I’m going to share a personal story that relates to photographic success.
A friend of mine who lost their job a few month ago share with me his experience of what it is like to be out of work. In particular, he was avoiding seeing people from his old job because he was worried they would judge him.
Judge him because he hadn’t found full time work yet.
Judge him because the job he did have was unrelated to the work he had been doing.
As you read these statements, notice how you would feel if you were in that situation. My friend was feeling embarrassed and not good enough. Sound familiar?
The stories we tell ourselves
Our minds are made to make up stories about the things that occur in our lives. When someone says something about us, we tell ourselves a story about it. When something occurs, we tell ourselves a story about it.
In the case of my friend, he has stories about:
- what people might (but have not yet) said
- what his current situation means about him as a person
The truth of the matter
Here’s the thing I asked my friend to consider (and perhaps you can do the same):
It isn’t the fact that people judge him in this way that is causing the feelings he is having. It is because deep down he believes these stories might be true.
Thing is, a story is not a fact.
Change the story
A story is actually your brains interpretation of a fact (or collection of facts) based on your beliefs and experiences. Since each of us has a unique and personal perspective, it can be hard to see equally valid stories that we could tell ourselves about the facts in front of us.
I’m here to tell you that you have a choice in the story you tell yourself.
Photography is a discipline where the stories you tell yourself can be the difference between success and failure. Here three stories I’ve experienced that limit my own photographic success (and I see them in other photographers all the time).
The “working” photographer
As freelancers, photographers can feel like they’re “out of work” even though they’re working on getting work. Especially when starting out (or even when losing a long time client), photogs may be embarrassed when they compare* themselves to friends who have a full time job.
An alternate story you could tell yourself is that photography is first and foremost an art and success is being able to express your unique contribution to the world. The process of finding your true vision takes time and not having clients gives you the freedom to follow you inner voice.
Another option is to view yourself as an entrepreneur who is putting in the work to build something great. I don’t know any successful entrepreneur who has been an “overnight success.” It’s just that the public doesn’t see the years of work that went into getting them there.
Think about the story you tell yourself when you want to get out shooting but the weather isn’t good*. They feel like it will impact their photographic success. For some people that might be when it’s raining.
What most people consider to be bad weather can be amazing for photography. Mist can results in atmospheric, moody images. Wet pavement can create incredible reflections. Storm clouds can add interest to an otherwise bland sky to give your photo of an iconic location something unique.
What about when the weather isn’t right for the concept?
The weather is just the weather; unfortunately we can’t control it. Fighting what is actually occurring is a recipe for being disconnected from the process which will impact your photos.
My advice is to accept it and do the best you can with what’s in front of you.
I’ve had over 5 failed blogs before this one. I’ve lost jobs because I’ve priced to high. I’ve come out of shoots with less that optimum results.
Sometimes I feel like I am* a failure and it is a terrible feeling.
People are not failures. People can fail at particular activities. One’s relationship with the word “failure” will impact the emotions they feel when they fail.
What if you viewed your failures are lessons in disguise?
Failure is a powerful force. It offers the possibility to create something new based on what I’ve learned.
Stories that limit success
Can you see an area in your own photography (art and/or business) where the story you tell yourself is limiting your potential?
There are many valid stories that you can apply to any given fact(s). So next time you catch yourself in a story, do yourself a favour and change the script. Buddhist teachings are a good antidote as well.
Let me know if there are any stories you’re struggling with that are limiting your success in the comments below.
PS If you got something out of reading this post, I’d really appreciate it you spread the word and share it with others.