I attended a photography retreat this past week and it's one of my yearly industry conferences that I go to for learning and inspiration. This was my fourth time attending, and this year was different. Every year prior I went for learning as my #1 goal. This year, my #1 goal was to step outside of my comfort zone and to speak as part of the faculty for the very first time in this intimate setting. The good news is -- I did it and I survived (sweaty arm pits and all)!
I stood there and shared my journey with a class of about 50 or more attendees. I took them through my past 10 years as a photographer and we discussed all the challenges, struggles, triumphs and accomplishments I experienced as an artist, and most importantly as a human being. I shared my deepest fears and my hopes with each individual in the room. To say I was nervous was an understatement, yet I did it anyway. I believed inside of me that my message mattered. That I needed to be heard.
What I didn't know was how it would be received. That was the scary part for me. That was the part that gave me the most anxiety. I took the leap of faith anyway, and I am so glad that I did!
Here are a few of the things that really stuck out to me after three full days of learning, vulnerability and sharing…
- We are all in this together. We all experience suffering, anxiety, fear, and worry about all of the what-ifs in life and in business.
- Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable means we are inviting real connection and community in.
- Being YOUnique is not only acceptable at Inspire, it is encouraged. Choose authenticity. #BEYOU
- Asking for help takes courage. We all need to seek advice from our mentors or peers without the fear of judgement more often.
- Sharing our gratitude can do a world of good, not only for ourselves but also for the individuals who need to hear the impact that they had or those who might need to invite grace and joy into their hearts.
I am still in awe over what we experienced together at Inspire Photo Retreats. I also put together a list of my top 5 reasons why I loved Inspire Photo Retreats 2014:
1. Watching my friends (who have never been to Inspire) all embrace the community I have come to know and love over the past 4 years, and experience the inspiration and growth they needed for themselves.
2. Creating my Manifesto in Vivid & Brave and witnessing the power of other attendees owning their beliefs or strengths, and the things you should know if we are going to be BFFs.
3. Learning from my mentor and instructors about the things I could be doing better as a business owner, photographer, creative and human being. I am ready to tackle them all and I'm so grateful for my continued learning and stretching by my peers and industry leaders! #DREAMMUNITY
4. Mentoring Erin and seeing the spark in her eyes as she begins to build the business of her dreams! And I am so looking forward to my upcoming post-Inspire chats with Ashley, Rachel and Julia. Let's continue to support and empower each other!
5. Conquering my fears of being judged and never being heard by speaking for the first time in a setting like this. Not for one second did I regret sharing. The attendees (and planners) allowed me to be the most vulnerable I have ever been in public. They allowed me to heal a part of me in a way I never thought possible.
Did you happen to catch my class while you were at Inspire? I would love to hear your thoughts or feedback in the comments below, and thank you a million times over for all of the hugs, kind words and support afterwards. It was an incredibly overwhelming and humbling experience and my cup is still overflowing from it. I am so very grateful for all of you who shared similar stories with me (you know who you are). I hope that each and every one of you keeps in touch! :-) Here's my graphic from the presentation and I hope this pushes you to take that leap!
Are you a photographer who is curious about what happens at Inspire or what it looks like from the inside? Do you find yourself "stuck" or wondering how you will ever find a community of like-minded people who will welcome you? Watch this video below from my friend Richard Esposito, and I triple dog dare you to join us next February 2015 in Portland, Maine! [video width="640" height="360" mp4="http://sarahlehbergerphoto.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Inspire_2014_Video_blog.mp4"][/video]
To the Inspire planning team, who took a chance on me and thought that my story mattered and was worth sharing with this community, thank you. I am eternally grateful and so proud to be a part of something so powerful and real. In my eyes, this is the best photography conference or retreat for anyone looking to grow, be inspired, and be valued as a photographer... and more importantly as a person.