Dealing With Social Anxiety as a Photographer

Hey guys!

I’m back again with another blog post, and this time it’s going to be about something I’ve been struggling with all my life; Social Anxiety.

I’m sure a lot of you can relate, but I absolutely HATE social interactions, especially with people I’m not comfortable with. I’m not exactly sure what it is about being social that I despise so much, but it’s definitely been a struggle to deal with, especially as a photographer.

I’m not quite sure when it began, but I’m pretty sure it stems from my relationship with my father. When I was young, my parents had two totally different parenting styles. My mother was the nurturing, caring type, and always wanted me to have anything I wanted. If I asked for a toy, she would go out of her way to make sure that I got it. My father on the other hand, was more logical with the way he parented me. If I asked for something, he would tell me “no”, and make me work for it myself. In retrospect, this has definitely helped me in the long run, but as a result, I was scared to ask for things because I didn’t want to be told “no”.

On a deeper level, this affected me emotionally. It became a lot deeper than me being afraid to ask for material things, but it actually made me feel guilty for wanting them in the first place. This was detrimental to my confidence, and made me question whether it was even worth it to ask for what it was I truly wanted.

On the surface, it might not seem like such a big deal. If I wanted ice cream, I just simply wouldn’t ask for it, but fast forward a few years, and now I’m scared to ask a model if she’d like to shoot with me because I’m scared she will say “no”, and on an even deeper level, I’m scared to ask for love because I’m scared that I don’t deserve it.

Sadly, this is only one part of my social anxiety. The other part comes from my experience in boarding school. Growing up in The Bahamas, I was accustomed to speaking in our dialect, which is a very broken English. If you weren’t listening to me very closely, it would be hard to tell what I was saying because of the dialect, and even though this wasn’t a problem growing up in The Bahamas, it became something I had to spend a lot of time on when I went to boarding school in Florida. I would say things to my friends in boarding school, and have the whole group stop and look at me to try and figure out what it was I was saying. Even though this technically made me “cool” because everyone was so interested in how I spoke English, it was still something that I had to be very mindful of every time I decided to open my mouth.

The boarding school I went to was very “preppy”. Think Oxford style. You had to dress a certain way, carry yourself well, and most importantly, you were expected to speak well. This meant that every time I had a social interaction with either my friends or my teachers, I had to be extremely careful with which words I chose to use. Obviously I didn’t “have” to, but that’s certainly how it felt.

As a result, I’ve found that I much prefer texting over being on the phone, because I can choose my words carefully and don’t have to worry about being misunderstood. Speaking over the phone creates a certain anxiety because I’m being put on the spot. If someone asks a question, I not only have to think of the answer, but I have to think of how to put that answer in a way they can understand clearly.

Even worse, if I bumped into someone randomly, I had to carefully choose my words during small talk. Just to give you an example, if someone were to ask me how I was doing, my initial reaction would be to with “Eryting cool”, but this clearly isn’t the most professional way to respond, so I’d have to train myself to respond with “I’m doing well”. It might not seem like such a big deal, but when you’re having a long, drawn out conversation that you weren’t expecting, it can cause severe anxiety because I’m scared something will slip out.

To cope with this, I’ve created a rather obsessive system that seems over-the-top, but it works for me. I literally create conversations in my head with everyone that I think I might run into, and memorize questions and answers that I’ll either want to ask or answer. For example, if I’m on Instagram and notice that a friend of mine won an award at work, I’ll save this information so that if I ever run into them, I can say something along the lines of “Congratulations on that award!” This is a much simpler example than what actually goes on in my head, but it should give you an idea on how my brain works.

So the real question is, how does this social anxiety relate to my photography business, and how do I deal with it. We'll, let’s start off by saying it certainly isn’t easy. Every time my phone rings from an unknown number, my heart drops because I’m not sure who is on the other line. Is it a client looking to book me? Is it a model that wants to know when her photos are going to be ready? Is it an agency that’s following up on an email I sent them? All of these thoughts race through my head, making me stress about the situation before I even get to answering the phone. Then, once I do answer, if it’s a situation that totally caught me off-guard, and a client is asking a rather challenging question, I now have to come up with an answer, and put it into words that will come off as professional.

Then comes actually working with clients on location, which is always a struggle for me. Without fail, 2 hours before every shoot, I have a panic attack. What are we going to talk about for 2 hours? How am I going to get them to feel comfortable in front of the camera? Will we be able to connect on any subject? Will I be able to provide the quality photos they’re expecting from me? All of this races in my head, and I’d be lying if I said I weren’t wishing they would postpone last minute. As bad as it sounds, it’s the truth, and it’s something I deal with before every shoot.

I wish I knew how to get over the anxiety, because truth be told, I have met some truly amazing artists through photography. I’ve made so many lifelong friends through my passion, and it’s great that I have the opportunity to meet these people, even if it terrifies me. It’s just sad that even though I know how amazing these social interactions can be, they still scare me to death, and you know what? That’s totally fine. It’s something I’ve been dealing with for years, and I know I just have to suck it up and do what I have to.

Do you experience social anxiety? I’m curious to see if anyone else goes through this. It might make me feel better to know that I’m not alone in this regard. If this is something you do experience, please leave a comment on how you’ve dealt with it over the years. I’d love to get some advice or stories on your experience with it!

Until next time,

Tristan

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Dating in Los Angeles

Hey guys,

As promised, I'm going to be blogging more often now! It seems like a lot of you are VERY interested in my personal life, so I guess I'll blog a bit more about it.

The last blog post got a lot more attention than I thought it would, and I want to thank everyone that reached out to me after reading it! It really meant a lot to receive such kind words from people that I didn't even know paid so much attention to my life and my work. It was truly humbling and I appreciate every message that was sent!

Today I want to talk about what it's like to date here in Los Angeles. You know, being a photographer in Los Angeles, you'd think dating would be so easy because you get to meet so many beautiful and talented people. In fact, every time I tell someone that I'm a photographer, they always ask if models let me sleep with them after a shoot. It's bizarre to me how many people associate photography with sex, and I don't understand where that idea comes from. Even when I shoot nude photography, it's more about connection and making the model comfortable in front of the camera than it is about me trying to get in her pants.

That being said, I have met some incredibly talented women through photography, and of course the idea of dating them have crossed my mind, but to be completely honest, I don't think I'm quite ready to date anyone. Over the past few years, and my last two relationships, I've come to realize a LOT of my flaws, and I really need to work on myself before I can even entertain the idea of being in a relationship with someone.

Let's take a step back for a minute. My last two relationships were easily the most important relationships in my life. I learned so much about myself, and even more about how real relationships work. Back when I lived in The Bahamas, I was dating someone for 3 years, and that's when I experienced what a true relationship was like. The time and dedication we put into the relationship was something I wasn't used to, and it honestly made me so much stronger as a person. There were a lot of ups, but even more downs, and it felt like the last year and a half was just a constant battle to keep us afloat. It felt like every day there was something new to argue about, and it really started to exhaust me mentally.

The worst part about that situation was that we were perfect for each other in bed, and to me, sexual compatibility is 50% of the relationship. Our sex life is what kept us fighting because we knew how hard it would be to find something better, but in the end, I just couldn't take it anymore. The relationship was toxic, and to top it all off, when it finally ended, she started dating one of my close friends. I fell into a deep depression, and this is what made me finally make the jump to move to Los Angeles.

After slightly recovering from that relationship, I ended up meeting the woman of my dreams on Instagram (yes, you read that correctly). We both had mutual friends from The Bahamas, but just never met in person. I sent her a DM, which led to me getting her number, which led to constant Facetime sessions, which led to me falling head over heels for her. We had never met in person, but I absolutely fell in love with her personality. She was everything I wanted in a woman, and more.

To make things more interesting, she went to school in Scotland, so it took a lot of effort to keep in touch with the 8-hour time difference, but we both made it work because we wanted it to.  Actually, our first date was me booking and planning a trip to Scotland, then to Rome, then back to Scotland (yes, I know), and this is when things started to go downhill.

We had been planning what our first time in bed would be like, and we were REALLY looking forward to it. Our first night in bed is where the problem started. I was too big to get it in, which made it extremely painful for her, and made it impossible for us to have sex. We kept trying over the course of the 10-day trip, but with no success. Like I said before, sex is 50% of the relationship for me, and knowing that we couldn't really put up a mental block in my mind. After the trip, it was hard for us to even flirt with each other because we knew the truth is that it just probably wouldn't work in bed. We tried to make it work for a few months, but between the distance and me knowing we couldn't have sex, it only made sense for us to end.

In one relationship, I had a woman that I was completely sexually compatible with, but who had a horrible personality, and in the other, I had a woman with the perfect personality, but I couldn't have sex with her. As you can image, fighting for both of these relationships taught me a lot about myself and my needs, which makes it extremely hard for me to find someone that would be perfect for me (or even close to perfect).

So now that you understand that, let's jump to the present. When I'm looking for someone to date, I'm looking for someone with an amazing personality, and one that is amazing in bed, but on a deeper level than the average person. I know what it's like to be in a relationship with someone that has a personality that doesn't compliment mine, and I know what it's like to be with someone that can't fulfill my sexual desires, and I'm at a point where I just simply don't want to waste time anymore.

Unfortunately, for me, this makes it extremely hard for me to date anyone given my current circumstances. First of all, Los Angeles is HUGE, and if you don't have a car (which I don't), that means you're going to need to spend some money on Ubers just to go out with them. On top of that, you'll also need money to go to dinner or for drinks or whatever, and that all really adds up. Also, I live in the valley, which means I'm further away than the average person, so I REALLY have to make an effort to see someone.

On top of this, my parents have been staying in my apartment for almost a year now, which makes it hard to bring people back to my place. When we moved to Los Angeles, my parents had planned on buying an RV and road tripping throughout the states, however, after a few months, they decided this wasn't the lifestyle they wanted anymore, sold their RV, and moved in with me and my sister. I don't know about you guys, but I hate mentioning that my parents are staying with me because I feel like it sounds like I'm still living with my parents, and I hate it. I don't want to be on a date with someone and then tell them my parents are back at my apartment. That's just awkward. What's even more awkward is that they sleep on the couch, not in a room, so if I bring anyone home, there my parents are sleeping on the couch or watching Netflix or something. It's just not the ideal situation at all.

That's just the basics, so let's get a little deeper into what makes dating hard for me. We live in an era where everyone has access to everyone. With Instagram and online dating apps, there's an endless amount of options someone has. If I don't keep them interested in what I have to say, they're just one swipe or DM away from another option, and this makes it hard to keep someone's interest. This also applies to me in the fact that if I meet someone that I might be interested in, I stop myself from really opening up because I know that there are more options out there, and I don't want to put all of my eggs in one basket.

It's so crazy how social media comes into effect when you think about dating someone. For example, I've been going out with a photographer that I truly like and relate to. I've gone on two dates with her, and we occasionally talk over Instagram. I constantly see her Instagram stories of her doing photoshoots and going to photography meets etc, and a part of me always wants to start a conversation by saying someone about how her photos look or how the meet looks like so much fun, but at the same time, I don't want to come off as needy or begging for attention, so I find myself stopping myself from actually sending these messages. Social media allows me to keep up with her life on a daily basis, but it also makes me overthink because of how often I can message her.

To make things worse, she tends to not answer me when I ask her about meeting up again, and because of social media, I can see that she's on her phone and being active on Instagram, but just choosing to ignore my messages. This gives off the vibe that she's just not interested in me, even though she might genuinely be busy and isn't able to get to my message right away, but that doesn't change the fact that I'm thinking I'm not good enough for her attention. It's an extremely hard situation to deal with mentally, but that's just the way it works these days.

Taking all of these things into consideration, I'm not sure what it'll take for me to actually be able to date someone again, but to be honest, I'm not getting any younger, and this is something I need to figure out soon (or at least that's how I feel). 

I'll keep you guys posted on how my dating life is going, so if you're interested, be sure to subscribe below!

Until next time,

Tristan

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Opening Up...

Hey guys,

I know, I know, it's been a while, but words can't describe how busy I've been. Between my day job, photography, and just life, things have been PRETTY crazy! There's been quite a few highs, but also a few lows. Basically, there's been a TON of work for me, both at my day job, and with clients booking me for photography, and while that's been great, I still feel like I'm not where I'm supposed to be. It's hard to explain, and I usually keep these kinds of things bottled up, but I decided to turn to writing to get my feelings off my chest. That being said, I'm going to start blogging again, once a week, on not only my photography, but also my personal life.

This first blog post is going to focus on one main point that I just need to get off my chest. In short, I'm not happy.

Let's start from the beginning. Growing up in The Bahamas, you'd think I'd love my surroundings. When you think of The Bahamas, you think of the beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters and drinking pina coladas on the regular. While that might be true for people with an endless stream of money, people still need to work for a living, and from an early age, I knew that The Bahamas wasn't the place I wanted to live forever. In addition to that, The Bahamas (at the time) wasn't known for supporting the arts, and I knew that I wanted to be in a field that had to do with creativity, whether it be writing, videography, or photography.

I grew up on an island that was only 21x7 miles, which made everything feel very suffocating. Everyone knows everyone, and it just didn't feel like I had any privacy. If I was dating someone, literally everyone on the island knew, and if someone saw me talking to another girl by chance, they would run to my girlfriend and start drama. Suffering from social anxiety, this made things very hectic for me in my mind, and I knew I needed to get out.

I begged my parents to send me to boarding school in Florida, and when I was there, it became clear that I just really didn't want to be in The Bahamas anymore. The hardest part about being exposed to the "outside world" was the fact that I had to return to The Bahamas to start working. I studied and took the exam to get my real estate license, and once I got it, I started working for a luxury real estate broker. I knew this wasn't my calling, but this was when I started to make money outside working for the family, so I stuck with it.

The job itself was very draining, so I decided to take up a hobby in videography. I started to create comedic YouTube videos mocking Bahamian culture, and it blew up. Some of my videos were getting over 30,000 views, and people started treating me like a celebrity, crying when they met me etc. The whole thing was pretty crazy, but it was fun, so I stuck with it. I actually shared my YouTube channel with one of my close friends at the time, and together we took The Bahamas by storm.

It's so funny how even though I was having fun and getting all these YouTube views, I wasn't making any money from it. It was hard for me because I knew I wanted to create, but The Bahamas wasn't ready to support that kind of content in a way which I could make a living from, and it really started to get to me. A lot of my skits would involve me putting on a wig and mocking Bahamian women, which also led to a lot of death threats, and people accusing me of being gay. This made it harder for me to feel comfortable leaving my home, and over time, I was just over everything.

Fast forward a few years, and I just couldn't take it anymore. I needed to get off that island, and I couldn't find a better time to do it than right after a breakup with my girlfriend of 3 years. We broke up and about a week or two later I found out she was having a 'thing' with one of my friends, and I lost it. I packed my bags with my family, and we were off to LA.

When I first I moved here, my main goal was to find a job so that I can afford rent, but I knew I still wanted to be a creator of some sort. After landing a job as a furniture salesman, I decided to start my blog where I wrote about fashion, and started an exciting series where I interviewed my favorite models. Things really started to look up when I interviewed Amanda Cerny, who had about 6 million followers at the time of our interview. When she shared the interview, my blog blew up!

I started getting emails from models that wanted me to interview them, and things got exciting when I got to interview a model that was about to be signed with Sports Illustrated. I went through the motions and got all of my questions answered, and right when I was about to publish the interview, I got an email from Sports Illustrated saying I couldn't use the photos she sent me until they were published. This put a hold on publishing the interview, and it really got me thinking. I should be taking photos of the models I interviewed! That's essentially how I got into photography, and ever since I picked up a camera, I never wanted to put it down.

Whenever I had a long day at work, instead of coming home to relax and get in bed, I wanted to come home and study photography. I watched tons of YouTube videos, and studied my favorite photographers until I developed my own style. The thing about my style is that I edit photos based on how I'm feeling, and if you look at some of my previous work, you'll see that my style was very bright and colorful. I bring this up to point out that over the past few months, I noticed that my work has gotten very dark and moody, and even though this isn't a bad thing, it made me realize how I truly feel deep down.

Over the past few months, I realized that I'm not as happy as I was when I first moved to LA. All the excitement of being in a big city is gone, and my days are starting to feel repetitive. I landed a great job as an Assistant Manager at the luxury apartment community I live in, but the job itself is destroying a part of who I am. I like to think of myself as a kind, generous, and most of all, empathetic person. I always put myself in someone else's shoes to understand their point of view, and try my best to make sure they're happy. I guess this is how I cope with my unhappiness, feeding off of making other people happy. The reason I bring this up is because my job description requires me to be, well, an asshole.

My literal job description is to do things such as send people to evictions, send people to collections, and enforce the rules and policies of the community regardless of someone's personal situation. Some of the things I deal with on a daily basis are having resident come into my office and cry to me because they just got let go and have no way to pay rent, and I have to look at them in their eyes and tell them there's nothing I can do to help. I literally have to tell them that no matter what their story is, if their rent isn't paid by a certain date, I'm going to be filing for eviction, regardless of how this is going to affect their life, credit, or even children. 

One day I towed a car that didn't have the parking pass it needed to be parked there, and later on that day I had the owner come into my office crying saying that her daughter missed her speech therapy class because of this, and that she didn't have the money to pay the tow company for the ticket, all because her parking pass slipped off her dashboard when she parked. I had to look her in the face and pretty much say, "Oh well, you should have followed the rules".

Situations like this don't feel like much at the time, but when things like this happen on a daily basis, it starts to numb you. I'm becoming an asshole that I don't want to be, just because it's my job description, and I hate it. It's starting to affect my mental health, and I'm just not quite sure how much I can take.

To get my mind off of work, I've always turned to my photography, and now even that is starting to depress me. My severe hatred for my day job has given me motivation to make photography my primary source of income, but things just aren't happening the way I'd like them to, and it brings me down. It's hard to be in Los Angeles as a photographer and try to make a living, because there's simply too much competition, and it's not easy to accept. Everything is a "collab", and hardly anyone values your work enough to pay you because they know they only need to send a DM to another photographer and get to shoot for free. The whole system is very discouraging.

On top of that, I scroll Instagram and see so many photographers hustling and creating amazing art, which, in turn, makes me feel like I'm not successful enough, like I'm not good enough. It's gotten to the point where I start to get anxious when I open Instagram because I don't know if a post is going to trigger depression or envy. Something that I never thought I'd ever speak about (or write about in this case), is that fact that I've been having suicidal thoughts recently. Before you get worried, I would never do something like that because I know that there is too much of the world I want to see before I die, but that doesn't change the fact that the thoughts are there. A few weeks ago I had a photoshoot on a railroad, and as the train was approaching, I found myself thinking how easy it would be to just step in front of it as it flew by. This wasn't the first of these thoughts I've been having either, but now it's really starting to get bad.

All of this being said, I haven't been motivated to shoot as much as I used to, and life is just starting to seem like a downward spiral into some dark and depressing abyss, and I'm not quite sure how to cope with these emotions. This is why my recent work has been much darker than it used to, tapping into a part of me that I didn't even know was there until it was brought to my attention. One of my followers actually asked if everything was ok with me because they could tell through my work that something was up.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, I'm also tackling some debt that I've accumulated since moving to LA which is just extra weight on my shoulders that I really don't need right now. Over the years I've had to pay for Ubers to photoshoots, camera equipment, maintenance etc, and it's really added up. I'll write about this in more detail in another blog post, but the debt is what's stopping me from quitting my job and moving to another state where expenses are less expensive, because my job is safe and it pays the bills. This makes me feel trapped. I went from being trapped on a 21x7-mile island, to being trapped in a job I hate, and it honestly feels like there's no escape.

One of the things that really got to me was the fact that I felt like I had no one to talk to. Ever since I've moved to LA, I haven't really invested in any sort of friendships. Don't get me wrong, I made a LOT of friends here, I just never allowed myself to open up to the point where I can go to someone about these kinds of things, and it's really starting to bite me in the ass. That being said, I've made it a point to try and get myself out there more, accepting invitations to parties, and even starting to date again, which honestly feels a bit foreign to me. After my last few relationships, it's been extremely hard for me to really open up to someone, and be vulnerable. A part of it has to do with trust issues, but I think it mainly stems from me not being able to handle another heartbreak right now. That would be the thing to really push me over the edge, and it's just something I'm not prepared to handle, but I'm still trying.

Going in to this blog post, I was only writing it because a lot of my followers were genuinely interested about my personal life, but after putting my feelings into words, I think I'm going to make this an ongoing thing. I want to document my progress from this depressed state of mind to whatever state of mind the future holds. I want to turn to writing as a way to get things off my chest, and I want to document my highs and my lows. I'll be blogging about my personal life, and also about photography. I want to make this my main source to showcase my work, gravitating further and further away from Instagram. If you want to tag along for the journey, feel free to subscribe below.

Until next time,

Tristan

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