Fear is your Friend

“It’s not a good time unless someone pees their pants.”

This was the opening for my presentation at Inspire Photo Retreats last week in Sturbridge, MA. If there was anything people would remember from it, it was that statement (and my way cool 5th grade school picture with the laser beam background).

A few months back, I was pregnant with my now 7 week old son, when a dear friend and fellow photographer, Sarah Lehberger, told me about Inspire. She mentioned this intimate retreat style conference where photographers in the Northeast (and farther) gather to teach, learn and inspire others. It was life changing, and they had a call for speakers. Intrigued, I decided to throw the idea out to my husband that I was “thinking” of submitting a proposal to speak (translation: I already knew that I was going to).

“What are the odds that they’d pick me?!” Being the supportive husband that he is, he told me to go for it. And I did.

A month later, an email dropped in my inbox from Mark Higgins, co-producer of Inspire, that it had been accepted. I must have stared at my computer in disbelief for a good 5 minutes. I had been accepted. Little did I know, what that REALLY meant. I responded with complete elation that I was so excited to be a part of Inspire, that I think I peed my pants a little. In my defense, I was around 7 months pregnant (my moms out there know how that goes) and he responded that my email made his day. Thank God, because I just told a complete stranger that I peed my pants!

The conversation when my husband got home from work that day went something like “Oh, honey, do you remember when I said I was going to submit a proposal to speak at Inspire and that they probably wouldn’t accept it? Yeaaahhhhh, you’re going to need to take some vacation days…”

I was accepted. Suddenly, fear had filled me. I failed public speaking in college. My voice gets all shaky and I talk with my hands a lot. What if my presentation completely sucked?! These people would laugh at me. There’s no turning back now, I made a commitment.


Fear is your friend.

I realized that fear only wins when you allow it. When it stops you from doing what you believe in. When it stops you from spreading your message and purpose. Fear only has power when you let it debilitate you.


Fast forward, after coming home with my son from the hospital, I had 6 weeks until Inspire. 6 WEEKS. I was about to leave him and my 4 year old daughter to speak and I was never more terrified in my life. I was in “new mommy” mode, adjusting to life with a toddler and a newborn.

The day came when I had to leave and miraculously, my daughter was ok with me leaving (for that moment) and I made the solo drive up to Sturbridge. What happened in the next three days, was indeed life changing for me. I walked in knowing no one, and I left leaving with new friends and a sense of belonging.



The three days I attended this retreat, I hugged, I laughed, I shed tears, and I was lifted up by this community of photographers. We are all in this together. We are not alone. We are accepted.

During my presentation I told everyone that I believe in tickling my daughter until she pees her pants. I know, I’m a mean mommy some may think. But what I explained during my presentation was that getting my daughter to the point of sheer hysteria that she yells at me “Mommy! You made me pee my pants!” and she runs off to the bathroom, is a WIN to me. That feeling of hysteria, of laughter, of joy, and yes sometimes pain and vulnerability, is what life is all about. It is worth it. Life is too short to let fear and what others may think of you, stop you from following your dreams.

I was completely nervous during my presentation. I fumbled my notes. I took long pauses and yes, my voice got shaky at times. But it didn’t matter. I had the opportunity to share with others why I do what I do, and hopefully, inspire others to look within themselves and find their own voice, as others had inspired me. I am truly blessed to say that I celebrate individuality in children. It allows me to fill them with self-worth, and in turn, helps me see it within myself.

During the Vivid & Brave journaling class, we were asked to write on our name tags a positive statement about ourselves and why. It is freaking HARD to write something positive about yourself. I wrote:

“I am Worthy, because I will never stop fighting for what I believe in.”

And it’s true. I believe in the kids I work with, I believe in living life being genuinely happy, and I finally (FINALLY!) can say that I believe in myself. It took me a long time to get to that point. I don’t have to worry about what others may think of me. Fear will not hold me back anymore. When fear comes creeping around the corner, I will welcome it again with open arms. Because now I know how to fight it.

Inspire was a true example of love. Love others around you, love yourself and love what you do and the mark you choose to put on this world. I am so grateful that I didn’t let fear stop me from being a part of this amazing community.

You are accepted for who you are. You are enough.

Inspire 2014 Photo Slideshow by Kate McElwee Photography

Inspire 2014 Video by Richard Esposito of Caprisio