“I believe that authenticity and the ability to be comfortable in your own skin is the most important life skill that we can have, but no one ever teaches us how. I coach women to help them embrace and give voice to their own unique awesomeness.”
Sometimes you start something, only to, halfway through, lose all the original motivation and desire to finish it.
HASHTAG ME HASHTAG OMG SO ME IT COULD LITERALLY BE ME DRESSED UP AS ME WITH MY NAME
I run with things only until they fly away.
For too long I felt like this was some kind of Bad And Wrong part of me; we all have that, right? The part that mustn’t be uttered about or shown in public because LO! THY SHALL BE STRUCK DOWN BY THE LORD (or that bitch from school who you don’t even speak to and once said you were a show-off, or your mum, or your best mate, some randomer on social media) WITH A DAGGER OF LIGHTNING (or, y’know, an off-the-cuff sentence about how that’ll never work, that you need to pass X exams or have Y experience or nosh off Z-list celebs) AND SMITE YOU TO DEEEAAAAATH (read: send the inner shitty committee absolutely rampant in your own mind).
I forced past-me into doing things because that was visually how I “should” be presenting myself to the world. Stay the course, nose to the grindstone, push through the boredom and the pain and the awkward middle stage.
There is a place for people who stick to their guns in this world. Laser focus breeds success, slow and steady wins the race. The rest of us? Watch the laser-focused race-winners smash goal after goal, wondering what fucking coffee they drink and what shade of pink their yoga leggings are. Then we buy their courses that we don’t finish, and we start their workouts that we quit after a couple of weeks, and we wear the same t-shirts and bathe in the same bath salts and follow their morning routine and and and…
And when you’ve seen the discarded dreams, the unfinished art, the ideas that only ever made it to paper, the 50% completed courses, the guilt we feel as we think of the money we’ve spent on memberships and classes and stuff that scream their incompleteness when we log into our email or rifle through the understairs cupboard, it can feel overwhelmingly like a bag of failure.
We forget that we too are consistent, we too have succeeded, we too have gifts. We just do it in our way.
We’ve all stuck it out in jobs, we’ve all dedicated our time to relationships, friendships, we’ve all felt the joy of completing something, however small – a jigsaw, an awkward call, a wheel of brie (don’t deny it, I know it isn’t just me) – that meant something to us. We’ve all finished something, but you don’t see us celebrating that because it’s not what we feel is worthy enough.
What if – WHAT FUCKING IF – you decided to love the shit out of your “unfinishedness”?
“I didn’t finish that gym program… and I LOVE THAT.”
“I didn’t complete the Spanish course… and I LOVE THE BONES OFFA ME”
Loving it feels a bit weird, right? I can hear you all now, “I ain’t getting on no love plane, fool” All right, Mr T. Calm your tits. You don’t need to love that part of yourself, but the aim is for acceptance.
“I haven’t finished that book that I started reading… or writing… and THAT’S OK”.
Being the person who started to totally drop in to loving my Unfinisher opened up my eyes
Yep, initially it felt like I was just lying to myself. “No you fucking don’t love it, you twat. You hate that you spent thousands on that online course years ago and then logged in twice”
But then I started to be ok with it. I didn’t immediately start jumping to the “you’re a total shitbag for not finishing” rhetoric I had historically run to in my mind. I had a few micro-seconds of grace. And then a few milliseconds. And then a few seconds.
But there was another, better, stranger part; I stopped being the person trying to do all the courses and buying all the gym gear and following all the success-drenched, laser-focused bellends because I didn’t actually like most of it.
I got to hear myself – and listen.
I became way more discerning with what I was spending time and money on, with who I was following, and with what I wanted to learn.
My ideas got louder. I started actually fucking FINISHING stuff. And finishing stuff that MEANT SOMETHING TO ME. Small things, like washing my face every night. And then bigger things, like starting a new business (I actually started two in 2018. but that’s a story for another time)
I let go of half-read books. (Most books? Unless they have some wild end twist, I get the joke in the first half. Then they can go back from whence they came #oxfambookshop #overloadedkindlelibrary)
I cancel the subscription when I notice the program or membership isn’t really “me”.
I cherry pick the people I follow on social media. I consciously choose the people I want to engage with in real life.
I support causes I believe in.
I start things before I’m ready, and if I realise it’s working, THEN I buy things that help save me time or money (or invariably I realise that I didn’t need half the things that you’re told to get anyway).
I have SO MUCH LOVELY, LOVELY SPACE for ideas now. My super-power isn’t about being the tortoise that wins some success race, but being the space for the ideas to spring up in that isn’t clouded by the opinions and ideas of people who simply don’t work like I do. I’ll win the damn race all the same, but the only people in it are me, and me-but-from-yesterday.
Sometimes the finishing isn’t the specific finishing goal you were expecting it to be, but rather the decision to stop, and to be agile enough to move to the next thing. And look, I’m not here trying to enable people to just quit all the time, but you know – you know – deep down if you’ll regret not completing something to the best of your ability, or if you’ll regret something for staying the course too long.
The world needs finishers, but there isn’t only one type. Whether a tortoise or a hare, or a demented chinchilla with a speed habit, you are needed in the world.
Photoshoot prep (AKA OH FARK I’VE BOOKED A PHOTOSHOOT. NOW WHAT SHOULD I WEAR AND HOW SHOULD I DO MY HAIR?!)
I mean, first off, CONGRATS! Dedicating a bit of time to getting some nice pics of you and/or the family is something to be excited about, but I know a lot of you then panic about any preparation. What should I wear?! What should I do with my make up?!?!?! HOW DO I POSE?!?!
First off, if you’re having a family shoot, the most important element is that you’re all comfortable. Wear what you would normally – you want these pictures to represent your family, not a Marks and Sparks catalogue family. You don’t need to be overly fussy, but just keep in mind a couple of things:
a) the weather: Coats, scarves and boots, or t-shirts and shorts? Check out what the weather has in store for your day before the final selection. Standing barefoot in a wood wearing chiffon might look lovely, but it certainly won’t feel it if it’s November and there’s frost on the ground. And…
b) colours: By all means wear green, but remember that I want you to stand out from your background, and if your background is a green field, the shade is an important choice between “floating head” and “magnificent portrait”. Block colours work best in pictures over patterns.
When it comes to an individual head shot or portrait shoot, you want to dress for how you want to be seen. Ask yourself a few questions (I’ll ask them to you, too):
- Where are these photos going to be displayed? Something on Tinder or a personal Facebook profile page might not be the vibe you want on your business website or as a LinkedIn profile picture.
- If these pictures are going on a website, do you need to think about the overall brand? You need to make sure that your photographer understands the overall vision, and that you get the right kind of shots for things like wide landscape images to fit on a desktop screen title, specific images of you doing certain actions that can be utilised in your marketing, the colours of your brand, and the vibe of the brand itself. Shots where you’re laughing like a drain might work well for some brands, but perhaps might be best avoided in a corporate environment.
From the information that you glean from that, you should be able to pick out some suitable outfits, and have a list of images that you need from the shoot itself.
And what about hair and make-up?
Family shoots? Again, wear what makes you feel good and comfortable. Your family want to remember how you look when you feel relaxed, whatever that means for you. Be mindful of hair vs wind. It’s one thing having a cheeky fringe covering one eye; it’s another having jokes about Cousin Itt thrown at you forever more.
Portraits and head shots? Tie this in to your requirements; If you’re a fashion blogger, go all out. Corporate consultant? Keep it as profesh as you need.
Remember to book in any hair and make-up appointments well in advance of the shoot. Give yourself the time to get to the meeting place. Flustered clients don’t make the best subjects, and at the end of the day, you want to be captured at your best.
Never walk into a shoot unprepared – you’re paying money to get the pictures you need here, and photographers might be great with a camera, but are generally pretty cack at anything on a extra-sensory perceptive level.
Remember the ultimate advice:
You being as comfortable and relaxed as possible will create the best shots, Brownie Guide Promise.
So, if you’re scrolling through your newsfeed wondering who the hell I am, I wouldn’t be surprised. I’ve been away for, ooh, two years?
Ooops ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ But let me reintroduce myself: Hi, I’m Gemma. I shoot people.
In the face.
With a camera.
And a couple of weeks ago, I actually stopped arsing around.
For years (no, really, YEARS), I’ve been the person taking my trusty camera around with me, and capturing little moments of friends and families. I’d often WhatsApp the final pictures over to the friends and families in question. It was something I loved doing (and still do).
I thought nothing of it. Until I realised that these pictures were being displayed on mantelpieces, put in photo albums, sent to grandparents and even printed out as thank you cards.
My pictures? On calendars? And cards?
I’ve told myself for yonks that I’d never be able to be a photographer because I didn’t have the kit, I didn’t have the skills, there were too many photographers, no-one would really like my pictures anyway.
But a couple of weeks ago, something changed; I decided maybe I shouldn’t be the one to down play my kit and my skills and my pictures.
Maybe I should just be the person to do it, and see what other people thought. So I told the peeps over at my instagram page (you should totally join me over there, btw)
I booked my first three clients in 48 hours.
I had my first shoot last week with these gorgeous beauts.
And now? I’m offering all #Bristol based families the same opportunity.
Unposed, natural light photography, no wanky scrabble letters spelling out names, or studio bean bags covered in voile (sorry if that’s your jam, but it really isn’t mine!).
You get images of your family with their smiles and gappy teeth and wind-tousled hair which look great in the family calendar and photo album, and in plenty of time for the C-word.
(Err, other C-word, my friend… The santa/mince pies/acceptable alcoholism before midday C-word, before anyone reports me to the Facebook police)
If this idea floats your boat, don’t hang about. I’ve got a special price to build up my portfolio if you book before the end of October. And it is AFFORDABLE AF.
Success is a fickle bastard.
Wait, wait, wait. No. The way I feel about success is a fickle bastard.
From the perspective of friends and family, I think a lot of people would see me as relatively successful; I have the trappings of a pretty charmed life (good marriage, healthy daughter, nice house in a nice place, my own business, good friends). I’ve also had a few people tell me that the stuff I’ve done has inspired them to do their own things, a concept I find incredibly humbling considering what a lot of my friends have achieved.
But I also find it a bit fucking berserkoid. Because I NEVER FEEL SUCCESSFUL except for fleeting moments when I win an award, or I’m asked to speak at an event, or given some accolade from some person I deem as “better than me”.
I’ve started to touch on this in my therapy sessions, because it’s a theme that always comes up as the Voice of Utter Shitness in my mind: “YOU’RE NOT SUCCESSFUL YET”.
Earlier on today, I was directed to an Enneagram test by Lotte. I took a test, and found out I am a Type 3, also known as The Achiever (I have a wing of 4, which also makes me “The Professional”, but that’s a subsidiary matter). Now, I love me a good quiz, especially when I learn more about me and my personality. I’ve taken fucking billions over the years, from paid tests all the way to the type with batshit names like “which Disney character’s pubic hair most describes your cooking style?”.
Normally, I have a good deal of interest to these kinds of test, but there’s normally an area of “mmm, I kiiiinda think that miiiight sound like me, but not totally…”, and that causes me to not feel comfortable labelling myself as Definitely That Thing. Not to mention, I’ve spent a lot of my life not really knowing what I want, so actually I’m like a jack of all trades (or jack of all personalities).
It’s only been a recent discovery that success is a massive driver for me. BUT WHAT DOES SUCCESS EVEN MEAN TO ME?
I don’t jive with the whole “MAD LEVELS OF FAME AND POWER” concept. I also don’t want to live the life of a rap video, downing Cristal strawpedos while I drive round, I dunno, bloody Monte Carlo in a Mayback with the number plate “R1CH AF” before pulling up to buy underpants encrusted with diamonds from the Diamond Encrusted Underpant Shop. Both just seem quite un-me-like. But until today, I didn’t get why these results of success didn’t appeal.
So, I read into my Enneagram, and this is what I found:
“Threes want success not so much for the things that success will buy, or for the power and feeling of independence that it will bring. They want success because they are afraid of disappearing into a chasm of emptiness and worthlessness: without the increased attention and feeling of accomplishment which success usually brings, Threes fear that they are nobody and have no value.”
Er, wow. Well. That was a pretty enlightening read. There’s more detail on the Enneagram Institute page, but I cannot fault this.
Yes, dear reader, I need success because my main driving force in life is to “not be a worthless shithumper”. BRILLIANT.
Yes, dear reader, I need success because my main driving force in life is to “not be a worthless shithumper”. BRILLIANT. Not very noble, but it certainly felt very true.
So here’s a couple of other truths. Perhaps you get them, perhaps not:
1/ While I know there’s only one me, the fact that other people could be Type 3s (or ENFPs or Creators or Cinderella’s glittery pubic hair…) brings out a weird competitive edge in me.
I feel a bit “only gay in the village” about it, even though intellectually it’s clearly not true and that’s just a bit of weird programming I have left over from being a child.
2/ I’m more affected by the way I look than I’d like to admit. And that’s embarrassing.
I put myself through an eating disorder as a youngster, and as an adult, I’ve done a lot of work to vercome that. But the aesthetic thing shows up everywhere.
Case in point: on Friday, I had my hair done. My hair is my “thing”. As a teen, I was the girl whose hair people admired. I would wash and blow dry my hair EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. It was styled perfectly – FOR SCHOOL. AN ALL-GIRLS SCHOOL. Random strangers and hairdressers used to compliment me on my hair. So fast forward to 2016 – I’m not as hair-obsessed as I once was, but I cannot tell you the joy and relief I had after having my hair cut, coloured and styled exactly the way I wanted it. I noticed the difference straight away; I spoke to people differently, it was like I moved from this place of “oh God what must they think of me” to “now I can be the person I always imagine myself to be”. I felt light and funny and eloquent and friendly, instead of awkward, ugly and weird. Because of MY HAIR.
3/ I don’t get jealous often, but when I do, it’s because you’re younger, prettier and more successful than me. And I can be a bitch about it.
This is a really depressing admission for me. I didn’t even realise it was a thing until I voiced it in a therapy session a few weeks ago. Normally I can handle envy – I feel like it points to the place you want to go, or something about that person speaks volumes about where your direction should be heading.
But there’s a magic trifecta of things that cause jealousy for me; age, beauty and success.
If you have any one of these assets on me, it’s likely I’ll feel a little envious, but I can kind of get on with my life and in fact I will make it my aim to become friends with you. Two things? I’m going to be a bit jealous, but I can still hide it. All three and one of two things will happen: I will stalk you on social media, work out our age difference, compare how I look to you (unfavourably for me), and if I can, leave sickeningly supportive messages on one or two pieces of your content (BUT NOT TOO MUCH BECAUSE PLEASE DON’T THINK I’M WEIRD. Also NOTICE ME). Or, I will find out bad things about you and feel very justified in my inner-circle bitching about you. And I really don’t do bitching all that often.
I’m working on it, but YES, I know. This is a reeeeally sucky part of my personality.
It does feel good (freeing? Honest?) to admit these things, and there are probably more things lurking in my mind waiting to be unlocked. Better out than in, right? Or is that just farts…?