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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My Personal Modeling Code

My Personal Modeling Code - Dekilah's Blog

Back when I first started modeling, and especially when I got into posing nude I made myself a promise that I would do my best to stick to my code of ethics and that I would never sell myself out for the sake of making money/more money. Mostly it’s been an easy promise to keep because I am so driven by my personal code that I’m not often even tempted.

However, I’ve certainly had it suggested to me by multiple people that I should make alterations to parts of my code in order to become more successful, especially financially and as an “internet model” with a fan base. Here are a few examples:

  • People have suggested I be more flirty because fans like models who are flirty.
  • I’ve had multiple people suggest I pose more explicitly.
  • I’ve even been told I should start drama with other models so I can rally my fans.

That’s just a short list, but I think you get the idea. And here’s where I’m about to do that whole getting really honest thing I’ve been doing lately… But before I do I want to make it very clear that what I’m about to say pertains only to me and my ideals, my code, and how I choose to live my life. I’m not saying that it’s right or wrong and I’m not saying that people who do things that I don’t do are wrong or anything else. I’m saying that for me personally, I’d feel like I wasn’t being true to myself if I did the things I don’t do that I’m about to elaborate on. Okay, with that said…

I’m not flirty (or at least it’s not something I try to be). I might be friendly and sometimes playful or sarcastic, but the idea of purposely, knowingly flirting with people to get things is just not something I do. I am nice, I am open and honest, and I do enjoy getting to know lots of people. If someone is going to support me, I want them to do so because they like what I create, not because I’m leading them on. Also, I’m really horrible at flirting.

Moving on to the posing explicitly thing… I’ve thought about it. But every time I do I remember what happened the one time I posed just outside of my limits and how that’s sort of haunted me ever since. I’m not ashamed, but I’m not proud of the photos either and they really just remind me to stick to my guns. I’m a pretty good art nude model and a decent glamour model. I have a style that works for me. If people don’t like that, that’s okay. And sure, I know I’d probably have more fans and sell more sets and all that if I posed more explicitly but I’d also feel really weird and awkward. I doubt I’ll ever change my mind, but if I do it will be because I’ve decided it’s something I want to do for me and my creativity, not something I’m doing for more fans or more money.

Now let’s talk about that fun drama-starting bit. Why in the world would I want to spend my energy initiating a fight with another model? I spend time trying to cultivate at least somewhat of a friendship with most models I meet. It’s bad enough that we’re always getting compared to each other. And I get it, people like drama. But I think that’s one of those things that dies down and then you’re left with nothing. I’d rather my fans “rally” because they love my work and what I do.

I do work hard at what I do and sometimes I do wish it was more profitable so I could do more and buy more pretty stuff to wear and all that, but I do okay. I can look at what I do and feel proud of what I’ve accomplished. I’ve never been a traveling model, I’m super short, I have health issues, I don’t drive, and all this other stuff, but I’ve done pretty good. I’ve built a solid reputation, I’ve made friends, I’ve made art, and I’ve made people happy. The fact that I make any money at all is kind of another layer to a cake that’s already pretty good.

All of that being said, I have had to take a look at what I do and remind myself that what I do is worth something and it’s okay ask that people pay for some of it. I still offer videos and lots of photos for those who enjoy my work but can’t afford to buy anything. However, since Patreon has come about I’m really enjoying offering exclusive stuff to those who have become generous supporters of what I do. It’s very satisfying to me to know that there are people out there who feel like what I do is worth their financial support. I also love sending out prints purchased from my Etsy shop.

I love what I do and I greatly appreciate those that support me via Patreon, purchasing prints, voting on Zivity sets, sharing my work, commenting on my posts on social media, and sending me kind messages. Other models may debate me on this, but I’ve got the best group of fan friends around ^_~