Growing up I was a pretty independent child. You could find me alone in my bedroom, exploring the woods, or crawling underneath my parents wrap around porch playing "adventurer" or whatever character I thought up that day. I never had a problem making friends, and I had a ton of amazing friends growing up! But when it came down to it, I would rather have been home and alone then with a group of people. My feelings of being alone all stemmed from one source;
I have severe social anxiety.
Growing up was a mixture of amazing moments and utter terror. The terror moments all had to do with my social anxiety. First days of school were the worst. For years I would sob and cling to my mother (or sometimes I took another approach, like running around the school parking lot until someone was able to snatch me up and throw me into a classroom). I cried my way out of EVERY sport known to man. I was 16-17 years old before I would order my own food at a restaurant (because yes, even teenage waiters scared me to death). And meeting my friends parents? I avoided that at ALL costs. I would break out in a sweat and became sick to my stomach when I was at a friends house and was forced to have a sit down dinner with them. So growing up was a bit rough at times. My parents thought I was just shy, but the older I got the more severe things got. My anxiety grew as I did, and I tried to keep it to myself, but soon I couldn't avoid social interactions.
How did this effect my photography? When I was 16 people started asking me to take their pictures, and I always said no. I WANTED to do it, but I couldn't bring myself to meet and work with a stranger, heck even a FRIEND. Around 17 or 18 I decided to start working with very close friends and family. I learned I LOVED photographing people and my dreams of becoming a professional portrait photographer started to bud. It's all I talked about and all I thought about. I spent whole days just studying the art of portrait photography. My family and friends noticed my rapidly growing interest in it, and the word got out that I wanted to be a photographer. People started asking me to take their pictures, people I didn't even know! I started to "book" sessions..and then my nerves would get the best of me.
My boyfriend at the time (he is now my fiance!) told me a good friend of his wanted pictures of him and his girlfriend. We both thought it was a great opportunity for me to work with people I hardly knew for the first time! I was SO excited, and SO nervous. The day of the session arrived and I felt like I was going to vomit. On our way to the session I became hysterical. I was sobbing, hyperventilating, and trying everything to get out of this. Now, my fiance is the best man in the world. He has NEVER in the 7 1/2 years we have been together yelled at me or forced me to do something, well actually he did just this once..He pulled the car over and sternly said, "You are doing this. I am here with you. You are fine. Get yourself together. You ARE doing this." My fear of the session melted away and turned into anger at him, Ha! But it worked. I went to the session, had a blast, and left feeling the most accomplished I ever had.
Something happened to me at that session. It's like something came over me and I just knew what to do, what to say, and how to act. And when I left the session I got this natural high. I feel this way during and after every session now. Because of that moment I learned how to turn off my anxieties and work under the pressure. That's the day I became a photographer.
And as for my personal life? My business started giving me the courage to push my anxiety aside and live life. I still have anxiety, but the severity of it has dramatically gone down, and I've learned to work with it instead of backing down to it. So when I said earlier I have severe social anxiety, I meant to say, I HAD severe social anxiety. Photography has given me so many things, but the most powerful thing of all that I received was the power to overcome my anxiety and to finally take control my life.