For so long now, as a photographer, I just felt like I was playing dress up. You remember when you were a little girl and you put on your mom's, or grandma's high heels and tried to walk around? Remember how they didn't fit your feet and slid around but you felt fancy and pretty?
That's exactly how I've been as a photographer, like I was wading around in shoes that didn't fit pretending to be something I wasn't. Over the last two years, I've seen real progression in my work, I'm creating consistent stuff, using studio and natural light successfully, getting good feedback from clients that were loving the images I created for them. I still felt like a fraud. It felt like putting on a costume. I love photography, I live it, breathe it, dream it. It's become who I am instead of what I do and yet, I continued to feel like I wasn't actually a photographer.
And then. Then. I decided to do something that was really far outside my safe space. I wish I could say that it was an amazing, freeing event from the get go but, it wasn't. I've spent my whole life being safe, staying inside the lines. Not because of any specific reason, it's just inherent in my nature. I'd love to tell you that I had this huge epiphany, that I walked up to the edge and leapt out into the great unknown like some climatic movie scene where the damsel in distress finally saves her own ass while dramatic music beats away in the background. It wasn't even close to that, it wasn't even a baby bird flapping clumsily out of the nest.
No, it was more like a Nestea plunge. I'll explain for those too young for that reference. It was like closing your eyes and tipping backwards off the ledge hoping like crazy there's something soft to land on.
I was terrified. Completely and utterly. I was taking on personal sessions that could either strengthen my clients view of themselves or wreck it. I felt a very heavy responsibility to do this right and just as heavy of a certainty that I was incapable of doing it. In fact, during a break in the first session, I messaged a friend of mine that I was completely tanking the session.
I was a bit more confident when I was editing the sessions, I knew I had some decent stuff. But, then I had to do client reveals and I was back in that place of failure. I was filled with absolute certainty that they would all hate every single picture. But, after they viewed their images I felt better, relieved it was done.
Then, later on in the day, almost simultaneously, messages began coming in; "I left feeling better about myself than I have in a long time, thank you!" "I've never felt beautiful before in my whole life until seeing those!!" I honestly cried. Big, ugly tears of punch you in the gut happiness. In public.
And, I realized something. I was standing there in Walgreens crying my eyes out and realizing that the shoes finally fit. These women were thanking me for making them feel good about themselves while they were doing the exact same thing for me. I honestly felt like a photographer for the very first time in my life. I felt like I had accomplished something truly remarkable.
Sometimes, life doesn't require the big leap, the Lemming run off the edge to achieve your dreams. Sometimes, all you have to do is close your eyes and let go of the anchor. Allow yourself to fall once in a while, the landing might surprise you.