I’ve got news for you.  “You were put on this planet to be Fear*Less – to live and work in a state of limitless curiosity, freedom and love.  Anyone who tells you any different – including those limiting voices in your head – is not invited to the party.”  So says Catherine Just, visionary photographer, fine artist and instigator of personal transformation.

In this week’s Secrets of my Success interview, Catherine talks candidly about her own personal transformation, how she tackles her biggest fears and her tips for turning her visions into reality.  Catherine also shares one of her inspirations, her son Max, whose nap-times Catherine documented beautifully and which evolved into her In Plain Sight daily photo ritual.  The 30-day e-course celebrates “the sacred in every day through photography” – you can check out Catherine’s Nap project, including the heart-melting photo above, here


What has been the ‘defining moment’ that set you on the path you’re on today?  How did you get to where you are now?

The defining moment (there have been MANY ), was at 18 years old when I was addicted to crystal meth and had an awakening that there must be more to life than the one I had been living.  I checked myself into drug treatment, went directly to art school after I completed the in-patient program, and found a way to express myself through photography.  This was a game-changer.  I could explore my internal world and create images that represented what was going on underneath the surface of every day life – the discomfort, confusion, overwhelm, anxiety.  I found a way to deal with the pain I was feeling inside without harming myself.  I became curious about what happens if I stay with the pain and not “leave”.  (“Leaving” meaning the distractions that people often use to escape uncomfortable situations and feelings – using drugs, money, sex, shopping, food to pretend everything is ok, only to create more chaos and despair).  I started to explore this idea of dis-ease in my photography work.  After years of continuous sobriety, I saw that my life only got better and more comfortable when I refrained from the knee-jerk reaction to use something outside myself to get a quick fix. I saw others around me get uncomfortable and decide that drinking or using drugs was a better solution to staying and moving through the pain.  I saw them crumble under the chaos and added pain of active addiction.  When they sobered up, they not only had to deal with the wreckage of their drinking and using but the feelings they were trying to run from were still right there waiting for them. My quote: “don’t leave before the miracle happens” is a reference to this very idea.  {Click to tweet it} When you learn to stay, your life opens up in ways you never thought possible.  When you “leave”, you miss the opportunity to notice the sacred that happens in the every day.  The miracles in my life are so many I’ve lost track of them all.  I used to feel like I was crawling out of my own skin. I was afraid of people.  I couldn’t really look people in the eyes.  I smoked 2 packs of cigarettes a day just to be able to be in the world sober.  I didn’t really have an opinion unless it was my boyfriend’s opinion.  I didn’t know my own value in the world.  I didn’t think my life mattered without having a boyfriend.  I couldn’t sit still.  My shoulders were always up and tense.  I changed my clothes at least 3 times a day because I didn’t think I looked “right”.   I didn’t care if I died.  I was overwhelmed at the idea of being an adult and living a responsible life.  I didn’t trust anyone, but couldn’t be alone and felt that if I wasn’t around that they would forget I existed.

Those that know me today can hardly believe that this is a description of the me I used to be.  And it is all just a story but it illustrates how powerful it is to stay and be curious about what happens and what life has waiting for you just on the other side of the pain.  It’s much brighter and higher than any high you can get from outside yourself.


Tell me about your vision/goals for your future.

To be present for my son Max and offer him the opportunities he needs to live his best life.  Along with that, to give myself permission to go for all of my own dreams for myself.  When I allow myself to go for it, it expands and deepens my own experience of life and ultimately helps my son see what is possible. Plus it makes me feel good to create, explore and act on my artistic inspiration.  Feeling good always rubs off on those around me.  My vision is to move forward with my own creative pursuits, continue to learn how to be present and help empower others to do the same.


What has been most effective for you in your achievements so far, in turning your goals/visions into reality?  Where do you start?

I see it first.  I see it as if its already happened.  I use my imagination to see myself and feel the feelings I would feel as if it’s happening right now.  But it’s deeper than that.  I have to KNOW it.  I have to really know that it is inevitable, that the universe supports me, my goals and visions.  It’s a full-on mind/body/spirit connection with the dreams I have.  When fear is present or a belief that it’s not possible, then the goal won’t be reached.  I have to look directly at the fears and the disbelief and clear it out.  It’s not a perfect roadmap but there is a feeling in my entire being when I know that something I am heading toward is going to happen.  I say it out loud a lot.  I find that the more I include others in the dream or goal I’m heading toward, the more that doors open or I find out about something along the path that I needed to know.   I prepare myself to move into the space to receive it.  If I’m feeling like I’m not smart enough or that I’m an imposter and they are going to find me out, I ask myself what it is that I need to learn to feel more grounded and prepared.  I also LOVE to ask.  If I want to interview someone, I ask them.  I get out of my own way and try not to take it personally if they say no.  If they say no, it’s because someone else is meant to be in that spot and I’m on a mission to find out who that might be.  I remain curious.  I have to remember that I created this business and I get to have fun with it.  It doesn’t have to be hard, I just need to be myself, learn to be authentic and take off the image of perfection.  Keep moving forward, remember that it’s all progress.  Take classes to learn what I don’t know, connect with like-minded people, surround myself with people who believe in what I do and stay away from (as much as possible) people who want to tell me that it’s impossible or hard, even if they are my own family.


How do you stay motivated and inspired?

I stay motivated by my own curiosity about whatever it is I am inspired by at the time or the goal I have in mind.  And I find other creative entrepreneurs inspiring as well.  I love connecting with like-minded people.  My son also inspires me to do my best work.


What has been your biggest lesson learned?

Don’t leave before the miracle happens.


What have been (or still are) your biggest fears and challenges, and how do you overcome them?

I forget that I am not in a race, that the universe really is supporting me in so many ways, that I’m not alone and that I can trust others.  When I go down that road of fear and those old stories and get hooked by them, I use the tools I was given along the way to “wake up”.  This usually means saying the fears out loud to someone else – it diffuses them.  And to keep going!  Action is where the answers live.  {Click to tweet}


What do you believe is the secret of your success?

Giving myself permission to change my mind.  Asking for help.  Continuing to learn from mentors.  Allowing myself to dream big and then taking action on a continuous basis … as well as taking breaks and naps!


What tips would you offer ambitious women reading this?

Don’t believe the self-doubt that creeps in. Don’t let it stop you.

Be teachable. Let go of your perfectionism. 

Keep going. Ask for help. Know that what you are doing is important, but don’t forget to have a sense of humor about it all.


What book has most inspired you?

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz


Catherine and I would love to hear from you: is there a photo that you cherish that speaks a thousand words to you?  What is the moment that the picture captures?  Share in the Comments below…. x


Image source: Catherine Just


  • Teresa
    Jun 29 2013
    LOVE this interview! Very inspirational...Given me a new mantra ;) x

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