I’ve spent my fair share of time at children’s birthday parties. As a parent, I’ve seen just about every theme, from princess tea parties to trampoline parks. I’ve watched from the sidelines at most of them, of course, hanging out with the other parents while the kids play. But the last one I attended was different. It took place at a rock climbing gym, and parents were invited to participate. A few of the dads scampered up the wall, but only I and one other mom gave it a go. The other mom went first, and I watched her climb effortlessly as we all cheered her on from below. I couldn’t help but feel compelled to do as well as she had, to climb as high. I’d never climbed a rock wall in my life. And suddenly, here I am, harnessed in and ready to do it at a child’s birthday party in front of everyone. What am I getting myself into?
I take the first few steps up and it’s not so bad. In fact, it’s so much easier than I expected that I decide that I should go for speed. I climb higher, faster, so my hands don’t feel the weight of holding myself up. I can hear the cheers of the people on the floor. Before I know it, I’m at the top, 30 feet in the air. I’ve done it!
OK, so now what? Do I climb down? I can’t climb down. I hear someone below me scream, “Let go!”
“Let go! The harness will catch you!”
But if 2023 has brought me anything so far, it’s that I feel less pressure to match anyone or be better than last year’s version of me. I feel comfortable in my own skin as a business owner and artist. I’m letting go of the pressure to be better and focusing on what makes me happy.Kira Derryberry
Everything in me rejects that premise. I grip tighter to the rocks. My hands start to sweat. I can feel the weight of myself now. Surely, I can go back the way I came. I can choose where to step. I can control how fast I lower myself back to earth. But I’m frozen. I’m losing my grip and there’s only one way down. I tell myself, Just push back and fall, but my body doesn’t trust my brain. I can’t hold on any longer, my fingers slip, and I fly back. I’m caught by the harness, which swings me down gently and safely back to the floor. “That was amazing!” I scream to my friends. The other mom says, “I know! It’s so fun to climb!”
“No, the fall! The fall was so much fun!”
When it comes to my business and my craft, my inspiration to push forward has come from the photographers around me. I saw successful photographers at Imaging USA who had thriving studios, amazing client work, and medals around their necks. I thought, I can be that. It’s healthy to be inspired by others and set goals, but where’s the balance? We strive so hard to find our footing, get our businesses going, and reach a level of success as fast as we can. But when does it stop being fun and become a grind?
Each year, I’ve pushed myself a little harder, whether in my sales, my art, or my photographic achievements. But if 2023 has brought me anything so far, it’s that I feel less pressure to match anyone or be better than last year’s version of me. I feel comfortable in my own skin as a business owner and artist. I’m letting go of the pressure to be better and focusing on what makes me happy. I’m breaking rules in my portrait making, defying my own training. I’m building a business that’s suited to my schedule and my style. I am having fun. I am not at the top of my wall yet, but I am ready to loosen my grip, let go a bit, and enjoy.
If you relate, I urge you to take time this month to reflect on the aspects of your business or your image making that are stealing your joy. If you’re struggling with your lighting or your technique, make time to experiment. Focus less on how fast you can improve and more on what you enjoy about this work. Let go, even for just this month, of comparing yourself to anyone or anything. The wall isn’t going anywhere.
Kira Derryberry is a studio owner and portrait and headshot photographer in Tallahassee, Florida.