„Nothing is impossible.
The word itself says ‘I‘m possible’.“
May the expectations will always be in your favor.
Four years ago. At Berlin‘s central station I was meeting up with a friend. It was a time of change for us both. She had finally found a job after years of chaos. I was in the first month of my sabbatical.
The last month had been quite confusing for me. But finally, I had seen a glimpse of light in my future and had figured out in which direction I wanted to head. Job- and life-wise.
We walked through the station and I told my friend that I wanted to work as a fulltime photographer. Not for fun. Not as a side-gig. Fulltime. As in „a real job“. And then she answered and I was dumbfounded.
„You are never going to make it. My brother tried to make it work as a photographer and he didn’t succeed.
So you’re not going to make it either.“
The possible in the impossible.
Life forces us to deal with a lot of expectations. Parents expect us to behave and bring home good grades. Our boss expects us to work in favor of the company and multiple the companies revenue. Our friends expect us to be available and supportive. Even we have expectations about who we should be and what we should do.
Expectations, expectations, everywhere.
But with all these expectations flying in our direction, we are also bombarded with a permanent overflow of limitations. Foreign limitations as I called them in the headline. Because expectations are not just things we are supposed to do to or standards we should be living up to.
They also have a very limiting element in it. Think back to your childhood experiences. What were the stories people told about you? Did they expect you to be loud? Unsporty? Interested in a certain kind of books? How did that make you feel? How did it limit the way you see yourself?
Getting back to my experience with the friend: Her expectation was that I can’t have success. Because she knew someone that tried and failed she developed the expectation that everyone else will fail too.
Navigating on the ocean of expectation.
As I mentioned in this blog post I grew up with a lot of limiting beliefs and was constantly labeled as this or that. Try to imagine being a very chatty person and a fierce lover of foreign music and people tell you that you are not in any kind talented when it comes to language learning.
For me taking my sabbatical was a way of figuring out who I was besides all of these labels and limitations that people through into my direction.
The first two years felt like I was failing terribly. When I told people that I wanted to take pictures for a living, they thought of it as a very expensive hobby. Even though I was taking photography classes and kept my camera with me on every occasion, people still came up to me and educated me about my cute hobby.
People with no photography background whatsoever told me how and where I was failing with photography and what I should do better. The more I tried to take myself seriously, the more people were doubting me and threw their expectations in my direction.
„You can‘t make a good living as a photographer.“ „Everyone can be a photographer these days.“ „Keep it as a cute hobby and do something serious.“ „Your camera takes good pictures.“ „I can see that you try to take aesthetical images.“ „How you thought about your future? You need to find someone who supports you financially.“
At first, I really tried to argue with people and make them understand the vision that I had for myself in my mind. I listened. I took their criticism and worry seriously and with that getting more insecure about my future by the hour.
On the ocean of expectations, I was rowing in circles.
Fail. But fail better.
So I realized as long as my belief system is so fixed and clotted with „I can’t do this“-s and „I can’t do that“-s, I will always be steering in circles. I needed some sort of limitation-myth-buster. And started to go to see my favorite therapist.
And damn she was good. She made me realize that I am so full with fixed and heavy dogmas, my mind was the best garden soil for others to plant their flowers of expectations (and thereby limitations).
Still – and we are now in year three of my sabbatical – expectations, and limitations, beliefs and worries were flying my way. I could see now how they triggered my inner Angst. But what I failed to see – and failed to understand – was that people weren’t talking about me.
The „I‘m“ in impossible.
The last piece I was missing to start walking away from these limitations and the Damocles sword of „impossible“ was a very simple realization.
Are you familiar with the saying:
„When people tell you that something is impossible, it means that it is impossible for them and not for you?“
There is another pretty similar saying that goes somewhere along the lines of „limitations people put on you are actually limitations they see for themselves“.
I read these quotes in different variations and saw them across the internet on many occasions. Still, I really needed two things to happen before I had my own personal epiphany and lightbulb moment. Because reading doesn’t necessarily mean understanding.
What happened first was that I broke up with my former boyfriend. Remember the one limiting belief of „you can’t support yourself with photography“? I lived up to that. Went on vacation, didn’t check my balance, ignored everything.
Which led to chaos. The bank was very disappointed and also very unhelpful in solving my problem. That in all fairness I created myself. I didn’t want to ask my employer for help. Not my ex. And especially not my family, who heavily promotes the belief of “You can only have a solid income if you work as an employee”.
Turn your head around.
Five months later – after tanking through and holding my head high – I had fixed my balance and realized: The problem is not that you can’t support yourself as a freelance photographer. The problem was me living like a rockstar with the financial mindset of a starving artist.
So I changed my marketing strategy and used Google AdWords. Before that, I was ignorant and arrogant enough to expect Google AdWords being for people with a not so good brand reputation. (Sidenote: If anyone is looking for a high horse to buy I have one for sale.)
After that, I got booked and exposed to more potential clients. Lifehack: Always review your own expectations.
But the moment it really hit me was when a friend of mine asked me if she should join the intermediate beach volley training. After half a year of not having played in a regular fashion. And my first impulse was to tell her „no, how dare you?“. Because I was putting myself, my level of fitness and my expectations on her.
Besides me being a bad friend – good friends think first and then answers, hello impulse control – I made her decision all about myself. I wouldn’t have dared to book that course if I wouldn’t have had training in half a year. I would have thought that I wouldn’t be fit enough. These are my limitations. Not hers.
Free yourself from limitations.
These two incidents made me realize that I am as limited and narrowminded as the next person. Right now my biggest challenge is to finally get my university degree and create a spot for myself to work as remote, free and efficient as possible.
In this economy with his ever-changing work environment, new technologies and new job descriptions having these mental roadblocks only lead to me getting back to my old job. Which would then lead to me being again super-unhappy.
I need to change my mindset from limited to wider and more open. With realizing that I also react in the same way – putting my limitations on others – I can now start changing that habit. I can now take a step back and start to think about what I am doing. And I can start exploring the unknown.
So that the Audrey Hepburn quote starts to become true: