In the early morning hours of scrolling through Instagram, my heart sank when I came across a post from a young artist. Every word written, I felt the pain and emotional rollercoaster of what this person was experiencing. “Your work isn’t good enough. You aren’t enough,” are words that we quickly translate into, “How can I keep going on? Will I ever make it? How can what I love leave me feeling too small and alone?” It’s like weights being stacked on top of you. How am I suppose to carry all of this, grow and create at the same time?! Suddenly you find your efforts as an artist and entrepreneur shifting from growing to proving.
I believe this is a mistake we all make at one point or another. The mistake of feeling the need to carry the harsh things said, the doubts, the rejections and the naysayers narrow-minded ways, instead of learning to grow through it all. Instead of looking at all the words and criticism as weights we carry, we must learn to look at them as the dirt being packed around what’s about to make us grow. If we give up, all that talent, the dreams, the goals, the callings, will never flourish. But it’s all in how we choose to look at the negative things thrown our way.
After I finished up grad school, I moved back to Montana and decided to give photography my all. I feel as though I need to prepare y’all in knowing that my naïveté is cool part of who I am, but it also can lend way to some terrible reality checks…. One time when I was sharing my excitement of my new venture with an old family friend, they responded with, “So…. You’re playing then? Good for you.” Or other case of, “I think you should actually stick to your degrees.” I also had a photographer I had worked for at one point tell me that I should become a trainer at one of the local gyms, and just focus on senior photography. We all ALL have our own version of these. The nay-sayers. The doubters.
I even found myself at one point being told by someone close to me to, “Get a real job. Something with benefits.” I held it together long enough to absolutely lose it in the middle of dinner. I’m talking ugly tears, heaves and the inability to form a complete sentence. I felt absolutely broken. It was a moment that made me seriously doubt myself, my work and everything up until that point. I look back on that particular instance, and I’m so grateful for it, even though, at the time, I remember thinking, God, just how much more of this can I take? Should I quit? Is this it? Is this as far as you’re going to take me?
The answer to that was no. That was just the beginning of His plan. About three months later, I found myself in a place where images I had taken were tucked into the pages People Magazine, on Entertainment Tonight and scattered all throughout the inter webs. And it didn’t stop there. I’ve been incredibly blessed to have my business and work take me to places I never dreamed. Meeting wonderful people I never would have, had I given up and given in to the words of others.
You can certainly bet that even through the congratulations and well wishes, there were still the nay-sayers. A few weeks after the wedding had been published, I found myself in the middle of a shoot, and renting a space for a few hours. Another photographer, whom I had never actually met in person, happened to walk by and noticed me. This person’s first words to me were, “You think you’re some big shot photographer now, and you need this huge space to shoot in?” Right in front of my client and assistant as well. I like to still think the person was being sarcastic, but I honestly could not tell.
Subsequently, I found myself in a meeting not long after the previous incident, and found myself being put down for the success I just seen. Words such as “trashy” were thrown around, and it was in that moment my naïveté turned into some form of wisdom. That wisdom being, in any sort of venture you have in life, whether that be business, art or personal, you will find that some people will struggle with your success, or their perceived version. A lesson in the moment learned that your triumphs and failures will never be enough for everyone. Someone, somewhere, will ALWAYS have something to say about your journey, and/or need an explanation for why things happened the way they did for you.
Prepare to be told you’re not enough. Prepare to be told your work will never be enough. On more than one occasion. Prepare to feel as though the whole world is against you. Prepare to question what in the actual hell you’re doing, constantly. Prepare to lose friends. Prepare to have business relationships go bad. Prepare to wonder just how long you can take it all. Prepare to compare yourself – we all torture ourselves at one point or another. Prepare to learn to find your voice. Prepare to learn to stand up for yourself and when to remain quiet. And most importantly, prepare to find out who you are and just how deep your passions run.
April marks my five-year business anniversary. To which I say, yes I’m still playing… With much wisdom gained. In understanding that for every sweet high, there is an equally challenging low. And with every high will come kind and encouraging words, along with the sting of harsh ones. But all of those are just words. They don’t stand up to the actions of those who chases their dreams. They merely fall to the side, because nothing backs them up. So I say to you my dear friend, striking out on your own venture, these words of others are nothing more than debris scattered a long your path. More like an obstacle course! If you get caught up in stopping at every one, you’ll lose sight of where you’re going. You’ll be slowed down. And what’s worse, your efforts are no longer on your dreams, but in trying to untangle yourself from those who struggle to believe their own.