Jim Rohn famously said that we are each the average of the five people we spend most time with. It’s a psychological concept that’s widely accepted – we absorb the words and actions of the people with whom we surround ourselves, and this impacts us greatly, shaping our thoughts and behaviour. Put simply, our environment shapes our view of our own life and what we believe is possible.
Many of us are lucky to be surrounded by loving families and friends, and we might not feel that this concept is something we need to worry about. However, I hear frequently from many photographers and other self-employed friends that genuinely caring, well-meaning loved ones are unintentionally denting their confidence and undermining the steps they’re taking towards growing their business.
I hear this time and time again – it can come from partners, parents, siblings, friends… The issue is not that these people are mean, trying to spoil things for us or hold us back. The issue is that the fact that they have such a close relationship with us means that our choices have a direct impact on their own deeper feelings – their feelings about our happiness and security – but also their feelings about their own happiness and security – and often these deeper feelings are imbued with fear.
Sometimes this fear is based around us failing… Fear that if we suffer a big disappointment, we might struggle with our mental health… Fear that if we don’t get enough clients, we may not be able to pay our share of the bills… Fear that this isn’t a ‘proper job’ and that we are wasting our brains on something frivolous (hello Grandma!)….
However sometimes this fear can be based around us succeeding… Fear that we might change as a person… Fear because they’ve told themselves they stay in the job they hate because there’s no other option and you taking this leap triggers them and makes them feel worse about their own choices… Fear that we might meet new people and not want to be with them any more…
Often these fears are totally subconscious – these people often don’t realise they are being negative, and more often than not, they are totally well-meaning – they’re simply worried about us and/or our family. But whatever the reasons, whether the fear is based around us succeeding or failing, the end result is the same – their fears and doubts can creep into their words and that in turn rubs off on us and it can be really limiting and inhibitive.
When others don’t feel confident about what we do, we don’t feel confident about what we do. We then start to make decisions in our business from a place of insecurity – we compare ourselves to others, we hide away, we don’t take risks, we don’t put ourselves out there, we play small, we say no to new opportunities, we don’t make bold changes, our impostor syndrome grows, we feeling like we’re ‘playing’ at running a business.
The solution? Be conscious and mindful of who you are spending time with and what they are saying. I’m not saying for one second that you should cut ties with loved ones who aren’t encouraging. They are usually wonderfully loving people – they’re either just scared or they just don’t really understand self-employment or the photography industry. Of course if someone’s words or behaviour are having a really negative effect on your mental health then by all means step away – but on the assumption that it’s just a bit of well-intentioned or ignorant nay-saying, it’s enough to just redress the balance.
How to redress the balance? Invest time and/or money surrounding yourself with other people who are where you want to be, or who are further along the line and nearer to where you want to be – people who will encourage you, inspire you and give you positive support from a place of understanding and experience. Join a community, network with others in the industry, hire a coach or mentor, go to seminars or workshops, make some photography friends and hang out with them regularly.
Not only will you learn practical tools and advice from these people to push you forward, you’ll also feel more confident about the possibilities ahead of you and understand not just how to achieve them but also how achievable they are. You’ll stop feeling like you’re ‘playing’ at running a business and will feel confident that you’re one of a strong community of millions of people who can make a success of running their own business. You’ll start making the decisions you need to make to grow – instead of being emotional, haphazard and fearful, you’ll be practical, methodical and brave.
So ask yourself today – do you spend enough time with enough people who believe you can do this? People who WANT you to do this? People who ARE doing this? Because the fact is that you CAN do this. It IS possible. Make sure you hear this at least as much as you hear otherwise.
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