I want to encourage you with this today, and encourage you to give yourself permission to tap into your intuition and to let your intuition and let your business really kind of fill into the space of your purpose. Remember that you purpose can change with you as you grow and change as a person. I am a different person now than I was in my twenties. I’ve evolved, I’ve changed, I’ve grown as a human, as a woman, and my life experiences have helped to shape my journey. You will grow and change, and your purpose may change a bit as time goes on, but remember that those experiences just aid you in your journey. Checking in with yourself and evaluating where your purpose is and where your focus should be helps to keep that cognitive dissonance from welling up inside of you.
A few months ago I was getting into a really great diet routine, I was working out regularly and just feeling really good. This change and effort was coming from a place aligned with my identity, (where we always create lasting change).
I was so excited, and then I got sick, and not just me, our whole family. My 12 month old son was up in the middle of the night throwing up and it was just terrible. We were all really weak, sick, and tired. The sad thing is that we didn’t only get sick the one time. We got sick the first time, got a little break just in time to have my son’s birthday party. We made the mistake of having 18 people stay with us and then we were sick all over again.
While I was in the process of getting over my stomach bug the second time, I found myself getting discouraged. I was discouraged because I was thinking about all of the things that I was excited for in my health, and my business. As I was laying in bed recovering, trying so hard not to throw up the cracker that I just ate, I thought of something interesting. What you resist persists.
How do we resist?
What I mean by that is the more we hold things at arm’s length and try to hold things off, the more those things persist in our lives. Now what we may not be thinking of is the fact that when we resist things we’re avoiding them. We are doing our best to keep them away from us. There are things in our lives that we hold at bay, whether it is some kind of outcome, social situation, money situation, or really anything.
What we do not realize is that we are using a whole lot of effort to hold that thing off. So, for example let's say that we want to hold off debt in our lives. What are we actually focusing on? We are focused on the debt itself. We do not focus on the abundance in our life right now. Right?
What I found in my season of illness and our household getting sick over and over again is that the more I thought about how sick I was and that I didn’t have time for this, the longer that sickness persisted. I kept thinking to myself how awful this season of life was that we were going through, I became frustrated because I wasn’t feeling better as quickly as I thought I should. The more I focused on that, the longer the sickness went on. I am not saying that it went on only because I was focused on that, but just keep in mind the reality that what we resist persists.
What resisting looks like
These are a few examples of things that I used to do in regards to resisting. In another business of mine I spent a year where I was focused on getting reviews for that business. I saw another business owner doing it and I felt like I needed to get really good reviews also. But I also thought I can’t get any bad reviews and I inwardly begged that nobody would leave me a bad review. I kept focusing on creating this resistance, like I was holding the door closed on someone who is trying to get in. That is what resistance feels like.
During that year I was so focused on not getting any bad reviews, which created resistance. I was trying so hard to hold off the bad reviews on our 6-7 year old business. As I look back, can you guess which year we did get one bad review? Your right! It was the year that I placed all my energy and focus on the very thing that I didn’t want.
Resistance can also feel like driving a car. You have a foot on the gas, but you also have your emergency brake on. You can still drive your car with the emergency brake on, but it is really difficult and will eventually severely damage your car.
Take a look at yourself
I want to encourage you to take a look at your life and see if there is something that you can easily identify that you are avoiding. Something that you are kind of trying to keep out by holding the door closed as it tries to push its way in. Like an annoying little brother who would be trying to get into a room and I would be fighting and holding the door closed because he was annoying me. If you have something like that in your life, it isn’t necessarily bad news for you, but you should know that it is really just going to keep coming up for you.
Putting all of that time and effort into focusing on holding the door closed means that all of your strength and energy is invested into the very thing that you do not want. This means that you are probably going to still end up getting the result that you don’t really want.
You may be asking now, how do we change that? Here are a few quick tips for you that can help:
Tip Number 1
Start visualizing what you do want instead of what you do not want.
Stay focused on what you want, and do not allow yourself to get distracted by the things that you don’t want.
Tip Number 2
Check on your support system.
Do you have a support system? Does your support system understand how lonely entrepreneurship can be? Does your support system see how sometimes you are sitting in a room all by yourself? How your doing things against all the obstacles that come up, how you are taking risks, and how money can be scary and you may not know when your paycheck is going to come in, or even how it is going to come in? Do they get it? If they don’t, look for a support system that specifically understands the unique and difficult challenges of entrepreneurship.
Tip Number 3
Get out your journal.
You may be thinking, “Oh my word, another journaling person.” No, journaling scientifically does things in our brains that moves out beliefs from one portion of our brain to the other and then out. This is not a one and done situation, you have to be regularly writing out your thoughts. Our limiting beliefs, and our negative thoughts don’t have to just stay inside of our brains. We can take action and move them out by writing.
Rewiring for success
I often take my clients through a four week process where we spend time rewiring our brains for success. Because the reality of all of this is that our brains are designed to keep us safe, and to keep us away from danger. Being entrepreneurs is hard on our brains because most of the things that we need to act on to succeed are way outside of our brains comfort zone.
We have so many responsibilities, we are the ones who work out our taxes and our business expenses. We are the ones who have to constantly be innovating. If we don’t innovate, no one else will, if we don’t innovate no one disapproves. But most importantly, if we do not innovate, our business dies.
All of that brings me to the point that I am really trying to focus on. You need to shift some things in order to stop all of the resisting in your life. My point is that what you resist persists, so if we stop resisting all of the things in our lives, then we naturally have to create a state of allowing. This is the place that caused me to feel a little uncomfortable. For me it was simply that I was sick and I would stay that way for a little while, until both I and my body as a whole was feeling better.
Instead of holding off, or feeling depressed or angry, what if we just sat with our feelings for a little while? What would that ultimately change? What space would that blow open inside of your heart? What creativity might start flowing? This conversation is so important to have with yourself.
For me this conversation looks a little like this. Yes I am sick. But instead of resisting that because it keeps persisting, I am going to accept it and allow it and recognize that I am still okay if nothing changes as quickly as I would like.
I am seeing alot of people right now focusing on change and strategy in their businesses. I am seeing articles like - Three quick tips that you do to market your business , or Three ways that you can create passive income. But you know the reality is that none of those things matter. If your brain is hardwired for failure, if it is hardwired to keep you limited and safe, you are going to be failing. All of those skills and strategies are like putting a bandaid on a wound that requires surgery. Does that method make any sense? No. What first needs to happen is you need to rewrite your beliefs, and rewire your brains.
Our brains filtration system
Our brains have something inside them called the Reticular Activating System. This is essentially our filter system. The world around causes us to receive way too much data into our brain at any one time, so our brains are made with a filter system. How our brains filter that data is based on what we believe. Our brains will look at what we believe - which is thought plus emotion repeated over and over and over again. Then our brains will take that and say, “I’ll just automate that belief and I’ll bring in everything that lines up with that belief and I will filter out anything that doesn’t.”
We spend so much of our time using our brains in their default setting, when our brains are meant to be our operating system that we program with our specifications, what we need. I believe that God has given us these beautiful brains and we don’t even invest any time in learning how to use them. All too often we let the outside circumstances dictate how we feel. However we need to remember that we create change from the inside out, like we are the thermostat. We set the temperature and it stays at that temperature no matter what the temperature is outside. We should be like a thermostat, not going up or down depending on the temperature that is around us. We set the temperature because we are working from the inside out.
Two important things to remember as you are developing your mindset in our business, or even if you are going through something in your life. What you resist persists, and Set the temperature for your own success. Don’t forget what can happen if you simply sit in the moment with your circumstances and embrace where you are at. You will not be disappointed with the results.
What we don’t realize in these situations is that our brains want to keep us from jumping off the edge of a metaphorical cliff. Our brains are created to help to keep us safe, but in these instances this safety net is self sabotage. What our brains don’t realize is that we CAN jump off the edge of that cliff, because we have always had wings.
Before having Ansel, my 12 week old son, Stephen and I were married for 5 years. We traveled all over the world, enjoyed lengthy conversations together whenever we wanted to. We cheered each other on in some significant personal growth journeys. We learned who we are, we bought and sold houses, we made and lost money. And at the end of each day, we'd snuggle up together and then fall asleep holding hands. There wasn't a day that went by that we didn't snuggle for a few minutes and fall asleep holding hands.
We were best friends. We were lovers. And we were people we'll never be again.
It wasn't too long after having Ansel that the realization hit me like a ton of bricks. Our life together would literally never be the same again. People often said that to me with a romanticized tone, "You're pregnant? awwwww, that just changes your whole life. You're life will never be the same!" Like it would open my eyes to so much love and goodness.
But then I realized what they meant. My life. would NEVER. be the same. AGAIN.
And in the early morning hours of another sleepless night, I mourned.
I mourned the Stephanie that could exercise whenever she wanted to. I mourned the Stephanie that could hop over to a coffee shop to have a spontaneous date with her husband. I mourned the Stephanie that would spend time enjoying putting on her makeup. I mourned the Stephanie that had no one else to really think about but herself and her (completely autonomous) husband. I mourned the Stephanie that got to sleep when she wanted to and shower when she wanted to. The girl that got to go on a walk by herself anytime she cared to, could work whenever and however she wanted to. The girl completely unencumbered by nap times, childcare, and feeding schedules. And I mourned the loss of our nightly snuggle time and falling asleep holding hands.
There's so much beauty in motherhood, there really is. But no one told me that I might mourn the loss of who I was before having a baby. That I'd never be that girl again. Never have the same marriage again. I just had no clue I'd feel that way and the weight of that loss made me feel so confused and guilty.
"But...isn't motherhood what I've been yearning for?"
"I lost 2 babies. Shouldn't I just be grateful to have this perfect little baby in my arms finally?"
"shouldn't I feel happy?"
"isn't it bad that I feel this grief?"
"Is it wrong that I miss being able to work and wish I could do that more than be with my screaming newborn?"
The guilt of becoming a new mom can be incredibly overwhelming. I literally felt this paralyzing guilt for every move I made. As my business mentor once illustrated for me, it was like carrying around a handful of balloons. I had to shower with them, get in the car with them, go to Target with them, and go to bed holding onto them.
Holding a handful of balloons is hard. It's awkward. It's cumbersome. I mean, have you tried to get into a car wrangling a bunch of balloons? That's what momguilt feels like.
And honestly, the solution is so simple, I walked right over it a thousand times.
Let the balloons go. Let them go. Release it. Watch it float away.
And as I released the guilt, I decided a few things:
I wasn't going to let anyone else's voices create questions or guilt in my mind. I felt loss. So I decided to first grieve.
I felt confused and hormonal. So I decided to give myself space to figure it out and not have the answers. I kept tissues close at all times and didn't wear mascara because there was a high liklihood that I'd be crying soon.
I felt disconnected. So I cried, I talked with Stephen, we shared, and we began finding new ways to reconnect in this new, completely tumultuous time. And I allowed myself to be okay with learning how to love a new human-despite what I thought, it wasn't this magical instant connection. It was intuitive, yeah. But wasn't instant. I had to learn how we relate to each other and learn how to fall in love with him too. And I did.
I missed my work, so I grieved and journaled when I could, dreaming of a time when I was doing the sacred work that ignites my soul. I allowed myself to relax into the reality that there was enough time and would be enough time for me to do what I was called to do in my work.
I mean, I missed wearing clothes that didn't have spit up on them. So I bought new shirts, and did laundry a little more often.
I mourned becoming a mother. No one told me I might feel that way. And if you do, know that it's okay. It's a massive life change. And you'll never be the same again. And as I said goodbye to that girl, terrified as to what life would look like moving forward, struggling with a sense of regret, and feeling so overwhelmed by all the life changes I was experiencing, I started seeing something beautiful.
Because of this new identity, I was becoming someone more beautiful. I started seeing in myself a strength I never knew i had. I started believing in myself, caring for and loving this sacred body I have, trusting, and resting. I started letting go of resistance, trusting my intuition, and reveling in gratitude.
And as I did, some incredible things started to happen. I started seeing clients and money flow into my life with ease. I started being present-looking my son in the eyes as I fed him instead of frantically creating a social media post. And I started seeing magic everywhere.
Just like my son lays in his crib and cries, knowing that he'll be fed but doing nothing to bring that food to himself, I started to say what I wanted and let it come to me in childlike trust. And I started celebrating a life that felt good.
If you're approaching motherhood, hear me when I say this: Motherhood is so different for everyone. But if you feel grief, it's okay. lean into it for a bit and ask for help. And look for the magic. You'll start seeing it everywhere.
Growing up with a fixed mindset meant that, unless I lived a very specific set of circumstances, my life was going to unravel. And, little did I know it, but the unraveling was coming.
Pushing others, but backing myself into a corner
Shortly after Stephen and I got married, Stephen share more of his heart with his business. I grew excited to support his vision, and even pushed him wayyyyy outside of his comfort zone. Shortly after Stephen started feeling a bit more confident in his business, he bought me a camera and booked his first wedding with me as his second shooter.
All of a sudden all that encouragement and pushing I did was back on me and I was backed into a corner! I swallowed my pride and took on this ONE WEDDING, telling him that I felt better behind the scenes. I could answer his emails and keep track of his numbers. I set up a few spreadsheets, and kept up with his inbox pretty well, until he saw my emails and began weighing in on how they were worded. I immediately told him I couldn't keep up with his emails and sent them back to him.
This kept happening. I’d try something, it wouldn’t go as planned, and I’d write it off as a “never again” task. If Stephen brought up trying a new marketing idea, or testing out a new client response, I would get so defensive that I’d start crying within a minute of the conversation, leaving him completely bewildered.
Despite this difficulty, we began booking at a fast pace, raising our prices aggressively, and still finding ourselves at max capacity. I figured I didn't need to work on these glaring personal issues because I had bigger things to do.
How my fixed mindset met its limits
A few years into this venture, I lost my main job, which became the first part of my unraveling. My education job had been safe, easy, and what everyone else thought I was “meant to do.” Losing that job as I sat with a friend in the Target Starbucks made my head spin. I was terrified to tell anyone I was no longer a teacher. It’s what I was “supposed” to do-I had a degree in it!
Due to the high number of bookings we already had for the following year, I decided to test out the concept of working for the business full time. I quickly realized that I’d have to do the tasks I feared most and assumed that I’d figure it out or make Stephen keep doing them. But figuring it out turned into procrastination, anxiety, sleeplessness, chronic headaches, jaw clenching and teeth grinding, and a constant stream of emotional highs and lows.
I was resting on the laurels of my husband’s hard work, marketing for us and planning our strategies, things which he passed off to me, not knowing that I was avoiding them out of intense fear. I didn’t realize it, but my fixed mindset was running on borrowed time and about a year into my full time business ownership, the debtors came calling.
The year that my mindset met it's limits, I had big plans. We had 20 beautiful weddings on the books, and I was going to land a ton of blog features to gain publicity as my main marketing plan. As we photographed beautiful weddings and neared 6 figures, the numbers looked good, but my one trick marketing pony wasn't working.
It was our biggest year yet and I was positive I’d have a lot of press surrounding our work. As that year came to a close, I began to panic. My one-trick marketing plan hadn’t worked and we had zero weddings booked for the following year after our largest fiscal year ever. HOW HAD THIS HAPPENED???
I’d wake up daily feeling this deep sense of inadequacy, spend my days spinning in circles, and wake up in the middle of the night panicked about the year to come. I started looking up grocery store jobs and substitute teaching again.
What caused my fixed mindset to unravel
Here’s what happened: Stephen’s hard work had an expiration date. It wasn’t going to last forever, but I was coasting on his marketing groundwork, trying to ignore the fact that I needed to learn some important skills before time would run out. But I didn't. And time did indeed run out.
I was ignoring marketing because I didn't understand it. If I didn't immediately understand it, it meant I was "bad at it" and would need to put forth effort. I was too scared to learn and try strategies in marketing and as I approached this expiration time frame, I grew paralyzed at the idea of failure. So I made it my practice to “sit really still and breathe.” No, it wasn’t a meditation practice, it was all I felt I could do without taking risks. With the pressures weighing down from all sides, I felt so trapped that the most I could do was just breathe and not move. If I so much as twitched, everything would come crashing down on me.
I finally confessed my panic to Stephen and told him about our booking issues and how they related to my avoidance of the things I couldn't understand. Now he knew what I had done and we were on the same page. As we were beginning to brainstorm solutions, my life turned upside down and that conversation had to wait. And here’s where the rest of the unravelling happened.
A season of loss and rebuilding
As we began the new year, I was ready to toast to the baby we expected to bring into the world in August. But instead, I was met with a miscarriage. During the process, my doctor and I found that I had likely had previous miscarriages and just didn’t know what they were. I was shocked and devastated. Shocked that this had actually happened, and devastated that my body had failed me.
Shortly thereafter, I lost a business deal and friendship that left me heartbroken. The business deal promised to provide a year’s worth of income and the friendship had been a deep and sweet one. My life had again unraveled and I was in the midst of a depression. Again, I felt like everything I touched was falling apart and, if I just sat still, nothing bad would happen anymore.
It was at this time that I was at my lowest. I was a failure in business, my body had failed me, and I couldn’t identify who I was and what my purpose was. I ate for comfort and gained 30 pounds during my season of heartbreak. I felt like I had nothing else. It’s honestly still so raw to talk about this dark time in my life. I feel so sad for that girl and still carry her pain.
But it was during this quiet season that God picked up the pieces and began rebuilding. I hired a business coach and began seeing a counselor. During the dark, quiet times, I began reading, journaling, listening to podcasts, and learning. And I began feeling sparks of interest again. I have what I call my “ugly purple notebook” that I have lugged all over my house for the better part of a year, filled with prayers, anguish, heartbreak, to-do lists, panic, more to-do lists, but slowly, it started filling with hope, interest, excitement, ideas, and plans. As I learned and grew, I started seeing my depressive fog lift. I began learning how to identify and shift my mindset from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.
Now, for the first time in my life, I’m bringing in money all by myself! I’m marketing not one, but two businesses on my own! I’m coaching other creatives, feel completely alive in what I do, and have something to say. I’ve learned to grow, assess old habits creeping in, and feel confident stating my value to potential clients. I am so deeply proud of myself and thankful for the journey God has given me. That I can say that I’m proud of myself is a sign of growth in and of itself! Now, I’m the one bringing up marketing strategy conversations with Stephen and, if he points out a weak area, I’m not dissolving into tears, I’m instead strategizing a plan to grow and learn from it.
My story is one many people share. In upcoming blog posts, I'm going to lay out the key identifiers of a fixed mindset and a growth mindset, my favorite resources for change, and steps you can take to shift your mindset. If you identify with anything I’ve shared so far, please shoot me an email-I’d love to hear your story.
Welcome to The Successful Creative, a place where we can walk the journey together of monetizing your creative passion, learning to strengthen our mindsets, and think and dream bigger.
My story learning to be a successful creative
Hi! My name is Stephanie and I'm so glad you're here! I am launching this blog as a result of five years of hard work, learning curves, and growth as a wedding photographer. I'm at a point in my journey where I recognize that my love of teaching coupled with my experience running a business could encourage and serve others on their journeys. Here's a bit about my story:
Matching my natural skills with a job description
I grew up with a penchant for teaching. I would collect all the kids in my neighborhood and lead them on wild expeditions, I would “play teacher” and I would “teach gymnastics classes.” (I can't even do a cartwheel...I don't know how I got my friends to attend gymnastics classes!!) Whatever I learned, I wanted to share with the kids in the neighborhood...even if I wasn't an expert. Becoming an elementary teacher seemed like a natural progression of my life’s narrative, right?
After college, I had two interesting jobs: I was a crisis and trauma counselor for college aged girls for several years and then I taught elementary school. Each job ignited my desire to connect with others, encourage them, and teach them.
Pretty soon, however my natural intuition for connecting with people, drawing out their best assets, and then teaching them, was crowded out by paperwork, school politics, test results, and scripted, unimaginative plans (hey, my ideal reading lessons involved building trees in my classroom. Worksheets? notsomuch) I felt suffocated and wondered if I’d ever actually do the thing I loved: teaching.
Jumping into small business ownership
During this time, I met my now husband, Stephen. By the time we got married, he had trained me well and added me to his photography business. So as a newlywed, I jumped headfirst into helping someone with their business. I was thrilled to encourage him, believe in him and troubleshoot HIS business for a few months until I realized he viewed it as OUR business. As soon as I had skin in the game, I began backpedaling REAL quick. I was filled with intense fear, self-doubt, hurts, and a scarcity driven mindset leaving me feeling desperate with each new business hurdle.
Over the next few years, I had to work through some major mindset issues, anxieties, and recalibrate my view of myself, my purpose, and my life’s calling. Along the way, I found that there were elements to running a business that I was naturally adept at. There were elements that tapped into my desire to connect with others as well as my penchant for being a bit of a pipe dreamer. But no matter how big I dreamed, my fears and mindset issues were like concrete blocks around my feet. I couldn't actually go anywhere!
But, God knew where I was and as I prayed for change, He sent me on a journey of change that I look forward to sharing with you soon.
Running a business through roadblocks
One of my first roadblocks was a really simple one-dealing with opposition. I think the first thing that appealed to me about wedding photography was the affirmation! I mean, I picked up a camera and people were praising me and throwing money at me. Wow, it felt kind of addicting! I think I may not be the only one who began her journey with the addiction to affirmation!
But reality quickly set in when we experienced our first bit of opposition-someone questioning our value instead of throwing money at us, someone stating that they weren’t happy with the experience we provided instead of just gleefully praising my skills. All of a sudden, things got really real and I had to determine if I was going to continue to live for affirmation or if I was going to build a business that rose above opposition to achieve greatness.
What is a successful creative?
Chances are that you’re here because you like the idea of being a successful creative. You want to be successful and you yearn to create new things. But you may feel like you have one or the other right now. You may even be in the place of experiencing your first bit of opposition in a journey that’s been filled with affirmation. If that’s you, I want you to know that you’re not alone. What you’re going through is one of your biggest tests to determine how serious you are about being a successful creative. I believe you have what it takes. And where you feel weak, I have you covered.
With each growing pain I experienced, I wrote about it, asked myself “what tools do I wish I had while going through this?” and then I created them for you! So you can expect this to be a place where you can find resources to help you on your journey to building a profitable business.
I plan to serve you really great, honest content on this blog and via email because I believe that the journey I’ve been on has taught me deep and powerful lessons about how to run a profitable creative business and I want to share that with you.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing more of my story and I’d love to know about yours. Comment below and let us know what do you do and what are you proud of in your business? Brag on yourself and let us cheer you on!