My heart started pounding faster as I read the email.
Once I got to the last line, I was fully triggered. In a cold sweat. Shaky.
I felt exposed, like a phony. I felt angry. Outraged. Ashamed.
The last line said something like: “I considered working with you, but – to be honest – the photos on your website didn’t convey enough confidence. Just thought you’d want to know.”
All at the same time, I wanted to throw up, run and hide under the covers, take my website down, and eat a box of cookies to comfort myself.
Headshots, self-esteem, and (my lack of) confidence
I’d always had an issue with the headshots on my website. For the first few years of my business, they were not professionally done – I just took them myself with a crappy camera. So they didn’t tell any kind of compelling story about me, my work, what I stand for, or what I do.
Not only that, but I had taken those pictures during a difficult time of health challenges and low self-esteem. I didn’t look confident in those pictures. So, yes, the assessment from that unsolicited email – that my photos didn’t convey confidence – was kind of on point.
That’s why it triggered me. Cause the criticism was based on something I already feared, on something I didn’t like about my photos.
When I read that email, the feeling was one of “I’ve been found out. Someone has criticized me for the thing I most dislike about my website. I’m a phony.”
That was a low point in my business. That email hit me so hard, and I spent the rest of the day trying to forget about it. Sure, I probably overreacted to the unsolicited criticism about my photos. I was too sensitive to it. I took it too much to heart.
Fear = procrastination
But that criticism confirmed something I had already suspected, and even feared. Something that business coaches had gently tried to tell me whenever we talked about my site: “Do you think you might want to get some professional photos taken at some point?”
I always cringed at the question while trying to hide my discomfort: “Yeah, I definitely need to do that at some point. It’s on my to-do list.”
And it was on my to-do list for months… actually, years. Two years.
For me, fear often leads to procrastination. (You might experience this as well.)
If there’s something I’m really afraid of, I will put it off for as long as I can. I’ll pretend it doesn’t exist. I will do everything else on my to-do list and invent new tasks before I tackle something that really scares me.
And there are many terrifying challenges that come up when building a business.
Having to put yourself out there.
Speaking in public (on a podcast, interview, etc).
Pitching your services to potential clients.
Doing sales calls.
Figuring out your marketing.
Sending out email campaigns without knowing how they’ll be received.
Posting on social media.
And, for me, taking professional branding photos.
That last item stayed on my to-do list for longer than any other business task or challenge I’ve ever faced.
The fear of being visible (and other fears on the entrepreneurial journey)
Why did I put off getting my photos taken for so long?
Well, there’s more than one reason. (There’s actually tons of reasons, so let me break them down.)
Perfectionism + harsh inner critic.
My perfectionism has always made it difficult to look at pictures of myself. Although I treat myself with kindness and compassion 99% of the day, I’ve had a difficult time taming the extremely harsh voice that pops up when I’m looking at pictures of myself: “Yuck! You look terrible. Your eyes are crooked and your nose is a disaster! You’ve got wrinkles and gray hairs and you’re only in your 30s. OMG. You’re going to look hideous 10 years from now.” Yup, pretty harsh. So, the idea of having a professional photo shoot and then having to look at my photos was terrifying. What if the photos confirmed my worst fear about myself – that I was, in fact, some kind of hideous monster?
Being introverted & a highly sensitive person (HSP).
This one isn’t so much a fear but just my natural way of being. As an introvert and HSP, I get overwhelmed by social interactions. The idea of spending a whole afternoon with a photographer, with all eyes on me, having to pose for the camera and change into different outfits while engaging in conversation, seemed daunting. Energetically, the idea of getting that much attention and having to be “on” for so long seemed exhausting. Not to mention that I would need to do my makeup and hair myself (to avoid COVID risks), which are not my favorite things to do and kind of overstimulating.
The fear of investing in myself.
This is a fear I’ve dealt with many times before – and one I address in this post: The Fear of Investing in Your Business. Hiring a professional photographer and purchasing a package of retouched photographs isn’t cheap. At least not for the level of quality and professionalism that I was looking for. I was hesitant to invest in something that seemed like such a hassle, such an event. (I prefer things that are low key and low pressure.) And I was so worried that I’d end up hating my photos – not because of the photographer’s level of skill, but because of my own insecurities. It seemed like a really expensive gamble at the time.
The fear of being visible.
This is the Big One. The big fear. On the day of my photo shoot, I woke up anxious, scared, and wishing I’d never scheduled it. I wanted to run away and hide so the photographer would never find me. I had a bit of a panic attack a couple of hours before I had to start getting ready. What’s more, I experienced the resurfacing of an old physical symptom I had had years before related to an autoimmune disorder. This was a symptom I hadn’t experienced – at least not to this level of intensity – in years. I thought to myself, “Are you kidding me??!? Today of all days??” as I tried not to curl up into a ball and sob. Later on, as the physical symptom cleared up the next day, I realized that the photo shoot served as an experience to release and clear the fear of visibility. That fear was related to my past life trauma as a healer who was punished and persecuted for doing healing work (and, duh, for being visible).
In the end, my first professional photo shoot (which took place in August 2020) was a profound healing experience.
I worked through some intense fears and past life trauma that came up to the surface. Fears that would never have come up otherwise.
The real fears
And I realized that what I had really been afraid was not that my photos would look bad, or that I would waste money on them, or even that my perfectionism would get triggered.
What I really feared was that I would have to confront and work through this past life trauma. What I really feared was that finally overcoming this challenge would make me more visible and bring me more clients (it did!).
What I really feared was to show myself to the world.
What I really feared was being vulnerable.
Once I conquered those fears, I realized that there’s not much else I can’t do. I also realized that I’m willing to work through the deep stuff, whatever it takes, to grow my business and fulfill my purpose as a healer in this lifetime.
There has been a massive sense of relief, peace, and empowerment ever since I did the photo shoot. A sense that I broke through an inner glass ceiling.
I’m so relieved and happy and excited to check this huge challenge off my to-do list. (And, by the way, the photos came out beautifully and helped me change my view of myself!)
Is there something you’ve been putting off due to the fear of being visible? Are you allowing that fear to stop you from growing your business and sharing your powerful gifts? I’d love to hear a bit of your story in the comments or via email – you can always reach me here.