Validation — The Creative’s Struggle

validation

Why do many creatives look to others for their validation? It’s not uncommon to hear photographers asking for validation from their fellow photographers, family, friends, sometimes even clients, to ask for their litmus line opinion of whether their work is satisfactory or not.

If the response is positive, elation builds and he/she feels like conquering the world.

If it is negative, discouragement settles in and the thought of never pursuing photography again becomes very tempting.

I know from personal experience, because for a long time, I didn’t want to pursue photography. I reasoned, “What if I am like one of those wannabe contestants on American Idol who only believe that they can sing well, but are truly horrible?”

I found myself constantly asking for validation from everyone I came in contact with. If someone complimented my work, I would say, “Really? Are you sure?” When I first started, I wasn’t secure in myself and I desperately longed to believe that I could be good enough–that I was good enough, but my insecurities prevented me from having such an unshakable, placid confidence.

With photography and any art form, there is always room for growth! 

When I first started my pursuit of photography, I had a lot to learn…A LOT. I hadn’t had formal schooling (unless you count the 3 college classes I took–one of which I failed….funny, because the teacher who failed me is now a fan of my work!), was just entering into this new craft and really didn’t have any idea what I was doing technically.

I felt so uncomfortable with not having any practice or knowledge base and resolved that I either needed to quit photography (because, I surmised, I wasn’t up to par with other photographers) or I had to do something opposite in it’s place.

I chose the latter.

I gave myself grace for the journey.

I thought about how unstable a baby looks when learning to walk for the first time. She pulls her Pamper-clad bottom off the floor and takes a few shaky steps forward before falling back down again.

Yet a baby doesn’t give up. She gets up and keeps going.

I decided that I needed to keep going too, even though I felt very inferior to the skill levels others were at as photographers.

I stopped looking at how other people were doing and started competing against myself. After each photo session I would ask,”Is this the best that I could have done?” If it wasn’t, I tried to dissect what I was doing wrong so I could correct it for next time. If I did do my best, I celebrated and tried to use those techniques in my next session.

I learned that there are always going to be people who are not as skilled as I am and likewise, there are always those that are way more skilled than I am.

Yet, my validation–your validation–doesn’t materialize or disappear when you measure yourself against where others are at in their journies. It comes when you measure yourself against yourself and where you are in your journey.

Instead of asking if you are “good enough” when compared with others, why not ask if you are doing “your best” when it comes to yourself? That is the real test.

The becoming a business and becoming a professional will attract itself to you as you grow and it will take flight on its own.

You won’t have to make it happen. It just will.

Rather than focusing on the outcome and constantly wondering if you are “there” yet, focus on becoming the best that you can be so that it will be attracted to you and it will eventually come.

It will be a by-product rather than the means to an end.

Give yourself time to transform from point A to point B, point C, etc….if you stick with it long enough, you’ll find yourself on point Z like you see other photographers you admire. You’ll no longer look for validation from exterior sources because the validation will come from within.

Give yourself grace for the journey.

Here’s a peek at when I first picked up a digital camera in 2003 and now in 2015. It’s quite a difference because I learned a lot in the process and grew. If I had rated myself against other photographers back when I started, I would have been discouraged and given up because I still had so very much to learn.

Give yourself grace for the journey and push yourself to grow.

“Keep dreaming, keep learning keep growing….and one day you’ll find yourself living your dream.” –Beba

before and after photo

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