I have crippling social anxiety. My heart races and I struggle to take deep breaths. I count backwards to myself, trying to get a grip. 5,4,3,2,1.... Sometimes my hands shake and my eyes fill with tears as I pep talk myself and force a smile on my face... I approach a person or group for a simple "hello". My mind goes dark. I feel inferior and "not good enough". I struggle to relax and just 'be myself'. Oh no. I'm tongue tied. They look at me with puzzled expressions. I turn red. I'm sweating. I'm dying inside.
Over the years, I’ve forced myself to attend neighborhood social gatherings, friends baby showers, and other events. I WANT TO work through my anxiety and learn to interact with poise and grace and ease. Leaving, I feel proud that I tried, but always humiliated that I failed.
Ironically, my small circle of closest friends are fearless, bold, outwardly confident and “go getters”. They are leaders in their industry – whether a teacher, stylist, small business owner, real estate agent, stay at home mom or technician – they’re respected in their trade with a voice that’s heard. I admire each and every one of them and am so thankful to have them as inspiration. All aware of my insecurities, they’re my crutch in a crowd, voice of reason, and biggest cheerleaders. They encourage me to move forward, keep trying.
Upon revealing my anxiety, I’m often asked how I am able to photograph weddings, commanding attention and giving instruction to large groups of people during bridal party and family photos. The first time I was asked this question, I wasn’t exactly sure how to respond. It’s almost as if I transform into “business mode”. I was hired from my portfolio, not my personality. My job is to deliver. Whether I am faced with rain on a wedding day, a husband that is missing a big game and angry that he’s at the session, an overtired toddler that hides her face in mommy’s chest and screams at every attempt to put her down, or a drunken bridal party that doesn’t feel like photos and just wants to get to the food and the party – it’s my job to make sure I fulfill what I was hired for. It’s my job to deliver highlights from the time I’m hired to be with my clients. Through all the chaos, I must find the light and capture those glimpses of laughter, love and joy. Of course, I normally keep a few candid moments in the gallery, for giggles and raw memories, but I love the reactions I get after the fact. ….”WOW. Our time with you was a blur. We had so much fun, and you made us feel so special, but I don’t remember all of these amazing moments happening. THANK YOU for this treasure.” Knowing that my images will live on long after I’m gone, is incredible. To walk into clients homes and see my work displayed in galleries on their walls, I feel so valued.
After marinating on the question for the past 10+ years, I couldn’t come up with a good answer for “why I can function and not have crippling anxiety when faced with strangers and crowds and obstacles while working”. It dumbfounded me. Why can’t I apply that same mentality when entering a birthday party, shower, or social dinner? THEN, this morning, I HEARD THE ANSWER.
While listening to an online sermon by Sadie Robertson, she said:
“What passion does… It fuels you and gives you the ability to press past your fears in order to fulfill the purpose that God has called you to do.”
I’m left speechless. SO PROFOUND and POWERFUL. I finally have the answer.