Be willing to be uncomfortable. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. It may get tough, but it’s a small price to pay for living a dream. – Peter McWilliams
Several years ago I had the privilege of attending a two day personal development session on leadership. The goals were simple; to help expand upon our strengths and to assist us with recognizing our weaknesses. One of the facilitators assisting with the training was a lady named Debbie. Debbie shared some of the greatest wisdom I heard during those two days, and left me with a statement that has become a constant reminder for me when I face different challenges in my life. Debbie’s insight was what she called her “Top Ten Lessons of Leadership”. It was her second point “Be comfortable being uncomfortable” that impacted me the most and changed the way I deal with difficult circumstances.
By nature I’m not one to embrace change or deal well with uncomfortable situations. While growing up and right into my 20’s there were definitely moments of terror and anxiety when faced with situations that took me out of my comfort zone. For many years the fear was overwhelming especially when faced with crowds or in a situation where I was required to speak publicly. I struggled many days with; “What if this happens”, “What if I’m not good enough” or “What will people think”. Debbie’s speech was the pinnacle of a turning point in my life. Along with the support of a great family, wonderful friends and a lot of prayer, I reached the point of finally being able to say that I’m comfortable being uncomfortable. Do I enjoy it? No, but I’m finding it much easier.
Well, here I am several years later sharing some of my innermost thoughts and experiences along with my artistic expression, my photography. Why now? I’m not sure. It might be for someone who reads this or possibly just for me. Photography helped me escape from those “dark times”. Getting away from pressures of life and into nature was my outlet at that moment. Now I can look back and see that it was also teaching me that there was so much more to life than what I was dealing with. Life became a lot bigger than just the here and now. Photography also gave me something to get excited about and it was only for me. If I wanted to share an image I could but if I failed no one had to know. Prior to switching from film to digital there was also a period of anticipation waiting for the film or slide processing. That time in between allowed me to reflect on the moment I had captured and it taught me that the end result wasn’t the only goal but also what I had experienced or learned along the way.
Do I worry about what people think? Of course; I think that it is human nature and most people do. Artistic expression is very subjective and I feel like I still have so much to learn about photography but more than that, the questions I struggle the most with are “What is my purpose?” and “Why do I want to continue with photography?”, “Who is my audience?” and “What is my message?”. Sometimes it is clear but quite often it is not. Even though there are moments of insecurity with my photography there are also times of satisfaction. On occasions it has been a satisfied client who received work that would build my confidence and other times it is self-satisfied, not in a arrogant way, but in a moment of thinking to myself I finally achieved what I envisioned before I began to create an image. Sometimes just being there in a moment to see something amazing is also enough to make me continue.
Now as I approach middle age I realize more and more that being uncomfortable at different times in our life is normal. I have been uncomfortable because I have done nothing and I have been uncomfortable because I have done something but in the end not really sure if I’ve done it well. The conclusion that I’ve come to is that if I’m going to be uncomfortable it should be for doing something rather than nothing. I’d rather fail at doing something than succeed at doing nothing.
What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail? – Robert H. Schuller