On Creating Success out of Failure and Feeling Like a Fraud

June 12, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Many of the amazing women I photograph in my studio admit to me, at some point or another, that they have difficulty owning some part of their success and that sometimes they feel like a fraud.

Often these are women who are on the brink of an amazing change in their lives, where they are stepping into their full potential and allowing themselves to be seen and recognized for their true talents.

One of the things that I've learned from them is that the feeling of success can be an elusive thing, and that road is often-times full of feelings of failure.

From the outside these moments of "failure" are often just learning experiences or mid-course corrections. I believe that the only real failure is giving up on ourselves completely.

When I was a corporate financial analyst with a comfortable salary and a 401k I didn't feel like a success. When I decided to quit that job to do something that nourished my soul, I sure as heck didn't feel like a success. I felt like a big fat failure.

In fact I still struggle with the feeling of success. But I am learning that acknowledging my personal wins and losses with gratitude feeds my soul on a level that doesn't necessarily need the "success" label.

Here's a little story for you about creating a big win out of several losses:

This year I was hired to teach a photography course and had to write my instructor bio.

At the beginning of 2014 I was one of the recipients of the Julia Margaret Cameron Award for Women in Fine Art Photography.

Because of that, I could actually write: Jen Kiaba is an international award winning Fine Art Photographer. 

Truth: I have difficulty owning that.

Anyone reading my bio would never know that I almost gave up when creating image that won the award. In fact, creating that image was so littered with failure that I almost gave up on fine art photography completely.

Even though I knew that I had important images within me, begging to be let out, my first three concepts were major failures.

(Loss.)

Then it took me two separate attempts in the studio to get my first image right. I came home after the initial attempt, began editing the image, and then realized that I had shot it incorrectly and to start all over.

(Loss.)

Finally I created something that reflected my original idea and resonated with my soul.

(Win.)
"Hold Your Peace" Fine Art Photograph by Jen Kiaba. Click to purchase print."Hold Your Peace" Fine Art Photograph by Jen Kiaba.Click to purchase print.

Despite being very shy about my personal work, I took as risk decided to enter it into a competition.


"What's the worst that could happen?" I asked myself.

Rejection. (Loss.)
That would hurt...but it wouldn't be the end of the world. (Win.)

So I decided to risk rejection, put myself out there and enter the competition. (Win.)

Months later when I got the email announcing the award winners I deleted it because I had forgotten that I'd even entered the competition.

Later I dug it out of my trash folder, thinking that it would be good for me to see if I recognized any names on the winners list. (I love the thrill of beginning to recognize names in my industry; it makes the landscape feel a little less foreign.)

Then I saw my name.

It didn't register at first. At a second glance I assumed that it must be someone with a similar name, or a typo. They couldn't possibly have meant me.

Then it dawned on me. I was a winner.

Win...?

I spent the rest of the day crying. I felt like a loser, because I felt like a fraud.

For days I expected an email, saying that there had been some mistake, and silly them, they would have never chosen my work for an award. After all, it was work that was deeply rooted in failure.

Part of me was afraid to even announce my win on social media, assuming people would take it as an opportunity to tell me that I wasn't deserving.

But you know what? The revocation email never came. Nor did any nasty backlash on social media.

In fact, I've met some really wonderful people because I was willing to be seen and share my work.

Now I am learning to accept that wins can come out of losses, even the big-fat-almost-giving-up losses. More importantly, it doesn't make me a fraud. It just makes me real and sometimes losing is part of my learning process.

Yes, I still struggle owning the award winning descriptor.

But you know what? I finally put it in my bio, and it's staying there. (Win!)

Now I'd love to hear from you:

What is something that you've turned around from a loss into a win?

Or, what would you do if you got rid of the concepts we have around "failure" and "success" and how would it help you share your gift more authentically with the world?

 
Let me know in the comments below!
 

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