How Fear Becomes Strength and Leads to Finding Your Why

This is a guest blog post from Boudoir & Family Photographer, Shannon Griffin. I wanted to share a piece from Shannon because the work she does with her clients is so much deeper than just a boudoir session. She really gets to know her clients and helps them feel seen. I hope you enjoy this post!

When I was going through some of the darkest times in my life is when I got deep into creating my art. This is when my boudoir work came out of the shadows. I was fearful of finding love and light in my own life, so I would photograph these women and their own struggles. I would work to give them something I couldn’t give to myself. I was working to give them clarity, security, love, strength, and a home to come back to in their own bodies.

My work was becoming my identity. The photographs were moving and powerful. But, like Brené quoted Halifax saying that it comes from fear, not love. I was fearful to face my own solitude, so I found “strength” in the women that stood before me. It wasn’t love of myself; it was fear. 

I’ve quoted Brené Brown on my blog before. I listen to her Podcast on my runs in the morning. I spend a lot of my run smiling and crying. It’s always a beautiful release.

Brené’s episode is titled Strong Backs, Soft Fronts, and Wild Hearts

The first time I heard the term “strong back, soft front,” it was from Joan Halifax. We were doing an event together at the Omega Institute in New York. If you listened to the podcast with Elizabeth Lesser, this is the gathering space that she runs and has operated for many, many years, and it’s just incredible. One of my favorite places. So I’ll admit that I was very intimidated to meet Joan Halifax. Dr. Halifax is a Buddhist teacher, she’s a Zen priest, she’s an anthropologist and activist, she’s the author of several really important books on engaged Buddhism. And we met for the first time during the technical rehearsal for our talk, and she was super down to earth. What I remember most is she was funny, I mean like Texas-level funny, dry, funny as hell.

As we were leaving this technical rehearsal for the event that we were going to do together, I turned to her and said, “Wooh, I’m wiped, but I guess it’s off to the meet and greet.” And she looked at me and said, “I’m not going to the meet and greet. I’m going to my room to rest before tonight. Why don’t you do the same?” And that sounded so great to me. I was like, if there’s one thing that you should not sign me up for, it’s a meet and greet, it is an introvert’s nightmare. Small talk, meeting strangers, moving around. Oh, no, uh-uh, I’m just not good at it. So I was like, “That sounds really good, but I feel really bad to say no, like I felt bad, so I said yes.” And I’ll never forget what she said back to me. She looked at me and she said, “Tonight, we will exhale and teach. Now, it’s time to inhale. There is the in-breath and there is the out-breath, and it’s easy to believe that we must exhale all the time without ever inhaling. But the inhale is absolutely essential if you want to continue to exhale.”

Let’s just inhale together. It was so powerful to me. So when I heard her talk about strong back, soft front, it just resonated so deeply in me, here’s what she writes about it. She writes, this is Roshi Joan Halifax. “All too often our so-called strength comes from fear, not love. Instead of having a strong back, many of us have a defended front, shielding a weak spine. In other words, we walk around brittle and defensive, trying to conceal our lack of confidence. If we strengthen our backs, metaphorically speaking, and develop a spine that’s flexible but sturdy, then we can risk having a front that’s soft and open. How can we give and accept care with strong back, soft front, compassion, moving past fear to a place of genuine tenderness? I believe it comes when we can be truly transparent, seeing the world clearly and letting the world see into us.”

I kid you not that when the words, “Tonight, we will exhale and teach. Now, it’s time to inhale. There is the in-breath and there is the out-breath, and it’s easy to believe that we must exhale all the time without ever inhaling. But the inhale is absolutely essential if you want to continue to exhale.” came out of her mouth, I stopped running and exhaled (yes, with tears running down my face).

What resonated with me the most is when she speaks on “so-called” strength really coming from fear. I can speak on this until the earth stops spinning.

How my work came to be:

When I was going through some of the darkest times in my life is when I got deep into creating my art. This is when my boudoir work came out of the shadows. I was fearful of finding love and light in my own life, so I would photograph these women and their own struggles. I would work to give them something I couldn’t give to myself. I was working to give them clarity, security, love, strength, and a home to come back to in their own bodies.

My work was becoming my identity. The photographs were moving and powerful. But, like Brené quoted Halifax saying that it comes from fear, not love. I was fearful to face my own solitude, so I found “strength” in the women that stood before me. It wasn’t love of myself; it was fear.

When I started to become happy in my own life I was fearful that I would lose the very vision that attracted these women to my work. 

I was afraid that my artistry would change. Fearful that I would be turned away and told I was a fraud.

What ended up happening was the opposite.

As I learned to “exhale” and take care of myself, I was able to allow others to inhale and exhale even deeper.

My clients gave me that freedom. These women allowed me to find myself and praised me for doing so. They never called me a fraud. They held my hand through it without even knowing.

All of this happened because I found my “why” in my work.

When women contact me about the possibility of a boudoir session, I want to get to THEIR “why”. 

Why now? Why have you come to this decision? Why is this important to you?

If she is doing it strictly for someone else then I tell her that we aren’t going to be a good fit. The way that I photograph, the way that I approach every session, is for her.  I don’t care what her partner thinks is sexy. I don’t care what magazines have told her her entire life.  This is not for anyone but her. 

She is the reason I do this. 

Boudoir, to me, is not about posing to look “sexy”. The women that stand in front of my camera don’t need me to contrive their bodies or make them something that they aren’t. Most of them just want to be seen. I photograph single women, married women, women with kids, women in their 20s and women in their 50s. I’ve photographed women about to get married and ones going through a divorce. There is a reason that women get to the point of contacting me and it’s my obligation and privilege to guide my clients through the entire process and  anticipate their needs before they might even realize them. It’s my pleasure to create custom art for my clients, based on their individuality.

What I love most about these sessions is the experience. We will create gorgeous photographs and my clients will have one of the most enjoyable experiences of their  lives.

About Shannon:

Shannon is the owner and artist at Shannon Griffin Photography. She creates a custom experience for her clients, as she understands how busy life can be and that most women put themselves last.

She believes there is a beautiful balance between capturing the “art” and capturing the “moment”, which both help tell her client’s story. There are so many fleeting memories in life and it is Shannon’s honor to capture those.

Shannon guides her clients through the entire process and anticipates their needs. She takes pleasure in creating commissioned art for her clients, based on their individuality, and curating photographs that embody their legacy.

Shannon can be contacted at: https://www.shannongriffin.com/ or [email protected]

Episode attribution

Brown, B. (Host). (2020, November 4). Brené on Strong Backs, Soft Fronts, and Wild Hearts. [Audio podcast episode]. In Unlocking Us with Brené Brown. Cadence13. https://brenebrown.com/podcast/brene-on-strong-backs-soft-fronts-and-wild-hearts/

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