Are you tired of feeling like something is bad, broken, or wrong with:

  • You and what seems like your inability to produce the results you want?
  • Your family members, who aren’t supporting you or making it easy to do what you love?
  • Your clients, who seem not to appreciate what you do?
  • Your competitors, who aren’t playing fair and are making things difficult?

It is much too easy to live in a state of shame or with a feeling that you, it, or they are flawed.

As I’ve learned more about shame over the last few years, I’m astonished by how destructive shame is, and the degree to which we have the choice to partner or not partner with its power over us. Shame puts us in a place of internal anguish that spurs us to hide away, and it ultimately destroys our creativity.

The level of shame that we, as creative entrepreneurs, allow to close us out of what is possible for ourselves, for our families and our businesses, is truly mind-blowing.

Let’s break it down.

Our brain is made up of different parts, each functioning on its own strength, yet dependent upon partnership with one another to create results. These parts include but aren’t limited to creative thought, logical thinking, rational thought, subjective processing, and analytical reasoning. When each part is functioning optimally, it offers its data to its teammates, which creates your ability to have ideas, solve problems, think creatively, and produce results.

But when shame enters, all that changes. Neuroscience has found that when we entertain shame and its devastating messages, a chemical is released in our brain that shuts down all highways of information sharing. This leaves us in a state of confusion and with the inability to know what to do next.

As photographers, our images impact the world of those we photograph. I’m sure you’ve experienced the mother who is moved to tears, the high school senior who sees her beauty in a new way, or the couple who sees their love for each other more deeply as a result of the art you created for them. Shame doesn’t want you to see the light, love and hope that happens with your images.

If shame can keep you thinking you are bad, broken, or wrong, it will stifle the impact your images can make. The more shame you put on yourself, the more you will hide, regress, and stop figuring out how to be successful. But you have a choice in whether or not you give in to shame. It begins by recognizing shame for what it is — the enemy of your creativity.

It’s curious.

The next time you start feeling that internal anguish, slow down your thoughts and pinpoint the messages running through your head. If those messages are telling you you aren’t enough, you don’t have what it takes, other people are way more capable than you are, know that is shame.

Then you have a choice to make: You can either continue to entertain those messages and remain in a downward spiral until you lose all ability to create. Or you can recognize that whatever you’re doing is being attacked and stymied, and while its messages might feel true in this moment, you can choose to use your curiosity to investigate what else might be true. Curiosity is kryptonite to shame.

I’m reminded of my client John. He felt shame over his sales averages. His low averages were killing his profit and destroying his chances of having a successful business. Creating a sales experience for his clients was the step he needed to take to turn things around, but when sitting with a client in a sales meeting, shame would take over his thoughts. He became confused and couldn’t think what to say.

Once he understood shame and how it was his worst enemy, he decided to try something new.

The next meeting he had with a client, that old, familiar anxiety began filling his chest as the client asked questions about John’s recommended purchase. He slowed down his thoughts enough to realize what he was telling himself, that he had made a bad suggestion and the client hated it.

But now he knew it was shame, and so he chose curiosity in that moment — had he really made a bad suggestion and did the client actually hate it? Within seconds, he found himself asking the client if they liked his recommendation. Much to his surprise, they said, “Yes, we love it, we just wanted to understand more about why you like it so much.” John was then able to continue on without the shame and to consistently produce results in that sales appointment that he’d never experienced before. The more he continues to interrupt shame and its messages, the more creative he is in all his sales appointments, and the greater the results he’s producing.

I wonder what could open up for you in your sales, marketing, and photography if you traded your fear that you were bad, broken or wrong with curiosity about what else might be possible?

I invite you to consider that you aren’t flawed unless you decide you are.

Would you be willing to start interrupting the enemy of your creativity and offer the gift of who you are through your photographs to the world in need around you?

This article first appeared July/August 2017 print issue of Click Magazine. Order print or digital single issues from the Click & Company Store. Or better yet, get a 1-year subscription so you never miss an issue!