Promoting Passion Week 49: Overcoming Anxiety

Promoting Passion Week 49: Overcoming Anxiety

15 years ago. I was going into middle school. I wanted to throw up every single morning.

10 years ago. I was picking out colleges. I intentionally looked at schools that had private housing so I didn’t have to room with someone.

5 years ago. I was just about to start my business and decided not to deal with clients for fear of puking all over them.

Today. Still feel a little queasy, but doing much better. Let’s talk about why.

I have long suffered from anxiety. It has been a constant in my life for as long as I can remember. When I was in college I took anti-anxiety medication, but didn’t feel it was bad enough to warrant that. Instead, I took two major steps to fixing that part of my life. One was to remove myself from situations that made me feel uncomfortable and that I felt opposed to. I did not simply remove myself from situations that I was scared to be in, but instead from situations that did not enrich my life. For example, I don’t go to parties. Never have, never will. And that is a decision that makes my life better.

Another way that I dealt with anxiety was to begin telling myself that no one cares about me…in the best way possible! It is easy to become self-absorbed andย think that everyone is judging us, when in reality, that is rarely the case, especially from strangers (at least in a meaningful way).

I began teaching workshops 4 years ago. About three years ago I was asked to do my first speaking gig. It was at After Dark photo convention. This last year I’ve been to a number of different conferences and schoolsย to give lectures. And next year, my focus will be on motivational speaking for schools and businesses. So the big questions is…WHY!? Why would I do that when I’m scared to death of social situations.

The answer is twofold. One reason is because I wanted to push myself. The other is because I believe everyone has a story to tell. If I didn’t tell mine, I would be quite the hypocrite. And I would also be holding my desire back to teach others.

It isn’t the lectures that scare me, or the stages, or the crowds so much as it is the personal interaction just before the lecture begins. There is an in-between moment when you aren’t quite saying what needs to be said, going through a PowerPoint presentation, but instead you are just YOU, vulnerable and in front of everyone. This is the same feeling I get when talking with people I just met, at a party, or anywhere, really! It is the human connection, and I’m just plain bad at it.

These are the lessons I’ve learned in those 15 minute “in-between” times, after I come out from hiding in a bathroom stall and before I begin giving a lecture:

1. No one cares about you.

I know I’ve talked about this before, but I can’t stress the importance of it enough. In the most inspiring way possible, remember that it is highly unlikely that anyone’s opinion of you will guide your life more than your own.

2. What you look like is half of how someone will judge you…so OWN it!

Be proud of who you are and what you look like. Usually accepting your own style is the best way to get others to do the same.

3. Look the way you want to feel (hair, makeup, clothes).

Think about what clothes make you feel most YOU and wear them! Dress how you want to dress, present yourself how you feel, and you will immediately come off as more confident for it.

4. Get others involved (ask questions!).

One of the best ways to deal with anxiety in a social gathering is to put the pressure on someone else. Ask them questions, but not just any old question. Ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer. This is very helpful for me when starting conversations with people.

5. Share your life! Even if you don’t think it’s interesting, someone else might.

Everyone has something interesting going on in their life. I try to pick something out that is positive and halfway engaging to share should the occasion arise.

6. Understand your quirks, and werk ’em!

Be who you are, completely, and then don’t be afraid to show that to people. I try to be myself, even when it means saying weird things, running around barefoot, or making stupid jokes.

7. Create a safe space for yourself after you’re finished.

I am the kind of person who needs a space to recharge. I’m very much the introvert, so I always need a place to retreat to after a big social engagement so that I can decompress.

I thought it was appropriate to put a picture from my recent CreativeLive class in this post, since that is one of the biggest ways I have personally overcome anxiety. There is nothing quite like having cameras pointed in your face and talking for 18 hours!

I’ll be posting a blog later in the week about how this image was made.


23 thoughts on “Promoting Passion Week 49: Overcoming Anxiety

  1. I hope you have an amazing time in Australia and New Zealand!
    This image is stunning. I love how the water hits the dollhouse, and the smoke coming out of the chimney. And the lighting is amazing. I love it!

    I deal with anxiety too; every now and then I would get anxious about little things or start having panic attacks out of the blue. You mentioned needing time to recharge and be on your own after socializing – I do too, but what can be really bad for me is when I get the panic attacks when I’m on my own. Sometimes being on my own too much without interacting with anyone can put me in a very dark place. What I do to deal with that is to just distract myself. I try to avoid social media, and sometimes talking to people, because I know that in that moment, I’m not myself. I know I would say things I’d regret, or start depending on other people to get me out of it. Instead, I read or edit or try to brainstorm ideas for new pictures. It doesn’t always work and it never made much sense, but I still try.


  2. Oh Brooke, I find it amazing how your blogs frequently relate to what’s currently going on with my life. This past week for me was pretty anxiety filled – having to do with finding myself in a situation where I’m torn between two amazing job opportunities and then being in a worse case scenario situation where now both of my computers are at the shop. I asked the question earlier this week to my friends – what do you do to help your aniexty, and it was wonderful to hear from so many who also deal with this issue as well and seeing what works best for them. Usually I’ll start working on a new project, to help ease my mind on focusing on something, but without a computer to work off of, I looked at other ways to help.
    I truly hope your travels are full fun and inspiring moments and memories to come, and that you enjoyed a peaceful holiday. Looking forward to our next adventure and make sure Steph makes it back to Philly in one piece! ๐Ÿ™‚ safe travels! – Kory

  3. You do an amazing job overcoming your anxiety and fears, Brooke. I too suffer from social anxiety. I want to hide in a corner and put on an invisability cloak. lol! I say the dumbest things when I feel this way (my brain quits working) and even put myself down when asked about what I do, etc. I always feel ‘less than’ and not worthy of someone’s interest. I try desperately to get the attention off of me as quickly as possible. And then I just want to cry when its over.
    However, I know you can’t grow as a human being if you let your fears control you. I try telling myself this everyday. Thanks for the encouragement and tips to help this situation! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Kory your anxiety is because you are scared I’m gonna put those wings on my dog! Haha. Keep your head up man. Things are gonna work out and good stuff will come your way. You are too good an artist not to have big things happen. Just remember me when you need a reflector holder. Which btw, I thought Steph was putting in a good word for me as “bringer of snacks” on this trip? There’s a lack of love along this chain somewhere that’s needs fixin with the quickness!
      Have fun Brooke and keep us posted on your adventures.
      And Kory don’t worry, your wings are safe and sound in my garage. Haha

  4. Thanks for sharing this, Brooke! I have such a hard time with my anxiety. It’s so bad that I’ll actually drive to the grocery store and turn around and drive back home. Yikes! I try to push myself everyday by reminding myself that everybody isn’t actually staring at me or judging me.

    I plan on working on this even more. I can not go to location unless my husband is with me. I get so nervous! I’m making a decision to get out and go it alone since he’s always at work and I need to get these things done. So, I’m going to plan it all out. Where I’m going, what I’ll be shooting and how long it should take. Oh, and I’ll need to BREATHE! Haha!

    You’ve been such a great help and inspiration, Brooke. Thank you! This blog is going to do wonders for me.

    Have a fun and safe trip!


  5. I didn’t think that I could be more inspired and connected with you than I already was but I was wrong.

    I’ve been dealing with major social anxiety since I have memory. And while at some point I thought it was just a part of me that I had to learn to embrace, it made me miss a LOT of good opportunities in my life.

    Now I’m so much better, almost everything still scares me but the things that definitely helped me were to:

    1. Be determined and want to change

    2. Find a passion

    3. Have a great attitude

    4. And be positive

    Deciding to become a more positive person changed my essence completely, because all of that made me love who I am and who I’m becoming that the opinions of others don’t matter as much anymore.

    This month I’m going to move to the US, leave my parents whom I’m completely dependent of, and try to not be afraid of speaking english which is the thing that scares me the most. I’m scared like crazy but this was what I wanted to do and I wasn’t going to let my fears stop me from that. And I know the thing that will help me is to have a great attitude and believe in myself…step by step, I’m going to overcome all of that.

    Thank you for talking about such an important matter this week.

  6. i AM just a bundle of anxiety lol. i kinda been trying to own up to my quirks. i tell everyone up front im crazy. like really truly crazy. lol. thats helps. it is a constant battle dealing with anxiety and how it makes me procrastinate or not do things but as im getting older im realizing there are things i want that i need to get over the anxiety and do them. i talk too much so its not that im afraid to talk to people but its that i always think people find me annoying or hate me. i try to tell myself not everyone is going to like me and thats ok. i also try to remind myself to be quiet for a little bit as i awkwardly ramble to fill any and all silences even if its someone’s pause for breath lol.

  7. Thank you for writing this. It gives me hope. I’ve been photographing for over 20 years as a hobby ..since high school it’s been my voice. I started my business 2 years ago. I suffer from horrible anxiety and agoraphobia. There are days its difficult to leave my house ๐Ÿ™ It’s kept me from doing what I love and enjoying life for so long. It’s been so hard lately..I think to myself “how the hell can you be a professional photographer and be scared to interact with people?”. This has been a dream of mine for so long and i don’t want to quit. I force myself every day to keep moving forward with the business. Thanks for the encouraging words and advice and its nice to know..I’m not alone ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Pixiecrumbs, how brave of you to share this with us. I know the feeling of wanting more, but being scared to move forward. Sometimes it seems the harder I fight to better myself and beat the things that hold me back, the further back I go! But I know that no matter what, God has a purpose for me, and I’m no longer going to sit down and give up!

      I want to encourage you to keep on following your dream. Don’t compare yourself to others; so what if they are achieving seemingly bigger and/or better things; what’s important is what you are doing in your world. Our efforts may appear small to some, but when seen through the perspective of our fears and anxiety, they become so much more.

      I hope that makes sense; it’s about 2am here at the moment and I’m a little weary, (long story!). I would love to know more about your business; if you would like to, feel free to message me, especially if you feel that it could help you to keep on going with your dream!

      Blessings, Helen.

  8. Thank you. Not only was this an inspiring post, but one my 14 year old daughter enjoyed and needed as well.

    I have had a moderate social anxiety issue most of my life. One thing that I do now is make it a personal goal each day to smile and say hello to at least one person who looks like they need it. In particular the elderly, who are often treated as if they are invisible.

  9. To begin, I wish you an excellent trip to Australia and that everything runs smoothly. Then, say I love the picture and it is stunning. Great work! In my opinion, I think worked well. I love the sheets of paper into water, the houses and the smoke gives it a very nice touch. Awesome. About your post! I completely understand this post, and I recognize all these points. Like I said once, I also suffer from anxiety and sometimes it is difficult to fight that. I by nature already suffer from anxiety, especially in situations where I do not feel comfortable. And to make things worse, there are 4 years to now, I suffer hyperthyroidism, and my anxiety went up to triple. With the medication I take every day for hyperthyroidism, anxiety is controlled, but also because I try to escape from everything that helps to enhance this anxiety. And for that, the points you mentioned help a lot. Wish you well! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Thank you for the motivation and inspiration, Brooke! I have a feeling that people who are creative tend to have anxiety. I have had anxiety disorder ever since I can remember, and at times it gets a little hard to handle. I will now remember your steps to overcome anxiety, and I’m sure it will help. Again, thank you for always sharing yourself with us. You’re amazing!

  11. Brooke, thank you so much fr sharing this! I have dealt with anxiety all my life (our stories seem very similar). I have been a family portrait photographer here in Jacksonville. NC for the last 6 years, and only now that I have started doing fine art photography have I really started coming out of my shell. I used to just guerrilla shoot and hope to not get in trouble for trespassing, but I can now approach people and ask to use more public spaces. Creating these images has made me feel good about myself (even though it’s not paying the bills lol). I do still have to do my family portraits and such, but I get my art fix at least once a week. It calms me and makes me feel like I’ve truly added something to the world. Thank you for being a constant inspiration

  12. Thanks Brooke for sharing, I have had anxiety all my life steaming from childhood not feeling good enough etc etc I was up crying last night about my anxiety issues and How I wish they would just go away as its not nice to have. I do feel encouraged that you are talking about this as I am sure it effects more people than we know.

    Thanks Brooke and look forward to reading about your trip, Your amazing and your art is amazing too. x

  13. Hello, Brooke!

    I’m Alan, 22, I’m a brazilian fine-art photographer (thanks to you).
    Well, my work is gaining some attention in my city and in my country because that’s different of most of the things here, so people started to call me to speak about my work and present some lectures, stuffs like that. I was always very shy… very very shy. All my body used to shake when I was at school and had to present a work.

    Well, days ago my professor asked me to present a lecture in other college he teaches and I acepted. Well, when was the day, I just went into panic and I didn’t make it. But he gave another chance and I prepared myself better and focused on the fact that I’m a professional and I could do it.

    Brooke, I just wanted to thank you for share your life and your expericence with us. YOU CHANGED MY LIFE. You gave me a north. Thank you.

  14. This blog post almost made me cry, I am the same way! And knowing that you have a successful business means that I can too. Being the way I am has always been something holding me back from daring to step out of my comfort zone. The ideal way to be in society to fit in is to be outgoing and social and that just scares me to death. And I don’t find a meaning with interaction just for the sake of it (having something specific to do is another thing). I think I am just amazing the way I am (having a world inside my head is far more exciting than the outside world) but I am well aware of others not thinking the same. I should do like you suggest and just own it ;). Thank you for being so honest.

  15. Although I rarely suffer from anxiety, I have always been painfully shy. I have to force myself to go to non-family social gatherings. A few years ago, I really started analyzing how it is that I can function in social settings when I really don’t “play well with others” (not that I can’t–in fact many people would be surprised to hear this).

    I put myself on stage, essentially, becoming another person. What I become is the gregarious version of myself which is hidden deep, deep down. In high school and college, I performed in many plays. The stage can easily be my home as I am a character, not myself, if that makes sense. Now life becomes my stage. I envision my character, a better, more social, knowledgeable me, and that’s who I become in public.

    My humble and introverted side is what my family sees., and what I continually work to break out of.

  16. I loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooove that you wrote this. You know I’m walking through this right now. Some of these things i’m doing are making me SICK to my stomach – but itz purpose-driven…so I have to walk through it! DUN DUN DUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. I read this post right after you posted it and I completely understood what you were talking about, I have so much anxiety about many different things.
    One big thing is self portraits, I do not like being in front of the camera,lol. I have taken so many of your courses, and have learned so much from you, one of the things I learned is to step outside my comfort zone. Well today I did that, I did a self portrait where I was trying to convey the beauty in the struggle my Mom had as she became ill. I finished it, I was very emotional while shooting and editing it and than I did the scariest thing….. I posted on my personal facebook page, was super nervous about it. The comments I have gotten are just amazing, they have made me cry because people are seeing what I was hoping they would.
    My goal is to keep it up!!!
    I just want to Thank you for not only this post but for your creative live classes and well just for you being you!! =)

  18. LOVED this post! Thank you so much for sharing. I don’t have an abnormal amount of anxiety, I don’t think; but I also don’t spend a lot of time around people, as it completely saps my energy. I love being alone. Maybe too much. But I did sign up for an online Acts of Happiness Advent Calendar, which occasionally forces you to interact with people. You get a little assignment each day by email. I think it will help strengthen the connections in my brain for joy, help me create good habits, and allow me to function with more clarity and flow. I’ve already started thinking about what I want to accomplish over the next year and over the next five years and, while filling the schedule with social events makes me feel ill, the goals definitely include building some kind of artistic community and seeking gallery representation in 2015.

    Have an amazing time on your trip to Australia and NZ!

  19. Thank you Brooke! I developed anxiety when I was in my Sophmore year in high school. I’m in college now and when taking big tests I still get the shakes. I had an attack during a timed essay because I didn’t know any of the topics. Somehow I manged to finish it though by telling myself I only had 90 mins to get it done. You’re tips seem very helpful when being out in front of people and doing shoots. Sometimes I do care too much about how people think of me. You’re right by saying that you should be yourself no matter what anyone thinks. I mean we only have one life to do what we would like to do. So work your style!! ๐Ÿ™‚

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