On Bossing Up
Some years ago, when I was first trying to break into the wedding photography industry, I attended a workshop led by some of the top wedding photographers in the business. It was a team of amazing photographers whose work I'd been following for some time. Their wedding pricing began at 10k and they were just the epitome of artistry and entrepreneurship. I knew I wanted to learn from the best and they were the best! So I made the investment.
I didn't have very much at the time and I saved every penny to be able to attend. I rented the gear and lenses for it because I didn't even have that. I remember being so fascinated. I soaked up every bit of info and advice that these gurus had to offer. During the shooting part of the workshop (they had models dressed as brides and grooms and a beautiful mock-wedding set-up), there was a fancy studio lighting set-up (that I could never afford) that they had for us to get some cool images for our portfolios. There was a huge line of us waiting to take a shot at it. We each got three attempts or "clicks"and this was the one shot I really wanted to get. I waited patiently for my turn.
I remember there was this guy there helping out and assisting the instructors with the set-up. Kind of like a roadie. When it was finally my turn, I was shaking. I'm not sure why I was so nervous. Maybe it was the thought of an ocean of professional photographers watching me as I made my attempts at this thing I knew nothing about. Maybe it was just good old stage fright, who knows. I hesitated, took a deep breath and lifted my camera up to my eye. Then, out of the side of the crowd I hear someone shout: "Any day now, rookie!" Everyone laughed. It was that dude, the assistant. "Great. Just great." I thought. The all-too familiar pit in my stomach began to set in. I started to feel warm and nervous and embarrassed. I could feel all eyes on me. Lines of photographers, ones way better than myself, laughing at me probably thinking "Look at this poor wannabe". I took one shot, which was mediocre at best, looked over at that guy, who was sporting a huge smirk and then... I left.
To this day I still regret not taking my 2 extra shots. I regret not taking my time and telling that idiot to calm down. Who was he anyway? Who died and made him king? And why did I care what he had to say? Like, relax dude, I paid an arm and a leg to be here, I'll take my damn time if I want to! But no. Instead I let him, a crowd of peers, and my insecurities intimidate me into passing up a chance to improve my craft.
And that was thee moment. I realized right then and there that I had to boss the eff up. It dawned on me that I didn't have to change. I had to, instead, learn how to use my "flaws". I am who I am and I probably won't ever change. But whatever it is I want in life, I must go after with balls. Even if I am embarrassed or shy or scared, I have to do it anyway. Whatever it takes! Intimidated, scared as hell, choked-up or even full-on crying, I must do it anyway. Otherwise I will always live my life in regret. I told myself "Starting today, no matter what anyone thinks about you Vee, no matter how you feel... do it anyway!"
At the end of that workshop, we were all handed a questionnaire. It asked how we liked the workshop, our favorite parts, what they could improve on, etc. I rated each category from one to ten. In the "additional comments" section I simply wrote:
"Your assistant is kind of an ass, hire me instead."
Three days later I got a call from the main photographer. He offered me a job. 💁🏻
You see, I had to make the decision to "boss up". It may not have been in the most obvious way, with all the cool comebacks. But I had to work with what I had: delayed reaction and a little wit. I realized I could do that guy's job better than him and with a better attitude. And more kindness. And more enthusiasm. And more hunger. And so... I did.
It sounds like a no-brainer, right? You decide to go into business for yourself therefore, logically, you become a "boss". But I'm not a natural-born Boss Babe. Far from it. I had to work very hard at building that mentality. I still struggle with it. Growing up, I was always an incredibly shy kid. I would panic at the thought of shaking someone's hand or even being looked at. I had my first anxiety attack at my fifth birthday party while getting sung to. The birthday song still freaks me out! I was too shy to order my own food at restaurants until my teens. I was scared of everything. Socially awkward doesn't even begin to cover it.
As I got older, I had to learn how to fake confidence. How to be silly and and witty and funny. How to take over conversations and situations so that it makes others comfortable. I had to learn to lead and not care what anyone thinks about me. It's still hard sometimes, but the more you practice it the more it becomes second nature. I am secretly and introvert parading around as an extrovert. I feel like a total fraud sometimes. But it's what I need to do to survive. It's a dog eat dog world out there and I'll be damned if I don't reach my goals and dreams because of my inner shy girl.
In 2015 when I was offered a spot on a reality television show in which I had to compete physically against other teams while also transforming my body, I didn't think I could do it. Frankly, I didn't really want to do it. I was so afraid. It was a very dark time in my life and I was just such a mess. But I knew I had to. It was necessary to upgrade myself. And I remembered that moment at the photography workshop. I told myself that this could not be a repeat of that story. I would go and do this and I would take my chances and I would give it my all. And that even if I failed, I would never think back and say "what if?". And sure enough, I may have failed, I may have literally cried the entire time and embarrassed myself in front of millions of viewers but you know what? I tried. I went out there and did it. I put myself on blast on a level so high, so unfathomably uncomfortable, that very few people could actually handle it, let alone make something wonderful out of it. Why? Because I was offered a spot over thousands of other people who wanted it. The universe handed me, little ol' Vee, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And I had to choose: go for it and possibly fail and be embarrassed but force growth upon myself, or keep my dignity intact but be a chickenshit for the rest of my life. So I chose. And mark my words: I will never be the latter again.
So girl, boss up. You SO got this. Whatever it is you're stressing about or debating on. Pick. Make the decision. Do it with balls. Use your flaws, weaknesses, doubts, failures and shortcomings as the fuel you need to make that come-up. And always, when in doubt... go with the least comfortable option. For it will undoubtedly be the one to make you grow. I promise.