One of the most baffling things about us high-performing ladies is our willingness to let one relatively insignificant thing prevent us from pursuing our passion projects. Sometimes these things persuade us to shelve a project altogether. Other times, we just keep pushing a project back in hopes that, at some some indeterminate point in the future, whatever hangup we have will spontaneously resolve itself without any work on our part (spoiler alert: it won’t).
This website and blog have been a long time coming. I had content, I had a vision of what I wanted to say, and very clear thoughts on how to say it. I’d done 99% of the heavy lifting. So why, after all of this work, why did part of me want to shelve the entire project instead of finishing it? It was simple (and ridiculous): the website needed photos, and I HATE having professional photos taken.
Why, you ask? That is an excellent question. First off, most of the time I don’t feel like professional photos actually look like me (probably because in most of them I’m sitting still and not talking or waiving my hands around, which doesn’t really ever happen in real life). Secondly, while the photos are being taken, all I can think of is “you better make this look good because once this sh&t hits the Internet it will never die,” at which point my jaw tenses up and I enter a state many refer to as resting you-know-what face.
So imagine my terror when I met with my good friend and brand genius Amber Swenor a few months ago to discuss making this website and blog a reality, and she made the very logical recommendation that any website I create should actually have photos of me on it. While it did not throw me into a full-blown panic attack, my brain did embark upon a journey through the Kübler-Ross stages of grief:
- Stage One (Denial and Isolation): “I feel like people can get the essence of who I am without having to actually see me. The content will stand on its own without a need for photos.”
- Stage Two (Anger): “It really cannot be that important! Can’t we just use stock photos of businesswomen instead?!”
- Stage Three (Bargaining): “What if we hire a nature photographer to hide in a fake rock and take action photos of me without my knowledge like they did with those snow leopards on Planet Earth?”
- Stage Four (Depression): “Oh my god. This will be the worst thing ever. I cannot do this.”
- Stage Five (Acceptance): “Sh&t, she has a point on this whole branding thing. Maybe I need to shelve this project.”
Would it have been phenomenally stupid of me to throw out all of the work I had done on this project just short of reaching the finish line? YES. Did I almost do it? YES.
Everyone has their albatross, but the perfectionism inherent in Type A folks makes their albatrosses ostrich-sized and very stifling. (Side note: I have never tried to carry an ostrich around my neck, and don’t think I’d want to because they seem to do a lot of biting, but I have to believe that the sheer physics of trying to carry one around my neck would indeed be very stifling.) I made the decision it was high time I figured out how to get this bird situation under control, and prevent it from derailing a project I really wanted to complete.
So, how do you handle an ostrich-sized albatross?
- Acknowledge him. Here is the thing about albatrosses – the more you stifle/fail to acknowledge them, the bigger and ornerier they get. Stop putting hats on your albatross, trying to throw a blanket over him, or throwing him into a closet with a pile of stuffed animals like Elliott did to ET. Regardless of whether he is wearing a hat, under a blanket, or under a pile of stuffed animals, you still have a bird situation on your hands that needs to be dealt with.
- Abandon any illusion of getting rid of it altogether (at least right away). While I would love to tell you that I simply stood up, yelled “I renounce thee, albatross!” and he magically disappeared, that did not happen. The problem with hoping an albatross (especially an albatross you’ve been carting around for some time) will immediately disappear is that it sets a pretty unrealistic expectation. And for “our people” (the Type As), the failure to meet an expectation – realistic or unrealistic – is often viewed as a personal failing.
- Buckle your albatross into the passenger seat where he belongs, and acknowledge that you will be carpooling together at least for the near future. While it may be unrealistic to tell your albatross to get lost altogether, you can take him off your neck, put him in the passenger seat, and make it clear that you will be doing the driving. To the degree possible, take control of the situation by doing what you can to minimize the effect your albatross can have in derailing your project. Sometimes that involves placing your trust in professionals and being very clear on setting expectations to reduce your anxiety about the unknown. I was fortunate to work closely with Amber and the amazing Kate Mccullough (I cannot recommend her highly enough) on planning almost every aspect of the shoot beforehand and, while I almost always deferred to their professional judgment, I made sure I had the ultimate say over how the shoot ran, the proofs we ultimately used, and the placement of each and every photo (both the photos of me and photos of other things) on this website.
- When you reach a good place to pull the car over and drop your albatross off on the side of the road, do it. The thing about albatrosses is that they don’t just materialize overnight. There are a series of bad events that create them, and it may take a series of positive experiences to get rid of them. Your albatross may be in the car with you for a while, but at some point down the road, you’ll feel that you can just let him go. I have not yet reached that point with mine, but I imagine I’ll be able to let him go soon.
For those of you rolling your eyes at this post and cursing me for being melodramatic, I get it. Like most albatrosses, mine is based on something that is stupid and relatively insignificant to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, because that is the case, I’ve spoken with many very successful people who would rather hold themselves back than openly acknowledge their albatross and do the work necessary to get that bird out of their lives. I’m putting my albatross out into the world in hopes that they will too. 🙂
[PS: The photo above is a picture of my brand genius Amber and me immediately after we finished our photo shoot. I briefly thought about photoshopping an albatross into it, but I don’t have that level of photoshop skill…]