The Secret to Confidence? It's NOT About You
If you're the type to get nervous about putting your work out in the world, well… you have a surprise super-power not everyone else has. Curious what it is? We're talking all about how you can use it to your advantage
Does your stomach flip at the thought of having to speak in front of an audience? And once you’re there, do you break into sweats and feel like you can’t breathe properly?
Or do you get jittery when you want to reach out to someone to photograph their work? Or mini-panicked when the idea of writing a story pitch email crosses your mind.
Even if you know your photography is pretty awesome, the idea can feel daunting all the same.
Well, in this episode we are dishing on how to overcome unwelcome nerves, basically instantly.
Conservation gives us a unique opportunity to brush off these self-conscious worries and move boldly toward the ultimate goal of protecting wildlife. That’s why we’re here, right?
You might say that we have an edge that other visual storytellers don’t, so we will uncover how you can leverage it to present yourself as the confident photographer you are.
The knowledge that you are not sharing your message solely for entertainment purposes but for the sake of protecting an endangered ecosystem or habitat should give you all the courage you need.
You are busy with important work and your message is needed!
- The reason we keep quiet about our lack of confidence when we should be talking about it
- Why conservation-focused photographers have an advantage – and how to leverage it
- What an early experience with public speaking taught me about audiences
- Why the realization that it is not about you is the greatest gift to conservation storytellers
- How the importance and necessity of your message give you an extra boost of confidence
- How removing status and ego from the equation will help you craft a meaningful message
- What putting your subject and story first will mean for the quality of your photographs
- A strategy for shifting the focus away from yourself to the message you need to share
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Episode 049: The Secret to Confidence? It's NOT About You
(Digitally transcribed, please forgive any typos)
A question for you, do you ever get shaky when you have to speak in front of an audience? You know you get that stress sweat that starts dampening your armpits and your stomach does flips and it's like you can breathe in, but you can't seem to fully breathe out, so you end up kind of being out of breath as you talk, or do you get nervous about writing to someone who's work you would really love to photograph as part of the photo project that you're working on. They're someone that you definitely wanna reach out to but there's something that makes you just kinda edgy when you actually have to reach out and contact them, like you're worried that you're going to be annoying them or you're worried about their reaction. Or do you even get nervous at the idea of writing a story pitch email to get to a publication, even though you know your idea is pretty awesome, and you're pretty sure that you have these really great images and it's a fit, but man, you just get so nervous about actually sitting down and writing that pitch email?
01:00 JH: Well, I have a secret for you. Your focus on conservation gives you this extra little super power that can allow you to completely ditch those nerves instantly, and we're gonna talk about how this works and how to use it to your advantage. In this episode. Let's dive in.
01:22 JH: Welcome to impact the conservation photography podcast. I'm your host, Jaymi Heimbuch, and if you are a visual storyteller with a love for all things wild, then you're in the right place. From conservation to creativity, from business, to marketing, and everything in between. This podcast is for you, the conservation visual storyteller who is ready to make an impact. Let's dive in.
01:54 JH: The concept of confidence is one that comes up pretty often in my work, both as a photographer and in my coaching. I work with my conservation photography 101 students all the time on addressing their fears about getting out into the field or writing to editors, and I definitely talk about confidence a lot with Wild Idea Lab members, that's where we tackle all kinds of issues where confidence comes into play. And in fact, I think that the subject comes up so often because there are such safe places to be honest about how you're feeling. I think so many times we hide the fact that we feel nervous or we feel fearful about something because we're supposed to just put on a brave face and plow forward, right? But how in the world are we supposed to grow and find tools to get through these tough moments if we don't talk about these things? So this episode is completely focused around the honest truth that every single one of us has moments when we feel fearful or weak or we feel like nervous wrecks, and when all that negative self-talk is chiming through loud and clear. And we're gonna talk about why you, you as a conservation photographer, as a visual storyteller, focused on conservation has a leg up on everyone else in getting through those tough moments.
03:14 JH: Now, I remember this moment. Back in high school, I was in academic decathlon and our team went to a regional competition, and one of the categories in academic decathlon is giving a speech, and this was the very first time in my life that I needed to write and perform a speech. I wrote it, I managed to memorize it, practiced it constantly, I gave the speech to the panel of judges, I think there were five or six of them. I mean, you're in a room with just you and some judges, so it's kind of nerve-racking, but it's not as big of a deal as speaking in front of a big audience. Now, for whatever reason, the judges decided my speech was the best and I won the category, which meant I now needed to give that speech in front of a full audience, an audience of instructors and parents and grandparents and siblings, and all the other people who had attended this regional event. That speech felt like a much bigger deal because there was an audience. It wasn't a closed room with just a handful of people and the results weren't gonna be known to anyone else. Now, it was something that a lot of people were gonna witness, so now, I was really nervous.
04:31 JH: So I get up in front of this gymnasium full of people, and I get to the podium and I start to give the speech, and I get about two sentences into it, and I totally forget the next sentence. So I pause and I remember saying something like, "Oh, this is what happens at the end of a test day, folks," or something dumb. And the audience chuckled. And hearing that, hearing them just kind of laugh along with me, that was enough. The next lines popped back into my head, the rest of the speech was fine. I honestly can't even remember what that speech was about, but I do remember that moment clear as day, because that was when I learned something really important about public speaking, the audience for the most part, wants you to perform well, for the most part, they are on your side because you're the entertainment. And they just want to be entertained. It's not about you at all, it's about what you're providing to them. So the audience will forgive you for fumbles, the audience will let you stumble and be real, and the audience gives you space to recover from any of those stumbles. It's not a one strike and you're out situation, because they want that story, they wanna hear what you have to say.
05:48 JH: If you're up in front of an audience, more than likely it's because everybody chose to be there, and more than likely they chose to be there, not just because of you, but because of what you have to say. It's not about you. It's about the story that you're providing. And that's so key, that realization that it's not actually about you is the best possible gift that anyone can really hope to receive if they need a boost of confidence. The whole ability to take your ego out of something is huge, because as soon as it's not about you, you're able to get out of your own way. You're not gonna worry about how your hair looks, or if you stuttered a little, or if you're clicker for your PowerPoint presentation didn't work, or at least you won't need to worry nearly as much because 100% of the focus now goes into your story. All you need to worry about now is the story itself, and if you're in a position to put that in front of an audience, then you likely know that information inside and out, and any stumble or hiccup, you're gonna recover from that.
07:01 JH: So take that ego out as a limitation, and suddenly your confidence can skyrocket. But conservation storytellers, now, I think that we have an extra special turbocharged bump. Now, for anyone, in any topic, taking the ego out as a limitation, well, suddenly your confidence has room to just skyrocket, but conservation storytellers, I think we have this extra special turbocharged bump that lets us really zero in on our confidence even more, because not only is this not about you, thank goodness, but about your stories, but also your stories are needed. There is no frivolity or fluff about this, your stories are not just entertainment. Your stories are intended to do some real work. The audience actually needs your story, and your story needs to be put in front of this audience. So you can take even more confidence in that not only is it not about you, but you're doing something of real value. Conservation stories have this extra level of importance because you're helping a species or a habitat, an ecosystem, a culture, a research project, whatever it is, you're helping something to get in front of an audience that it wouldn't otherwise be in front of.
08:32 JH: You're helping to get something that needs help in front of those who can help, I mean, that's crazy, amazing, right? That is such an extraordinary thing to do, and if you don't do that, who is going to? If you don't get out in front of that audience and talk about that habitat or ecosystem or project, who's going to? So you have this amazing job that you get to do as someone who is getting in front of an audience. And when you think about your presentations and getting out in front of an audience, or when you think about writing to someone whose work you want to document or writing to an editor because you've got a story that needs to be told, when you think of these things, more like gifts that you want to provide. It's not about you, it's not about your ego, it's not about status that you're trying to attain, it's not about performance, it's about providing this gift, about performing the service. Well, this is where genuine confidence stems from. You get out of your own way and you can focus on that gift or on that service.
09:46 JH: Now, let's fast forward 20 years from me in high school giving this speech and stumbling and recovering, and this was about... Oh, I don't know, I guess it was about a year ago. I was giving a talk in front of an audience of, I don't know, 100 people, and we're there to talk about photography, and specifically, I'm there to talk about how to start your own conservation photography project. Now, I'm the last presentation before a panel Q and A of all the speakers from the day and then we're done. And my goal is to take all the inspiration that that audience has gained throughout the day from all of these other speakers who've been up on stage, and to put that inspiration into action. So my goal is to give tools for people to take home and allow them to really dig into conservation photography.
10:39 JH: So I get up to the lectern, I have my little clicker thingy in hand, and I'm not nervous at all, I'm excited. I'm flat out excited to put this information into the hands of folks because you know what happens if I do a good job of that? Some of these folks might walk out the door convinced that their next move is to start their own conservation photography project, and how phenomenal would that be if they did that and they made an impact in their local community or even on a bigger level because of the tools that they gained that day. So it's not about me, it's about the tools and about this audience, and making sure that this audience walks away with these tools. These folks are on my side because I have something for them, so I don't need to be nervous. They're not there to judge me or to judge my performance or to discuss the cadence of my speech or whether or not I pulled anything off, they're there because they want the information that I have to give them.
11:46 JH: They're already my friends because we're all here for the same reason, and I'm standing here with a gift for them, a gift that I know is helpful, and that that's everything that I need to be able to get up in front of an auditorium of people and start talking. From high school to now, I know that the audience is on my side because I have something for them, something I'm excited to share and something that is of value. It's not about me, it's about what I'm providing. And so away, I can confidently go. Now, I know that I've been talking mostly about public speaking, but this is really true in every part of conservation visual storytelling, whether it's writing press releases about your project or presenting your work to galleries or pitching your ideas to publications, it works on all fronts. When you take yourself out of it, when you take all thoughts of being judged or commented upon, you take that out, you take out the idea of status, you take out the idea of ranking somehow among photographers, you just focus on this conservation goal that you have.
13:00 JH: You focus on the subject, you focus on doing the best job possible for this conservation aim, that gives you confidence in every area. And one of the most important areas, where this gives you that confidence is your photography itself. When you put your story and your subject first, and you pull your ego and any thoughts about how you'll be judged through these photos, you get out of your own way, your focus truly becomes about the situation and about how you're representing something, and that provides you a profound amount of focus and creativity and confidence to experiment and mess up inside of your shooting, because the results of the image are about something much, much more than you and contest winning or likes on social media. That doesn't matter, the shot that you are working on is now about how you can best represent or tell the story of something that you find really important. And that zeroing in, allows thoughts about how it will be received or compared or judged by viewers to disappear. This image now just is, it exists as a pure representation of the subject, how you as a photographer, as the storyteller viewed it, because you have a message that you wanna get through from this image.
14:31 JH: Now, I'm not saying that any of this is easy. I certainly struggle with this all the time and have to put diligent work into moving negative self-talk out of my head and re-focusing in on my conservation goals. But when that happens, when I get out of my own way and I just do not care about anything but the aim that I've got, then that's when I feel like I'm shooting with the most clarity, with the most honesty, and that's when I feel like my style really comes through. I give it room to come through. When I get wrapped up in the thoughts of being judged or perceived by my images, then I start to compare myself to other photographers and I start to stumble over whether or not I'm shooting the right way, or I start to stumble upon if I'm telling the story the right way. When I put all that aside and I say, "You know what, this is a conservation issue that I deeply care about, and I'm just gonna zero in on doing the best possible job that I can," with 100% of my focus on that, that's when my best storytelling skills surface.
15:44 JH: So it's worth it to do the hard work of recognizing that negative self-talk when it pops up and moving through it. And however many times a day or however many times an hour you need to say to yourself, it's not about me, it's about what I have to say, it's not about me, it's about the conservation issue, it's not about me, it's about this gift that I have to give to an audience. It's not about me, it's about the information that I have to share, that when I share it, it could make a really significant impact for something I care deeply about. That is when you can stand up the tallest that you've ever stood up and the most confidently that you've ever stood up, and you move forward in the most confident way.
16:32 JH: So the next time that you find yourself getting nervous because you are going to give a presentation on your story, or you're gonna pitch your story, or you are maybe even launching a page on your website and you're really nervous about how that's gonna be received, or maybe you're even nervous about... I don't know, going on Instagram stories and talking about a conservation issue, the next time you feel nervous about something, do a little mental check-in and see if you're nervous because you're making it about you, and instead reframe that and say, "Okay, I've got something that I need to give, because this is a conservation issue that needs me to be vocal, it's not about me, it's about this conservation issue, and the audience wants to hear what I have to say, the audience needs this information. It's not about me, it's about what I have to give to others. And they want that. They're cheering for it."
17:32 JH: It's not easy. It definitely takes being really aware of that nervousness and remembering that you have a strategy, but when you do use this strategy and you remember that your conservation work is really what it's about, not you, not ego. Not anything else. Oh my goodness, that is when magic happens, and that confidence just seems to well up and take over. Now, if you are struggling with this, remember that there are spaces for you to talk about it and be honest about it, and to hear other people's experiences and how they've struggled and the tools that they use. So I definitely invite you to come to Wild Idea Lab or come to the Facebook group conservation photographers, and talk about it. And remember, even if you're feeling nervous about sharing the fact that you're nervous, there's gonna be other people who need to hear that as well and relate to it, and it's gonna start a really great conversation that helps everyone involved. So don't be afraid to talk about it, don't be afraid to ask questions about tools or maybe what other people tell themselves, but ultimately just remember this, the work that you're doing for conservation is so important and of value and something that other people want so get your work out there.
18:58 JH: Now, I know that this is not the only limiting belief or troublesome issue that pops up for conservation photographers, and especially with kinda getting started and getting out there, so I wanna point you back to episode number five. Episode number five is where I talk about mindset secrets to becoming a published conservation photographer, and specifically, I talk about five really common limiting beliefs that I see pop up, primarily among emerging conservation photographers, but this is stuff that a lot of people kind of fall into traps from time to time, all along their career. So if you haven't listened to it yet, definitely check out episode number five, if you have listened to it, then maybe give it another listen and see if there's some additional insights or tools that can help you out. And meanwhile, I will talk to you next week.
19:51 JH: Before we wrap up, I would love to ask you to do one quick thing, subscribe to this podcast. As a subscriber, you'll not only know when each week's episode goes live, but you'll also get insider goodies, like bonus episodes, you might miss them unless you're subscribed and I don't want you to miss out on a thing, so please tap that subscribe button and I will talk to you next week.
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