I have a HUGE fear of failure. My fear of failure is bigger than my fear of clowns. But not as big as my fear of amputation, because that’s the worst thing ever, like worse than dying. Aaaaanyway … I’ve had an intense fear of failure my entire life. When I was in high school I got a B on my report card and cried so hard I gave myself a headache. My mom was driving and saying, “What is wrong with you?!” I wasn’t perfect. THAT’S what was wrong with me. And every day of my life was a constant cycle of trying to be perfect, screwing it up, having someone else point it out to me, being devastated, wash, rinse, repeat. If you read my blog you know I endured severe bullying in school for years. I have an entire year of my life missing from my memory, and I’m sure there’s a good reason for it.
I also grew up with a mother who was constantly on me about losing weight. When I was fifteen I gained some weight, and I heard about it for years… “Men don’t like fat women. No man will marry you if you’re fat.” Even now, if I see her and I’ve gained weight, she’ll point it out to me and tell me I’m so pretty when I’m thin. (If I’m up a few pounds I won’t see her.) So once again, I failed. I was fat, so I failed. And I carry that around with me every day. Every time I look in the mirror I feel that sting of failure because I don’t have the body I want. I cover it up with humor, because the fat girl is always the funny one. HAH! See I’m doing it now! But then one of my wonderful loved ones will remind me that I’m not fat, and I don’t need to be perfect. Thank you all. I love you dearly!
This intense fear of failure carries over into my job. I know everyone has a fear of failure. That’s normal. No one opens their own business and says, “Well, if I fail, no big diff. Whatev’s.” But when I’ve made mistakes in my job, or photos don’t come out PERFECT, I used to have a M E L T D O W N. Several years ago I got a wedding back from the lab and the photos weren’t perfect. I just looked through them in the envelopes, hadn’t even culled them down yet, and I had an anxiety attack. They weren’t perfect and I was having a nervous breakdown. It was late and Mark was asleep but he got up with me to walk around the park because I COULD NOT BREATHE. I needed air, I needed a voice of reason, and Mark is always great at that … when he’s not half asleep. (Sorry, Honey.) I stressed so hard over that job that I made myself sick. When the clients got their photos, they LOVED them! That experience taught me how hard on myself I really am. On the other hand, it’s made me a better photographer. I use this fear of failure like a tool to refine my skill. Now I critique my images and learn what to do to make them better next time.
Over the past three years I’ve IMMERSED myself in education, and I’ve learned SO much. Now when I look at my work from five years ago I die inside and want to crawl under a wet, dark rock and cry. Oy vey, horrible photos! All I see is lighting and composition mistakes, and how did I do so horrible and how did these people like these crappy images ohmygod they’re so bad I’m so embarrassed! And then I take a deep breathe and say to myself, “Self, these people LOVE these images. They loved them then and they love them now. They wrote you amazing testimonials, return for more photo sessions, and refer you. There’s no point crying over spilled milk. There’s nothing you can do about those images now. Move on! You’ve learned a tremendous amount of technical skills and are better every time you hit that shutter.” Then I have a cookie.
Every one of my photography mentors has taught me about how to manage the fear of failure. They’ve all admitted their failures, weaknesses, and fears. That has helped me SO much. It made me realize that if these amazingly talented rock star photographers make mistakes too, it’s not that big of a deal. Thank you to my educators! Particularly Sal Cincotta of Cincotta Studios in St. Louis, MO has taught me that. He teaches about how to use the mistakes made to learn and refine your eye and skills. He says if we don’t screw up, we don’t learn. And he’s always honest. If you’re a photographer or interested in the photography biz, check out his classes on CreativeLIVE.com. Amazing stuff!
Mostly, thanks be to GOD for giving me the strength to face my childhood and sort through all the crap and tears, to take the pain and use it as a tool. To decide to be stronger. I’ve been working on that for four years, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. The people that have helped me the most are my clients! Many of them end up friends of mine, many are return clients, and they are all amazingly gracious for their kind words.
And here’s a pic of me pretending to be a cat. Just because. 😀