Last updated on July 24th, 2023 at 05:20 pm
When dreamers first begin their dream journey, we have this bad habit of comparing where we are with our dream to other people with similar dreams and then judging our own progress accordingly.
This “comparing ourselves to others” habit infects us more often than we realize, with everything from weight loss to home decor. One of the best ways to stop this bad habit is to focus on yourself and move forward.
I hope that by sharing how I started and how I’ve grown, I’ll inspire someone out there. If I am in the middle and you are at the beginning, this post will give you hope.
Chasing your dream requires work and belief in yourself, regardless of your stage.
When I first picked up a camera, I was at a low point in my life. I’d been a hotel booking agent for mid-town Manhattan until 9/11 happened. When the travel industry changed along with the world, I was at a loss for what to do with my life.
I’d also started gaining weight (at the time, I did not know the weight was a symptom of Lyme disease, which went undiagnosed for 24 years), and I definitively felt unattractive.
I was visiting my parents, who were stationed in Germany, and my dad let me borrow his Olympus 3040. Any camera buff will cringe to know this was my first serious camera. I hoped the adage that it’s the photographer, not the equipment, would hold true for me. Not trying wasn’t an option; I felt an intense need to make something beautiful, and that little three-megapixel camera was my lifeline to beauty.
Photography was like a foreign language, and I had no translator. The manual for the Oly was dog-eared and well-worn within a few weeks. I did every exercise in order many times and practiced constantly.
My early photography was nothing compared to what I can create now.
There were failures, many of them.
Yet I am monumentally proud of both the failures and successes because whether or not they were professional was not important. They are a testament to the hard part of dream chasing: getting up and trying. Making an effort is perfection.
Even before I would let myself say that photography was my dream, I had negative thoughts that could have stopped me in my tracks.
I should be looking for a real career. Photography is art not a job. I don’t have the money to go back to school. I don’t have the money or experience to start a business.
Instead of listening to my doubts, I focused on the art of photography. I got lost in the process.
Photoshop was a serious tool ten years ago, but most professional photography industries hadn’t fully embraced it. I knew that if I wanted to compete on any level, I would have to learn Photoshop and be an expert. The first few months were brutal. I got books, found tutorials, and tried to familiarize myself. Anyone who has looked at Photoshop knows it’s intimidating. I was shortsightedly ashamed of my first efforts.
The first few months were agony.
Comparing my mediocre early efforts to the authors of books, I felt like a huge failure. Talk about perfectionism! Photoshop was a chore, not fun. I dreaded sitting down at the computer. But I did the dream work: showing up daily for a set amount of time. Some days I would inwardly scream at my ineptitude as I powered up my computer.
Then, I barely noticed when a funny thing happened… it started to get easier. I started to enjoy myself. The time started flying. I’d have to set an alarm to remember to go to bed by 3:00 a.m. I launched myself into Corel Painter the same way. I’d painted landscapes with acrylic and oil, but portraits were another attempt.
My early painted portraits are very different from my recent paintings. But looking back, they are perfect reminders of my efforts.
But if I had ever stopped because this journey was harder than I thought possible, I would never have found my calling in meeting and empowering so many inspiring women.
I used the same persistence to learn creative photography, studio lighting, business, and marketing. Things that used to drain me now fuel me. Creating a pin-up empowerment photography business was solitary; there wasn’t anyone to tell me how to do this. So I try to share and help others starting out, feel less lonely. Sharing brainstorming ideas with other small businesses feeds my soul and makes me happy.
Seeing women change before me from behind the lens gives me butterflies.
There’s no better confidence boost than taking a weakness and slowly turning it into a strength through hard work alone. I still have moments where I compare myself to a famous photographer or speaker further along in their career. It’s easy to compare myself to more famous photographers. I must remind myself that they’ve worked extremely hard and have been doing their photography longer than me.
As you’ve seen by the trajectory of my dream success thus far, then you know that if you keep showing up and trying to grow, you’ll be proud of where you’ll be in just a few short years. I can’t let a famous photographer’s success make my accomplishments countless.
Instead, their skills make me want to work harder to become one of their contemporaries.
Anything worth having in life takes blood, sweat, and tears. Experience is something you must work for. Try, fail, and get up to try again. My dream journey is the accumulation of many years of work, and it’s not over!
At that time, I wanted to give up thousands of times. I spent too much time comparing myself to quick success stories on the cover of magazines. Once I started focusing on my own path, one foot in front of the other, slow progress began. Don’t end your dream before it starts because you’re afraid you can’t succeed.
Here are my 7 tips for Success:
1. Give yourself credit for trying.
2. Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.
3. Show up. Results don’t matter as much as effort.
4. Never be ashamed of your early work. It’s proof you showed up.
5. Aspire to be better–but don’t let perfectionism make you quit.
6. Practice. Until it hurts.
7. Dreams are not like winning the lottery.
They’re like work. You must show up daily and give it your all (even on bad days) to get anything in return. When you put the effort and intention in, the returns are beyond your wildest dreams.
Iman Woods is an American artist who specializes in pin-up photography. Through a unique and therapeutic process, she’s spent over a decade in perfecting, Iman helps women undo the damage from a negative self-image and unrealistic beauty industry expectations. She helps women embrace their own style of beauty and see themselves in a new light. You can find her on her website, ImanWoods[dot]com.
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