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.┬áThe first step is acknowledging the problem, then you can start to work towards a solution to fix it.

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The Building and Rewards of a Positive Reputation

A Positive Reputation

Today I’ve found quite a few posts from models and photographers that left me shaking my head. In some cases, I was frustrated that these various behaviors are being supported instead of kindly corrected.

I am living proof that being nice and acting professionally can get you pretty far.

I started out shy, crummy at posing, confused, and with only my common sense to guide me.

A couple wonderful models on ModelMayhem shared some advice with me. I also met photographers who were patient with me and let me know when I was going against accepted practices. I didn’t butt heads with them and say “well, this is how I’m going to do it!” I examined their point, sometimes I asked around about it, and then I adapted.

Most of all, I was honest.

I told photographers up front that I was crummy at posing and that I would need some guidance. Some of them turned me down and that’s okay. But I also started sketching out poses and bringing those sketches with me. Eventually, I developed a posing style, but that was at least a couple years in as I learn physical things very slowly.

When I started posing for hire…

I knew that my job was to get photos that fit what the photographer wanted. I liked many of them, but I kept my focus on what the photographer’s goal was most of all. I never demanded photos on top of being paid. Over the years many photographers who have paid me have also given me photos. I’m very grateful for that, but I never expect it. I certainly never demand it.

I worked with my limitations.

Let’s not forget that I’m all of 4’10”. I learned early that I would likely not be a fashion model. I needed to look for opportunities that were suitable for me and my look. I also learned that the market I was in (East TN) wasn’t really that diverse. Many of the things I wanted to do just weren’t possible there. But I found things that I did enjoy and people to work with who helped me grow, who explored concepts with me, and who introduced me to other people. It happened all over again when I moved to Detroit as well. I didn’t come barreling in expecting everyone to know me. I took the time to get to know people, to show them my portfolio, and to meet all of the wonderful people I now know here.

It takes time and dedication.

It takes time to build a positive reputation. It takes learning when to keep your mouth shut and when to speak up. But it’s worth it. My reputation is something I’ve put a lot of care, effort, and time into building. I’ve slipped up, especially in online discussions or my own posts, but I try to move on (and apologize if necessary). And now that I have found my place in this community, I try to use my voice to help others, to educate them, and to build our community into a more positive and productive place. I use my modeling skills not just as a “job” but also to create art and to help teach others too.

My positive reputation absolutely benefits me as well. I have been able to work with talented people who have flat out told me that my reputation and my positive presence online and in the community were strong factors in their working with me.

I am so glad I have put effort into creating and maintaining, a strong, positive reputation. I don’t think I’d be here like I am if I had chosen another path.