The first time I had real, professional photos taken, I was making good money for the first time since starting my own business. I’d found a photographer whose work I loved, and I knew it was time.
So I booked a photoshoot with her, made plans to drive to Atlanta, and then the doubts and fears moved from niggles in the background to the foreground of my thoughts.
- Should I wait until I lose some weight and get more toned?
- My teeth aren’t as straight as I’d like them to be. Do I really want to do this?
- Will I get too sweaty in the heat? Should I wait until a cooler time of the year?
- Should I wait until I’m more confident so that shows up in my photos?
- I’m not sure about my clothes. Maybe I should wait until I can find something that’s better.
Yeah, basically, should I wait until I’m perfect and there’s nothing anyone would criticize, especially me?
So I did what I always do. I sat down and let all the crap come up. It was a continuation of the list I shared above. The doubts, the insecurities, the fears, the what ifs. I allowed it to come up and into the light.
I helped it clear out of my body, too, not just my thoughts. That sick feeling in my stomach. That constriction in my chest. The way my shoulders tensed up around my ears, my jaw clenched and my forehead tightened.
And I felt my feelings — fear, sadness, regret, embarrassment.
As I let all of that move through me and release, peace started coming in. Well, that’s what it felt like. But what really happens is that the peace is who we naturally are. We just lose our connection with it because of all the stuff in the way.
As I reconnected with my inner peace, I felt new things, too. Excitement, hope, anticipation, pride.
A new thought dawned: What if this isn’t about the photos, the results? What if it’s about the experience? About me showing up just as me? About me having a good time?
I began looking for ways to make it more fun. I invited my younger daughter to go to Atlanta with me. I got a room at a nice hotel in Atlanta and found a highly rated restaurant in walking distance for a delicious meal the night before the shoot.
Before I went to bed that night, and again the next morning before leaving for the shoot, I did more clearing. I checked my body for tension and let that come up. I checked my mind for doubts and worries. I let myself feel any nervousness that was there. I did my energy poses and movements, and did some stretching.
From the moment we got to the studio, I focused on being in the moment. I made a point of relaxing as my hair and makeup was done, laughing with the woman who was working with me and listening to stories of her fascinating childhood.
During the shoot itself, I totally let the photographer, lead the way. I reminded myself that I’d hired someone who’s excellent at her job, and I should let her do it! That included knowing if my arm needed to move, if my forehead was shiny or if my hair was out of place.
It also included thinking about the photos themselves. The photos were out of my hands, so they were out of my worries, too.
My one and only job was to have fun, be in each moment of the experience, and fully be myself.
That became my mantra. Any time I felt myself get tired or tense, I repeated, “fun, present, me”.
Soon, I was so in the experience that I didn’t consciously think that. I was just having fun.
And the results? Better than I’d hoped for! I actually like, no, I love them! Here are some of my favorites.
Could I still find things to criticize about myself or the photos? Of course! But the point is, I don’t go there with them. When I see these pictures, I remember what a great time I had. I remember special moments with my daughter. I remember laughing with the photographer. I remember the feeling of being pampered and the center of attention, which I actually really enjoyed.
I’ve used this concept over and over since then — to enjoy the experience rather than worrying about the outcome. I’ve used it when speaking on stage, when launching a program, and when writing curriculum.
I’ve even started using it in situations that feel a lot harder for me, like when I was doing a ropes course as part of an intensive leadership program. I felt nervous with heights and I had all kinds of thoughts about my lack of physical strength and fitness. (Hello, body shaming!)
When I’d start to feel scared or doubt myself on the course, or when I’d start to compare myself to the really athletic members of our group, I’d think, “This is about the experience, not the result. It’s about me showing up as my full self. Can I be with myself as I am in this moment?”
I let go of the result of each particular exercise, and just focused on the next step. Sometimes I’d pause and focus on my friends cheering me on, or an the magnificence of being up in the trees. I focused on embracing each moment and the gifts it held.
One of the challenges we did was to climb to the top of a telephone pole, and that sucker was high! I took it step-by-step, breathing and staying present, and surprised myself when I got to the top.
As I stood there taking it all in, I got at a core level that when I get out of my head and my thoughts, I get into my body. With each inhalation, I was breathing the cheers of my friends, the beauty of nature and my own sense of accomplishment into my very cells.
And then I dove off the pole like I was diving into a pool, delighting in the feeling of flying, and laughing the whole way.
Today, try focusing just on your one next step, while noticing the little joys in your day. I’d love to hear how it goes for you in the comments below.