Overcoming Fear

The Battlefield of Mind and Heart

Me Ra Koh

Every week, I receive emails from women who have a dream to pursue their passion for photography and yet, they are at war on the battlefield of mind and heart.

Someone has said something hurtful in regards to their dream. Some of these women are professionals in the industry. Some are babies, peaking around the curtain, wondering if they want to venture into this land. The dream can be so new, so fragile, that the slightest negativity or criticism feels devastating. The weight bends our heads down. And I truly believe, that some of these dreams die because the dream was too new and vulnerable.

The mistake is that people, myself included, get stuck on the person who hurt us.

In our own pain, we feel limited and out of control. And sometimes this translates into trying to limit and control others. Brian and I know what it’s like to be in deep pain, to feel threatened, to feel out of control. And we have done things we are not proud of in our own efforts to gain back some control in our lives. And yet, I’m so glad that those around us did not focus on our faults, but recognized the situation for what it was.

When someone says something hurtful to us, there could be a million and two reasons for why they said this. If we think the battle is with them, we have lost the battle. The battlefield of mind and heart runs so much deeper.

The truth is what so many of you echoed yesterday. The person who often hurts us is in the midst of their own battle. They are struggling to find freedom, peace and validation like you are, like I am, and everyone else. So here’s the point I’m trying to get to…

We so often miss it. Truth be known…

we are so afraid to believe in our own dreams that when we are criticized we fear…

the criticism is the confirmation to trash our dream. And so the cycle of people giving up on their dreams perpetuates even more.

But the battle is not with the person who hurt us. The battle is within ourselves to believe in ourselves. This is the battle to focus on.

There can be so much negativity in the world when it comes to pursuing our dreams. It’s in the photography industry and everywhere else. But the battle to fight is the battle for your self confidence. The fight to believe you are worthy of all you were created for. You are worthy of seeing your dreams come true, regardless of what your current state of skill or confidence is. This is the battle to focus on. Honestly, this is one of the few battles worth dying for. Dying to your pride and fears. Dying to your list of experiences that prove your dream wrong.

The biggest trick I see many people fall for is that there is no battle. It’s just a problem with them. And oh, this misguided thinking breaks my heart.

Fighting on the battlefield of your dreams is one of the toughest fights you will ever face.

Do you want to see what the battlefield of mind and heart looks like for me?

I stand in the field and see familiar giants on the other side. One of the bigger giants, a bully if you will, goes by the name of Shame. He is a tricky one b/c sometimes he comes over to try and consult with me and pretends to help me. Shame tries to tell me that if I just surrender, he won’t shame me, won’t embarrass me, won’t make a fool of me. He always thinks it’s much better to give up now.

Selfishness stands right next to Shame–ready to tear me to pieces.

She’s nasty. She yells at me from the other side and says I’m selfish to ask for more in my life. I’m selfish to dream as big as I dream. I’m selfish to ask Brian and my kids for support. Why can’t I be thankful for what I have? Who do I think I am?…I told you, she’s nasty.

And then there is the slimy figure of Worry.

He’s not even dressed for battle. Instead, he’s dressed in dirtied linen from all the running back and forth between sides of the battlefield–falling down and groping along the ground–worried he’s going to get hit. He trembles in his speech and points out all the things there are to worry about, all the what if’s, all the risks involved, all the threats, all the people who could be disappointed, all the pain of my past that could be worse in the future, all the everything that is nothing but worry.

Over the years, I have come to find that my battles are not with those that say hurtful things to me–and there have been PLENTY of those people. 😉 The battle is within myself against these giants that know me so well. But I must also add that I am careful with others when I see them in the midst of their own battle. If a certain person has a history of hurting me, I limit my time with them. When I see them, I make sure that I’m ready for battle b/c I will be facing their giants as well as my own. And this, as we all know, can be very exhausting and even defeating.

And yet, as one wise person said to me a few years back, “Me Ra, all I ask and expect of you is to get up and try again tomorrow morning. You don’t have to win tomorrow, but I expect you to go at it again.”

Losing today, winning tomorrow, they come and go.

But as long as we hang in there together, we are that much closer to living our dreams and passions.

Will I see you on the battlefield today? There is a spot open on either side of me! 🙂

To see our day job, visit www.fioria.us.




  1. Dawn Beirnes says:

    this post just made my heart grown so big it literally filled my chest! I want SO bad to pursue photography, but still feel like I have to put everything else first…push my dreams down. My kids are grown, but I still feel the guilt if I don’t continue to do things for them that they are fully capable of doing themselves, financial issues keep me from signing up with a photography school, and then carrying all the worries of bills, keeping everyone in my family happy and content, etc. This post just made me smile and think just maybe….maybe…I can still go for my dream! Thank you so much for these words.

  2. val says:

    i am inspired time after time by what you write. thank you for being an encouraging voice into my life!

  3. john waire says:

    great post me ra. i’m inspired.

    i wish more people spoke/wrote like you. real words. not condescending or critical.

  4. Anne Reuter says:

    Thank you for all your inspiring words! This business can be cruel and I am so glad to know somebody like you who encourages us to keep moving and don’t listen to what those pricks say! I loved photography my whole live long. In my teenager days I used to ask dad for his SLR and gosh was i proud to be allowed to take it and shoot some pictures with it. I love to look at beautiful things, specially pictures so that where my dream started to grow to be able to take these pictures myself. I did it for fun, thought I do a good job and started to look around in the internet to find other photographers, in order to learn and share. At fotocommunity i started to upload pictures and even tried to submit something to the gallery when so-called PRO’s ripped my pictures apart for not correct using of photography rules. Somebody even made fun of me and that i concidered that picutre gallery worthy. So i was really down after reading this.. I wanted to through my camera away and what i loved before, my passion, something so wonderful what kept me up all night playing and being creative turned all sudden into something gray with a bad feeling!
    Finally I talked to my husband about my feelings and that this community made me feel like a looser and kinda took my fun away. And my husband said.. don’t listen to that. It is your passion, you love what you do and there are people who love to look at your pictures. Maybe this guy doesn’t like em but oh well, there will be always somebody who doesn’t like what you do. And do you really think that if this guy would be a pro and super succesfull in his business, that he would sit down and take his time on writing such a stupid comment under your picture?

    All this made me think and i got to the decision, if this guy or these people think that i don’t know the rules they may be right, but i can learn it. So i signed up for an online school and started to search the internet for a better community, great photographer to learn from and tipps on how to make it better. Finally I opened my photography business in June 2007 and i have to say, i might not be the most talented photographer in the world, but i am sure working on getting better every day and every single picture is taken with passion and a huge love for the subject! And so far all my customers were happy!
    So i pretty much have to say thank you to this guy who wanted to take my dream away from me and in reality encouraged me to do it anyway but just with way more passion than i ever had before!

    So please, let nobody tell you that you suck! Cause this is not true.. if it comes from your heart, there is no way in the world that it sucks!

    Gosh this is a long comment.. sorry guys! But i just had to tell my story!

  5. Anita says:

    Once again, your post leaves me in tears and wondering if you are somehow spying on the life of someone that you really don’t even know exists.

    I’m struggling to find my way now that my children are grown and I am still so young with so much life ahead of me. I really believe that photography is a major key to this new phase in life yet worry, shame, selfishness, and a few extras like doubt stand not so far on the other side taunting me, reminding me, even commisserating with me. The people that I meet in real life seem to like my work, but for some reason putting it out here on the internet, where so many photographers I admire and respect might see it and might tell me that I have no business in this business has been a bit more of a challenge.

    I often wonder if in a business where people’s view of your work is so subjective that someone as sensitive as me can make it…but then I believe my sensitivity is part of what helps me capture moments. Such a catch 22.

    Basically, this was a long way of saying thank you Mera and all the commenters, for giving me courage and inspiration on the days (or weeks) where I am unsure if I could find it on my own.

  6. Jen Olsen says:

    I’m definitely right there beside you in the open spot.

    I just wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the inspiring words and sharing with us your words of wisdom…for unconditionally giving to those of us you’ve never seen or met. We, who need a boost every day.

    I adore you Me Ra Koh. Thank you.

  7. denise says:

    Ah, I was expecting to see a post like this waiting for us. 🙂 Your voice is strong and beautiful and truthful and full of courage.

    I DID see the photographer’s comment yesterday and I followed her name to her blog to the ‘artist’ post. It WAS arrogant. Maybe it wasnt her intention but I don’t even see the industry leaders writing something like that.

    I think you’re right – let others fight their own battles – we’re busy with our own.

  8. jeramy says:

    great thoughts me ra.

  9. Kelly says:

    Good golly I feel another hug-fest coming on!!

  10. Aspiring Photographer says:

    When I sent an email to MeRa earlier this week about some things that were making me to hang up my camera strap, I knew that she would have some wonderful advice. I knew that there were probably women dealing with similar things and that this would be a perfect place for us to discuss it. I also knew that MeRa would never share the names of those that were involved, as it would not be fair to them and like she said it was about the experience, not about the people.

    This community is very unique and like Anita said, I too sometimes feel like MeRa is syping on my life when she writes about things that hit so close to home. It just goes to show that so many women are dealing with the same struggles and come to MeRa for advice. She is like our own Ann Landers! This post is one that I will print out and read whenever I see myself heading towards an unhealthy place.

    Women are emotional, we just are, and unfortunately emotions can sometimes get the best of us and lead us to do and say things that we wish we could take back. You partner that with the insecurity and vulnerability we feel as we try and pursue our dream with the voices that sometimes take over and you can easily have a recipe for disaster. While part of me is upset that I let this consume me for the past few days when I should have been doing other things, I definitely feel like I have come out the other side of it in such a better place. I have a much different perspective on things and a new way to look at things. I know see that the real battle is within me, no one else.
    Thank You doesn’t seem like enough MeRa, but Thank You for all that you do.

  11. shawna says:

    I was looking forward to your follow up post to yesterday. So much was shared and expressed and I truly hoped that no one was hurt by it. We are mothers, sisters, friends, women, human. We strive so hard for individuality in our artistry yet crave community and acceptance. Already we have so much in our lives, let alone tending to the creative being within.

    We all have bad days, down on ourselves, down on our friends, our family, our work, emotions that carry over inadvertently into others’ lives, but your thoughts hit it on the nail. The struggle is never truly with others, but with our self.

    I work in retail, and boy if there is one profession that gets the brunt of customers’ bad moods, that’s it. I used to serve people coffee, lines of people grumbling and dishing out money BEFORE their caffeine fix, on their way to work. I learned to dissociate myself from their comments, knowing that I was not actually the root of their discontent. But it’s a lot harder when it’s not coffee you’re serving, but your work, your soul on paper, something you simply cannot separate from.

    And yet, no matter what, you are so right. The battle still with ourselves only. I think you’ve just answered your question from yesterday’s post: to be an artist is to have the courage to try again tomorrow.

  12. jennifer says:

    Oh my gosh Me Ra!! Those same giants stand in my battlefield to!!! Shame, Selfishness, & Worry – just gotta love those guys 🙂

    Seriously, Thank You so much for taking the time to post your thoughts on your blog. I know how busy life can be and it takes time to do things like this. I promise you that it’s worth it and so many people are being blessed by your words of wisdom. I have a little story to share with you – I apologize if it’s long. Today a new photographer in my area called me and asked if she could speak with me in person. I said sure, so we met at my home. I could tell there was something she was dealing with but I had no clue what it could be. She came inside and sat on the couch and tears were close to falling from her eyes. She said “Did you read Me Ra’s blog yesterday?” Unfortunately, I had not read your blog in a few days. She proceeds to tell me about your post and she wanted to make sure that I did not have any negative feelings towards her for starting a photography business. She explained to me that she looks at my photos for inspiration and would never “copy” anything that I did. First of all, I was in shock that I actually inspired someone and second of all, I felt terrible that she would be worried about me being upset with her for something like starting her own photography business. I appreciated her coming to me to make sure there were no “hard feelings” but this just goes to show how “US” – as women, think and worry and feel guilt for things we shouldn’t. I’ve only been in business for one year so I consider my self to be a “newbie”. I learn something new everyday. I look at other photographer’s blogs often for inspiration and I’m so thankful for the one’s that are open to teaching. Thank You Me Ra for being one of them.

  13. I am so inspired by this post. Thank you!

  14. Julie Watts says:

    A laborer works with their hands.
    A craftsman works with their hands AND their mind.
    An artist works with their hands AND their mind AND their Heart.

    That quote totally comforts me and I bet a whole bunch of you out there reading this too…..

  15. I remember when I first started doing professional photography. I was so proud. I would share my work with those closest to me and they would always encourage me and tell me how great I was doing. Then one day I received an email I wasn’t supposed to receive. It was an email between one of my close friends and her husband. They said the most hurtful things about my work. I could not stop crying. I let them both know how badly they hurt me but luckily, I did let them stop me from pursuing my dream. I know it takes time and experience to become a great photographer.

    Me Ra, you inspire me in every way. You give me strength. Thank you for being you!

  16. Amy says:

    Thank you for your kind words. I am just getting started in my photography business. This post hit me so amazingly close to home. My insecurities make running a shoot challenging for me. The balance of encouraging and creating while having friends offer their suggestions in a way that feels like they are saying I don’t know what I’m doing–all that is new and challenging. I can’t wait to learn more about all the settings on my camera–so much I don’t know. I have been asked to shoot a wedding, and while it is a bit scary, it is so exciting too. I have been reading your blog at any free moment I can find. Thank you for your hints and encouragement. What a blessing you are!

  17. LeeAnn says:

    Me Ra, you are an amazing woman! I am amazed at how well you know each one of us and you have not even met us all! THANK YOU for your kind words of encouragement, you have no idea how much you help each one of us. I am so thankful each day that I found your blog and each day I get excited to read your wonderful words that keep us all going and give us the confidence that we can live our dream. If I were there I would give you the biggest hug ever!!! THANK YOU for being YOU!!!!

  18. carly says:

    What a fantastic post! The timing and content was exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you!

  19. Maureen says:

    Me Ra–I didn’t have time to respond to yesterday’s post, but after reading it my initial reaction, much like others, was “wow”. I have to say, my “wow” today was for a totally different emotion, but it was still a “wow” nonetheless.

    I’m looking for the hidden camera you’ve somehow managed to smuggle into my house! It might be under that pile of papers I have to file, or the endless lists that I have of what I “plan” to do with my photography, how I’m going to build my studio, blah blah blah. Your post made me stop and tell myself to get over myself…in a good way 🙂

    I’m the first one to list every reason why I can’t succeed. Too many irons in the fire, too many carpools to run to and fro, too many this, too many that. It has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with the dreaded foes that you dared give a name to: Fear! Shame! Worry! Not to mention their second cousins: Insecurity! Self-Criticism! Doubt! Your post was the perfect ending to a day where I challenged myself on all these fronts, and just one more example of how God has put people in my life (whether I’ve met them personally or not) to guide me toward my dreams, and to succeeding in spite of myself.

    I am so grateful that you are here, nurturing all of us. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  20. Sarah Moan says:

    Me Ra, your words always stir in me hope, joy & passion for photography…and life! (I usually copy & paste your posts & email them to my husband to read, too!) thank you for inspiring me & so many to take the RISK…step out and pursue a longtime dream. i often doubt whether this is really what God has made me for…would he really bless my life this way & want me to know i was created for this? YES! and thanks to you, you are helping me confirm this over & over. you rock!!! much blessing to you & your family, Me Ra!

  21. Christiana says:

    OK, once again (as so many of the women above have said) this is JUST what I needed to hear! Thank you so much! To Anne’s comment above, I love what her husband said about the photographer who must not be much of a pro if he is taking the time to comment on her photo! That is so true! I’m so glad you have him to encourage you, Anne! Anyway, Anne’s comment gave me an idea. What if we had a Flickr group or something like that where we as Me Ra’s readers could post our photos that we liked or needed suggestions on how to improve a shot or just want a place to post a shot where we are exploring a technique MeRa mentioned and we could receive POSSITIVE feedback on our photography. Would anyone be up for that? I’d set it up (with MeRa’s permission, of course!) if it is something people want.

  22. Bree says:

    Christiana: I think it sounds like lots of fun!

  23. Carrie V. says:

    Incredibly powerful! I don’t have your gift for words but you said exactly how I feel! Thank you so much for this post.

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