Letting Go of Feeling Judged

Some time over the last year or so, I was finally able to cut the strings of feeling judged for deciding I didn’t want to pursue a paid modeling career, at least in the usual sense, any more.

Letting Go of Feeling Judged

My Realization of the Problem

For years, I’d been struggling to find paid photoshoots in the Metro Detroit area. I felt like if I tried hard enough, I could find shoots. I felt like other people were booking shoots in the area or at least they were talking about it. I also remembered being told that if you try hard enough, you’ll find the paid work.

Slowly, I began to realize it just wasn’t going to happen for me. When I first came to that realization, I thought it was just me. I started picking myself apart trying to rationalize why I wasn’t booking the paid work I felt I should have been. I was being told I was great to work with, I had people from all over the world asking me to come to them to shoot, and I’d done very well before in a different area.

This was incredibly hard on my self esteem as a model and a person.

Not Wanting to Let Go

Modeling was the one thing I felt I was good at and that I could earn an income doing. My health and anxiety issues have always made a standard job a poor fit so as soon as modeling started to become a source of income for me, I had been thrilled. But I had moved, for personal reasons, from a market where I was very popular and hired often to one in a bigger city where there really wasn’t much work for me.

In my last ditch effort, I reached out to some model mentors and explained my situation. They all told me pretty much the same thing: they were staying booked by traveling and it seemed like I was doing everything I could as a local model. Traveling has never been an option for me so I knew I needed to find another path.

This was all incredibly frustrating considering the rest of my life was going very well. I was enjoying (and still enjoy) living in Detroit, co-producing events, and, of course, having finally found a supportive and wonderful romantic relationship.

Struggling to Find a Solution

Still, I craved that personal fulfillment and satisfaction. I also really felt I needed to be earning more.

I’d started a Patreon a couple years back and it was doing okay. I wasn’t really making much with it, but it was something and I had fun with it. I had Zivity, too, and I was making a little through that, but it had gone the way of explicit content that I don’t do.

At some point, I had a few conversations with other models, my husband, and maybe a couple friends and I finally started to realize that with all the agony it was causing me, pursuing modeling for hire was sucking the joy out of things for me.

I started to examine what I really enjoyed about modeling. It certainly wasn’t chasing paid shoots or dealing with fifty messages to only have one ever really pan out. I enjoyed collaborating with people, I enjoyed promoting my work, I enjoyed sharing my work, I enjoyed playing dress up, and more and more I was enjoying shooting self portraits.

I gave myself a timeline. I told myself that I would give booking paid shoots one last full effort and then after that I would let them go and focus on my Patreon where I was happy. I did give it a good effort. I crafted posts for local groups, I over-hauled my ModelMayhem and my website, I adjusted my rates, and I made an effort to reach out to photographers.

I ended up with a fair number of responses, but I was quickly pulled into the “wishy washy” aspects again. Photographers would seem interested, but then they’d fuss about my rates or they wouldn’t have access to a location to shoot. They weren’t willing to book the incredibly affordable studio I’d arranged opportunities to shoot at. I was being strongly reminded as to why I needed to get out of the cycle.

The Real Issue

And at some point during all of this I realized what was holding me back: I was afraid I would be judged as a lesser model if I wasn’t doing shoots for hire. It wasn’t about the money. It wasn’t even about personal fulfillment as I had thought all along. It was about losing the respect I’d worked hard to gain over the years.

Prior to being a model and becoming involved in that community, I’d rarely felt respected in any community, especially by my peers. I was always “so tiny” and “so shy” that people seemed to either avoid me or treat me like I was a child. I didn’t always hate it. Sometimes it was nice having others take the reins. But I was growing as a person and I enjoyed finally having a place where people were coming to me for help and where I was actually able to help them.

Helping others is a cornerstone of my personality. I enjoy it. It gives me purpose.

So the thought of losing all of that scared me.

How I Finally Let Go

But once I sat down and really thought about it over time, I realized that I was doing what was best for me. I was being practical. And also, why was I thinking that my experiences or my advice were any less valid because I was choosing a path that was right for me? If anything, I was following my own advice and letting go of what was no longer working for me.

I think that’s the key point, too: I let go of what was no longer working for me. Modeling for hire is fantastic for a lot of models, just as traveling is. Patreon has been wonderful for me, but that’s not the case for everyone. The point isn’t what I did, it’s why I did it and what the overall outcome was.

In my case, the overall outcome is a dream coming true.

I’m still working on it, but I now enjoy every shoot I do. When I collaborate with others I feel like I can guide the shoot just as much as the photographer does. When I shoot self portraits, I can shoot whatever I want and know that my Patrons are supporting me. In fact, some of my odd little experiments have ended up being among the most popular among my Patrons. Instead of the emotional drain of dealing with wishy washy photographers, I get to seek out new Patrons and talk about all of the things I love about what I do. Of course there are times when things get a bit frustrating, but I still feel solid in what I’m doing and I’m no longer literally in tears about my creativity.

The Take-Away

My take-away from this experience was that there is no one path in modeling or any kind of creativity that is standard or the best. The best path isn’t the one I took, though I do believe it was the best for me. The best path is whatever works for you. It takes time to figure that out and that’s okay. The first step is acknowledging the problem, then you can start to work towards a solution to fix it.

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That Pressure We Models Face

A lot of people reached out to me yesterday when I published my post “No more nudes? Let’s talk about it…” and I am so… relieved that most people understood where I am coming from and are supportive. What I am not so relieved about was the number of models who let me know that they feel very pressured to do “more” than they do as well.

Here is that portion of my blog post to get you caught up in case you haven’t read it:

“…there is always this pressure to do “more” and this feeling that no matter how nude I am, it’s not enough. People are constantly wanting open leg, more erotic work, girl/girl, flat out porn, etc. There are plenty of models who do those things, so if someone is looking for that, they can easily find it. But I feel like people actually press for it because they know I won’t do it and if somehow they pressure me into it, that’s an enjoyable thing for them. Why can’t people just appreciate what I do? Why is what I do not good enough? I’ve felt that way about myself for my entire life and it’s not something I want to keep enabling.”

As a model, I came to terms early on that people would ask me to do things I don’t do sometimes. It happens. For example, before I started posing nude, people asked me to pose nude all the time. I didn’t get upset about that as long as they were polite about it. I just said “no thank you” and moved on. Those times were not a problem for me.

However, I have had some photographers (and occasionally fans) who actually pressure me to shoot more explicitly than I am comfortable with. Notice that I am using the word “pressure” because they are doing more than just asking if I do or will. They say things like “I could make you so much more money if you’d just do this” or “I bet your fans would like you  more if you showed your pussy.” I had someone once tell me that doing this for the art was stupid when I could be making tons more money.

And it’s taken me some time to be able to put into words why this is such a problem, but I’m going to do my best now. As a model, I feel that what I do has value. What I do is pose. I create lines and shapes, moods, and sometimes characters with my form. Sometimes those things may be sexy or erotic, sometimes they may be raw, but I do what I do as an art form and as a source of enjoyment. At times it has also been a source of income, though now that comes more with my self portraits and photo sets on Zivity than being hired by photographers. But the “thing” that has value is my skill, perhaps talent, my experience, and my knowledge in what I do. It is not my body that I am “selling,” though I am hesitant to use that phrase, I cannot think of one more clear at the moment. If it were, I’d just be standing there looking down with no creative lighting, no composition, just me standing there the same way in every single photo. My body is part of what I do, but it’s not the sole “thing” and, in fact, is actually quite a small part of it compared to the rest.

With that said and as I am an artist who offers skill, talent, experience, and knowledge, I have limits and that is no different than anything else in life. We all have limits and we do not like them to be pushed or to be pressured past them. Sometimes, maybe, I might want to walk the line of a limit of mine. If I choose to do that I will likely reach out to someone to help me in that or, in my case, simply photograph it myself. But that is my choice. I decide when that will happen. That is exactly how I came to nude modeling. It wasn’t because I got so many offers I had to do it. It wasn’t because money was thrown at me. It was because I saw art nudes photos and I enjoyed them, and I wanted to be in them. I contacted a photographer who had let me know that if I ever wanted to shoot nudes, he would shoot them with me. It was a casual statement he made without any air of pressure or trying to convince me. And when I was ready, I did it.

When someone pressures me to go beyond my limits, especially when they try to use to guilt or flattery to do so, I feel immensely disrespected. I don’t feel disrespected because I think more explicit modeling is “bad,” and I don’t think it is bad, I just think it’s not within what I want to do. I feel disrespected because I am being treated as if my body is all there is and my limits, my skills, and so on are not any part of what I do.

If you enjoy my work, enjoy my work. Appreciate it for what it is, not for what you hope I might do. If you are a photographer and want to work with me, than do so because you want to work with me, limits, skills, talent, experience, and all. If you want something that I do not do, than find someone who does that willingly. They are out there and they will probably be happy to have your support as a fan or to work with you as a photographer… as long as you respect them.

I think this issue is one of the most common reasons why so many models, both new and very experienced, eventually leave the modeling world. We already feel we are putting so much out there that when we are asked for even more than we are comfortable giving, we feel unappreciated and begin to wonder why we even do what we do or begin to think that maybe we are simply doing the wrong thing for ourselves in being a model. I can only hope that most of the people who pressure us like this don’t have any idea of how much of an effect this can have on us, either immediately or over time. Part of the reason I am writing this is to try to increase the understanding of this problem and to encourage other models to realize that this is an issue outside of us. We are doing nothing wrong by having limits and modeling isn’t about posing in the most explicit way possible. It’s about creating images we are comfortable creating whatever our limits are.

I will finish by saying a very sincere thank you to the wonderful majority of people who I am honored to have worked with (and who I will work with), who take on the title as a fan of my work, and especially those who have sent me such wonderful supportive messages over the past few days. You inspire me and your support fuels my creative fire. You are awesome!

And as always, you are more than welcome to share this article on social media, to link to it, etc. I want these thoughts to ripple. I welcome you to write your own blogs on this subject, too, and I’d love to read them.

If you enjoyed this blog post and would like to support my creativity, consider becoming a Patron on Patreon or purchasing a print or digital set from my shop.

That Pressure We Models Face - Dekilah