The courage to be disliked
By Excio Photo Community profile image Excio Photo Community
5 min read

The courage to be disliked

Confidence is not a fixed state but a journey of self-discovery, growth, and acceptance.

Drawing inspiration from the renowned book "The Courage to Be Disliked," we chose the title of this article because it encapsulates precisely what creatives, like ourselves, need to embrace in order to elevate our photography to new heights.

Human beings are social animals. We always compare ourselves to others, and when we see something or someone we like, we inevitably ask ourselves, "Are we as good as they are?". This question arises especially when we encounter someone from the same community, profession, or with similar interests. In our pursuit of improvement, inspiration, and higher aspirations, we delve deeper into searching for more information, examples, and points of comparison. In broad terms, this is the basis of social media and its impact on us.

In the earlier days, before the invention of the internet and social platforms, our comparisons were limited to the books we could find at a local library or at home. When we came across individuals within those books, we were truly inspired by them and eager to learn from their experiences. They were not like us. They were our leaders, heroes, and teachers.

However, in the modern age, we have become addicted to constantly checking and searching social media, continuously comparing ourselves with others who are similar to us in terms of access to the same platforms (we are all Instagrammers!), gear, tools, and more. Often, we are unaware of this comparison happening within us. Sometimes, we receive encouraging feedback that boosts our confidence and makes us feel competent and accomplished. Other times, we encounter unsolicited advice or negative feedback that undermines our self-assurance and leaves us feeling worse. These subconscious cycles of highs and lows can occur countless times a day. "Oh, this person really likes what I do! I can tell they know what they're talking about!" (I feel good). "Someone commented on my photo! Let's see what they have to say... They think the composition could be better, it's too dark or too light..." (I don't feel good anymore). Navigating this endless cycle of highs and lows is just one of the many factors that influence our confidence and behaviour.

Ballerina by Damon Marshall

An important question to ask ourselves: “What opportunities would feeling confident in my photography work/skills make possible for my life? How would my life look if I pursued my passion for photography without the shackles of self-doubt?” Confidence opens doors, allowing us to take risks, explore new avenues, and push the boundaries of our potential. It empowers us to step into the spotlight, share our unique voice with the world, and make a lasting impact.

If we don’t do anything, the fear of failure and the nagging sense of inadequacy can keep us stuck in our comfort zones, limiting our growth and fulfillment. The missed opportunities and unexplored paths may leave us feeling unfulfilled, wondering what could have been if we had mustered the courage to believe in ourselves and pursue our dreams.

Alone on the beach by Ann Kilpatrick

Confidence issues vary from person to person and can vary in intensity. For example, a fashion model may have insecurities about their appearance, a manager may lack confidence when presenting to large audiences, and as creative individuals, we often doubt our own creations and skills. Interestingly, this phenomenon appears to be even more pronounced among female creatives across various industries, not just in photography.

There is an abundance of books, web resources, and self-help journals available that offer advice on building confidence. In fact, a simple Google search yields a staggering 495 million results on 'how to build self-confidence'. Many of these resources emphasize the importance of positive self-talk and positive thinking, which can sometimes lead to toxic positivity. Engaging in self-talk alone does not provide a complete solution. The most common advice includes phrases like "stay kind to yourself" and "say 'No' more often, build positive relationships"... but implementing these suggestions is often easier said than done. What if the people around you don't understand what's so interesting about photography and why you're investing thousands in that new camera? What if you're already saying no to everyone and it still doesn't make much of a difference? "Be kind to myself? I am kind, I just can't capture that photo the way I want!"

Another suggested approach is practicing self-affirmations like "I am a great photographer, I am super kind and curious, I am confident." However, regardless of whether you repeat these affirmations once or a thousand times, there is no evidence to suggest that they will truly help.

One real key aspect of cultivating confidence is embracing vulnerability. It takes courage to put our work and ourselves out there for others to see and judge. However, you can only do it once you know and understand what is going to happen and how you can manage your reaction should something go not quite like you expected. It is through vulnerability that we open ourselves up to growth and feedback. Instead of viewing criticism as a personal attack, we can choose to see it as an opportunity for improvement. Constructive feedback from knowledgeable individuals can provide valuable insights and push us to refine our skills. By fostering a growth mindset and embracing the learning process, we can transform setbacks into stepping stones toward progress.

Featherhead by Noelle Bennett

What we covered above is just the tip of the iceberg. Confidence is not just about being flawless or comparing ourselves to others. It is also not only about embracing our uniqueness, celebrating our journey, and acknowledging that growth comes with its ups and downs. It's much more complex.

Building and maintaining confidence goes beyond mere self-talk and positive affirmations. It involves understanding the complex web of factors that contribute to our confidence in the first place, as well as understanding our internal experiences in each situation. It also requires recognising the influence of social comparison and developing strategies to navigate these challenges. It is crucial to find validation within ourselves, rather than relying solely on external feedback. Confidence is not a fixed state but a journey of self-discovery, growth, and acceptance.

Together with fellow photographers, we are embarking on such a journey in just a couple of weeks. Our 100-day Beyond Imposter Syndrome challenge starts on 5 February. If you would like to be a part of this exciting opportunity, you can learn more about it here.

By Excio Photo Community profile image Excio Photo Community
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