If I had to share one of my biggest weaknesses, it would without a doubt be how I deal with disappointment. I hold myself to extremely high standards, something that a lot of people do, and when I don’t meet those standards, I feel the effects tremendously. I received an email recently that rocked my world in about 5 words. It wasn’t life-changing. It wasn’t mean. It wasn’t anything but the simple truth: someone was not fully satisfied with something I had done.
Give me a nasty comment online about my photos and I shrug it off. If someone doesn’t like the work I create, it doesn’t hurt me. I don’t spend my time looking into negativity. I don’t spend my days worrying about if people like what I do or not. What does get me, every single time, is how people experience me as a person. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be at my best all the time, and it physically pains me to think that I have given someone less than that.
Everyone deals with disappointment in different ways. It might be disappointment in a product, in someone else, or in yourself. In my case, I have trouble dealing with disappointment in myself. I hold everyone and everything in my life to high standards, but none more than me personally. I don’t deal with disappointment well. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I get physically ill. Sometimes I want to stop everything that I’ve worked for so as to never feel that feeling again.
Just a couple hours ago I said, out loud, that I wanted to quit my job. I didn’t want to move forward with any of the projects I’ve been working on for fear of being judged, rejected, or disappointing someone. Yet even as I thought about quitting, I could hear my future self, the one who wants to push harder and move further, talking rather loudly in my ear. She was telling me that if I never put myself out there I can never be a positive influence in the world. If I never put myself out there I can never do what my heart is set on doing. Yet the other side, like a little devil sitting on my shoulder, told me that I will do too much harm to make it worth it.
I will let people down. I will be a disappointment. I will never be what someone wants me to be.
Yet all the while, I will be myself. I will try to work on my journey and how I see the world and how I interact with it. I will try to be a better person. I will try to touch people’s lives for the better. I will try, and trying is all we can expect of each other.
That is a truth that I know intimately. It is a truth I have come face to face with many times. There are days when I want to quit. Right now, at this very moment, I have that desire deep in my bones. I don’t want to mess up. I don’t want to be a disappointment. Yet even greater than that is the knowledge that when one perseveres, tries harder, and becomes a better person, other people will benefit as well.
I might fail a hundred times, but if I succeed at only one thing, I hope it is to help someone, somewhere, in some way. In any way. To spread the love that I feel inside. And should I fail, I will welcome that failure with open arms. I will regret nothing because I tried my best. I will work to correct my mistakes. I will progress. I will challenge myself. I will try.
Let yourself feel what your body wants to feel. Let yourself be emotional and scared and understand, in those moments, how terrifying it is to put yourself out there. But when that feeling passes, even if only in a small amount, remind yourself of how incredible you are. You are only one small human, and yet in being so, you are powerful beyond measure. Next time you fall, remember that if you never did, you could not understand the immense honor of reaching peaks. All of life is made up of valleys and mountain tops that seem out of reach, yet both are attainable. We will fall and we will rise again, and we will do so understanding more about life each time.
Meredith - Thanks so much for sharing this post Brooke. I feel the same way and find myself in the same place at this moment in time and I found encouragement and inspiration in your post. Thank you!!!
brookeshaden - I am so glad it could help in some way. We all have our demons to overcome, and I know you will shine brighter than ever!
chrystal kelly - Brooke
Thank you for all your honesty, for all that you share of yourself. You inspire me daily. I am so grateful that you are the artist that you are. I am proud to tell anyone that you are one of my major inspirations in creating. I have learned so much from you watching creative live, watching your video blogs every week. I always look forward to your words and being part of a community that you created. I think you are a beautiful person and artist. Don’t you ever think about quitting girlee! Thank you so much for being you!
cathy nocera - Thank you for your honesty Brooke. This came at a perfect time for me. My self doubts want to shut me down today. After reading your blog, I am determined to try again. God bless you.
brookeshaden - Cathy, thank you so much for writing. I am so glad that you will move forward and take control. It is what we all must do in our own time <3
Dennis - Some people say that the lousy feeling of disappointment is there to push us forward. Unfortunately we get stuck in that emotion sometimes and can’t see the way out. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and reminding us to keep on working at it.
brookeshaden - Thank you for reading Dennis – I really appreciate your kind words. Indeed, so many negative feelings often breed positive outcomes, forcing us to re-evaluate and move forward <3
Samantha - I always feel disappointment in my work when I have a client who wants things a certain way and I totally don’t like it. It takes longer for me to edit because I’m just not into it and can’t believe I let them influence my creativity that day. This always makes me want to quit doing client work, but then the next client contacts me and is like “do whatever you’d like, we’re a fan of your work”. That work is the stuff I post and display, so I’m happy when people contact me to do that work for them. It’s a double edge sword and it’s hard, and that’s what people have to realize, whether it’s a family shoot, a standard headshot or a fine art piece…it all takes a vision and the tools are needed to execute them. I try and do at least one creative piece a month to keep my excitement up and look forward to unleashing some creativity. I’m rambling…
brookeshaden - I understand completely! We strive so hard to give our personal best and when that isn’t accepted, it can be really hard to switch into business mode and give the client what they need. I think it is awesome that you do personal work and that you are always striving for more!
natalie - I love your blogs…<3
brookeshaden - Thank you Natalie, that means the world <3
Margherita Introna - A brave and beautiful post dear Brooke. Something I take to heart as I make my way back home after a month of travelling to go back home, back to “normal” life and back to work. Thank you <3 xx
Paulo Alexandre Carvalho - As Margherita said, a brave and beautiful post. A big hug with affection. <3
Larissa Soares - Brooke, I know sometimes it’s hard. We simply want to drop everything and run. But I think you should do what your heart says.
When someone you do not like your job and criticizes, please do not care.
Your work is amazing and I’m in love with you ever since I met him. I do not know if I would have courage to continue studying art was not for you. For his work, I met another world and that somehow fills me. So please: Continue being yourself and not pay attention to what hurts you.
I’m sorry if some words are wrong, I live in Brazil and my English is not perfect.
Corey - I needed this as I am a part time portrait photographer and a full time photo journalist I suffer from adult ADHD I refuse to be placed on meds and this condition has caused me to almost sabotage some friendships with over doing it and overthinking I love your courage to be able to keep it real unlike others in this industry we are not all perfect I’m trying one day at a time to keep on so one day my work will impact millions not just people saying nice pic I want to place something. On the souls of my subjects and viewers as you do again thank you for this I needed this because some days are tough and it is good to know I’m not alone
Jay - this post really hit home. I know exactly how that feels and needed to hear your experience to keep myself going. Thank you.
Misti - Thanks for your openness. I struggle big time with self doubt. I think about quitting a lot for fear that people won’t like my work. I cringe every time I post something on social media. My standards for myself are almost unattainable it seems like. I’m so glad I’m not alone in these crazy feelings… Makes me feel less crazy 🙂 Shine on Brooke!
Johanna - After reading your post, I was reminded of the song by Pink,called “Try.” There are some lyrics in there that always hit me to the core.
“Where there is desire, there is gonna be a flame. Where there is a flame, someone’s bound to get burned. But just because it burns doesn’t mean you’re gonna die. You’ve gotta get up and try, and try, and try.”
Passion for an artist drives us like a flame, the more we feed it, the bigger it grows, sometimes that flames starts to fade no matter how hard we try to keep it going. You my dear have a great passion, it shows through your work, you are a great inspiration to a lot of people. Not everyone will understand you, and I think sometimes as artists we want everyone to like what we do, and understand why we create and it doesn’t always turn out that way. I had several people ask me why I do what I do, after seeing many of my conceptual shoots, it was hard for me to explain, other than it is a passion, a flame that never dies, it keeps burning within me, driving me to be something more, to do something more. I can’t really explain it to someone who isn’t wired that way.
Keep moving my friend, keep pushing, and know that you make the world a better place, even on the days you don’t feel it….no matter what you are never alone.
natascha van niekerk - As always, thank you for sharing your vulnerability with all of us, and in doing so, showing your true strength… we appreciate your voice of inspiration Brooke, you know I say it often, but you truly make such a massive impact in our creative lives. Please keep on enduring your disappointments so that we can enjoy your kindness, goodness and gracious giving!
Ruth - The truth is: You are a very strong person! It takes so much to speak out like you do. It takes so much to let your weaknesses be. They are within you (within all of us, acutally). Most people hide them, which makes the weaknesses grow bigger. By looking at them you are able to embrace them. And by SHOWING them you actually show your strength.
Maxine - I feel truly honoured to have found your site and that you do exist and remind me whenever I read your articles that it is all and only about love. Thank you!
Alex - Brooke,
Love your work, and your passion for it, and your willingness to be open about the difficulties as well. It’s so easy to curate online and make your life look perfect, which is impossible. Thanks for showing how you keep up your passion even in the face of the doubts that all of us have. Keep up the great work!
Jen Sulak - OH BROOKE. you just spelled out last thursday for me. I found out in my moment of despair something about myself – how i had grown to deal with someone elses’ disappointment…in general…and working through the emotive part into the introspective part about my self. In this last week I had the same thoughts creep up…and I don’t know what it was about this week and all the things flying around…but it was there and it was IN MY FACE. (and apparently in a lot of our faces) hehehe. I had a choice – to not let it move me or destroy my next job…or let it consume me emotionally and mentally and try to solve a problem that only would be lose-lose. I chose to put it on that back burner and come here to St Louis to rock this wedding. The confidence came back, the eagerness came back and I didn’t carry anything negative into my next job because i dealt with it. Pretty amazing.
Moira - Dear Brooke, thank you for your openess and your willingness to expose your soft underbelly to us all. I’m sorry you had a hard time my little butternut but you’ll pull through and we’ll all be here waiting to love on ya. Gorgeous girl, love the way you are. Hugs hugs hugs and a big kiss x x x x
mrsaraneae - Your work and your passion are really inspiring and motivating for me, thanks for sharing your pictures and thoughts.
I really recognise myself in this blogpost. I lost count of the times that I thought of giving up or called a friend/family member crying because I thought I didn’t do a good enough job. Even when people are happy with what I make, I will almost always think I can do better. It’s hard, demotivating and painful sometimes. I’m too much of a perfectionist, I can spend days making something and then throwing it away later cause I think it was total crap.
Thanks for sharing this post. Knowing that I’m not alone and that even one of my biggest inspirations deals with similar disappointment or self-doubt sometimes really motivates me not to give up in those hard times.
Your work is wonderful <3
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Alicia - Exactly how I feel right now. I’m going through so many life changes and growing as a person and deciding what I want and don’t want. I don’t know where the path is going to take me, or if I am making the right decisions. Sometimes I just want to cry or scream! I’m always terrified of disappointing people and sometimes put that ahead of my own needs and end up unhappy, a habit I am trying to change. Thank you so much for sharing!
Clarence - Your my online mentor Ms. Brooke. Every time my work seems out of context and i started to feel quitting i just read most of your write ups and watch your videos. Be a blessing always.
Michelle Sibrian - Thanks so much for posting that. I always feel this way and I am surprised and relieved to see that you and others feel the same way. I really love creating for myself, but I have great anxiety creating for others. As a portrait photographer, I feel it is my job to make someone happy, and every little critique hurts like a b*tch (especially, “can you make me look thinner?”).
J mauler - All I need to say here is that we need more people like you Brooke.
God bless you and may you enjoy more success than failure.
I love your work too.
Bob Shurtleff - Just finished watching you on Creative Live (again); I completely appreciate where you are coming from in your journey.
The vulnerability, the fear, the freedom, the honesty. You are all at once, raw and soft. You are an inspiration. Your sincerity, your work, your humanity, your spark, your thinking and how you approach people and projects is refreshing, nourishing. And yet, there is a sadness in your work which I find touching and humbling. It gives a voice to personal anxiety that we all know but are afraid to show.
To whatever degree and measure, owing success to acceptance by someone outside ourselves can be troubling when it shakes the conscience of self-confidence. For those whose strength lies in self awareness- it nudges the artist in us little by little to the edge of loneliness,,, a place where artists have learned to live …
Breaking through to another persons isn’t easy. Whether artistically or in a relationship, in a letter or a conversation, a photograph, requires opening all our senses, and listening, revealing something about ourselves. Understanding another through deeper awareness of ourselves… exposing one’s self to the light of others with a purpose outside yourself.
thank you for sharing your vision and showing me your motivated light.
Simon - I arrived here by way of CL and it was hard to decide where to start, so I started here..
Your greatest strength, ok maybe not greatest, but one of them, is that you allow yourself the luxury of freedom to fail, for if you only do what you know you can do, you cannot evolve and progress or become the person you are going to be.
Art and life is never truly complete, while you may find disappointment in some of what you do, there is always some form of accomplishment, even if it is just to learn a lesson.
I have never produced a photograph/image/piece of art, call it what you will, that I am totally happy with, but in each I have accomplished something, sometimes something I like, sometimes something I feel is a bit special and other times just a lesson, they are all important.
No one can go without disappointing someone or theirself, but maybe you are supposed to and you should embrace it, as it clears the path to your goals and desires.