As an ex-marketer, a bio feels like another attempt to sell my soul to you. To convince you of my worthiness. To scream louder than all the other photographers and coaches, and let you know that “I am the best and here is why”.
But I am tired of feeling like a hypocrite. My work is all about proving your worthiness, your capability, and your true beauty to you – and so I’d prefer to write you this letter from the heart, instead. It won’t be what you’re used to, and it won’t be perfect – but it’ll be the verbal embodiment of what I tend to create. Whether it’s writing with the aim to help you help yourself, or my photography – my intention always remains the same: to prove that you are (good) enough.
I never ever felt beautiful, capable, or skilled as a child. I sometimes still don’t.
But creativity saved my life, and now I want to use it to save yours.
I understand if your first reaction to that sentence is a deep eye-roll. As a practical person myself, I’d probably mutter under my breath that marketing in 2018 is so over the top. Or maybe you’re thinking to yourself: “I don’t need saving. Why am I even reading this?”
But before you close this tab, I’d like to invite you to dig deeper. Why would a line like that make us scoff? Is it because this world is so full of fake gestures, empty lines, and false promises? Have we become so disillusioned by a lack of authenticity, that we no longer notice what’s authentic when it’s put in front of us?
But that’s why I do this – and that’s who I am. Sharing my heart in all its truth is all I really know.
I’m tired, dear reader. I’m tired of watching people walk around feeling like they aren’t the person they want to be. I’m tired of meeting wonderful people who don’t know how wonderful they are. I’m tired of telling people they’re amazing, and having them think that my authentic compliment is just flattery. I’m tired of this disease of “not enough” destroying people from the inside.
I am often held back by my fear of doing the wrong thing. Even this website took ages to be revealed and sent out into the world. I’m afraid of making the wrong decision – but I also find myself eternally afraid of wronging others. I spent more than 18 of my 28 years being afraid, so it’s not a habit that one just breaks in one go.
As a result, I’ve actually “retired” from photography twice in my 8-year career. Probably because I worried that “doing the wrong thing” for a career was somehow an injustice to my clients. But every time I left this craft, I found myself missing the hours of image editing, the moments of smiles and tears on my face about the memories I was lucky enough to capture. I’d miss the medium a little bit – but mainly, I’d miss the wonderful people I got to photograph. I missed changing how people saw themselves.
But I didn’t miss much about the industry. I didn’t miss the things we are told we should do – the marketing, the “correct” way to colour correct, the deceptively low session fees combined with holding images hostage for a higher profit. I didn’t miss the discomfort of selling myself as something I was not, working with people I didn’t truly adore, or trying to convince my worth through sleazy marketing that the online marketing industry so often demands.
I’m tired, now. I’m tired of selling myself “the correct way”, which hides my truth and gives you a lie. But more than that, I’m tired of hiding, and I’m tired of being held captive by “the right thing”.
I don’t want to be an authority in my industry. I don’t want to tell you I’m the best photographer in Kenya, or even in the world. I don’t want to be the most lauded author of a billion books, well known for her clever use of words.
I just want to tell you my truth. I want to give you peace of mind, comfort, and a reminder that you truly are special. Whether that’s through my writing, or the best photo you’ve ever seen of yourself. I want you to walk away from me knowing that there is a genuine piece of you in the images I captured and the writing that I share – so that you can look in the mirror and realise why you and your life are good enough.
My loved ones say that my “secret sauce” is my honesty and vulnerability. As a result, my visual work tends to be honest, raw, and authentic – and I coax those qualities out of my clients too. You’re not seeing an over-processed image – you’re seeing yourself. My writing tends to help people dig deeper, and explore the shadows that no one likes to talk about. Both art forms lead you to a more powerful and authentic version of yourself.
So I probably won’t literally be saving your life with my creativity. Vulnerability is what truly saved my life, as did authenticity. But when I went from sickly and wanting to die, to a powerful woman who felt worthy of everything she desired – it was through using my camera that I found self-love within me. It was through my writing that I changed my own life – and then, like the ripple effect that all behaviour has, I ended up making this my life’s work and changing other people’s lives.
You may think you don’t need saving. But if you’ve ever looked in the mirror, and you find that you’re not the person you wish you could be – then you are living a lie. Sounds harsh, but I truly believe that who we wish to be is who we truly are, underneath all the layers of conditioning and people-pleasing and fear and insecurities and worries and, and, and… I could go on, but you get the picture.
Worthiness comes from the practice of self-love. But that ever-elusive concept that every self-help book mentions without an actual manual (don’t worry, I’m writing one) is not a destination or a noun – but a path, and a verb. Feeling worthy involves taking actions of self-love.
My work isn’t about telling you you’re worthy – it’s about proving it to you, through your own actions.
Self-love is not outside you. Neither is your beauty, or your “special sauce”. It’s right there for the taking – it shows itself when you dare to get deeply honest. But if you’ve been having trouble finding it, then you need to do it with someone who understands the layers of being vulnerable, and is willing to provide a safe enough space for you to metaphorically strip down.
Scary stuff. But it’s all I know. It’s all I am.
So, if you’re willing to be honest with yourself and the world – I am here for you. Whether it’s just through my upcoming book, the blog, or my photography – I’m here to help you save yourself. It’s not just yourself you’ll be saving – but anyone and everyone who witnesses you at your most naked.
Imagine how many people you could save from living a lie?
I invite you to join me in my secret wish: to change the world from the inside.
Are you up for the challenge?
Melissa Nathalia de Blok.
PS If you’d like to see if my work can support you in your journey, click here to start a conversation.