The Voices in My Head


I get it. I’m human and riddled with all the things that make humans what we are. I’ve had incredible highs and desperate lows. I’ve succeeded marvelously and failed in even greater ways. I’ve been there for friends and I’ve let friends down. I’ve said the right thing and turned around and put my foot in my mouth. I’ve helped those less fortunate and I’ve set fire to bridges that can’t be repaired. I’ve laughed, loved and loss and most likely will do so a few more dozen times while I’m on this earth. And so it is being a human.

Today is a day when the voices in my head tell me that I’m a fraud and that my failings out-weigh any good I might bring into the world. I know the voices well as they’ve been with me my whole life and I know that, like the ocean’s tide, they will rise and fall, come and go and that tomorrow will feel much better for their absence. But for now….I do my best to ignore their accusations and look forward to hearing less of their pitched cries as the day goes along.

You might be having a similar day. If you are, know you’re not alone and that this too shall pass.

The orchid resting on my desk helps. It reminds me how important it is to surround myself with beauty. Contemplating the simple elegance of this plant connects me with nature and with the entire planet. I’m reminded that while I am part of the whole I am also remarkably unique. And so are you. So despite the voices telling us we can’t; let’s do some remarkable things today, shall we?


About the author, James

With the launch of the new podcast, Million Dollar Decorating, James Swan adds media-host to his career accomplishments. The interview-based show becomes the first daily podcast devoted to the worlds of design, decorating and beautiful living and features interviews with the world’s leading designers, decorators, architects and artisans. Life-style leaders like Robert Couturier, Sandra Nunnerly, Vicente Wolf and Timothy Corrigan populate the podcast where unguarded conversations reveal behind-the-scenes sources of inspiration, resources and stories that inspire and motivate.
James Swan has built a career crafting classically influenced interiors across the United States. Swan has been featured in House & Garden, House Beautiful, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe and The Chicago Tribune and wrote for the “Trends & Shopping” column in House & Garden magazine. His book “101 Things I Hate About Your House” won a 2011 American Bookseller’s Award.
Television appearances on HGTV’s “Homes Across America,” speaking engagements with the professional design industry association NEOCON, regular guest spots on national radio programs have consistently placed Swan in the media spotlight.
Swan’s career took off back in Northern California at a noted San Francisco architecture firm, where he managed residential interiors. After that, Los Angeles beckoned, specifically the prestigious design firm of Frank K. Pennino & Associates, where as senior designer he managed high-profile projects, and earned a reputation for refined classical design that succinctly reflected his clients’ lives. In 1999, Swan opened his own firm in Beverly Hills.
Swan has a Bachelor of Arts degree in theology and music from Southwestern College in Waxahachie, Texas, and studied in Arizona State University's Architecture and Design master's degree program.
Swan is a past member of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, serving on its Executive Board of Directors. His other commitments include PAWS/LA, which assists with the care of pets for people living with disabilities, and KidSmart, an art education foundation for inner-city youth. In his free time, Swan may be found furthering his passion for skiing and traveling. Currently he lives and works from his home on the Maine coast.


  1. Dianna Facci on 08/19/2016 at 12:22 PM

    Dear James,
    I so appreciated your candid story . Who doesn’t go through these moments , yet you were brave enough to express it .
    My identity was challenged recently when I lost my long standing position at a design firm … yet, with time, I realized the precious gift of creating beauty never ceased .. no one could take it away .
    This gift is deep within our soul, it is our silent , inner voice that calls to heal and bring hope.
    May this day find you well and vital .

    • James Swan on 08/19/2016 at 12:41 PM

      Thank you for your note which has found me well and energized. I hope the same is true for you.
      It’s interesting how easy it is to tie our identities to what we do…regardless of how ingrained and cherished that work is.
      So glad you’re part of our family here at MDD.

  2. Wendy on 08/19/2016 at 2:03 PM

    Hello James….
    You’re only human.
    As designers, we are tasked with the hefty job title, “Miracle Worker,” but only God is perfect in everything, everyday, all the time.
    I think that our failings, when we own them, help us to become more intuitive, compassionate and patient…and isn’t that what grows us as people, makes us better friends and more inspired designers?
    All you can do is your best….and that’s all everyone else can do as well.
    We will fail….it’s an inescapable part of our humanity….but it’s what we do with our failures: the learning we do, the changes we make, our responses to other’s failures, that are an indication of our character.
    You make a special contribution to homeowners and designers all over the globe…you keep me company as I drive from client destination to client destination, and you allow me an opportunity to learn how to improve as a person, designer, and business owner every day.
    Thank you for all of the good work you put into this endeavor. I am very appreciative.

    • James Swan on 08/26/2016 at 10:26 AM

      Dear Wendy, Thank you for your note and words of encouragement. They mean the world to me. Delighted to have you part of the MDD family.
      Warmly, JS

  3. Amber Roth on 08/19/2016 at 3:47 PM

    James, I’m glad you emailed us all about this post because yes, I missed it among the scramble of life. We all know that everyone struggles but it’s very brave and transparent to express what we are truly feeling. Those that appreciate us for who we are–which is human, will be beside us and recognize our struggle and our triumphs are no different than their own. That little voice within us all is there. I often have those moments where I feel as though I’m going through this life and there are so many things I’m clueless on and many things I should know how to do. I have to stop myself and be reminded that we all have a set of skills and everyone is unique in their gifts and no one person can do it all or should be expected to know it all. I am kinder to myself these days because I see so many people whom I deem successful and I know areas in which they are weak. I think nothing less of them therefore I too should not expect perfection and expertise out of myself in all areas. Not sure what your struggle was that particular day but thank you for the reminder that we all struggle and you gave us all an opportunity to be empathetic and I thank you for that. 🙂 Hugs.


    • James Swan on 08/26/2016 at 10:25 AM

      Amber, Look what just popped up! Thanks for sending this. Most appreciated. JS

  4. Anne DeCocco on 08/19/2016 at 7:22 PM

    This was interesting to read and you are both brave and generous to write it. Eckhart Tolle is a great person to read to learn how to quiet those voices in your head. James, I found your website recently and have been amazed by the quality and the incredible level of content. Your podcasts are amazing! Your warm, gracious demeanor obviously makes every guest comfortable, because they all seem to speak from the heart. I tell other designers to listen in because they show how much designers have in common with each other. Creatives need a “Restart” button to throw off the worries of the day. Your website is my Restart button!
    With sparkle and texture,

    • James Swan on 08/26/2016 at 10:24 AM

      Dear Anne, Thank you for your note and encouragement. I’ve just become a fan of Eckhart’s….reading book #3 now. So glad to know we’re your “restart”. Warmly,

  5. nancy meadows on 08/22/2016 at 3:51 PM

    I thought your post was very real and honest. I don’t know a human being that doesn’t have these feelings on occasion. It seems to be a part of the human condition. The trick is to not dwell in that emotional space for too long a time. Thanks, James, for sharing. It’s embracing to know none of are alone in this world!

    • James Swan on 08/26/2016 at 10:23 AM

      Thanks for the note Nancy. You are so correct; none of us are alone in this world! Warmly, JS

  6. jennette on 08/23/2016 at 5:00 PM

    Is this where you leave the comment for guessing most popular guest so far? My guess is Alexa Hampton.

    • James Swan on 08/26/2016 at 10:23 AM

      Correct Jennette! Thanks and happy day. JS

  7. Brenda Kula-Pruitt on 08/31/2016 at 10:09 AM

    Been there for sure! I just found your wonderful blog through my friend Susan of Love Of Home. Will be coming back for sure!

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