Let me tell you where my head went to on Friday

I have a feeling that not everyone is going to be able to relate to this. I do suspect, however, that a lot of you will, so I really wanted to share this with you.

I sent out a newsletter last week about how full my calendar is at the moment. Partly because I’m so ridiculously excited that my clients are absolutely rocking their marketing and giving their brands a huge boost. Partly because I’m so unbelievably humble and grateful that they’ve put their faith in me (and this is not something I take lightly) and I wanted to say a big thank you.

But mostly because I genuinely wanted to give a heads up that if anyone’s thinking of booking a photo session this autumn, then they shouldn’t think too long before they get in touch because I would hate them to miss out.

Then after it went out I thought more and more about it. (Am I the only overthinker around here or do you do this too?)

What if it sounded like I was just bragging?

They must think I’m a crazy egomaniac!

You know the drill.

(I do have to admit that this is much less of a problem for me now than it used to be, and I’m not this scared little mouse who’s afraid to be heard and afraid to sell herself. But I will admit that I often have to shut up the inner critic that I have in my head and just do this stuff despite the hesitations.)

And this got me thinking.

The divide between running a business and not wanting to put ourselves out there

As business owners we have to put ourselves out there. We have to pitch ourselves as experts and at an absolute minimum let people know that we exist and that we have this special talent, skill or knowledge that can help them.

If we don’t, we don’t get bookings, we don’t sell our products, we don’t make any money, we don’t have a business.

What we end up with is a very expensive and very time-consuming hobby.

Branding photos of photographer Janine Laag

Where do I see this?

I suspect that already some of you are thinking that this doesn’t apply to you.

If it doesn’t, that’s fantastic! I’m so happy for you and I’d love for you to share your tips in the comments below.

But I do see a lot of this in a few different ways.

  • brushing off compliments
  • emails full of apologies and minimising words (‘Sorry for not replying sooner.’ ‘I just wanted to check…’ Sorry to bother you, but…’ ‘I was wondering…’)
  • negative self-talk and down-playing our achievements (‘It was just good luck…’)
  • not celebrating our wins
  • jealousy and a feeling that you need to compete
  • hesitating to share new ideas
  • not daring to call ourselves an expert and speak like an authority in our field
  • not sharing photos of ourselves (‘I’m not famous, why should I share photos of me?’)
  • worrying what our family and friends will think of us if we stand up tall, call ourselves an expert and sell our unique skills and knowledge
  • not daring to pursue our ambitions and dreams
  • negative self-talk and down-playing our achievements

How many of these can you check off?

I’m guilty of most of them.

From tall poppy syndrome to jantelagen

I grew up with this concept of tall poppy syndrome in Australia.

The idea is that if one poppy (vallmo in Swedish) grows higher than the rest, we need to cut it down to size so it fits in with the others.

So, when you’re at school and get good grades, you get teased. When you talk about your achievements or ambitions it’s seen as boasting, which is really unattractive. As young girls, we’re encouraged to fit in, shut up, stay small. When someone pays you a complement, you wave it off and tell them how wrong they are, before paying a compliment back to them.

As a compulsive people pleaser and an introvert who soaked up everything like a sponge, I was especially vulnerable and it’s taken a long time to try to rewire how I think.

I’ve been away from Australia for over 15 years now, and I do think that the mindset there is changing. There’s a generational shift that I think heading in the right direction (though I’m sure not everyone would agree).

The funny thing is that I left Australia and tall poppy syndrome for Sweden, where I was introduced to jantelagen.

Same concept, different language.

The ‘rules’ of jantelagen state that you basically shouldn’t think that you’re special or better than anyone. It sounds tragic, doesn’t it? But it rears its ugly head more often that we’d like to admit.

The funny thing is that I only ever hear people trying to build other people up, not knock them down. I don’t know if it’s because of the people I choose to surround myself with, but every day I see and hear beautiful, inspiring women who are celebrating each other, recommending each other and helping to get our voices heard.

I know that what gives me the most confidence is being able to support other people and boost them. I’m more than happy to recommend other photographers and I love being a cheerleader.

So, could it be that jantelagen is disappearing here too, or is it just that I’m in my own bubble where only the best kind of people are allowed in?

Branding photos of photographer Pia Gyllin with a client

There’s enough success for all of us

What I’ve finally learned, though, is that boosting other people doesn’t mean that I’m putting myself down. There’s room for all of us.

Even in the sea of photographers out there, I know that there is only one me with my way of seeing the world and my way of connecting with other people. I know that I’m not the right photographer for everyone, and if I can help to connect the right people with each other I won’t hesitate.

What I do know is that when the right people come together, that’s when magic is created.

A collage of autumn branding photos of interior designer Emma Jägbeck from Oas Design

My tips for getting rid of tall poppy syndrome & jantelagen

I’ve written and re-written this about five times because I keep wanting to write, ‘I’m not an expert, but…’ and things along those lines. (What can I say, I did mention that I’m a work in progress, didn’t I?)

Here are some things that help me.

1. Take action before you feel ready.

I’m actually not a fan of ‘fake it till you make it’, but I’m a firm believer in taking action even when things feel uncomfortable. The confidence will come once you take action, not the other way around. Those things that you think people will think of you? I can almost guarantee they aren’t thinking them. They want to hear what you have to say and how you can help them.

2. Dare to dream that big scary dream.

Want to get published? Want to book a coffee date with someone you look up to in your industry? Want to work with a client you’ve had your eye on? Want to aim for that big income each month that makes your eyes water?

Write it down. Get used to seeing it on paper. Say it out loud to someone close to you, someone who you trust and who supports you. Then make it happen. You can go about it in two ways – you can just take that huge, gigantic leap and make it happen, or you can take baby steps towards it. As long as you’re moving in the right direction.

3. Always go back to your why.

Why did you start your business? What is it that gets you really excited? What do you want for your clients?

Chances are you started out wanting to make life better for other people. Maybe you want to coach them to a healthier lifestyle. Help them find their dream career. Help to make their day-to-day life easier. Help make their homes beautiful and their lives less chaotic.

Whatever it is, remind yourself of that and remember that that is what matters.

By putting yourself out there and making yourself heard you can achieve your why.

(Want to know my why? To give female entrepreneurs the tools and confidence to be the face of their business so they can live their purpose.)

4. Surround yourself with supportive people

You know those people who see the best in you and are more than happy to remind you of it when you doubt it yourself? The ones who tell you to go for it when you hesitate? The ones who will celebrate your wins with you and give you a nudge in the right direction when you need it? Those ones. Stick with them.

5. Do business your way

I never thought the business world was for me. I thought you had to be loud, extroverted and pushy. All of the things that I’m not.

Knowing that I’ve been able to create a business as an empathic introvert and building a business based on genuinely caring about my clients, having deep, genuine conversations and finding my clients’ uniqueness has given me so much confidence.

Just do you. If it’s authentic and comes naturally, you’ll make it work. If other people have negative things to say or think you’re ‘too big for your boots’, that says more about them than you.

A funny branding photo of copywriter Fabiana Nilsson looking over a big cup of tea

What’s this got to do with personal brand photography?

A lot!

First of all, building a personal brand means putting yourself out there. About being the face of your business and making connections. You can’t do this if you don’t dare to speak up and stay small.

I can’t tell you the number of times I meet people who say they want to book a photo session, but they want to lose weight first. They want to wait until they feel better about themselves.

I get it. We want to look our best. I want that for you too.

But the question is what does that mean for you?

Can’t you look your best exactly as you are? I can guarantee that your clients don’t care what the number on your bathroom scale is, if your stomach doesn’t look the way it did 10 years ago, or if you’ve got a few lines on your face. They want to work with you. Exactly as you are. Right now.

It’s not about you!

This might sound counter-intuitive, but it goes back to focusing on your why.

While you’re worried about what other people will think, avoiding sharing photos of yourself because you don’t think people need to see photos of you, avoiding even having your photo taken because you want to look slimmer/younger/better/whatever, your people are out there waiting for you. They want you to come in and solve their problems. Make their lives better/happier/easier/more beautiful/whatever.

Can you just think of how tragic it is that people might miss out on the chance to be helped by you?

So put yourself out there. Share photos of yourself to make genuine connections (and let people know that you exist!), book in that coffee date, contact your dream client, raise your prices, do that presentation.

And I’m genuinely curious, is tall poppy syndrome or jantelagen even a problem for you? Do you have trouble putting yourself out there and calling yourself an expert? Or does all of this seem alien to you? I’d really love to hear both sides, so please leave a comment below.

Photographer Janine Laag smiling and holding a cup of coffee while working at her computer