On Feeling “Not Good Enough”

It felt both scary and wonderful to get my first full salary from my new client at the end of last month. Why scary? Well, I’ve never earned so much money in one month before. But most of all, I felt like a fraud. Like I didn’t deserve it.

I know that’s not the truth. I worked hard and did well. At our month-end meeting my client had nothing but good things to say about my work. But still, those thoughts of “I’m not good enough” and the accompanying feeling of panic that I don’t really know what I’m doing and will be exposed, kept raising it’s head.

Imposter syndrome? Perhaps. The thing is, I’m used to doing things for next to nothing. To give in when someone can’t pay me for doing something, or charging them a price that didn’t take much of my effort and time into consideration. This caused me so much anxiety and stress. I was doing too much for others with little in return and becoming burnt out. A lot of it I would use as an excuse “it’s good for my portfolio or for practice”. Sure, that’s valid, but not to the extent I was taking it. Now that I’m charging more I feel guilty for it.

My therapist had to listen to me complain about these things and saw how it was affecting me. She helped me get to the place where I realized that way of doing things wasn’t working for me, and wasn’t worth it, and I could start putting proper boundaries in place. It’s still hard to stand firm, especially with friends and family, but I’m doing it.

This client is the ideal client for me. He’s honest, to the point, and doesn’t rush me. I’ve already learned so many new things and am becoming more confident, but I still get my days where I feel “not good enough”. One thing I really appreciate about him is that he will often send me a “good job!” or “well done”. So that helps tremendously.

Whenever I start experiencing those “not good enough” thoughts, and feelings of panic or fear, I try to remember to challenge them with more helpful thoughts. “I’ve come this far and I’m doing the best I can”. I also try to find moments where I can look at my work and say “I’m proud of myself, I did well”.

Why I Wish He Would Understand

I arrived in a state at my therapy session last week. It had been a crap day, with way too much sensory stimulation. There’s building going on next to my dad’s shop, and the store was in chaos… One of the really busy days. Phones ringing, everyone running up and down, loud voices, etc. I just couldn’t work, couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t do much of anything but listen to my music with my headphones on and try to calm my nervous system down.

It ended up with me and my dad fighting again, because he couldn’t understand why I can’t just ignore everything and focus on work. I tried to explain to him again that I struggle to drown out sounds and the constant movement (which makes me nauseous as well) and I seem to lose the ability to use my brain for tasks. I would have thought that he would get this by now as it’s always been a problem for me, since childhood, and a source of lots of fights, tears, threats, etc. I was struggling to explain it to him in a coherent manner while in the state I was in, because for some reason even my language and speech are affected during these times of a sensory overload meltdown. Add in the frustration I was feeling with him not understanding or seeming to listen, and me being unable to communicate properly. I hated him so much right then and was glad when he left the office. I was done talking. I just couldn’t anymore. I was exhausted, yet still extremely riled up.

On a Wednesday I usually leave for therapy straight after work. As I was driving there that day, I couldn’t focus. I felt disoriented and confused on the road. For example, which lane I’m supposed to be in, road signs, other cars. See what I mean about my brain not functioning the way it should sometimes? I’m just glad I got to the clinic without any incident. And that the waiting area was empty and quiet.

I was still highly worked up in the session, and I can’t actually remember much of what went on. I do remember though my therapist asking at some point why I need my dad to understand. That question was on my mind for days afterward. Logically, I know he doesn’t understand and he probably never will, and sometimes I can accept that, but days that like one, I just can’t.

Why do wish he would understand, or at least try to? It would save both of us (and anyone else involved) a lot of drama. Because maybe then he’ll stop fighting with me over the same stuff, which just triggers me and makes me feel even more overwhelmed and less able to cope with the normal day-to-day of living and stress that comes with it. And he won’t have to be on the receiving end of a meltdown (or in his view, a tantrum). Case in point: On Tuesday my dad wanted me to go buy lunch. He wanted me to go to a place I absolutely hate. A fish shop. My first instinct when he asked me was to blurt out “but that place smells horrible!” before I could even realize what I was saying and stop myself. Usually this is the point where he will either crap me out for my “attitude” or “laziness”, or the more extreme version, fly into an instant rage. But this time he didn’t do either of those things. He simply replied “I know”, in a tone of voice that wasn’t threatening or triggering. When that happened, I felt myself relax, and willing to handle the few minutes of nausea I’d experience while ordering. That moment, where I felt validated in a sense, just confirmed why I believe it will be beneficial for the both of us if he would at least try to understand.

So yes, I went to that place to buy them food, and even though I was only inside for a minute or two while ordering (there wasn’t a queue, thank goodness), my clothes and hair smelled of the place. Fish and old oil. I had to double wash my hair and I don’t want to see that jersey and those pants for a while, even though they’ve now been washed. But, I survived. My dad’s words didn’t stop me from experiencing those nasty “side effects”, but it helped regulate my feelings toward actually having to go through it.

I know people can’t truly “get” things if they don’t experience it themselves, but relationships would be so much better off if we all just at least try to listen to one another and understand where someone is coming from. Why they react in certain ways. And yes, I know that applies to me with regards to my dad as well.

On Making Decisions

I had a great therapy session on Thursday, and we uncovered one of the main causes of my low mood and overwhelmed state.

We’re currently working through another topic in therapy, but I’m glad we didn’t continue with that one this time, as Thursday’s one was more urgent. It started with my therapist asking me how I’m really doing, telling me that she had read my blog posts, and to tell her about them.

I had taken that Thursday off from work, and dedicated that day to self-care. There were moments of guilt, where I felt I should be working. But I managed to challenge that guilt, and replace it with validation that I deserve this time to myself.

I’ve been overwhelmed and moody lately, as a result of stretching myself too thin. I have so many balls up in the air, and I’d be kidding myself if I thought I could keep it up.

Sometime during the session I was hit with a realization. It was something my therapist said, and the questions she was asking that brought this up. It turns out that my wedding photography business isn’t something I want to continue in. It’s the cause of most of my stress and overwhelm. Yes, I’ve been busy with so many things, but those things aren’t having as big an impact on my state of mind as this business has.

We explored this in more detail. How do I feel when I think of continuing with this business? Overwhelm. Panic. How do I feel when I think of pulling out? Relief. But there’s also some fear involved. The biggest one being talking to my business partner about this. Telling her how I feel. That I don’t think this business is working out, at least not for me. That I don’t want to invest myself in it anymore. My therapist then asked me another question when I mentioned being too afraid to have this discussion with my partner. It was the same question she had asked me last year when I wanted to get out of my long-term relationship, but was too afraid to. It’s a powerful one. It goes something like this: Would you rather deal with the consequences that happen as a result of the decision to leave now, and move on from it, or stay in it for another 30-40 years and continue being miserable? The answer seems pretty straightforward right? Well, that’s because it is. But that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy.

It’s going to be hard to let go of this business. I invested so much time and energy (and money) into it already. And like I’ve mentioned before, it feels as though I’m responsible for the majority of the work. I just can’t do it anymore. I don’t want to. It’s not just this though. I don’t want to work with brides and everyone else who will be involved. I don’t want to have to deal with all the paperwork involved. I don’t want to deal with products that are included (or purchased separately) from the wedding packages. I love photography, but not weddings. It’s a lot of work. I don’t think many people realize just how much work goes into photographing weddings, and getting the images and products ready for the clients. I’ve shot two weddings already. After the first one, I told myself “never again”, but what did I do? I did another one, and once again said “never again”. So what the hell was I thinking opening a wedding photography business? I don’t even like weddings. Even when attending as a guest.

The thing about decisions is that just when you think you’ve made the best decision, other things come up that you hadn’t even thought about when making your original decision. And then the questioning starts: “Have I really thought this through enough?” “But what if…?” New fears may emerge as well, as they did in my case: “What if we close the business down just when we were about to make a breakthrough?”. I asked myself this question, and a big part of me feels like the money won’t be worth all the stress. But then another part of me questions that: “Are you sure it won’t be?” I went from absolute certainty that this is the right thing to do, to doubting my decision.

Writing all this, I’ve decided that I’m still going to stick to my decision about giving it up. Why? Because of that initial feeling. That first moment where I realized that I don’t want to do it anymore. The feeling of absolute relief. The kind of relief that brings tears to your eyes. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

And those moments when the fear is silent, I feel FREE.