Growing Outside of Your Comfort Zone

When you have a talented photographer friend from Charlotte, North Carolina, who wants to take your pictures, using your beautiful home town of Boone, North Carolina, as the backdrop, what do you say? If you’re me, and love dressing up, and love helping others visions come to life, the obvious answer would be, “yes, OMG!” That was my reaction until he told me that he wanted to take the photos in his new swimwear collection. My response? To him, it was still the same, but inwardly I automatically started putting myself down and thinking about all the negative things that I hated about my body.

The only thing keeping me from messaging him back and telling him I wasn’t going to do it, was the fact that one of my really good friends was going to tag along with us and have her photos taken as well. When I disclosed to her my concerns about my body, she said she was harboring the same feelings as well. I was surprised that someone as beautiful as my friend, was also having these feelings of insecurity. I decided to do some research and found that more and more girls and young women are saying that they’re unhappy with the way they look, according to a report done by the charity Girlguiding. I was comforted and saddened by what I read. On one hand, I was comforted by the fact that I wasn’t alone in disliking some portions of my body, but on the other, I was saddened that so many people don’t feel comfortable in their skin, myself included.

I found myself truly debating on whether or not to do the photoshoot. My mind racing with both negative and positive thoughts:

“You’re going to look HUGE in his swimwear”

“You’re beautiful, don’t let your insecurities stop you from doing something fun.”

“He’s going to hate all the photos that he takes with you in them.”

I’m going, to be honest with you, I have no clue what drove me to go through and do the photoshoot. The negative thoughts about my body were persistent until the very moment that the photo shoot started. However, it was thanks to my close friend, and my photographer friend, that I did end up feeling comfortable, and at some moments even beautiful. Michael Burgan, my photographer friend, did such an amazing job at directing me and making me feel 100% comfortable in front of the camera. He truly made me feel as if I was a model. He allowed us to wear his beautiful swimwear designs, as well as doing our makeup. Having elaborate, and model-esque makeup on, helped me get into the proper “mindset” and helped me feel more confident.

Not being a model, and having zero experience when it came to modeling for photos, I was unaware of how to pose my body in order to get the best shot. In between shots, Burgan, would direct me and physically show me the way that he wanted my body posed. For example, whenever I was sitting on a rock he would say things like, “Tilt your head to the light,” “Extend your arm but don’t lock it,” and “tilt your head to the right more, but don’t lose your chin.” This helped with any anxiety I had about my lack of modeling experience which helped boost my confidence.

Image courtesy of Paola Garcia

In the photo above you can see Burgan, directing and taking my friend's photo, as he did for me.

Some advice that I have when dealing with an unknown or uncomfortable situation is applying your strengths or applying things that you know how to do well, to the unknown. While I was in front of the camera as stated before I didn’t have any modeling experience. What I did know how to do, thanks to my many years of cheerleading and some years in dance, was how to move my body into different positions, and I knew how to point my toes. I took these strengths of mine and applied them to the photoshoot. By concentrating on what I knew how to do, and doing it well, it helped to take my mind off of all the things I didn’t know how to do. It helped me feel a little more in control and let me feel as if I was at least doing something right.  

In the end, although I was super stressed about doing the photoshoot until the moment it began, I am glad that I decided to do it. Stepping out in front of the camera, while wearing a bathing suit was something that left me feeling vulnerable, and something that I wasn’t sure I was going to be good at. It was thanks to my friend, who supplied me with endless amounts of love and positive comments, to Michael for being the best photographer ever, and giving me amazing direction and advice, that I was able to do something that I didn’t think I could do. My advice for anyone who is ever put into a similar situation, or is nervous about doing something they might not be the best at, is do it. You can only improve from where you began, and the learning process is worth it. Since I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and do the photoshoot, I was able to learn more about myself and how I handle unknown situations, as well as having an amazing time with friends. The hike to the waterfall, where we took the pictures, was breathtaking, and the memories that I made with my friends are ones that I will never forget, and cherish for a lifetime. Before the photo shoot, I knew that I was a smart person, and I knew that I had a bubbly personality. Although my confidence still had room to grow, I can say that I am all those things mentioned above as well as a person who isn’t afraid to try new things.

Image courtesy of Paola Garcia