How to Beat Self Doubt

Do you feel like all your photographs suck?

Do you feel like everyone else is taking better pictures than you?

Do you wonder if you’ll ever make pictures that people drool over?

Here’s a big not-so-secret secret.

You’re not alone.

I learned how to use a camera when I was a kid. I sucked back then. I’m a couple decades older, and I still suck. I have days where I feel like chucking my camera into the trash can because my pictures will never ever get better.

And when people tell me they like my pictures, it’s always in the back of my mind that they’re just being nice. Being polite because they don’t want to offend me. Because they feel sorry for me. I always have a hard time believing them.

Are you nodding? This sounds a little too familiar?

Here’s the bad news.

I don’t have any sure-fire tips for fixing this. There’s no easy solution. I wish I could snap my fingers and make that self-doubt go away. It might be a little easier to share photography and other creative works if we weren’t constantly doubting ourselves and comparing our works to other people. This symptom is sometimes referred to the impostor syndrome.

a slab of rock rises up into the sky

DO Ignore That Voice

This is easier said than done.

Yes, you will make crappy pictures. But that’s how you practice and learn. And you’ll have days where you’ll make great pictures, too.

Yes, other people will take better pictures. There are always people with more talent and knowledge. That’s just life — there’s always someone better than you, smarter than you, faster than you. … Use them as a source of inspiration and to help fuel your drive to learn more.

With time and practice, you will make pictures that people drool over. Be patient. And…

Ignore that voice of self doubt.

DO Put Your Work Out There

If you take a picture that makes you think, “huh, this is pretty good!” do something with it. Print it. Share it. Show it off. Anything! Don’t let it just sit in your files.

fog lingers around massive red rocks

I’ve taken plenty of decent pictures over the years, but because I was slow to get on the social-media sharing bandwagon and never printed them, I’ve kinda forgotten which ones they are. And where they are in my files.  Don’t be like Jen. Don’t be a dunce. Share the pictures!

And back up your pictures on an external HD!

DON’T Ignore Opportunities

People love to help friends and random strangers alike. They want to see you succeed, and a small part of it is, on a subconscious level, they like knowing they had a hand in your success. It’s selfish, yeah, but it’s a win-win situation. You get a little boost, they feel good.

If you are lucky enough to get offered an opportunity to improve your photography somehow, whether a trip out of town for the day or an exhibition at an art gallery, say yes. Don’t pass on an opportunity, unless it harms you/someone or is illegal. In which case quote Nancy Reagan: “just say no.”

Ignore the temptation to think, “well, maybe I should wait until my photographs/art/whatever is better.”

Say yes.

DO Offer Opportunities

You don’t need to be a world-famous photographer/artist/whatever with scads of cash to offer your fellow creators opportunities. Find small ways to help your fellow creators. Reach out to the other creators and ask if they’d like to collaborate. Odds are they’re in similar shoes, hoping that someone will someday come along and help them.

That person could be you!

It’s a win-win-win. You get to feel good, they get to improve, and you get to improve, too.

You can, for example:

On Instagram, ask photographers you admire if they’d like to collaborate (also referred to collab).

Ask local photographers to go on photowalks. Taking photographs in public can be intimidating for some. It’s more comfortable to know there’s someone watching your back. Plus, you can use the opportunity to learn new techniques and ideas.

Ask local photographers to attend a workshop, art gallery, whatever together. When you study other people’s works or take classes on new techniques, it’s helpful to have someone bounce ideas and thoughts off, and internalize it.

DO Use Your Doubt to Improve

Photograph of woman's legs wearing red suede pumps shoes

When doubt rears its ugly head, we have two choices: let it cripple us, or use it.

We can’t banish the self doubt. But we can use it to improve our works. It’s a conscious choice, and it’s a difficult one. I’m not gonna lie. It’s hella hard to pick up your camera and think: “Ok, I suck, and that’s okay. I want to get better” and heading outside instead of sitting on your couch, zoning out on TV.

It’s a conscious choice to improve and get better, rather than just talking about it. No one can do make this decision for you. You have to, one day, make this decision to get better, and work at it. It won’t magically just happen.

Talent doesn’t come naturally for many people. Work for it.

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