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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Stop comparing yourself to something you are not.

This is my motto. I used to spend so much time agonizing about whether or not I was good enough. I still have my moments where I doubt myself. However, I have stopped looking at other photographers work as a means of comparison. I occasionally look at others' work, but do NOT look for inspiration in it. I look to enjoy their art. I also try not to criticize or disparage others' work.

I feel that the photography industry needs a more positive and loving environment that nurtures and fosters talent instead of viewing everyone else purely as competition. It is absolutely useless, wasted energy to constantly compare yourself to others. You will always find fault either with yourself or someone else, and will always feel some sort of negative cloud over your head. That is no way to live.

So, whether you are a photographer, or just a person trying to live his/her life without negativity, stop the unnecessary comparisons and just be happy with who you are, and how you as a person have grown.

I used to worry constantly about why is so and so getting more work than me? Why can so and so charge more than me? How can so and so possibly be that busy when her work isn't even that good? And then on the other side of it, I would read horrific things that other photographers would say about beginner photographers, and hear other photographers talk about how ridiculous another photographer was because that person called herself a professional. Do you know how that made me feel? I was constantly worried about what everyone thought of me. I was never satisfied with my work because I was always terrified that someone else hated it.  Those emotions and fears stifled my creativity, and caused me to question pursuing a career doing what I loved.

It is not a competition. Yes, if so and so gets more successful than you there is potential that she will take business away from you. However, the real clients you have are cultivated through relationship building and showing those clients that YOU are the one they trust with their special life moments. YOU are the one they need to tell their friends about. YOU are the one who determines whether that client remains loyal to you, or decides to go somewhere else. The ONLY person you need to worry about "stealing" clients away from you is YOU.

Also, learning to accept a "No" is hard. I get that. I struggle with it. For a long time I took it very personally. I would think, "My work isn't good." But that is BALONEY. I know I am good at what I do. I may not be the "Best" but I know that what I do has value. I know that I am capable of producing artwork that people love and cherish. I know I am capable because I have done it over and over again, and I believe in myself FINALLY. But just because a potential client says "No" doesn't mean that you aren't good at what you do. Unfortunately there are numerous factors that drive those kinds of decisions, whether it is finances, location, timing, you name it. Just know that you and that client were just not the right fit. There are more people out there. There are people out there who value what you do and aren't bargain shopping. They want quality and are willing to pay for it.

But do you know how I got to this point? Do you know what caused me to throw my hands up and say, "I am good. I like what I do. I like what I produce." ? I stopped looking at other photographers' work. For a while, I stopped all together. I felt a sense of freedom that I hadn't ever had in this industry. I just don't care anymore what other photographers say. That includes photographers that I am friends with. I don't say that to be rude. I love my friends. I just don't care about all the comparisons. I don't care about the name dropping, or the constant condescension. I don't have a MENTOR. No one held my hand while I started out. I had encouragement from people that I still to this day appreciate. But, I did not have a mentor or teacher. I may have had friends who started before me in the professional realm. But I have been a lover of photography (on my own) for a lot of years. I have been an amateur photographer, a hobbyist (whatever you want to call me) since I was 16 years old, and before that, I appreciated the art form immensely. I would scour National Geographics, and library shelves of photo books because I loved seeing LIFE being captured. Being immortalized. It has always held a special place in my heart. So I used to get angry and frustrated when people would talk down to me or about me and others like me who were trying to merge their passion with a means to help support their families.

I AM a mom with a camera. But I am more than that. I AM a photographer. I DO have a passion for this work. I AM good at what I do.

I realized that no matter what you do in life, no matter how good you are at what you do, there will ALWAYS be someone out there who tries to destroy it. So, it stops with me. I have given up comparing my work with others. I have given up judging and criticizing. I am tired of hearing the back stabbing and the hypocrisy from other photographers. So, I don't listen to it anymore.

I stopped going to photography blogs and sites for over a year now. I occasionally will browse now at others' work, but that is only when I am asked or if I just want to appreciate someone else's art. I do not go and look for inspiration. I do not copy other people's posing or props or look. If there HAPPENS to be similarities between my work and someone else's that is purely coincidence and not because I am trying to duplicate. Unfortunately, that wasn't always the case. I used to look for inspiration in other people's work rather than in the life around me, and in my clients. But, I feel that is how I have been able to grow. I let go of who I thought I should be and allowed myself to embrace who I was meant to be. And, thankfully, that doesn't always coincide with the majority.

The best part of all of this is that this mentality has crossed over in to my personal life and helped me to feel more confident in all aspects of my day to day. I am a happier person. It has taken a REALLY long time to get to this place, but I can finally say that I am pretty comfortable in my own skin. Sure I have my moments of concern about looking ridiculous, but the truth is, for the first time since I was a small child, I feel the freedom to be okay with being myself.

For me I just got tired. I mean, if I wasn't tearing myself down, I was tearing someone else down, or listening to someone else tear someone else down. No matter the situation, someone was being picked apart, and the negativity was so thick I couldn't see good anymore. That is not the meaning of this life. That is not a happy way to live. It is a useless, nasty way to be. And I will have none of it.

Go out, and be yourself. Be happy with who you are. To quote the amazing Dr. Seuss (who is the very definition of creativity):

With Love,

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