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INTERVIEW: Katherine Schwarzenegger: A Voice for Her Generation of Women

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Katherine Schwarzenegger, author

By Bridget Stangland (@bridgestang)/March 11, 2014

Twitter: @KSchwarzenegger

You may know her as the eldest daughter of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, but this young woman has created a name for herself. Katherine Schwarzenegger, bestselling author, activist, and blogger, has paved a path into a world where she speaks to her generation of young women.

“Through my reporting, speaking, writing, and community service, I believe I can make a difference. People my age have an important role to play across the board in our society and I want to use my voice for positive change.”  Katherine Schwarzenegger

While attending college, Katherine wrote her first bestseller, Rock What You’ve Got: Secrets to Loving Your Inner and Outer Beauty from Someone Who’s been There and Backwhere she focused on the struggle to love your body image in a body-conscious society. Now Katherine is releasing her second book, I Just Graduated…Now What?, where she gives her advice on navigating through post-grad life.

I was interested in interviewing Katherine, not only because of her kind and empowering demeanor, but also to talk with her about my approaching college graduation in June. I have many questions and fears of my own, so I knew Katherine would have some helpful guidance and suggestions to provide…  

EYE:  I loved your first book, Rock What You’ve Got. There are so many young women who struggle with body image like you did. What is your greatest piece of advice for being at peace with your inner and outer beauty?

Katherine Schwarzenegger book, Rock What You've GotKATHERINE: I think the most important thing to know is that being at peace with your inner and outer beauty is a daily challenge, a life-long struggle. There isn’t one day that you wake up and say “yes, I look good” and then you end up feeling that way forever.

Every woman you see – oh, and don’t forget the men — experiences times of being unsatisfied with what she sees in the mirror, no matter what her life looks like on the outside. It’s totally normal and healthy. As I said in my first book, it all starts with the inside. If you are a good person who practices good values, you will feel better about yourself.

And when you feel good about yourself, that shows in your outer beauty. Another great piece of advice is to do things and wear things that make you feel good about yourself. There is nothing better than a girl who is confident so try to bring out parts of you that you feel comfortable with and that will help you rock it.

“There were days when I felt confident about my future and then there were days where I felt so beyond lost. My mom  always gave me the best advice.”

EYE: Your new book, I Graduated…Now What, features advice for individuals like me approaching post-grad life. Did you need a lot of advice yourself?

KATHERIINE: I needed all the advice I could get when I was graduating college. I was beyond overwhelmed, anxious, excited and afraid all at the same time. I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. For the first time in my life, I really didn’t have a plan for what was next.

I am the kind of person who always has a plan for everything, and the fact that I was without a roadmap at such a pivotal moment was nerve-wracking. My mom was hugely supportive during this time. She was always there to offer me advice and to listen to me whether I was in a great mood or when I was struggling.

Katherine Schwarzeneggers  "I Just Graduated, Now What?"BRIDGET: Did gaining confidence and the skills you discovered in your first book help with your post-college career?

KATHERINE: I think all of our experiences prepare us to deal with various phases of life. Everything I discovered in my first book and in that whole process has helped me hugely in life and has definitely helped me get this second book done.

I feel more comfortable and excited for this book to come out and that comes from the familiarity of having done it before, even though these are very different books. Going on my first book tour was very scary for me since I had never done anything like that before and it was the first time I could present something I had created and talk about it.

Having had that experience definitely makes me a bit more confident but I still get the nervous jitters before I do anything professionally.

EYE:  What fears did you have as you faced life after the university?

KATHERINE: It might be easier to talk about what fears I didn’t have. It would be a much shorter list.. After college was the first time I didn’t have a plan for myself and that was terrifying. I had been in school my whole life, so that was always planned out for me and now for the first time I didn’t know what I was going to do in life.

I didn’t know where I was going to live; what job I was going to get; where my friends were going to go; how I was going to make money, etc. Without a plan, I feared that I was a failure, but of course that wasn’t true.

“I have really come to the conclusion that life will take me where I am supposed to go as long as I work hard and give it my all.” 

EYE: Do you still have fears or do you now understand the direction you are going in?

KATHERINE: Of course, I still have fears. Anyone who says they never get scared is either lying or living a very boring life. I think I have a better sense of where my life is headed right now but of course that could change any day.

Not knowing what’s coming next in your life is a very scary thing and the reality is that none of us really know what life is about to hand us. I think it helps to take each day as it comes. If I sit around and think about what I am going to do in a year or ten years from now, that’s when I get scared because I really don’t know where life will take me.

“I am a big believer in the saying ‘everything happens for a reason’ so I try to go back to that whenever I feel afraid of my future.”

EYE: How do you prove you’re ambitious with meeting your career goals but still have a work-life balance?

KATHERINE: I think having a work-life balance is still a challenge for most people. Everyone is so different so it depends on the goals and priorities of each person, but I think a great thing about my generation is that we put a lot of emphasis on caring for ourselves and making sure our emotional and mental health is okay.

Everyone has to do what’s right for them in their own situations, but I think if you are happy and pleased with your personal and professional life at the end of the day, it means you’re doing something right.

“I have made a ton of ‘mistakes’ but I don’t look back with regret because I have learned from everything I have done, good and bad, and it has gotten me where I am today.”

EYE: In this new post-graduate chapter mistakes are bound to happen. Have you made any and what is your advice if one makes a mistake?

KATHERINE: One of the most common pieces of advice the people I interviewed for the book gave me was the importance of failure. We grow up thinking of failure as being wholly negative but what I learned in the process of interviewing everyone for this book is that you learn and grow from failing or messing up and you become better from it.

Everyone makes mistakes at every point in their life; we are human and we mess up. I think the most important thing is to pay attention to how you learn and grow from making those mistakes or errors so you can make them good “mistakes” in your life.

Katherine Schwarzenegger and siblings

Katherine and her sister Christina, brothers Christopher (l) and Patrick (r)

EYE: I think it’s harder to meet men after college. Do you have any advice as to how to do that while you are working in a full-time career?

KATHERINE: The dating scene is hard in college and out of college. It’s just hard, period. Forcing yourself to go out and be social is sometimes the best thing to do. But I know it’s not always easy. If I had it my way, I would just hang out with my friends all the time and avoid the awkward blind dates but sometimes you have to do it and realize you have nothing to lose.

My sister always tells me I need to go out more and let loose and she’s probably right, so I guess I will try and do more of that. After all, I’m not going to meet new guys just staying home.

I get that people my age are trying to devote a lot of their time to their careers and to making sure they are successful, which is great, but I think the great part of being successful is having someone to share it with.

“My mom always tells me and tells my friends that your job isn’t going to call you to make sure you are okay, it isn’t going to laugh with you, wipe your tears when your crying, love and support you and be there to share experiences with you.”

EYE: You are an activist. Community service is important to you. What part should that play in life after college?

KATHERINE: I think it’s important to have some form of community service in your life at any age. Everyone has their own thing they are passionate about and some people can do something for their community every day or a few times a year.

It doesn’t matter what you do or how often you do it. You just have to do something. I grew up in a home where community service was a huge part of our lives. Now, I don’t feel right unless I give back. I have also learned that when you are doing something that is helping other people, you feel much better about yourself at the end of the day.

I don’t think community service should play a bigger part in your life after college or during college. I think it is all of our responsibility as human beings to give back in some way, whatever your age.

Katherine Schwarzenegger on the beach

EYE: What’s next for you? Do you think you’ve chosen the right career path?

KATHERINE: Right now I am gearing up for and focusing on my book launch. That’s a big deal for me because it’s the culmination of a year-and-a-half of work. I am trying to live in the moment and not think about where I will be five or ten years from now.

I do think I have chosen the right career path for me right now. Things could change and all of a sudden I could decide that I want to be a veterinarian. Who knows? But right now I am happy with what I am doing and think it has been the best choice for me.

EYE: Has it been hard to be in such a high-profile family to establish your own identity?

KATHERINE: I grew up with parents who really did a great job making sure my siblings and I had as normal of an upbringing as possible. They always stressed the importance of each of us being our own unique person, and that they would love and accept us no matter what.

It can be harder in a high-profile family but I think no matter what family you come from, you still experience that challenge. Sometimes it can be challenging when people always introduce me as ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver’s oldest daughter’ but that’s nothing I can change or help, just learn to accept.

People struggle with always being ‘the daughter of’ or ‘the wife of’ or ‘the sister of’ and sometimes I wonder if that label will ever go away. But I am learning who I am, and that’s all that matters. If anything, that label has pushed me to do more to individualize myself as my own person.

EYE:  Thanks for your advice, Katherine. It was such a pleasure to talk with you. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for you. And I am really excited about my new life after college.  Hope our readers check out your website!

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