Kathleen Pagan, 34
CEO & Creative Director, Endlessly Elated
Having jumped from corporate finance to lifestyle blogging, Kathleen Pagan knows a thing or two about building your own empire. With the goal of encouraging equality and helping women in the workplace achieve whatever they set their minds to, Pagan has launched an initiative called “The Fem Think Tank,” which allows women to come together and share their career ups and downs to learn for each other how to face them head on. “Don’t let the beliefs of others define you,” says Pagan. “We are strong women and we will always prevail.
1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?
I started my company after my dad’s passing in 2012, which was a defining moment, to say the least. It was the first time in my life that I stopped ‘doing’ and starting ‘questioning.’ My dad passed away at the age of 62 so for me it became a period of “am I?” I began to ask “am I doing what I want in life? Am I living to my fullest potential?” In search, I realized that although I was blessed with a supportive family, great friends, and an amazing boyfriend (then turned husband) something didn’t feel right. I felt like I wasn’t doing my life’s work. So, just weeks after my dad’s passing, I founded Endlessly Elated (a name I chose to ensure it was a daily reminder to live a fulfilled life) and the rest is history.
I’d say my greatest achievement came the day I decided that those three little words “believe in yourself” weren’t going to be words, but rather actions I lived by. It took me a long time to believe that I could do and be whatever I wanted to. I lived my whole life subconsciously putting limitations on myself, not because of the naysayers but because of my own preconceived notions. It’s my greatest triumph to have found my purpose and live life on my own terms.
2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?
I was told I was ‘too agreeable’ to ever hold a leadership position let alone be a CEO.
3. How did you #SWAAYthenarrative? What was the reaction by those who told you you “couldn’t” do it?
The biggest stereotype I’ve ever been faced with has been that as a woman in the workplace I need to be ‘bitchy.’ That people need to ‘fear me’ in order for me to be perceived as a suitable leader. A few years back, I sat in an office for a year-end review and was told that due to my lack of leadership qualities or how she verbalized it, “you’re just too nice, Kathleen,” I would deter myself from any career progression and due to this unfortunate fact, I either shaped up or would inevitably get fired. As I played the conversation in my head, I realized that my choices were either to become her or continue to be me. When in doubt, always choose yourself.
Needless to say, I never got fired, I moved onto various other positions, had the most amazing managers and after my recent resignation a beautifully, poised email from my current boss came out stating that although she was so sad to see me go, she was extremely proud of me and was fully supportive of all my endeavors. Now that’s a girl boss!
4. What did you learn through your personal journey?
Simple. I created my own. I wasn’t going to let the opinions of those who wanted to categorize me into the “she’s too nice” or the “she’s not bossy enough” boxes write my narrative. I took a stance to ensure that no one mistaken my kindness for weakness or my “lack of bossiness” for self-confidence. My story is mine and mine only. No one gets to write it but me.
5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?Believe it or not, I often think about this question and I always find myself asking the women around me the same thing. Limiting beliefs can come from the least expected places sadly sometimes from the people closest to. Don’t let the beliefs of others define you. Don’t let your circumstances limit you. Don’t let your skin color and ethnicity be a label for who you are. We are strong women and we will always prevail. In the great words of Shonda Rhimes “Not to get all Beyoncé on you, But [we] woke up like this!”
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One of the few things I remember from grade school biology is the concept of tropism. In plain language, tropism is the reaction of a living thing, like a plant, towards a stimulus like sunlight or heat. You've likely seen this before but just didn't recognize it for what it was. If you've ever seen the leaves of a potted plant bending towards a windowpane, that's tropism in action. The plant is bending towards the sunlight.
If you've ever seen the leaves of a potted plant bending towards a windowpane, that's tropism in action.
In our everyday lives, we are all inundated with stimuli throughout the day. The driver in front of us that stalls at the yellow light and zooms through the red light, leaving us behind to wait. Or the customer service rep that leaves us on hold for an ungodly amount of time, only for the call to prematurely drop. There are so many examples both common and unique to our individual lives. The trouble begins when we form the habit of responding to everything — particularly negative stimuli. By doing this, our mental peace is disrupted and diverted making us slaves to whatever happens to happen. Much like the plant bending towards sunlight, we oftentimes react and lean into whatever is happening around us. Now take that concept and multiply it by the number of things that can happen in a day, week, or month. What happens to you mentally with so many emotional pivots?
For me, the result is: Restlessness. Anxiety. Sleepness. Mindless Eating. Everything besides peace of mind.
Much like the plant bending towards sunlight, we oftentimes react and lean into whatever is happening around us.
Earlier this year, something pretty trivial happened to me. I'm sure this has happened to you at some point in your life also. I was walking through a door and, as I always do, glanced back and held the door longer and wider than normal for the person coming behind me. My gracious gesture was met with silence — no thank you, no smile, not even a nod. I remember being so annoyed at this travesty of justice. How dare they not acknowledge me and thank me for holding the door? After all, I didn't have to do it. I know I spent the next few hours thinking about it and probably even texted a few friends so that they could join in on my rant and tell me how right I was to be upset. In hindsight, I should not have allowed this pretty petty thing to occupy my mind and heart, but I did. I let it shake my peace.
I've since taken some classes on mindfulness and what I've learned (and I'm still learning) is the art of being aware — being aware of the present and my feelings. Recognizing when I'm triggered towards annoyance or anger gives me the opportunity to take a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy. We're all human and having emotions is part of the deal but as mindful adults, it's critically important to choose what you're going to care about and let everything else pass along. There are several tools on the market to help with this but the Headspace app has really helped me in my mindfulness journey. The lessons are guided and coupled with some pretty cute animations.
Recognizing when I'm triggered towards annoyance or anger gives me the opportunity to take a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy.
Over the course of the next week, I'd like to challenge you to pay more attention to your reactions. How aware are you of how you allow your environment to affect you? Are you highly reactive? Do you ruminate for hours or even days on events that are insignificant in your life? If so, practicing a bit of mindfulness may be the way to go.