Step into 2024 with a fresh perspective in our latest episode, ‘New Year’s Balance: SELF-COMPASSION and Business in Photography.’ If you’ve ever felt torn between the hustle of your business and the need for self-care, this episode is your beacon in the fog.
We take a deep dive into the real talk of food photography – it’s not just about the perfect shot; it’s about balancing your inner artist with your entrepreneurial spirit. In this episode, we unravel the complex tapestry of self-compassion in a world that often prioritizes profit over personal well-being. Our journey explores the delicate dance between nurturing your creativity and sharpening your business skills.
Imagine ending your day feeling fulfilled, not just by the work you’ve produced but by the way you’ve navigated your challenges with kindness and strategic thinking. This episode isn’t just another talk; it’s a transformative experience that reshapes how you view your work and yourself.
So, grab your headphones, find your favorite spot, and join us in this enlightening episode. It’s time to align your goals, ignite your passion, and take actionable steps towards a year where self-compassion and business in photography success walk hand in hand. Let’s make 2024 a year to remember in your food photography career!
My name is Mica (pronounced me-kuh) McCook, and I’m a food photographer based in Austin, Texas. I create timeless theatrical art marinated in lavish colors and deep, simmering shadows. Every shot is a grand, meticulously composed culinary performance.
I bring a unique flair that can be described as a telenovela: dramatic, excessive, and over-the-top. In short, I wrap drama in a burrito, douse it in hot sauce, and photograph it.
You can find me dining out at a favorite restaurant with my husband, Aaron. Or taking our two dogs, Moxy and Charlie, on a walk around Zilker Park. Plus, when not creating or photographing food, I delve into my Texan roots through genealogy, escape into a good book, or go antique shopping.
Mica: Welcome to the 39th episode of The Savory Shot. It's also the first episode of 2024 y'all Hey. O! If this is your first time joining me I'm your host with the most Mica McCook and I'm a food photographer based out of Austin. Y'all, before I do anything, before I go any further, y'all know I got to start this show with some thanks and that thanks is for you.
Thank you for joining me.
If you have been here since episode one, thank you so much for being here for episode 39. Y'all keep this show rollin man. You keep it rollin. So thank you for being here. And hey, if this is episode one for you, this is your first time listening to the show, well, heck, welcome! Welcome to the family, man! Take a seat, get [00:01:00] comfortable, meet a friend, mingle, do what you gotta do.
We're, we're kinda, you know, we're a cool crowd here. We are a cool group of people, so thank you for taking a chance on this show. And a chance on me. That means a lot to me to, to give your time. I appreciate it so much. My heart really hopes that you get value out of this show like everyone else.
So welcome to the family. Welcome to the Hot Mess Express. Welcome to the Savory Shot. Y'all, I am super excited to have y'all join me today. Did you have a great holiday? I hope each and every one of y'all got all the presents, all the ugly sweaters, all the eggnog, and you rang in the new year in the way you wanted to.
Whether you partied to the wee hours like your girl did. I went to bed at 3am, oh my god. Or if you went to bed right at midnight. Or maybe you slept through the new year. [00:02:00] Whatever you did, I hope it was special for you. I will say this, man, it feels so good to be back. I spent the last weeks reflecting on everything.
My business, this podcast, and what I'd like to achieve this year. Y'all know your girl is big into making resolutions. I talk heavily about that in Episode 17, Achieving Success Through New Year's Resolutions. So you know today's topic is a topic that's close to my heart, and I know it will resonate with many of you.
Y'all, as we stand at the beginning of a new year, it's the perfect time to reflect, reset, and reimagine our goals. I'm not just talking about making resolutions that fade by February. I'm diving into how to set meaningful, actionable goals that stick and make a real difference in your work and life.
Whether you're a seasoned [00:03:00] pro or just starting out, this episode is going to give you the tools and inspiration to take your food photography to the next level. But before I get into that, grab your favorite drink, settle in and let's start the show
Mica: Okay, y'all, we're starting this show with getting real. Y'all know [00:04:00] me. I always keep a 100 with you. 2023 was a struggle for me. I sludged my way through the year. Am I alone? Am I the only one? Man, I set so many wonderful and ambitious goals for myself. I started the year off with so much excitement and pizzaz, but when I got passed up for what I thought was an incredible opportunity.
I struggled to find my mojo again. For months, I couldn't pick up my camera. Months. Every time I looked at my camera, y'all, I felt this overwhelming pressure that was so intense that I, I couldn't move. I just couldn't move. I couldn't move forward. I couldn't move back. I was just stuck. It got pretty dark, y'all.
It really did. What got me through this [00:05:00] was this show, you, the guests, my husband, my family, my friends, other colleagues in this industry, my therapist, my therapist, y'all, bless her heart, she had to listen to me every week, every week, just bash myself, but I got through it, y'all. I knew that this heavy feeling would pass and I would come out the other side, a much stronger version of myself.
I knew that but when you're in the middle of it, you can't see past two feet in front of you. You're just in it and I, and I was in it for gosh, for most of the year, but I'm back y'all.
Ready to party. No, just kidding. But no, really, I am back. I got through it. So when I set my goals this year, I also looked at my goals from 2023. I didn't just look at what my goals were. I looked at how I [00:06:00] broke down each goal. I did this because I wanted to know what I can do differently this year for goal setting that I didn't do last year.
And y'all, the first thing I noticed? I did not break my goals down enough. Let me clarify that. My goals were broken down. They were tangible. They followed the S.M.A.R.T goal method, but I didn't focus on the 'how' enough. How was I going to accomplish this? So that's it. The first thing, break my goals down and then break them down again and again and again.
I'm gonna go further and I'm going to explain it further. We all love dreaming big, right? But when it comes to setting goals we're vague. We say things like, "I want to get better," or "I want more clients," but you need to turn that I want to improve my photography into something more specific, like, I'll master three new lighting [00:07:00] techniques by the end of the quarter, and then you break down the how.
H O W. How. Break it down and then break it down again. So let's use the example, "I want to master three new lighting techniques by the end of the quarter." That's a bomb ass goal. So mini goal one, research books and a course that focuses on this. Mini goal two can be something like spend one day a week reading slash watching said course and mini goal three is, I don't know, focus one day a week, practicing technique one. And once you have those mini goals, then break those mini goals down. For example, for mini goal one, a breakdown of that goal can be something like spend one hour on Monday researching courses, choose top five courses by the end of the day.[00:08:00]
So not books, not links, not articles. Courses. I want to take a course. Rinse. Repeat. For mini goal two and mini goal three. Or, what about when you set a goal to increase your clientele? That's great, but it's floating in the air. Break it down. How many clients do you want to add? By when? What kind of clients are you looking for?
Those are great questions. Now, let's break down the how. What steps are you going to take to get the specific number of clients that fall into your target market? You need to make goals. You see, it's about making our dreams tangible and trackable. The how needs to be just as specific as the what. When our goals are vague, they're like wisps of smoke.[00:09:00]
They look substantial, but disappear when we try to grab on to them. It's like looking up at a giant mountain and going, how the fuck am I going to get up there? And I'm not talking about the the top of the mountain. No, I'm talking about like the first crook. The first, the little rock to grab on to. How the fuck am I going to get up there?
The, the top of the mountain, that's like problem number 10, 20, 30, 000, like way down the road. What's step one? How am I going to get up to that first rock?
For Christmas, my husband and I, we went to my brother's house and we spent the holiday with my family. And my brother's house, he has these stepping stones that lead to his front door. He also has path lights. And that's how I look at specific goals. They're like stepping stones in front of a house.
Mica: They're clear, they're solid, and they lead us exactly where we need to go. And the path lights in between those stepping stones are the [00:10:00] mini goals to each step. They give us a direction and a way to measure our progress. It's the difference between wandering aimlessly in a, in a forest and walking a well marked trail to a specific destination.
When we start answering these questions, our goals begin to take shape. They become achievable because we define the what, the when, but more importantly, the how.
Mica: Raise your hand if you set a wildly ambitious goal at the start of 2023, only to find it collecting dust by February? Or maybe you piled on so many goals onto your plate that you ended up feeling more overwhelmed than inspired. And how many of you set goals based more on [00:11:00] what you think you should be doing rather than what truly aligns with your passion and skills?
Anyone? Anyone? I see those hands. I'm right there with you. Both my hands are raised, y'all. Like, literally, both of my hands, my toes, my ankles, I'm raising my dog's hands. I'm raising everybody's hands. I'm raising the roof. That's such a millennial thing to do, right? To raise the roof? But I'm raising it. I'm raising it.
Guilty. Guilty as charged. Here's an undeniable truth, y'all. I set some goals. And I didn't check the landscape of the other goals.
Setting goals without considering your current landscape is like trying to sail a boat without checking the wind and the waves. You might have a direction in mind, but if you're not working with the elements, AKA, your resources, your time, your commitments, you're setting yourself up for a rough [00:12:00] ride.
I learned this the hard way in 2023, y'all. I know some of y'all saw at the beginning of the year of me with like my coffee mug business. I started a coffee mug business called McMuggins Coffee Mugs.
It was a total whim of a decision, y'all.
I stayed up an entire night, and I developed a brand, a logo, a website, all the social media accounts, I bought the domain names, I did everything. And I decided that one of my goals was to turn my little side hobby, McMuggin coffee mugs, into an internet sensation. I wanted to go viral on TikTok. Ambitious. Abso freaking lutely. But what I hadn't accounted for was the time and the energy it would sap away from my primary business goals. I was torn between two worlds, y'all, trying to pour equal passion and effort into both [00:13:00] and inevitably your girl hit a wall.
I realized I had to choose not just between two businesses. but between what was more important to me at that time. And you know, McMuggin is cool and all, and I do enjoy designing coffee mugs, but is it my ultimate drop everything just to do this kind of dream? Nah!
This experience taught me the crux of realistic goal setting. When making goals, we need to decide not just the why, but how important is the why? And aligning the why with your current reality. Is this a drop everything to do this kind of goal, or is it a meh goal?
Either one is okay, but deciding how important a certain goal is to you will certainly impact the kind of action you [00:14:00] take, because it will certainly displace other things in your life, and you need to decide that if what's being displaced is okay. If I had dropped everything for this side hobby of mine, my photography and this podcast would have taken a backseat.
And for me, that's just not okay. My priorities are my photography business and this podcast. Anything that gets in the way of that is a problem. So you got to think about the same things when you're setting goals. What will get displaced to focus on this goal? And if you're okay with what's getting displaced, keep on keeping on.
And if you're not, pump the brakes. Y'all, it's about adjustment in the ever changing waters of your career. And sometimes that adjustment means redefining your goals as you grow and learn more about what truly matters to you and being [00:15:00] okay with that.
It's okay to drop goals that aren't serving you. It's okay to drop goals that are getting in the way of more important goals. You're not a loser, you're not a flake, you're adjusting.
So here's a call to action for you. If you've made some goals for 2024. I want you to go back and look at them and take a moment to reflect on your goals and ask yourself, are they in sync with your current situation and resources? If not, give yourself permission to adjust them. It's not a step back.
It's a strategic pivot that keeps you moving forward in the right direction.
Mica: I remember hitting my lowest point of 2023. There I was. Staring at a treatment [00:16:00] for a project I thought would be my magnum opus, only to see it fall flat. The client went in another direction, and I was devastated. 2023 felt like a year of just back to back rejections, and here I was dealing with another rejection.
Whew, I tell you what, y'all, I wallowed in self doubt and frustration for days. Really, truthfully, weeks, I was just so done with it all. The business side of photography was really killing the heart and soul of my creativity. I remember just sitting there thinking, I don't enjoy this anymore. Fuck. This. Shit.
I'm done. I don't want to do it. I nearly made a mistake that couldn't be undone. I almost quit. I said [00:17:00] horrible things about my work. About how it's not good enough and I went down the ugliest rabbit hole of comparison. Man Y'all it was oof. It was bad. It was really bad. Getting into Apostrophe Rep's mentorship, that's what saved me, y'all. That that's what took me. Like I was so close to the fire and I got this mentorship and it just renewed my faith in myself in this business Because at the time, I had all these milestones that I set for myself, and I was seeing that I wasn't close to them, like not even step one.
Instead of taking a breather and showing myself compassion and working on my self esteem, I just sat in this negative, pitiful place. And of course my work suffered. Of course my creativity dried out. I wasn't taking care of myself. And part of self care is self-compassion. And once I [00:18:00] saw that truth, y'all, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Amidst the chaos of my emotions.
I found a glimmer of hope. I wiped away the tears. I took a deep breath
and looked at my work again. This time with kinder eyes. And with a renewed strength and energy, I promised myself that I wouldn't be too hard on me. I would get in the studio and just create. No agenda, no pressure. Got enough of that when I'm on assignment. Not every project has to be a masterpiece.
Now, I want to turn the spotlight on you, boo things. Are you practicing self compassion? Are you acknowledging your efforts, no matter how small? Are you giving yourself the space, the grace, and the pace to heal from disappointments? If [00:19:00] any of these answers isn't a definitive yes, then it's a no, honey. It's a no.
So what is self compassion? Talk about vague terms. My therapist, Sarah, and I had an in depth conversation about self compassion and ways to practice it. Self compassion is an art. It's a crucial skill, especially in our field. If you're an entrepreneur, you definitely need to practice some self compassion.
So again, what is self compassion? Well, self compassion is defined as extending compassion to oneself in moments of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering. All right, y'all, I'm going to say it again, because this is gospel. Self compassion is defined as extending compassion to oneself in moments of perceived inadequacy, failure, [00:20:00] or general suffering.
Think about it. How often do we extend understanding and patience to others, but forget to offer the same to ourselves? I'll wait. Do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do. American psychologist, Kristen Neff breaks self compassion down into three main elements. Self kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Let's unpack that, y'all.
Self kindness is about being gentle with yourself.
Instead of harsh self criticism when a project doesn't go as planned, it's treating yourself with the same care and understanding that you would offer a good friend. Think about it. Think about how you would speak to a friend. And turn that inward to yourself. Y'all, this exercise that I did of the listening to what I'm saying about myself.
I'm like, Oh my God, would I ever [00:21:00] say that to a friend? Would I ever say that to so and so photographer? Hell no. That's just so ugly. It's so mean to say things like that. So think about that for yourself. When you hear yourself bashing your work, like, Oh, my work isn't this, it isn't that, and dah, dah, dah, dah, dah.
Would you ever say that to a friend? No. So don't say it to yourself. Common humanity, on the other hand, connects us all. It's the realization that making mistakes and facing challenges, it's a universal experience. Y'all, when I was in my dark period in 2023, I felt so alone. I felt like I was the only black dot on this white sheet of paper.
It was so lonely. And if you struggled in 2023, I know you felt that too, but I'm here to tell you, you're not alone in your struggles. Every photographer, no matter how successful they [00:22:00] are, they're facing their own set of hurdles. I learned this with interviewing my photography heroes, Petty De Los Santos and Andrew Scrivani. They too have their struggles. You're not alone. Even when it feels like it, you're not. And then there's mindfulness.
This is about being aware of your feelings without letting them define you or your work. It's recognizing your emotions during those tough times, but not letting them take the driver's seat. If you feel crappy, that doesn't make you a crappy photographer. If you don't feel creative, that doesn't make you an uncreative photographer.
You get where I'm going? So how can you be more self compassionate? Well, start by treating yourself with warmth and understanding in these times. Remember, making mistakes is part of being human. It's part of being a photographer. Look at each [00:23:00] mistake as a lesson, not a life sentence.
Instead of beating yourself up, ask yourself, what can I learn from this? How can I grow? And it's okay to sit in those feelings. It takes time. My therapist told me it takes 10 seconds to process an emotion. So don't be in a rush to get over something. You got to go through it. You got to ride through it.
What's the saying? You got to go through it. to get to it. I don't know. It sounded, it sounded more, it sounded logical. You got to go through it to get through it. I don't know. You got to go through it to get to it. I don't know. Something like that. Let's just say you got to go through it to get to it. Yeah.
I like that. Seriously though, y'all for more in depth insights and practical tips on self compassion, I highly, highly, highly recommend you [00:24:00] visit selfcompassion. org, that's self compassion. org. My therapist Sarah has shared this site with me and y'all, it's full of resources, full of exercises developed by Dr. Kristen Neff. And it's a treasure trove for anyone who's looking to develop a more compassionate self attitude. They've got some exercises on there and my favorite exercise is how would you treat a friend? Like, that's like my ultimate favorite. And my second favorite is the self compassion break. So check that out.
Tell me what you think about it. And let's, uh, let's start practicing. I think I'm going to start practicing, like, self compassion breaks on Instagram. So, you know, join me, and let's be kinder to ourselves. So the next time you face a challenge in your work, take a moment to practice self compassion.
Remind yourself that progress is a [00:25:00] steady climb, it's not a sprint. Celebrate your victories. I mean, really celebrate your victories. Give yourself a pat on the back. Call yourself out on, on your Instagram stories. Celebrate that you accomplished something and it's worth pointing out because it's so easy to see only the negatives, to see what you didn't accomplish, that we just skip right past what we did do.
Learn from each experience. And remember, being kind to yourself, it's vital in this demanding world. Because whether they mean it or don't mean it, art producers, art directors, the decision makers, sometimes they say things that are just so hurtful and so mean. And they're not doing it because, they want to be hurtful and mean, they're doing it because they have a job and they have to make the best decision for their client, for their businesses.
And if [00:26:00] you just don't fit what they're looking for, they overlook you and that's fine. But sometimes the way they go about it is just not the way, the nicest way to do it. So this world is cutthroat. When you are encountering different roadblocks, where it's just chipping away at your self esteem, this is where being self compassionate is absolutely crucial for your longevity.
To look in the mirror and go, yeah, I had all these rejections, but those rejections don't define me. There will be more yeses in the future. Not everything's going to be a no. And those no's don't define me. So being kind to yourself, it's not a luxury. It's a necessity. It's what keeps us grounded, creative, and resilient.
So remember that. Remember that. Absorb that.
Mica: Alrighty, y'all. Brilliant minds, talented eyes, creative hearts. That's a wrap for today's first episode of the year. I've taken up enough of your time. You got things to do. Goals to break down, dreams to chase after. We've collectively ventured through the intricacies of setting specific, achievable goals, being realistic about our time, practicing self compassion.
If you've been nodding along, absorbing these nuggets of wisdom, then you, my friend, are indeed a badass. You're not just the badass wielding a camera. You're a badass who's taking a leap and going after a dream. Do you know the amount of bravery that takes? The amount of grit? The [00:28:00] strength it takes to say, I'm going down this unconventional path and I'm building something from nothing.
I'm putting myself out there. I'm forging a space that doesn't exist without me. That's brave, y'all. You are the architect of your life. Congratulations on being part of this incredible journey. I truly, truly, truly, truly, truly hope you see what I see in yourself. And if you don't, well, let's try some self-compassion , and I promise you the self-esteem will raise up too.
Our next mission. And I say our, because I'm in the trenches with y'all, I'm learning and growing along with y'all. So again, our mission, implementing these things into our daily practice.
Thank you for lending your ears and minds and heart to the Savory Shot. Before you [00:29:00] go, do me a solid, leave a review if today's episode resonated with you. I'm your host with the most, Mica McCook, reminding you to stay focused on your path, embrace growth, and continue creating magic. In your space. Your grace, and your pace.
Thank you guys for joining me on the Savory Shot, and thank you for all of your amazing messages over the year. I'm just so grateful for this wonderful community. I read your messages, I absorb them. When you tell me how much of an impact they make on you, when you tell me what so and so guest said that resonated with you and you thank me, y'all, I just, I crumble in I'm just humbleness because I'm doing this from from the heart.
So, when you see me and you see my heart, it just, it means everything. [00:30:00] So again, thank you. Gracias. Danke schön. Those are the only, um, Merci. Yeah, okay, I know merci. Merci. If anyone knows any other way of how to say thank you in another language that's not Spanish, French, German, or English, please, please, please, tell me how you say thank you, so that I can continue to say thank you.
And I will forever and ever. So Happy New Year, y'all. And, until next time, bye!