How hitting rock bottom in business made me happier.

#bestjobever #ilovemyjob #lifeisamazing #seizetheday #lifeisgood #happy #content  These are all fabulous hashtags that I am sure all of you, as I do, wish we could genuinely apply to our every day lives.  Can we?  I’m going to take a minute to be completely honest with you about what happened to me earlier this year.  Now because this goes against the “image is everything” mindset, it makes me feel incredibly vulnerable to share this.  Early on in this business I was told that the image I put out matters more than reality.  I quickly learned that I just had to be genuine because faking an image that is not me wasn’t something I could do.  What you see is what you get with me, it is who I am.  With that said, of course I share mostly the good stuff and keep the hard stuff guarded.  If I share the hard stuff, will this make me look weak?  Will others think less of me?  Will my clients think less of me?  I’m not perfect, this I promise you, but I try really hard to live a life with a good heart and integrity.

I started my business 5 years ago this past January.  It has been an incredible journey and grew quicker than I anticipated, although slower than many others.  Every year my business has continued to grow.  I work very hard to juggle family life and business like so many of you.  Last year was my biggest year and I pushed myself incredibly hard to the point of tears.   I said yes more than I wanted to because we had big dreams (that ended up not coming to fruition) and I often worried that the minute I started saying “No”, my business would crumble.  I couldn’t let that happen.  I needed this job.  I love this job.  So I pressed on with all I had and was left utterly exhausted and resentful at the end of the year.  I was burned out, toasted, drained emotionally and physically.  I had met my rock bottom.  Can you relate?

finding balance as a photographer and mom

I have an incredible husband who has always been my biggest cheerleader and supporter.  I looked back on the year gone by and sure, I was proud of my business and how hard I worked.  I didn’t know I had that in me, quite frankly.  Then I considered the year more and what I gave up in order to run that business.  I love my clients, most are like extended family and I truly value them.  However, my children and husband come first.  But had they come first this past year?  I was so ashamed to say the answer was no.  I was saying “No” to the wrong people.  As I sobbed on my husband’s shoulders I said, “I don’t know if I can do this anymore.  It is so much and I’ve been letting my family down.  I’m not happy.”  My husband cares about my happiness above all and he said, “Do what makes you happy and I will be happy.”

So now what?  I needed to give this time and figure out what I truly wanted.  So I said, “Alright, for the next week I’m taking off, legit off.  No work or learning.”  I made it a day, ONE DAY!  Then I was right back at it.  This told me something huge.  I cared about this more than I realized, even after feeling so beaten.  I couldn’t give it up.  I was meant to do this, it’s in my heart and always on my mind.  So it was settled, no giving up on this baby.

However, something still needed to change.  My hear says my priority is my family, yet I wasn’t living my life to fulfill that.  I was putting my business above my family I’d guess 70/30.  I wanted it to be more 60/40 in favor of family because my business is still very important to me and my family needs it.  I needed to start finding balance that put my family first.  Here is what I decided to do:

  1. CUT BACK!  This was the most exciting and scariest decision.  I needed to take on less work so I could better manage the work load I had and be given more time with my family. I had to start saying “NO” to work and “YES” to family.  Getting more family time is great!  Will saying no to the work hurt my business?  Will I lose clients or risk slowing down the momentum and losing everything I worked so hard for?  I really hope that doesn’t happen, but I have to face that fear.  I am no good to anyone if I’m so exhausted an unhappy.  I have to try to put my family first.  I’m still taking A LOT of work, but just not in overtime mode like last year.  I’m at the point where I’m basically booked for the year and that is so exciting!  My heart has so much relief in it.  Is there room for more work?  Sure, but at what cost?
  2. SET WORK HOURS.  Oh this is a tough one and I’m sure any small business can relate to this.  Everything relies on you! There is always so much to do.  If you don’t take time off and solid days off at that, you will work yourself to the point where you resent your work for stealing your life.  That is what was happening to me.  I was turning into Crystal the photographer and business owner… period… Everything had to wait for HER.  Well, not any more, there is more than one Crystal here now and I have to be sure there is room for both mom and photographer.  It is easier for my husband who clocks in and out.  He has two different parts to his day and life.  I’m now defining that for myself and while it isn’t perfect and has to be somewhat fluid and flexible, I’m already much happier.
  3. VACATION.  I’ve discussed with my husband that a family vacation every year is a MUST.  We will book and pay for that before any other home projects or things we want to do.  We need that time away.  I give up so many weekends during peak season (May-October) which means giving up family time together.  So if I am going to do that, I must know that we will get time away from home together to make up for it.

So it wasn’t that I hated my work or my life, I hated the lack of boundaries and balance.  I felt that my life had gotten out of sync with my heart.  My life’s goal is not to be a famous, top 10, the best, most desired, most popular, {insert similar adjectives here} photographer in the state/country/world.  Yet, I was putting my work first as though that was my goal.  My life’s goal is to know that I showed my kids they were my #1.  That I taught them compassion, how to love with their whole heart and to be good people.  I want to leave this world without regret.  I want to leave the hashtags I listed in the beginning on as many days of my life as possible.  So I needed to refocus my life around my priorities.

So if you are facing a similar struggle in your life where you don’t feel happy, it’s possible your priorities are out of sync with your life.  Take some time to evaluate and make any changes you can to fix it.  I have read so many photographers who have said that their lives changed the minute they started saying no and I always thought I couldn’t do the same.  Well, I’m here to say I can do the same and so can you!  I cannot begin to express the amount of contentment and peace I have found with my life since making this decision back in January. That along with always looking for ways to be grateful about even the smallest of things or looking for the positive in things that aren’t going right.  I hope this makes me a better mom first and better photographer second.

#ilovemyjob #ilovemylife #familyfirst #truehappineslieswithinyou

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