A few weeks ago I had some new marketing photos taken. My plan was to use them as my profile picture on multiple social media platforms and also for new business cards and Family Constellations postcards. When I first received the edited photos, I was not thrilled. I thought perhaps I was just being overly self-critical as we all tend to be when it comes to pictures of ourselves. But when I showed them to at least a dozen friends and trusted colleagues, the best and most frequent comment I heard was, “They’re not bad.” Although “not bad” is better than “not good,” it wasn’t the response I was hoping for. Sadly, I agreed with them. One of my best friends told me that she couldn’t connect with my eyes in the photos. Another friend said the photos didn’t even look like me. That’s a problem. Not one person said, “Wow! Those are great photos! They really capture you.”
Needless to say I was very frustrated. Not only did I feel like I had wasted my money, but I still needed new photos before I could print new postcards and business cards. I was back at square one. A few people suggested I ask the photographer to retake the pictures. This seemed totally out of the question to me. After all, he fulfilled his part of the deal. He took a bunch of photos, I picked two that I liked, he retouched them and sent me the files a few days later. If I was unhappy, I should have said something the day of the shoot.
I tried very hard to make peace with the situation, but every time I saw that charge on my bank statement I felt resentment. Since I paid for them, should I just use these photos for now? After all, “they weren’t bad.” But they weren’t good either. The resentment grew each time I showed the pictures to someone new and got the same response. Cleary I needed a shift in perception. If I were the photographer, wouldn’t I want my customer to be happy? A happy customer tells friends about their experience. I have found word of mouth to be the best marketing tool ever. With the pictures I had, I certainly wasn’t going to recommend him. Was it fair to not let him know I was dissatisfied? Why was I reluctant to request a reshoot? That was the million dollar question, or at least the hundred and twenty dollar question.
After a little soul searching, I discovered the hundred and twenty dollar answer. I’m the kind of guy that does not like to make waves. Let me rephrase that. I’m the kind of guy that only wants to make peaceful, joyful waves, not annoying, confrontational waves. I’ll never forget an analogy that Rev. Chris Jackson shared at Unity on the Bay one Sunday. He proposed that we are all like boats traveling through a harbor. What kind of wake do you want to make? Do you race through the harbor causing all of the other boats to rock and sway violently, or do you gracefully travel through the harbor barely causing a ripple? I know my answer is definitely the latter.
However, this situation gave me an opportunity to see something about myself more clearly. My strong commitment to not make waves for others can actually cause the little boat in the harbor of my soul to rock and sway violently. That doesn’t feel good either. Was there a way to ease the waves both inside and outside? A Course in Miracles teaches that only situations where everybody wins is a real win. Couldn’t I be the presence of peace and let the photographer know I wasn’t happy with the pictures? I didn’t have to blame him for my dissatisfaction, or demand my money back. What if I spoke lovingly and honestly about the feedback I received? And what if I took responsibility for my part in the quality of the photos?
Truth be told, I was not thinking about what I wanted to project to future clients during that photo session. I was thinking things like: How long will this take? I have to get an oil change after this. Gee, this stool is uncomfortable. I feel like I’m balancing on a unicycle. I hope I don’t fall off. I wonder if my collar is crooked? Am I smiling too much? I want to look friendly, yet professional. Guess what. That’s exactly what it looks like I’m thinking in those photos! This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from A Course in Miracles:
Only what you have not given can be lacking in any situation.
I know. Sometimes this can be a difficult truth to own, but if you spend some time reflecting on this quote, I think you will find it to be true. I had no one else to blame for what showed up in those photos except me. I truly wanted to turn this into a win/win situation, so on Monday I put my hand on my heart, took a deep breath, asked Spirit to help me choose the best and most loving words, and then I dialed the number to the photography studio.
The same perky woman that I spoke with originally answered the phone. I told her who I was and why I was calling. I also shared how difficult it was for me to make this phone call. Although she was surprised and a tiny bit defensive to hear what my friends said about the photos, I think my vulnerability allowed her to soften. I gave her my web address so she could see the picture I was currently using. When she saw me wearing a more casual shirt at the beach she asked if maybe my friends were not used to seeing me in a dress shirt. I guess that was a fair question, but I told her it wasn’t the shirt. It was me. After a little more dialog, she graciously asked if I’d like to come in to reshoot the photos. Nervously I said, “yes.” I was so grateful there was an opening the very next day. I certainly did not want to be thinking about this for another whole week!
The next morning I made sure to do my yoga practice. Yoga always puts me in a peaceful, centered place. After yoga I had a great coaching call with a new client. That added some joy to my heart and reminded me why I was getting these photos in the first place! I gave myself plenty of time between appointments to avoid having to rush to the studio. Furthermore, I did not schedule anything after the photo shoot so there would be no sense of urgency while I was there. Before leaving my apartment I grabbed my rose quartz angel and placed it in my pocket for some extra loving energy. I felt guided to listen to the celestial music of Steven Halpern on the way there while imagining that the photographer and the studio manager were earth angels whose mission was to assist me in shining my inner light. It sure felt like I did everything I could to be in a joyful, loving, and peaceful state of mind when I arrived at that studio.
Things got off to an interesting start. As soon as I walked in the perky studio manager said, “Oh. Your’e wearing the same shirt.” I laughed and reiterated that it wasn’t the shirt that was the problem, it was me. I thanked her and the photographer profusely for letting me try this again. I was so glad that the photographer did not seem annoyed to see me again. In fact, he was extra accommodating. Not only had he looked at the photo on my website, but he also came up with a plan to capture an image very similar to that one using different camera angles and lighting. I don’t remember if I mentioned the precarious stool to the studio manager, but I was delighted to see a shorter more comfortable stool that allowed me to plant my feet firmly on the ground. I intended to ask the photographer if I could stand for a few of the shots this time, but I didn’t have to because he recommended it first! Most importantly, I remembered to be present and to consciously shine light through my eyes and smile. I thought about the messages I wanted to convey to anyone who might see these pictures. “You are loved. You are beautiful. You are not alone. You are pure spirit. You are light. You are a miracle.”
What a different experience I had this time! I am trusting it will show in the new photos. I’ll let you decide in a few weeks when I start using them. I certainly learned some valuable lessons from all of this. With the help of Spirit, any situation can be turned into a win/win. It is possible to be the presence of peace and ask for what I want. And it’s true that only what I have not given can be lacking in any situation.
Could you use some help navigating your boat through stormy waters? Is your wake anything but peaceful? Both Life Coaching and Family Constellations can bring more grace to your life. Please visit my website for more information about both of these powerful opportunities.
This week I invite you to notice what’s missing in your picture, and then give it!