I’ve sat at my desk for hours now, trying to find something to do instead of writing this blog post. But this post needs to be written— not because people need to read it, but because I need the honesty of writing it. So I just made myself some English Breakfast tea, and I’ve settled into a comfortable spot at my desk by the window, and I’m determined to get this out. WARNING: this will probably be a very long post. Thanks for bearing with me.
Dear blog reader:
If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time— a week, a month, or for a few of you brave souls out there, a year or more— you will, undoubtedly, know several things about me. For one, I love photography. I love the sound of the shutter button, I love the way it allows me to grab one brief moment of time and record it forever, I love the way I get to use light to show off the prettiest and truest aspects of a person. I love the art, math, technology, and precision behind it all. I love the industry, even with all of its crazy quirks and challenges. I love “talking shop” with others who do the same thing I do, but in a different way than I do it. I love how unique it is, because every photographer is unique.
You will also know by now that I’m pretty much an open book. If something is important to me, I talk about it. If it’s hard, I’m not afraid to talk about that, too. I believe that the hard parts of life, and the painful parts of life, serve as buffing pads to shine up our strengths and make us stronger, more humble, more compassionate people. And because I like to talk, I share about many of those good, hard, painful, joyful aspects of my own life.
The thing is, I haven’t been real with you, or with myself, for that matter, about some very important things: my fears. I’ve been too afraid of what I’ve been afraid of to talk about them, because I thought if I talked about them, they might come true. If I say, “I’m scared about _________,” someone might call my bluff and say, “well, that’s because your fear is reality.”
But it’s time for me to get real.
A year and a half ago I wrote a post on my old blog about some of these fears. “Sometimes I wonder if I can actually do this thing,” I wrote. I wondered if I was cut out to be a businesswoman, if clients actually liked the work I produced, if I could make it in this industry. Legitimate concern, valid question. But— although I asked some questions and outlined a couple of general fears (because it’s easier to use broad terms than to speak the fear aloud), I never verbalized anything specific, not to myself or to anyone else. Which means I never dealt with them. And guess what happened? They grew— stronger, bigger, louder, more controlling.
Two months ago I hit a wall. Again. After months and months of crazy juggling, working myself into the ground, and constantly feeling behind in everything, I threw my hands in the air and said, “I can’t do this anymore.” I was literally five minutes away from quitting my business and finding a “normal, boring desk job” somewhere. Literally. My sweet roommate talked me down from my proverbial ledge, and a bit of sleep helped to ground me a again, but the feeling of “I just can’t do this anymore” lingered in my mind. I needed help, and fast. But I didn’t know where to look, or what I was even looking for.
Time at WPPI helped— I realized that I need to completely remove photography from the equation, and learn how to run a business. I met with one of my October brides, and she used some of her training and experience in the business realm to narrow down my huge “I’M SO OVERWHELMED WITH EVERYTHING!!!” emotions to a concise to-do list with achievable goals. I talked to friends, got counsel from mentors, and tried to outline steps of action. But even with all of that help, I still felt tied back. As one friend said, “it’s as if you have a rubber band tied to your waist, and the farther you move forward, the harder it becomes.” She was right. And I needed to figure out what that rubber band was, and how to cut it.
Guess what? That happened. I attended Jasmine Star‘s theFIX on Thursday night. She had words of wisdom to share, and lots of encouragement to give, and I gained so much from listening to her share from her own experience. But the biggest thing was one little sentence she said toward the beginning of her presentation: “If you can’t believe it in your imagination, you can’t live it in real life,” she said. Her words stopped me in my tracks and brought me to tears, because I realized that although I’ve called myself a businesswoman, and I’ve called myself a professional, and I say that I’m a full-time wedding photographer, I don’t really believe it.
In other words, I found the rubber band.
In my mind I’m a 15-year-old girl living in a grown-ups world, pretending to be one of them, and scared to death that someone’s going to find out and call my bluff. I think that I’m a fake, and that eventually people will realize that and confront me on it, and then what will happen? I think I haven’t had enough training or experience to run a business, and that I can’t really understand things. I think that I can’t afford to hire people or to outsource, but I know I can’t do work well on my own, or work at all for that matter, and so I’m destined to mediocrity. I think that I’ll “do it all wrong” and get hefty fines from the government, and have to quit for financial reasons, so why not just quit now? I’m still bound by my “poor girl” mindset from 3 years ago— better to do it myself than pay someone else to do it, because money is valuable and my time is not— and it’s killing me, because I can’t do everything. I’m convinced that my clients don’t really like my work, but are too kind to tell me I suck. Even though I’ve been shooting for 5 1/2 years, I still don’t think that I really know what I’m doing, and just fudge my way through portrait sessions and weddings, and I carry a thick knot in my stomach the whole time because I know someone’s going to notice one of these days. I’m scared I’ll be a success, and terrified that I’ll fail, and not sure which I’d prefer. I’m half terrified and half desperate for someone to look through my put-on front and see the scared little girl inside— terrified because then I’ll be shown for what I really am, and desperate because I hate being that scared little girl.
I know that none of this makes logical sense. You’re dealing with irrational fears, you may say. None of those things are true about you, Sarah. I know they’re fears, and I shouldn’t be governed by them, and I know I’m believing lies that feed my fears. Let me remind you, though, that most fears are irrational, and nooooooo lies are true!! It doesn’t matter how much I talk truth to myself if I don’t really believe it.
I’ve let my fears freeze me, and I’ve let these lies marinate in my heart until they become my truth. And I am unwilling to do this anymore. In other words, my hands have grasped scissors, and the rubber band has been cut.
That’s my confession. I’ve kept fears locked down in the closet of my heart, and that closet turned into a prison around me. I’ve listened to lies instead of shunning them, until the lies talked instead of me. This is neither right nor good, and, in fact, denies the Lordship of Jesus Christ in my life. So I’m changing things.
- I’m not a 15-year-old girl, pretending to be grown up. I’m a 27-year-old adult woman, I own a business, I love deeply, I take life seriously, and I can be taken seriously, too.
- I’m not a fake. I’m a real person, living a real life, in a real city, owning a real business, and sharing real struggles with others who do the same.
- I know I’m not the best businesswoman in the world, and I probably never will be— but that doesn’t mean that I’m completely inept or incapable. I may not have a degree in business management, but that doesn’t mean I’m incompetent. This is the work that God has given me to do, and He will give me the grace to do it well. So just start doing, Sarah!
- I’m not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, but God has kindly blessed my business. And if outsourcing some work lets me do the remainder of it well, I’m going to do it.
- My clients hire me because they like my work. They wouldn’t hire me if they didn’t like it. Duh.
- I do know what I’m doing behind the camera. I’ve shot 80+ weddings to date, hundreds of portrait sessions, I’ve traveled the world doing photography for non-profits, and have taught photography to dozens of people. Sure, there are times that I feel stuck and insecure, but fear of failure isn’t the way to deal with that.
And there you have it. Spoken out loud.
Those are all logical truths to confront my illogical fears and deceptions. Helpful, but not enough frankly. When it all boils down to it, I have to remember that my identity is not based on my business— it is based in Jesus Christ, His death on the Cross on my behalf, and my current right-standing with God as a result. My primary purpose is not temporal, relational, or financial success— my primary purpose in life is that I become like Jesus Christ, and glorify God in the process. I might fail in business. I probably will, at some point or another, since I’m a sinful human being and that’s what we do (failure can take on many forms, you know). But when it all boils down to it, if my primary purpose is to become like Jesus and glorify God in the process, every one of those fears listed above? Their strength just drained. Like deflating a balloon. They’re not worth the time it took to write them out.
So… thank you, dear Jasmine, for helping to uncover that rubber band tying me to my fears and insecurities, and for helping my hands grasp scissors and cut myself free.
From now on, I’m going to kick those fears in the face, and be the confident, excited businesswoman I know I should be. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
And to all of you kind, generous souls who read this far— thank you for caring enough to read!!! I can’t tell you how much it means to know that people actually care about what I have to say, even when it’s post full of brutally honest confessions.
If you made it this far, though, if you actually took the time to read this over the weekend, I suspect it’s because I’m not alone in my struggles. Perhaps there are others out there who, like me, honestly believe that we’re just fakes about to be exposed, or that we’re children sneaking around where we don’t belong, or we’re destined to fail and are just biding our time until it happens, or even that we’re going to be successful and we have no idea what to do with that thought. To those of you struggling with fears and self-deceit like me, I have this to say— you are not alone. So be of good cheer, and hold fast to truth. Speak words of truth to yourself, fight against those lies, do not let your fears control you.