When I was still in Europe over Christmas, I got a message on Facebook asking me if I would be interested in speaking at one of Pursuit Fredericksburg’s community meetups. I initially wanted to decline the offer. There was a voice in my head telling me something that kept me from saying yes right away. And that voice said,
“You’re not good enough.”
I believed it. I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. I haven’t been in the industry long enough. I don’t have enough followers. I’m not popular enough. I don’t blog enough. I don’t book enough weddings. The list goes on and on, folks. In this image-driven industry, it’s easy to feel like everyone wants you to believe it’s allll about you. It’s all about how many people know your name, how many followers you have, how much you charge for weddings, whether being a photographer is your only job, if you’re successful enough to be a husband and wife team, if you’ve been featured on Style Me Pretty, etc. etc. These things are all like meccas for the photography industry. Milestones in your business that until you qualify in at least three categories, you won’t be considered good enough.
You won’t be good enough to be taken seriously. Not good enough to gain a blog following. Not good enough to deserve a reply to your FB message or email to one of the photographers that ARE good enough. Until you reach the things listed above, you won’t be good enough to even come within 50 miles of hanging out with the cool kids of the industry. You probably won’t even hear back from them until you have at LEAST 2,500 Instagram followers.
These are the lies that voice in my head told me when Brandilynn asked me to speak at the Pursuit meetup… I’m. Not. Good. Enough.
People aren’t going to take me seriously. They aren’t going to listen to what I have to say. They aren’t going to care enough to show up. I’m not good enough.
You guys… this is the hardest part about being in an industry full of people who seem to be much more talented, beautiful, knowledgable, successful than you are. After a while, you start to take it to heart. You set the bar so high that your victories start to look like miniscule achievements that don’t even matter. You compare, compare, compare until you’ve convinced yourself that you really AREN’T good enough and you “never” will be.
I’m here to tell you that none of that matters.
It’s a smoke and mirrors game, folks.
Do you remember the last time I used the term “smoke and mirrors” on this blog? I was talking about Satan. And how he so often successfully tricks us into believing life is all about something that it’s really not all about at all.
This lie that we have to match up to a certain standard… that we have to have a beautiful home, beautiful friends, beautiful business, become wealthy, work from home, be invited to speak at all the conferences, host workshops, organize styled shoots, gain thousands of followers, book hundreds of weddings, become a household name in the industry, vacation with “the cool kids,” be published in Style Me Pretty/Southern Weddings/Professional Photographer magazine, sell educational materials and build an empire in OUR name…
It’s a LIE.
The only thing we HAVE to do in life is reflect Christ’s love onto others. Our purpose for existing is to love and serve others…
Not our own name, our own brand, our own ego. I can totally understand now those blog posts I read years ago about people not partaking in any social media for their business. I thought they were crazy with a capital C. “How are you ever supposed to book a wedding if you aren’t constantly sharing about your work and your business?” I thought to myself. Well, they made it work. They invested 100% in serving their clients and by word-of-mouth referrals, they are still booking weddings today. They also took the time to pray and ask God if He would provide for their business if they “left” the industry. The industry that, to them, seemed to be all about your ego. And they are still successful today.
So of all these things? I’m not sure if they’re necessary. I’m still trying to figure it all out. Trying to find the balance between humility and “marketing myself.” Trying to keep pride in check and my head from getting big whenever I get more than 100 likes on a photo. How DO people do it? How do they remember and believe that it’s not about them when hundreds of people basically tell them that it is? When the people who are “higher up” tell them that their time is the most important resource they have… so important that they need to protect it from anyone and everyone who isn’t going to bring some sort of benefit – financial or intangible – back to them?
All of these questions have been swirling around in my head for the past year that I’ve really started to gain an understanding for how this industry typically works. The truth is, every day I feel like an outsider. I see photos on instagram of ALL the photographers I love and follow hanging out together while I sit on my couch at home in my 5-year-old sweatpants with unbrushed hair and yesterday’s makeup.
I didn’t go to a public high school. There were no cliques, no “popular” kids, no gigantic rumor mill. All I knew about public school was what I saw in movies (which I’ve heard is a pretty inaccurate portrayal). But sometimes I feel like the closest I’ll come to having that high school experience is being in the photography industry.
An industry where I can follow someone for years, comment on all their blog posts, finally gain the courage to write them and ask if they’d like to get coffee… and then get a quote for their hourly rate as a response.
It’s hard not to feel lonely in this industry. Don’t get me wrong… there are so many wonderful people who truly believe in investing in, serving, and loving others as their #1 priority in life. But those people are rare gems, and I’ve only met a few.
Even with all of this on my heart as Brandilynn asked me to speak about how God works in my business at the Pursuit Fredericksburg March meetup, I had no idea what to talk about. I thought I had nothing substantial to share at all. I just prayed. I prayed that God would show me what He wanted me to share. And that morning, I spoke about our purpose.
“If we let Satan get a foothold in our heart… if it becomes about ego, appearance, Instagram and FB likes, wearing busy like it’s a crown, and showing off our trophies… we have lost SIGHT of what is TRULY important. None of this matters if I’m not glorifying Him. If I’m not leading people to Jesus, I’m doing something wrong.”
Somewhere between talking about being brave enough to radiate the light of Christ and loving my clients, I found myself sharing the Bible’s warnings about the dangers of pride. It’s an ongoing battle for me, and I’m sure it is for many other photographers, too. But it’s reassuring to know that God wants to lead me in the right direction, and that by spending more time with Him, He can continue to mold my heart into one more like His own. A humble and lowly heart. A heart so serving it would take the lowliest place among us all and die for those who were farthest from deserving of that sort of sacrifice.
In my business, in my personal life, in my relationships… I need to be more like that. I need to reach out to the people who are most often ignored. I need to love on THEM. There are so many holes in the mission of the Church, and it is our job as Christians to try and fill those holes. To make disciples of all nations. To reflect Christ’s love to everyone I know and everyone I meet. It’s a tough mission! One that will take a lifetime to master. “But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” (Acts 20:24)
My life, my business, my accomplishments, they all mean nothing unless I use them for telling people about Jesus. That is why I am open about my faith on my blog. That is why I don’t seperate my business from my relationship with Jesus. That is the only reason why I feel okay with promoting myself on social media. Because if I wasn’t sharing about my faith through these outlets, I truly believe I would struggle so much more with not falling victim to a prideful heart. My reason for existing here is to point back to Him… to say, “Look what the LORD has done” and not the other way around. And I’m hoping that you will pray for me. That you hold me accountable to staying humble, transparent, and honest about my struggles. That you would extend grace to me when I mess up but encourage me to keep going. To keep fighting the good fight. To take up my cross and keep following Him.
“Whoever wants to come with me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world yet forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:25)
I don’t want to gain everything the world defines as success and lose sight of what matters most in the process. If The Lord knows my heart is more guarded right where I am, with my 1,200 Instagram followers and 15-20 weddings a year, I am 5000% content with that. And so thankful for His sovereignty over my life, and that He loves me enough to lead me where He knows I won’t be tempted. If I lay myself down before Him every day in prayer, in studying His word, in spending time with Him… I have faith that He’ll only take me where He desires me to go, and that He’ll be my source of strength when I do face temptation. So, although this was hopefully the most depressing Mantra Monday post I’ll ever have on this blog, I want you to to know that in spite of all the struggles that I’ve faced being a wedding photographer, it has all been so worth it at the end of the day to know that I’ve been able to minister to so many more people than I ever could have dreamed of ministering to without the platform I have as a participant in the photography industry. It’s an industry fueled by personal ambition and often, ego and pride, but a few people believe that it’s much more about loving and serving others – not only people within the industry, but also those in need outside of it – and that with each follower they gain, that’s one more life to shine the light of Jesus into. I’m thankful for my platform every day, but I hope that God would take it away from me instantly if I ever lost sight of the “why.” That He would “consume like a moth what is precious to me” (Psalm 39:11) and better equip me for a life that is pleasing to Him. And if you read through this entire post, my heart hopes so deeply that you would take this as food for thought and not a “holier than thou” sermon :) Please write me. Send me a message on FB or an email or write me on the contact tab or leave a comment below. We can transform this industry and change the world if we simply hold each other accountable to doing what matters and keeping God at the center of every decision we make and everything we do. That right there is the answer, folks. And I hope and pray that you continue to fight this good fight alongside me.
Special thanks to Brandilynn Aines for these photos from the Pursuit meet up!