Laura Maddox of ‘Magnolia Celebrates’: How to Thrive Despite Experiencing Impostor Syndrome
Acknowledge that you’re feeling this way. I find that your fears lose a lot of power once you give them a name and think through the entire thought. So often we are so scared of something that if we were to just think all the way through the scenario of “What is the worst that could happen from this?” we find that even the worst that could happen is not that scary.
As a part of our series about how very accomplished leaders were able to succeed despite experiencing Imposter Syndrome, I had the pleasure of interviewing Laura Maddox.
Laura Maddox has over seventeen years of experience in the hospitality industry. She earned a degree in Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism management from the University of South Carolina and is also a Certified Wedding Planner. Through the years she has worked in all aspects of the industry; for private clubs, hotels, restaurants in and around Atlanta, as well as a number of private employers.
Laura started moonlighting with the Magnolia in 2009 and quickly became a leader in the local event community. Her work soon earned her a partnership in the firm. She has directed numerous high-profile events with tremendous success while building an even more powerful reputation in the industry ultimately leading her to take ownership of Magnolia in 2018.
Since then, Laura has been honored to be named one of Atlanta’s Women of Power and Influence, one of Atlanta’s Top 10 Wedding Planners, The Best “Traditional” Wedding Planner in Atlanta, and many more! Laura is also currently honored to serve on the board of WIPA — Wedding Industry Professionals Association — as the Director of Programs.
Laura resides in Roswell with her husband, two kids, and two dogs — she is always ready with some pictures if you ask! When she’s not planning fabulous events around the South you can find her practicing her culinary talents, cheering on her kids in their various activities, training for her next bike race, contributing to her church or spending time with her large extended family.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
So honored to be here!
I was working as an Executive Assistant when I got started with Magnolia Celebrates. One of the original partners asked me if I wanted to follow her for an event — essentially, an unpaid shift to see if this work was even something I wanted to do. I came, I saw, and they couldn’t get rid of me! For 2 years, I worked every event I possibly could. I stayed until the end, and I couldn’t get enough of it. I just loved helping to bring people’s happiest days to life!
Eventually, they asked me to become a partner in the firm. I, of course, jumped at the chance and quit my day job to pursue this career full-time and have never looked back!
I’ve spent the last 10 years building my name and reputation in the Southern Event Industry. At that time, some partners had retired and we have brought on my current partner, Sara Parker, who is also my best friend in real life. We now own the firm together and enjoy every day of it!
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Oh, this is always one of the hardest questions for me to answer! I have a bad (or perhaps, it’s a good thing) habit of compartmentalizing my clients and events. I generally wrap each event up like a package in my mind and try not to overanalyze them after each event.
Most people want to hear the funny stuff, like the squirrel that tried to steal the show in the middle of a ceremony. Or the bridezilla stories that I will never share (mostly, again, because I’ve put them deep into the back of my brain).
However, I find the most interest in our clients this year. The stories of resilience that have come from our brides pushing through, reimagining, and finding new ways to get married and celebrate! They have taught me so much on perseverance and perspective!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Magnolia Celebrates is a full-service planning firm based in Atlanta with relationships throughout the South. Magnolia strives to keep the planning experience both exciting and joyful. We desire to understand our client’s vision and work with them to make their dreams come true! We work hard to maintain excellent relationships with trusted vendors, so that we can cultivate incredible options to best suit our client’s needs. We endeavor to make sure that we are not just pulling together any team, but the RIGHT team! Magnolia clients enjoy working with a hands-on experienced planner. We work to form a bond with each of our clients and create memories for a lifetime. Our client’s priorities become our priorities so we can ensure a professional event execution process.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I would never be where I am today without my mentor, Christina Zubowicz. She saw promise in me and poured into me! She quite literally gave me the keys to the kingdom! Christina was the original owner of Magnolia. Her business partner, Suzanne Reinhard, brought me into the firm as someone to help (and I am equally grateful to her!), but Christina pushed me to become a partner and then helped guide and teach me the foundations that I have built my career on. She is an amazing teacher and mentor and I am so grateful for her!
Additionally, I am so grateful for all of my clients who have continued to share their experiences with their friends and family! We are a 100% referral-based business, so our success is only due to the wonderful clients and vendors that share our name with others!
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the experience of Impostor Syndrome. How would you define Impostor Syndrome? What do people with Imposter Syndrome feel?
Imposter Syndrome is a feeling or belief that you do not belong in the field or space that you are currently taking up. That even though you have done all the work to get there that you somehow do not deserve or do not have the knowledge base to warrant your achievement(s).
What are the downsides of Impostor Syndrome? How can it limit people?
Imposter Syndrome can keep people from striving for more, or speaking up in situations where their voice needs to be heard. This can happen in many ways. For example, early in my career I would not speak up at a meeting. I knew what I was hearing from the vendor was an impossibility, but instead of sharing this knowledge with them, I kept my mouth shut thinking, “They are more seasoned than I am, surely I must be in the wrong.” This ultimately resulted in a disappointed client, as well as an embarrassment for both me AND the vendor later when the event’s logistics were compromised.
This small voice telling you that you’re not good enough, knowledgeable enough or that you don’t have the right to take up space in the room is what causes so many to stunt their growth [and] causes for people to stop working toward bigger and better goals.
How can the experience of Impostor Syndrome impact how one treats others?
In my experience, when people feel threatened, they do one of two things: They either remain quiet and try to fall into the background, or they start to tear down those around them in hopes to validate their own existence. Sort of the crab-in-the-bucket syndrome — always trying to keep everyone down on their level because if they can’t succeed, no one else should be able to either.
We would love to hear your story about your experience with Impostor Syndrome. Would you be able to share that with us?
Oh gracious! Do you have all day? One cannot be an authority on Imposter Syndrome without having experienced it many times over! The latest of which was just a few months ago. I worked with a client recently that planned corporate events for a living who threw me for a loop! She spoke with such authority that I found myself many times during the planning of her wedding wondering if I was actually right on information I have known for 10+ years. Something as simple as how long it takes to build a tent, or how the logistics of table seating work.
I would share my opinion on why something she was wanting could be improved upon, might need to be changed or flexible, or even why we cannot wait until the very last minute to make huge decisions like building tents. Yet, she would tell me I was wrong and I would believe her. You see, she plans 100 events a year, all corporate, and most involve tents, so surely she must know something I don’t… even though I’ve been working with tent companies for 12+ years and have a wealth of knowledge in building venues from scratch, I still let her make me feel like I was not the expert that I am.
Did you ever shake the feeling off? If yes, what have you done to mitigate it or eliminate it?
In the end, I double-checked my work and then moved forward readvising what I knew the first time to be true but also decided to no longer let this person “get in my head”. That while she is an expert in her field, the social market is very different from the corporate market, and she hired me for a reason. I decided to stand strong in this and to stand strong in my knowledge and experience.
In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone who is experiencing Impostor Syndrome can take to move forward despite feeling like an “Impostor”? Please share a story or an example for each.
Acknowledge that you’re feeling this way
I find that your fears lose a lot of power once you give them a name and think through the entire thought. So often we are so scared of something that if we were to just think all the way through the scenario of “What is the worst that could happen from this?” we find that even the worst that could happen is not that scary.
Remind yourself of your worth
I often find that my Imposter Syndrome rears its head most in areas where I am made to feel “less than” by someone. Sometimes this is a conscious decision on their part or sometimes it’s all in my own head. However, reminding yourself WHY you deserve a seat at that particular table and WHY you were invited is a great way to kick the negative thoughts and fears in your head.
Cheer on your competition
Happiness and kindness attract happiness and kindness. A rising tide will elevate all ships in the harbor. We do not need to tear others down in order for us to reach the top.
Success is not a pyramid. We do not have to be better than someone else in order to have success. I have found my greatest achievements often come with a LOT of help from those around me. We should acknowledge this, but we should also be ready and willing to help those around us. When you’re busy helping others you have little time to worry about others and what they may be thinking of you.
Be a sponge for learning!
No matter how great you are or what track your career is on, there is always room for more knowledge. After every single event I sit down and ask myself what I learned. How can I improve from this event to the next one, how will we ensure that any hiccups don’t happen again, etc. I find that if I’m in a constant state of learning AND I share with those around me that I am always trying to improve and get better, the pressure to BE the best or to have ALL the answers is lifted.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Honestly, my heart is for the middle school girl. That she would know her worth and be able to walk with confidence every day! At no other age in your life are you as aware of your body changing as much as it is when you are in these years. They are hard and confusing years, and girls can be so nasty to each other! I want to create a conference where all young women can feel empowered and confident in who God made them to be!
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)
Oh, man! The chance to have lunch with someone like Rachel Hollis, Robin Arzon, Sara Blakely, or Martha Stewart — to name a few! These women have influenced me to never give up, believe that I can do more and that there is enough sand in the sandbox for all of us! We should be cheerleaders for our competition, celebrating their wins while also celebrating our own! Thank you ladies!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
We’re on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest but we like best to hang out on Instagram. Our handle on all three is @magnoliacelebrates
Can’t wait to hear from you!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Such a pleasure! Thank YOU for having me!