This weekend I was lucky enough to be able to attend my niece’s annual holiday dance show. An hour or so before, my sister texted me to ask if I could take some photos during the performance. Now, a normal person would say, “Sure!” then move on with their lives. I (not a normal person, obviously) commenced total freak out mode.
You see, even with my years working as a photographer, I still don’t really believe I’m the real deal. I have this dumb little voice in my head that tells me I’m not good enough and that no one in their right mind would ever believe I’m actually good at this gig. Unfortunately, these self-sabotaging thoughts don’t only appear during photography projects, but in every aspect of my life. Rarely do I have any clue what I’m doing, whether I’m parenting, writing, taking photos, baking cookies or designing. Every now and then a subject or task comes up that I feel super-confident about taking on, but for the most part, I’m just trying new things and waiting for one of them to stick.
But that’s part of why things DO stick now and then, at least in my creative life. I’m learning the only way I’m ever going to get any better is to keep trying, even (or maybe especially) when I’m uncomfortable. That’s the only way to grow and learn. In the last month, I’ve been doing a lot of things that are uncomfortable for me, a lot that makes me feel like an actor playing a part.
Enter stage left, a “writer.”
The more people I meet, especially successful ones, the more I’m finding out no one really knows what they are doing. Sure, people have experience, and that makes certain types of work a bit easier for them than others, but in the end, we are all just weirdos wandering around trying to figure it all out. I’ve sat in meetings with CEOs who come off as cool, smart and quick, only to find out later they were faking it just as much as I was. The biggest difference? They didn’t let their fear stop them.
A big change for me in the past year is moving forward through the scary stuff. This means when you’re asked to take photos inside a dark auditorium of dancers whirling quickly around the stage, you say yes. You don’t obsess over your camera being too low quality or your lens not being right or your meager knowledge of stage shooting. Instead you walk in with your head held high, faking all the confidence you can muster. You let go of the pressure, and remember all you can do is your best. You do a few internet searches on tips for stage shooting. And then you take a deep breath, and do your work.
Did the photos turn out perfectly? Nope. There are lots of things technically wrong with them. And sure, someone else with more experience probably could have done a better job. But that’s no the point. The point is if I would’ve said no or let the fear overwhelm me, there would be no photos at all! I was there, I could take the photos. So I did, to the best of my ability. And even though they’re not perfect, I think they are pretty beautiful.
For now, I’m gonna keep faking it. Maybe some day I’ll “make it” and maybe I won’t, but I know if I give up, I’ll never get anywhere. I’d rather be a faker whose trying, than the real deal on the sidelines.