Post by Amanda Voelker Photography
Images by Alec Mills Photography
In my last post I discussed the realization I had during my son’s birth about allowing the noise around us to be, but choosing not to let it affect us. If you missed it, or would like a refresher, you can read it here.
I will pick up where my story left off. When the traffic, fireworks and car horns finally subsided, I felt that it was time to go to the hospital, but immediately doubted that feeling. My body was telling me in no uncertain terms that this baby was getting very close, but my mind was telling me not to trust myself. I remember so vividly this battle I was having between my body and mind. It was a very calm one, but a battle. My mind was telling me I was being weak in my tolerance, my body was telling me this baby was very close. My mind told me not enough time had passed, my body told me to pay attention to all the signs in my body pointing to baby’s imminent arrival.
We did make the transition to the hospital and the ride over was excruciating. The pain was so intense and relentless. My body was screaming at me that I was close, but my mind was in a panic. The same reel of doubt played on repeat. I couldn’t get a grip. I was falling.
When we arrived at the hospital I was still in the same headspace. I was fighting every step of the way, but not in a productive manner. I remember screaming at the nurse to get me to a room. When she checked my progress she confirmed what my body had been telling me all along. The baby was almost here. When I heard that affirmation, everything changed for me. I knew what I needed to do. I was no longer afraid and while the pain was still there, it didn’t matter because I was in control. My task was in my body, my soul, and now my mind.
While this sounds like the moral and end of the story, it isn’t. The thing with hospitals is that there are routines and procedures. My arrival minutes before my baby was coming threw those procedures out of whack and the staff fought as hard as my mind was fighting with my body to stick to those procedures. There were no less than 6 people running around me trying to do things to me all the while telling me I needed to wait for the doctor to arrive. After a few minutes, doubt crept back in. The fear started to set in and I got scared.
Then my husband spoke to me and the words he said were perfect and critical. “Amanda, I know everyone is telling you not to push, but you just do what you NEED to do and everything will be okay”. There it was. I already knew what had to be done because I needed to do it. It was there and all I needed to do was listen to myself and my body. I was prepared. I had spent countless hours preparing for this moment. I had this. As if on cue, the Doctor came in, quieted the hospital staff and then gently said to me “You tell me what you want to do”.
When my son made his arrival it was marvelous. I had imagined my son’s birth would be peaceful, calm and spiritual. It wasn’t. It was crazy, energized, all consuming…and amazing. The nurses who had doubted came back lauding my work and those who had always believed in me stayed right there with smiles of “I knew you could do this”.
I understand that giving birth is not the same as the creative process. For one, giving birth is something we do at most a handful of times and when we do there is a clear result, but the creative process is ongoing and unending. Still, I feel like there are many similarities and my experience with birth gave me insight into my creative process.
In our photographic journey there are many people who can help us. They can help us with editing, composition and skill. They can help us analyze our portfolio and point us in new directions, but in the end, we still have to do the work. The voice we should trust most of all is our own. As photographers, we pour time, effort, emotion, and even our whole souls into our work…we are prepared. We have done the work and we need to trust in ourselves.
Just as my mind was telling me differently from what my body knew, we are often the greatest hindrances to ourselves. We second-guess, shame, and disregard the work we feel in our hearts to be of value. While self-critique is important to advancement, self doubt and fear is not. It is not helpful and it is not necessary. Still, it is something we all experience and one of the most difficult things to move past. You need to evaluate your thoughts and choose what to listen to. Your thoughts are not all of you. You get to decide whether you want to trust yourself and your art or whether you want to be stuck in self-doubt.
When I doubted myself during my labor, I made an already difficult process so much more so. The end result was going to be the same no matter what, but my fear, doubt and constant wrestling between my brain and body made things much more challenging than they needed to be. We do the same with our photography. We will absolutely get the results we want eventually, but our thoughts are often times what inhibit us and make the process more draining and progress more slow.
This is where I feel the voices of our select few can make all the difference. In the case of birth it was my husband and doctor. In the case of Photography, it is those who I choose to be my mentors and those with opinions I trust. These are not the nurses running around telling me differently, these are not the Facebook photographers who you don’t know or trust giving their opinions (be they positive or negative). These are the voices of YOUR people who believe in you and know you can succeed. These are those whose words, when in critique or validation, are said with the purpose of propelling you forward. These voices can help you get back on track to believing in yourself and doing what you know you need to do.
Just like the car horns and fireworks of my last post, there will also always be those around you in seeming positions of authority or knowledge that make the noise around you deafening. They are not the voices that matter. Yours is the voice that matters and when you have a hard time trusting it, listen to the voices of your select few to bring you back to yourself. You are in control. You know what needs to be done and you will reach your goal. I know there are voices (sometimes your own) telling you aren’t popular enough, or good enough, or that you need to change, but you just do what you need to do and everything will be all right.