There was practical work to do. First, I had to get a camera and learn how to use it. The biggest hurdles, however, were the mental obstacles. I had a few big roadblocks in front of me:
- I didn’t know how to be a photographer
- I wasn’t good enough
- I didn’t have enough experience
- I could fail miserably
- I wasn’t perfect
Eventually, I did it anyway. But only after I could see that the only things keeping me from my dream were excuses. I made excuses because I was afraid. And I came up with a lot of really valid excuses:
Everyone is a photographer; there’s no room for me. * It costs too much money to get started. * I am in grad school to become a professor and I will disappoint a lot of people if I change paths. * I don’t have natural talent. * I don’t have time to learn how to do it. * I don’t have help and support. * I am not as good as whatshisname. * If I fail it will be humiliating.
I kept the excuses alive for a long time. They were really good excuses. But excuses make poor company. I realized, somewhere between whining about how dreams don’t come true and spending hours poring over pictures on my favorite photographers’ sites, that playing it safe hurt just as much as taking a risk. In fact, letting the nervous perfectionist in me call all the shots guaranteed that I would be a perfect failure. Wasn’t failure what I feared most to begin with?
Wayne Dyer observed that “perceived risks are not risky at all once you transcend your fears and let love and self-respect in.” I hadn’t spent much time with love and self-respect, but I made a conscious decision to get to know them both. I decided to take a risk.
I took baby steps, but it was forward motion. I got a camera and I learned how to use it. I practiced. I took thousands of pictures. I read all about it. But I wasn’t a photographer yet.
I photographed weddings and families for friends and relatives to gain more experience. But I still wasn’t a photographer.
I created a website. I worked up the courage to share it, even though I didn’t feel ready, even though I didn’t know what I was doing, even though I didn’t have enough experience. People hired me for weddings and portraits. People paid me. Still, I wasn’t a “real” photographer.
When was I going to be a “real” photographer? What was I waiting for? To be perfect. To measure up. To be above mistakes. To get it all figured out. I would still be waiting if I hadn’t come to my senses.
It wasn’t that long ago that I was browsing the web and I came across the website of a beautiful resort in the mountains of New Mexico. They had a wedding venue and naturally I clicked to check it out. The first things I saw on the page were the striking photographs. I thought, now this is a photographer to check out. And then I looked closer. The pictures were mine. They were recommending me as a photographer to their wedding clients. They thought I was a “real” photographer.
Finally, I opened the door wide enough to let love and self-respect in. Finally, I decided to be a “real” photographer.
I still make mistakes. I still want to improve as a photographer and an entrepreneur. I recognize that I have a lot to learn. I still get nervous before every photo shoot and wedding. I still don’t really know what I am doing and I often feel as though I am flying by the seat of my pants.
But I know that I am a real photographer. I made that choice. I chose love and self-respect over fear and perfection. Somedays it is a process and I have to make the choices all over again, but I am learning to embrace it all.
This is my story of overcoming a fear, of seeing past perfection and journeying through excuses. This is my story of following a dream, of choosing to embrace my imperfections. I am an imperfect success, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If I can do it, you can too. What excuses are holding you back from living the life you dream of? What would you do if you didn’t have to be perfect, if you didn’t have to know how, if failing weren’t an option?
Kahlil Gibran said, “When you are born, your work is placed in your heart.” Are you following your heart? Are you making choices about your life and your work from a place of love and self-respect?