an army brat so my entire school life I was moving around all the time and I was always the different kid. I did most of my academic study through correspondence and online programs but then I went to the public school for art and music and recess and lunch and all of these before and after school activities so there I was the weird kid who hopped in and out of school all the time and only came in for the fun stuff.

Then I was the kid who was an actor and then I moved to New York when I was 14 and suddenly I was a fish out of water, the girl from the mid west in the big city, and it only continued from there.

So my entire life I’ve always been different and I’ve never really known what ‘normal’ was. And I think that has helped me to have a really objective perspective when it comes to labels and when it comes to industry or society or a person or whatever it may be telling me that I need to be a certain way. My question is always, well, why? For what reason? Because that way of thinking, that attitude, helps no one. Because who is that force or that person. How do they know what I should be or what I should do?

It’s just something that I’ve really been able to escape through that but also it comes down to looking at things from the perspective of – it goes back to what I was talking about earlier, everyone is unique and can provide something to the world – but no one should dictate those labels, labels don’t benefit anyone so why do we limit ourselves to what we can be based on someone else’s perception of what we should be.

And also a lot of the women in my family have defied labels – I come from a family of scientists and medical professionals, there are a lot of amazing, intelligent, educated, strong badass women in my family who are also scientists, doctors, researchers, nurses, ER doctors and things like this yet they’re also mothers and sisters and cousins and it’s something that I’ve always looked at and so it’s never been a question for me. I’ve seen that as a woman you can have whatever you want from your life if you work hard enough. You’re not limited. You don’t have to choose between career and family. You don’t have to choose between the analytical and the artistic. You don’t have to choose between anything because if you want it, there’s a way to make it happen. It might take some work, it might take some struggle, it might take some sleepless nights, but if you want it badly enough, you can make it happen. And so I guess for me I never felt the need to conform to anything and I learnt to embrace being the one who’s different. I try to talk about that as much as I can just to help people realise just because you don’t fit into a category or into a mold it doesn’t make you wrong, or strange it makes you wonderful.

Just because it’s been decided who’s to say it can’t change.

‘Miracles happen every day, it’s just if you choose to see them.’

What is your all time hands down favorite self love ritual?
I think one of my favorite things to do is taking time to go outside, I live in so many cities and travel around a lot and I‘m always in areas that are full of concrete and pavement. Something I’ve been learning to do recently, which I really appreciate, is to go outside and take a walk and find nature, find something that is beautiful, something that is perfectly imperfectly but grew out of the ground and was formed by a glacier or a body of water that is so serene and pristine, because if you look at it long enough you start to notice that it’s not perfect, it’s not uniform and it’s such a meditative process and really lovely to alert yourself to.

In recent years, something that has also become my favorite thing to do as ‘me time’, is fitness. When I started working on Shadowhunters I began to train all the time and at the time I didn’t know how to work out, I didn’t know anything. I had been a dancer my whole life but that’s kinda a completely different thing and I very quickly fell in love with how training made me feel. I’m someone who has never been afraid of hard work and now I know if I spend an hour or two hours or even 20 minutes working really hard I feel accomplished and I’ve done something really positive for myself that makes me feel good and in turn makes me stronger, able to run harder and farther and helps me do my job better and you know wake up in the morning feeling fresh. It’s not about anything other than how it makes you feel, and if you feel good in your own skin, that’s the best thing.

It’s not to say there are some mornings I don’t wake up and think I don’t want to go to the gym right now but after I leave the gym I feel amazing, even after being there for 10 minutes I’m having the best time.

Kat McNamara

‘There are so many things in life that if you believe are possible, actually become possible.’

What is something that you don’t tell yourself enough?
I don’t tell myself enough to slow down. I am a workaholic, I am social, I am someone who thinks about every situation from 32 angles to try and figure it out and I am somebody that wants to try and accomplish everything. I have a to-do list of things I want to accomplish from painting my apartment, to learning French to read a list of 50 classics to watching 100 movies to learn how to cook… and it continues. And it tends to be a moment when I stop and think there are only a certain amount of hours in a day, there’s only a certain amount of energy that I have and can possibly muster, and there’s only so much coffee in the world 😉 I’ve learnt to take a minute, slow down and appreciate the quiet parts of life as well.

I think the most practical application I’ve learnt that in is actually my training, because I’m the person that will train 3 times a day, 7 days a week if I have the time and yet it gets to a point where my body is exhausted and I have to stop or by default I am forced to slow down if my schedule gets crazy and I am shooting all day and when I do I wake up the next morning I always think ‘wow, that day was beneficial that day off.

When do you feel the most empowered?
I feel the most empowered when I see the effects of the work I’ve been doing, the choices I’ve been making and the kind of messages I have been trying to send out into the world… when I see that effect someone in a positive way. When I meet someone on the street who says hey, that thing you tweeted, or that thing you said in XYZ interview or whatever it is that maybe I was a small part of putting together, but that it helped them through something or put a smile on their face or made them remember something about their childhood, the endless affects of positivity you can send out into the world. If you think about the impact if every person did one nice thing for somebody else, everyday. It would take no time at all, but if you can put a smile on one persons face, think about if everyone did that, every single day, think of the impact that would have.

    

What is the single best piece of advice you have every received and how has it shaped you?
I love quotes and I’m so inspired by them but my mom found this quote when I was about 7 and it’s anonymous, but it’s: What is popular is not always right, what is right is not always popular.

And I was 7 when she found it, I had no idea what that meant but going through middle school and being a teenager and growing up and going through all of the stages of my life I’ve been through up until now that quote has stuck with me and it has changed how I’ve thought about a lot of situations. Because it’s true, in order to do the right thing sometimes you have to be able to stand on your own two feet.

‘It just takes a thought’

What characteristics and values do you admire in the women you surround yourself in or inspired by?
I’m always inspired by, and do my best to surround myself with, women who are driven, who are positive, who are confident, who are ambitious but also who aren’t afraid to speak their minds about things, who aren’t afraid to break the mold and who are also kind – they think about things beyond their own situation and they do what they can to make the world a better place.

I did a Broadway show a few years ago and had the incredible opportunity to work with some powerful women it starred Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta Jones and then Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch came in to take over the rest of the run and working with those 4 women when I was 14 years old was life changing. Because just seeing these women who had been in the industry for so long, who had been so successful, who really knew what it was to be a self actualised independent woman but to also be kind and to be a part of the cast as a community, to be a real human being as well as being a character and personality as well. It showed me that again, you don’t have to choose, you don’t have to be one thing or the other, you can be a person and an actress, you can be independent, as well as have a family, you can do and be anything you want. They each taught me something different in their own ways because they’re all such different women and such powerhouses in their own right, but it definitely changed my world.

What do you love most about yourself?
I am often one of the most self deprecating people because I am a perfectionist and I am always trying to grow and always trying to learn but I guess that’s kind of both my greatest strength and greatest weakness, the fact that I am a perfectionist and I am very meticulous, everything that I do I throw myself into 100%. Whether that be in my job or a friendship or a relationship or whatever it is, I always try and give all of myself to the best of my ability and to grow through it, because I think that’s ultimately what life is all about, it’s about taking experiences, and the people and the things that are put in front of you and seeking out how that can make you a better person.

‘Kindness means being conscious enough to do what you feasibly can to help make the world a better place, to make someone smile or just be aware of how other people feel or how things may affect them.’

Is there something that you wish was universally installed in girls from a young age?
The importance of finding what your passion is, finding what it is that makes you unique, finding what it is that you really love and the freedom to pursue that.

    

What is some real advice for believing in yourself and feeding your dreams?
I always say this, there are a couple of things that I keep in mind and try and tell people and that I still work on myself, but, everyone has things that they don’t love about themselves, everyone has insecurities  and so often see people get consumed by those and it really limits them as to what they can see themselves achieving. If you can focus on the things about yourself that you love, focus on the things about yourself that you think are your talents, or your gifts or things that you’re good at or things you appreciate, that can be the start of a positive self image and from there you can take that and go ok so now how can I learn or change or grow as a human being to change the things I don’t like about myself or the mindset that certain things have to change. Because that is part of being human too, growing and improving… if you don’t like something about yourself, don’t get down about it, think of a way that you can change it, a way that you can turn that negative into a positive.

And as far as pursuing your dreams, if you find something that you’re passionate about, something that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning, go for it. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not possible. Because it is. Miracles happen every day, it’s just if you choose to see them. Find out what knowledge you might need, what education is required, if there is training, go to your library and read as many books on it as you can, talk to other people who are doing those same things and find a way that you can be involved on any level and learn as much as you can. I feel like that’s the key to life; knowledge and learning and constantly seeking out more of it!

Have you developed a tool-kit for dealing with judgment?
I have learnt a lot about that in the last few years, particularly because Shadowhunters is based on a book series and so it comes with a built in fan base that already have so many opinions and this is something I love about our fan base is because people have opinions and care enough and invest enough in the stories that they have this certain image in mind. With the tv show we do our best to create something that everyone can relate to and connect to. Of course there are always those people who have differences of opinion and it can come in any form – that just happens to be the most recent experience of mine but it taught me that it’s an opinion, and that person is entitled to their opinion but that doesn’t have to change anything about how you feel about yourself. You can choose to take the advice or differ in opinion but that doesn’t make anyone involved a bad person, it’s just a difference of opinion.

And so ultimately, in the grand scheme of talking about this in a general sense I guess, if somebody judges you for something or gives you a piece of constructive criticism, you can choose to take that advice if you agree and maybe realise, you know what – I can improve in XYZ way, or I could change this about myself, and great because often that is a chance to grow. But if you disagree, then keep being who you are because there’s nothing else you need to know other than it is just someone’s opinion.

What does kindness mean to you and how can we cultivate more of it on a day to day basis?
Kindness is so hard to quantify but to me means putting yourself in another persons shoes and thinking about different situations in the world from a perspective outside of your own. It means being conscious enough to do what you feasibly can to help make the world a better place, to make someone smile or just be aware of how other people feel or how things may affect them. It really comes down to just being present and being aware of things outside of your own atmosphere, your own universe. And I think the way to cultivate that is by realising, when it comes down to it, we’re all the same. We’re all just human beings trying to make it in this world and there’s so much division right now and disparity of opinion and people fighting against each other for one reason or another or separating from each other and I find it so silly because honestly we’re all trying to have the same things, we’re all trying to live a happy, fulfilled life and if we simply realise that and allow the people around us to live what their version of a happy fulfilling life is then we can go about our version of a happy fulfilling life and only benefit others in doing so.

‘Whatever you do in life, never ever forget to love yourself and love each other. Do everything in your power to be the person you were meant to be on this earth and do everything you can to help others do the same.’

What are your thoughts on social pressures when it comes to social media, ‘unrealistic’ physical appearance and teaching girls not to get trapped into that false sense of reality and striving for something that doesn’t really exist?
I think the most important thing to realise is that social media is just a person presenting whatever version themselves or their life that they want to, to the world. And it’s such a great way – I think asocial media is a two sided coin. It can be such a positive thing, which I have experienced – a way to connect to people around the world, a way to keep in touch with people you never see, it’s a way for people to share information and opinions and to learn and grow and become more conscious of the world around them even if they’ve never been to a place or met a person from a certain part of the world, you can relate to them because you’re all sharing this space that is the social media community.

But then conversely, we’ve all seen the dark side of social media, we’ve all seen the insecurities that it can bring forward and the pressures that it can create but I just wish that people could realise and remember that it’s just ones and zeros and bits and bytes and numbers on a computer screen, ultimately, what really matters in life, it’s not the likes you get or the photos you share or the filters you put on, they’re the people in your life that are in those photos, the memories that those photos create and the people that are in that friends list that you care about and the people that have had an influence on your life that you are trying to stay connected to, and that’s the gift that technology gives us, the ability to keep people in our lives that we want to have around and that are beneficial to us and that we care about and we love and to keep them as close a possible even if our lives take us far away. I think it’s honestly just about being conscious of the pressures and patterns that you can slip into and really just being conscious of that negative side of things and being aware and realising what’s really important.

    

When are you the best, most authentic version of you?
I am the most authentic version of me when I’m in the middle of a big group of family or friends, playing a silly game, laughing my ass off, having the best time, reconnecting and sharing good food and good fun. Just laughing and being silly with the people I love.

What is your greatest achievement?
I don’t know that I’ve done it yet and I think that’s exciting. Maybe the fact that I’ve been fortunate enough and worked hard enough to do what I love for a living and to be able to continue to learn and grow and create through that but ultimately, I think the best is always yet to come. That’s one thing I love about what I do, yes it’s uncertain, I never know if and when I am going to have another job, but with that uncertainty comes limitless possibilities.

What is your favorite inspiring quote?
There’s one that I’ve loved for a long time by Henry David Thoreau (who, incidentally, is one of my favorite authors, the way he crafts words is beautiful) Go confidently in the direction of your dreams – live the life you have imagined. I think I was 10 when I first came across it and it is something that really struck me at the time because it was around then that I had just started acting and discovering what imagination can really do.

And, as I’ve gotten older, the meaning has become even deeper because there are so many things in life that if you believe are possible, actually become possible and just that focus on positivity and optimism, can really change your life. Thoughts and dreams are inherently subconscious and if you’re putting something out there in the world, it’s going to come back to you at some point, so if you have that opportunity why wouldn’t you think about something that you desperately desire to happen or something positive that could change your life for the better or change someone else’s life for the better, it’s the simplest thing – it just takes a thought.

‘Focus on the things about yourself that you love, focus on the things about yourself that you think are your talents, or your gifts or things that you’re good at or things you appreciate, that can be the start of a positive self image.’

What is your ultimate message to young girls and women around the world?
Whatever you do in life, never ever forget to love yourself and love each other. Do everything in your power to be the person you were meant to be on this earth and do everything you can to help others do the same.

    

**All images courtesy of Kat’s instagram and Bello Magazine

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  • What an apsulutely AMAZING woman! I met her at comic con as a Shadowhunters fan and I could hardly talk because I was in tears because of how beautiful and grateful she is! And I am in bits now reading that article because – I can’t put into words how gorgeous this woman is!