Have you ever had an idea that felt so outrageous, you knew you had to pursue it?
Ever felt a stirring so deep in your heart to pursue that outrageous idea, that you believed the only really outrageous thing would be not pursuing it?
Ever heard that voice in your head whispering, “This doesn’t matter. It won’t succeed. Don’t do it. It’s a failure waiting to happen.”
Well, I have too. I’ve been hearing it every day for the past several months, Today is the day that I tell that voice to SHUT UP and move on, because I’ve got important work to do.
Maybe I should back up a little, and tell you a bit of my story.
In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t written a blog post in quite a while. I haven’t shared but one or two portrait sessions in the last few months. Haven’t posted that much on social media, nor shared too much about Jen Lebo Photography. Because I had been preparing to walk away from it. I had been planning to give up my portrait business and quit calling myself a photographer.
A lot contributed to this decision, but the gist of it was that I felt like a fraud. Over the past few months, I took a look outside my own little bubble, and discovered that the portrait photography industry was so over-saturated, that I could find more than a dozen photographers in a 5 mile radius from my own home. I began comparing my work (no, let’s be honest here- comparing myself) to them all, and I would constantly come up short. It became a journey toward self-loathing. It grew old fast, and I was ready to quit.
I shared this struggle with a good friend, who completely understood, being a portrait photographer herself, and having walked a similar road. For weeks after, she would touch base with me and gently ask how I was doing with the decision, and whether I needed to talk. We would meet and share our stories, and even though I wouldn’t leave her any closer to a decision, I always left feeling encouraged, and feeling better. My discussions with her always resurfaced when I would toy with that decision to quit.
I realized that I was comparing myself to all the other amazing photographers around me. Constantly comparing. Never connecting. Never enjoying. Just comparing. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was doing this in almost every area of my life. I compared myself to other women, and saw myself as less beautiful. I compared myself to other moms, and saw myself as less gracious, loving, or nurturing. I compared myself to other teachers, to other friends, to other wives, and I always came up short.
But then a beautiful thing happened. I shared that pain with that friend. And with a few other precious girlfriends. And they all said the same thing. They said “Me too”. They said, “I understand. I feel those things too. I struggle with comparison. I struggle with my aging body. I struggle with being a better mom, with being a smarter professional, with being a closer friend, a more loving wife. I know how you feel.” Being vulnerable with each other connected us, and gave us a bit of courage.
It was so powerful to realize I wasn’t alone in this struggle. Powerful, also, to discover that this struggle seemed to grow in us women a bit later in our lives, as we moved into our 40s and 50s. A little less naive and confident, and a little more worn down but wise, walking through these mid-life years is not easy, but discovering I didn’t need to walk the road alone made the hard beautiful.
And then I realized something more. I discovered my purpose, my passion. To create a place where all of these beautiful women might share their stories, through word and portrait, in order to connect, encourage, and empower each other.
That’s when the voice showed up. The one that said “You are absolutely INSANE!”.
I know that if you are one of these women, you are probably thinking it too. It is insane! Very few women my age (myself included) have the confidence or the courage to step in front of a camera, especially on their own. Very few of us feel courageous enough to share our stories, to be vulnerable.
It should be noted that this is also insane from the viewpoint of most photographers. Older women are not a sought after target market. High school seniors, weddings, newborns, families- that’s where it’s at. Not older women!
But it’s that exact mindset that has me wanting to pursue it. As we women grow older, we become less sought after, almost invisible, if not to society, then at least to our very own selves. And I want to change that.
I want to show women my age that they are still beautiful today, maybe even more beautiful than they were yesterday. I want to teach older women that vulnerability takes courage, and that it is never weak. It is always beautiful. I want to connect women like me to other women like them, so that as we share our stories, and hear those precious words, “Me too.”, we will stop comparing ourselves, and start connecting.
And so here I am, standing at the bottom of this beautiful, powerful, tremendous mountain. I have so many ideas, so many plans, and I will create, and build, and share them, one step at a time. This is just the first step up the mountain. Telling that voice of doubt to go away, and sharing my story with you.
The changes are already starting. Jen Lebo Photography will become something new, both in name and in purpose. It will have passion and connection and a powerful vision.
Sure, it might fail. It might be my greatest failure yet. But I’ll be ok with that, because to me, the only failure would be in not pursuing it.
Please stay with me through this journey.
And connect with me if you want to be a part of this new endeavor (either locally or online), or if you know someone who might. I can’t wait to walk this journey with friends.