I like to consider myself a reformed pessimist. I’ve fought depression and reached the point where I can take a breath to reset myself. It’s a constant battle that everybody faces, to play down the inner voices of fear and shame and strive towards positivity. And there are things I’ve learned on the journey.

The Pursuit of Positivity

Positivity is sometimes about having a good self-image.

This is an important thing I keep in mind when trying to embrace positivity in my own life. I simply can’t win every time. Success doesn’t mean banishing the negative influences on my life. Yeah, any season where a sports team manages to hold a perfect record is awesome and thrilling, but over time — multiple games, multiple seasons, injuries — they’re going to lose. 

It’s simply unavoidable. One slip here, one misstep there, and suddenly I’m staring down the barrel of a pint of ice cream. That’s why the concept here isn’t “staying” but “pursuing.” It’s a goal that continues to move with the pace of life, not a finish line. I’m eventually going to fall, and the pursuit means that I’m going to have to get up again and keep going. Failure isn’t an option; it’s an inevitable result of trying.

It Requires Active Effort

Getting back up is difficult. I can try to bury this in metaphors all I want but all of them fail the one key fact that it’s difficult to even recognize that I’ve fallen. There is no sudden impact with the ground, no tasting the dirt. It’s a slow, gradual thing where for a few precious moments I’ve taken my foot off of the gas and entropy has seized control.

When I stop actively pursuing positivity, I am dramatically increasing the chances that I’ll fail. And when I do fail, picking myself back up out of the dirt is harder than it would have been to simply continue to strive towards my goal. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try. 


I used to see this advice everywhere: remove negativity from your life. This usually comes with encouragement to evaluate relationships, and to sever ties with people that seem determined to bring me down. The thing is, I’m not totally with that idea.

The thing this neglects is that some people can change. If I see somebody, especially a friend, mired in negativity, I have to remember the times that I fail. I have to remember how difficult it can be to pick myself up again. Because if I help them get back into the race enough times, then just maybe they’ll be the ones there giving me a hand when I need to get back on my feet. I’m glad to say that this is a personal theory I’ve proven, at least to my own satisfaction.

I’m not beyond severing those ties if I have to. If somebody’s idea of treading water is finding somebody else that’s barely floating, prop yourself on their shoulders, and drown them for as long as they’ll keep you afloat, I’m not going to hang out in that situation for long. I want to at least give that person a chance to see that there’s a better way, though. It might be what they need to turn around and take up their own pursuit, that life isn’t about treading water so much as trying to swim.

And Photography?

Just to bring this back full-circle: a good portrait can be surprisingly helpful. So much about positivity and self-esteem boils down to the ability to visualize yourself how you want to be. I want to help people find that visualization for themselves, so instead of an idea, it’s something that exists, something that you can see and touch. It bridges the gap from dream to reality.

When I say “portrait,” though, it means more than just a picture. All portraits are pictures, but not all pictures are portraits. A portrait carries its own sense of personality and story. It has emotional depth beyond being a record of what somebody looks like at a certain time. So, having one can be more than a reminder of your appearance. It can be a reminder of what you’re trying to be.