The internal naysayer won’t win the fight, but it makes getting to the end quite a struggle.
Insecurities seriously reek. Just when I think I’ve got them beat or they’re hardly taunting me anymore, something innocuous happens and I am paralyzed with self-doubt. I think I’ve bested this fickle beast and then it rears its hideous head making me feel insecure.
I don’t understand! I was in theatre growing up. I photographed models at Fashion Week (OK, I needed Xanax for that, but still I did it). I publicly aired my weight grievances on a national platform.
So why does something as simple as running on a treadmill at a more than brisk clip make me want to throw in the towel?
And it’s not just tough workouts that bring out this side of me. I made a list the other day of things I wanted to start doing more of, one of which was taking more close-up portraits of strangers. I admire photographers who can stop someone on the street and ask to take their photo. I will do it from afar like some creep paparazzi, but actually walking up to someone who is striking or intriguing, or is standing in just the right light smoking a cigarette in a Hepburn-esque way, I freeze and look away but continue to pine after that perfect shot I could’ve had if only I had asked.
The other day I went on an adventure to Woodstock. After surveying the town at a leisurely pace and discovering I liked what I saw, I made my way back to my car with some thrift store purchases in tow. I spotted an old fashioned barber shop in which two old men were lazily sitting and chatting in the window.
One of the men waved at me and I instantly wanted a photo of them surrounded by the red swivel chairs. I lingered just out of their sight trying to prompt myself to take my camera that was already slung around my shoulder and just ask them if I could photograph them exactly as they were. I couldn’t do it. I got in my car and sat dreaming about the poetry of this picture. The old men, the barbershop sign, the swivel chairs. It felt so New York to me and I wanted to take it with me.
But something inside me said I wasn’t a real photographer. They wouldn’t take me seriously. Who would I say I was working for? Myself? Maybe I should’ve put on some mascara and my fake glasses so I looked like a hipster and then I might’ve been able to pull it off.
I sat and kept asking myself what was the worst that could happen? They said they didn’t want to be photographed. That was the worst-case scenario and it wasn’t even life-altering. Yet, I acknowledged that the insecure part of me was winning because it put the kibosh on the photo op.
It went further than the men simply saying no to a photo. My insecure inner demon clearly believed if I went and asked those men for their photo and they said no, it wasn’t just because they didn’t want to be photographed it was because of me. That something was wrong with me and they could see it. Or, that I didn’t look like a photographer or couldn’t be one. Though this certainly wouldn’t be said, and more than likely not thought, some part of my brain believed it to be true enough to stop me from going after something I wanted.
This distressed me and I tried to fight it and force myself to move past the insecurity and face my fears, but I couldn’t. I was too scared. And that made me even more distressed.
With the case of photographing strangers, I am not 100 percent there yet, but I know I will be eventually, because I dislike being halted by my own fears more than I dislike the idea of people thinking badly of me.
So today in my workout when I came face to face with my insecurities, yet again, and thought who am I to be in this difficult of a class? Who am I to be running at this pace? I’m clearly about to vomit. Who am I to keep up with these strong, fit people? Did I combat those nasty voices with triumphant huzahs! of: I’ve got this and how dare you’s? Well no, I actually didn’t. I doubted that I had it, but insecurities ablaze, I didn’t give up or run and hide in the bathroom, which is what I wanted to do. I powered through somehow … and made it to the other side to be greeted by a face swimming in sweat and twitchy limbs.
When my trainer tried singing my praises, I shot him down, diminishing my progress and pointing out that still I’m so slow. To which he responded,
“Yes, you are. But we’ll get you faster.”
I found his honesty refreshing and his faith in me bolstering. I wasn’t there yet, but I was on my way. The insecurities aren’t winning after all.