I have this terrible habit of comparing myself to others and usually feeling like I always come up short. Maybe it's because I actually AM short - and have been comparing myself to taller, more noticeable people since the day I learned how to walk. I have always struggled with self-confidence issues and how I view my part in this world, especially as a wedding photographer and growing a business that is already overly saturated by anyone with a Nikon.
Two years ago I was at a bridal industry event night and I met this man who is also a wedding photographer in Chicago. Cool right? Except he charges about double what I charge and at the time seemed to be about double as impressive..... he also was about double my age, but that's not important. I started to look up to him as he was a sought-after, successful Chicago photographer.
We continued to communicate after our first meeting and he was someone I went to for advice regarding photography and crafting a business plan. I went to him for other things too - however, like his age - that's not important. I remember even after we lost contact wishing I could someday be as successful as he was in the wedding industry. I wished I could be someone that people would want to book with no matter how high my pricing.
As time has gone on, I have incorporated some of the ideas we discussed and his views on the best way to become a successful wedding photographer into my business routine. Yet I still have always thought he was out of my league-professionally speaking. I spent many months comparing myself to him and others in the industry who I believed to be more successful, more creative, and more powerful.
It wasn't until a few weeks ago when a wedding photo of his popped up on my business Instagram explore page that I realized maybe the ones we look up to aren't exactly who we make them out to be. It was an image of a couple he photographed at Montesino Ranch. MONTESINO RANCH.
Now, if you're asking yourself "WTF is Montesino Ranch?" then it's probably because you don't live in the very small town of Wimberly, Texas on the outskirts of Austin.
Even I, Macey Lynn, who has low self-confidence and questions her artistic ability every day has shot a wedding at Montesino Ranch. While it's a beautiful place, it's not expensive and it's not somewhere a bride with a large budget would book a top photographer. One of my first clients EVER tied the knot back in 2013 at Montesino Ranch, giving me the opportunity to really grow my portfolio.
As I dived deeper into his Instagram business page, I realized that there were several venues we both had shot at. The Grand Geneva, Humboldt Park Boathouse, & The Shedd to name a few. Nice pictures, sure. But 10x better than mine? Not really. Different perspectives and editing techniques, definitely. But better? Arguably not at all. As I looked closer, I realized that my jaw didn't drop when looking at his photos like I once thought. One image of a bridal gown was totally ruined by an ivy vine in the way. Another image weirdly cropped. I don't say this to try to cut down another photographer's work. He has talent clearly - I mean he's getting booked and charging more than I am! However, I've realized that comparison truly is the thief of joy and some comparisons aren't what we make them out to be. I realized that since meeting him I absolutely had grown in my work and photography skills - which is something I could thank him for.
It's so easy to compare ourselves to "role models" we create in our minds. Celebrities, older relatives, co-workers, Instagram influencers, you name it. We see people and get this idea that they are SO much better than us in a particular area. & maybe they are. There are a lot of people who are super smart and that have worked very hard to get to where they are today. However, that shouldn't diminish our own worth.
Sometimes the people we look up to are just a few steps ahead. Or they built a ladder to get a bit further along. Or, in many cases, paid a helicopter to escort them straight to the top.
What I'm trying to say with all of this is that it's AMAZING to have role models and people to look up to in order to stay inspired, creative, and think outside the box. It's also AMAZING to believe in your own success as much as anyone else's. Some of the challenges we face aren't as challenging as we make them out to be. So don't compare yourself to photos and posts on social media of people screaming their successes.
I think instead of having role models, we should have goal models. A goal model is someone that inspires us to reach new goals without feeling the need to compare our journey to theirs. We all have our own paths. I promise you'll have your own Montesino Ranch moment someday and I hope when you do you realize that you're actually super talented and worthy of great things ✨