Stop Judging Yourself

Who is usually your worst critic? Am I terribly wrong to think it may be yourself? At least talking for myself; I sure don’t get as harsh critique from anybody but myself. Maybe not right away, but at some point I do get at myself for not having done my best. More often that I like to think.

When I am out there shooting, I usually get that great feeling of being completely present in the moment, and get sucked into whatever I am photographing. It’s what I call entering the tunnel—which I wrote about in the post Tunnel Vision some time ago. If things work out alright while shooting—when I actually enter that tunnel of creativity and concentration—I know after the session is over, that I haven gotten some pictures that will work out fine and might even be quite good.

But no matter how inspired I feel out in the field, whenever I come back and look at the pictures for the first time, I always get disappointed. Fortunately enough I know that with time, usually if I put the pictures aside for a couple of days or even weeks so that I get disconnect from the moment of shooting (and if I have the luxury of time), I will start looking at them differently—and I might start to see the potential in some of them. Still, sometimes, even after having been in the creative tunnel while shooting, I end up with a result that I am really unhappy about. None of the pictures captured the moment or the mood or the emotional context of whatever I was shooting. It’s always very disappointing to have to say to yourself; you did a lousy job.

When I am on assignment I cannot be in this place, and I know enough about photography to make things work so that a client will be satisfied. But it’s usually not during assignments I push myself beyond the limits of myself—at least not without playing it safe for the majority of the shots. It’s with my own projects things can really go completely wrong. And that’s when I become most disappointed with myself. It’s so easy then to backtrack and do the safe thing, save yourself from your own harsh critique. Why go there, when it doesn’t work anyway? I know now that I need to overcome that feeling. It’s almost exactly when things go wrong that I might be on the break of something completely new in my way of shooting. We are all so eager to dismiss ourselves. If the result isn’t perfect we love to give ourselves a slap in the face. You say to yourself: Stay away! Do what you know will work! Or even; stop doing this, because you aren’t good enough! Remember last week’s post about how destructive perfection can be?

Rather, we should say to ourselves: Stop judging yourself. Things go wrong from time to time—in all aspects of life. No big deal. Instead of coming down hard on yourself, try to learn from the experience, and if there is nothing to learn because it was all just a very wrong turn, then step back and give yourself some space. You don’t need to judge yourself so hard. You can’t always expect to please yourself as a creator. The fact is that some of your creations you will like—others not. But don’t stop doing what you are doing for that reason. It’s just like people; you don’t stop meeting people because there are those you don’t like.

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Stop Judging Yourself


Who is usually your worst critic? Am I terribly wrong to think it is maybe you? At least talking for myself; I sure don’t get as harsh critique from anybody but myself. When I am out there shooting, I usually get that great feeling of being completely present in the moment, and get sucked into whatever I am photographing. It’s what I call entering the tunnel – which I wrote about in the post Tunnel Vision some time ago. If things work out alright while shooting – when I actually enter that tunnel of creativity and concentration – I know after the session is over, that I haven gotten some pictures that will work out fine and might even be quite good.

But no matter how inspired I feel out in the field, whenever I come back and look at the pictures for the first time, I always get disappointed. Fortunately enough I know that with time, usually if I put the pictures aside for a couple of days or even weeks so that I get disconnect from the moment of shooting (and if I have the luxury of time), I will start looking at them differently – and I might start to see the potential in some of them. Still, sometimes, even after having been in the creative tunnel while shooting, I end up with a result that I am really unhappy about. None of the pictures captured the moment or the mood or the emotional context of whatever I was shooting. It’s always very disappointing to have to say to yourself; you did a lousy job.

When I am on assignment I cannot be in this place, and I know enough about photography to make things work so that a client will be satisfied. But it’s usually not during assignments I push myself beyond the limits of myself – at least not without playing some of the shots on the safe side, but it’s with my own projects things can really go completely wrong. And that’s when I become most disappointed with myself. It’s so easy then to backtrack and do the safe thing, save yourself from your own harsh critique. Why go there, when it doesn’t work anyway? I know now that I need to overcome that feeling. It’s almost exactly when things go wrong that I might be on the break of something completely new in my way of shooting. We are all so eager to dismiss ourselves. If the result isn’t perfect we love to give ourselves slaps in the face. Stay away! Do what you know will work! Or even; stop doing this, because you aren’t good enough!

I say (to myself): Stop judging yourself. Things go wrong from time to time – in all aspects of life. Instead of coming down hard on yourself, try to learn from the experience, and if there is nothing to learn because it was all just a very wrong turn, then step back and give yourself some space. You don’t need to judge yourself so hard. You can’t always expect to please yourself as a creator. The fact is that some of your creations you will like – others not. But don’t stop doing what you are doing for that reason. It’s just like people; you don’t stop meeting people because there are those you don’t like.

Happy Holidays


Christmas is soon approaching and with that a time of sharing, love and appreciation. For most people it’s a time of gathering and reconnecting, a time for the family, a time when we put aside old conflicts and show compassion and care for each other instead. Christmas is also celebration and good food, presents, the glow in the eyes of children, singing, excitement, relaxation, good company and prayer and spirituality.

At the same time Christmas is one of the toughest times for those who have no family, for those who live on the fringes of the regular society, for those who cannot afford presents to their children, for those who live in despair, for those who starve – for all those for which Christmas is a reminder of all what they don’t have. We who have may use Christmas to somehow show compassion and love for those who don’t have. That would really be within the notion of what Christmas is supposed to be. I would like to challenge you all – and myself included – to do at least one good dead, and it doesn’t have to be big, that will make one or more of those for which Christmas is a hard time, feel somewhat part of the celebration, feel somewhat part of the sharing that Christmas is suppose to be.

On a personal level I will use the opportunity to thank everybody of you, who have followed this blog and given feedback and tremendous support, who have given so much of yourselves through my blog. You have truly inspired me to keep posting and make me feel what I am doing is appreciated and more than just scribbles for myself.

Finally, in a seasons of gifts and presents, I have been given a beautiful present by the blogger Being Arindam. He has awarded me with The Rudolph Award. I sincerely want to thank him for the nomination. I will get back to it in more details in a later post.

For now: Merry Christmas to all of you.

The Courage to Create

As photographers we all want to be creative. For me understanding creativity or more correctly to explore the realms of creativity is so important that I even have created (excuse the pun) a blog about it. Thus this site; where the main theme basically is creativity; that is finding out what creativity really is, how the creative process works and how we can stimulate this creative process in our work. I have no answers to post but I am just trying to walk this road of more or less unknown territory of which we all have so many views, some more qualified than others. Of course creativity is the driving force behind our attempts to make lasting images, to articulate our innermost thoughts, dreams, worries, concerns or ideas of the world through the language of photography (since we after all are talking about photography here), it’s the driving force with which we express ourselves and what we as human beings stand for. But it’s also intimidating – at least can be at times. When we try to force or squeeze creativity into being, when we so want to be creative that instead it vanishes into thin air, then it becomes an inhibition. Because we cannot force it, we can’t even think about it while being in the moment of creation, without it fading away. It’s like a divine spirit, it’s there but we can’t capture it, and the more we try the more it will slip away instead. When we really try to be creative, that is when we are the least. But with trust, patience, honesty and humility, and without expectations, the divine spirit of creativity eventually will show up – for all of us. The excellent photographer David duChemin talks a lot about the muse in his blog (and if you haven’t checked it out yet, I strongly recommend you to do so here). One place he writes: «Don’t worry about getting inspired, being original, or any of the other things that haunt the creative mind. The muse will show up, she always does».

But what is this muse? What is creativity? Many bright minds have spent long hours trying to find an answer. Some might have come very close, not necessarily all by themselves, but their combined wisdom does say quite a bit about this very abstract and yet so very forceful spirit. As for myself I only know that creativity is an underlying, in-dwelling force infusing all of life, included ourselves. A lot of us lose contact with this creative force, though, when we grow out of childhood. And why should we bother about it? Why even try to ride this power that can be so evasive and so demanding? «Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money», according to Brenda Uelanda, now passed away journalist, editor, freelance writer, and teacher of writing, best known for her book If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit. Or as the writer and poet Alain Arias-Misson puts it: «The purpose of art is not a rarefied, intellectual distillate – it’s life, intensified, brilliant life».

One more thing I know about creativity: It doesn’t come by itself. You can’t sit down and wait for creativity. The only way it shows up is by working, and usually by working hard. Not only do we have to work and work hard, but for the muse to really show up, we have to challenge ourselves during the work, we have to go down that road we don’t even dare to. Such as George Bernard Shaw stated in a letter to the violinist Jascha Heifetz, that the authentic creation is an active battle with the gods. In other words; to be creative takes courage. The American existential psychologist Rollo May has written a very reflective and philosophical book about this, called nothing but The Courage to Create. In this book May not only elaborates on the courage to create, but also tries to define what creativity is – and strongly connects it with the same courage: «The Creative Courage is the discovery of new forms, new symbols, new patterns on which society can be built», all according to Rollo May. Of course it’s a very intellectual statement, but I still find it compelling. Anyway, according to him the fundamental purpose of the creative process is to express one’s inner vision and the spiritual meaning or understanding of one’s culture. For me this is really the driving force behind what we do. Why we photograph, or paint, dance, compose, sing, perform or whatever we do. Creativity is, put simple, bringing something new into being. The reward itself. A reward, though, that it will only come to us if we don’t force it, if we let it come to us, through work and an open mind.

In many ways it’s just like love, isn’t it?