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This week I learned I was a successful finalist in Shannon McNab’s 2023 Sketch Design Repeat Scholarship program. It’s always a scary thing to put yourself out there, and hope that your work resonates with others but it’s so rewarding when others see your potential for growth and success. The application process in itself was a big growth milestone for me. I’m really not that great (yet) at promoting myself in the big pond of social media, and would much prefer to actually be creating. I’m sure this resonates with many creatives but alas, it’s the way of the world as we know it.

I came across the opportunity for Shannon’s scholarship program and decided to give it a go. I filled in the online form and attached some of my work. It was all going swimmingly until the last segment where it asked me to upload a 1-2 minute video of myself explaining what winning the scholarship would mean and how things would change for me. Cue ‘dear in headlights’ moment.

I felt my whole being react to this request but I’d spent a long time thoughtfully completing everything else. I argued internally against phrases like forget it - too hard - too scary - but I had to push on. I had to get on with it. I filmed and re-filmed and maybe even swore a bit. What made it easier was the support Shannon offered around the process. It didn’t have to be perfect. I didn’t have to feel like I had to be perfect. I just had to be me.

There are so many of us who love to share our work but cringe at sharing our faces. We recoil in horror at being revealed as the source behind the creation. It’s such a juxtaposition because this clunky casing we traipse around the planet in is so secondary to the magic that occurs within our skin. Why does showing our face make us feel so uncomfortable? Of course, there are those who can’t get enough of themselves on the screen. Kudos to them! But what’s the secret to being at peace with our own self image?

It could relate to a thing called the mere-exposure effect. This is a psychological phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them. We spend most of our day staring out into the world and little time with our image gazing back at us. And when we do, it’s always a little confronting, and for some of us, an invitation for criticism, and judgement. It can set off our internal threat-detection system, so we avoid it because avoidance feels safe. Avoidance takes us out of that fight and flight response when we encounter something that makes us feel exposed or fearful.

But there is a way through it, and it’s similar to a thing called flooding. Flooding in psychology is an intensive type of exposure therapy in which you must face your fear at a maximum level of intensity for an extended amount of time. There's no avoiding the situation and no attempt to reduce your anxiety or fear. It works by exhausting your fight and flight reaction.

Showing your face doesn’t need such drastic measures but the technique of exposure to the fear-based thing will eventually wear down the “run away at all costs” reaction you have to it. And this is exactly how I got through the video segment of the application.

I did it over and over - telling myself it was just an exercise in getting comfortable with the camera, the words, and the discomfort itself. And after the umpteenth take, I can assure you the nerves were gone, I’d centred myself into the true intention of my message and by the end of it all, it really wasn’t the big deal I’d created in my head. I got out of my ego and into my heart. The best part is I can do it again and again because I now have a process that works. And I've been exposed to a new way of being.

You can tackle your biggest camera/video-facing phobia simply by repeating it over and over in a safe space until you get to the point where you are so exposed to it, it no longer scares you. You sort of get sick of yourself! Eventually, self-doubt takes a hike and self-belief nestles in as a comfortable sidekick.

As a finalist, I get to complete one of Shannon’s courses and also receive a 1:1 coaching session with her. Both are hugely positive things that will move me closer to my career goals. I am so grateful to have been chosen and also a huge congratulations to the winner and other finalists.

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