How You Motivate Yourself Matters

by Bethany Joy



Experience teaches our brains to avoid pain. Habits and patterns can be hard to break because we think “new” means pain. Listen to episode 5 of The Creativity Cure Podcast to hear how if you’ve spent your life criticizing and bullying yourself, you may think you won’t succeed if you don’t do that. The more you think about past mistakes, the more you demand perfection, and the more you feel like a problem, the more you want to stay safe. If you’re always looking for the next mistake or failure, you’ll become a self-fulfilling prophecy through your own frequency bias.  It’s important to be safe if you’re going to be creative. To be safe you need the grace to make mistakes and grow so you can have a growth mindset. The way you motivate yourself matters. How you speak to yourself becomes how you speak to others and for little ones around you, it becomes how they may motivate themselves in the future. There’s hope for change. Embrace self-compassion and here are practical ways to do that!



Have Patience

Changing habits takes time. According to one blog, self-compassion brings up old hurts. I found it hard to break my habit of excessive self-criticism because I was so used to it. If you have used self-criticism as a motivator for years, changing it will feel like a failure. Expect some feelings and be patient. Don’t let your emotions define you. Move through them. If you’re like me, you ignore, dismiss, or pretend emotions don’t exist. Moving through an emotion requires acknowledgment. Write, talk, or think about it. Give yourself a moment to acknowledge your feelings. There’s no need to produce an action like getting over a situation. If you acknowledge your feelings, your brain will move forward rather than slowly lose control of them as you avoid them. Initially, it can feel vulnerable because if you feel embarrassed about something someone pointed out to you, you’re admitting it affected you. No matter how you acknowledge a feeling, it goes somewhere. Suppress it and it may come back as anger or anxiety. You might lie to yourself about it, but your brain knows, so you might find yourself exhausted by pretending. By dismissing emotions, you won’t get rid of them, they’ll come out. It usually hurts people you don’t want. Do you ever get upset over small things? It could be something stupid like someone parking in your space. It’s usually dismissed emotions that cause that blow-up. That feeling didn’t go away! Put your feelings in writing and read them. It’s what I do when my body reacts to anxiety. It was so easy for me to feel anxious that I lost touch with my body and my emotions, so I stopped noticing how I felt. That’s why I pay attention when my shoulders scrunch up, my breathing gets fast, or my stomach hurts. Writing helps me see my thoughts in context, and then they’re not in my head anymore. Writing things down makes them less scary. It’s a great habit to get into. We all feel different emotions. Some of us feel a lot, others don’t. Healthier people are in control of their actions, no matter what. You’ll notice I didn’t say emotions. Feelings are like a map, telling us about ourselves, but we can’t always control them. What matters is what we do with them.



Practice Joy

Another habit I learned from The Joy Switch is to practice joy. Bring back memories of fun times. Take a look at the pictures and reminisce about the day. Take a minute to think about what you’re grateful for. Set a timer for ten minutes and think about 10 things you’re grateful for. Don’t ruminate on upsetting failures or mistakes. Ruminating is when you can’t stop thinking about how you failed, embarrassed yourself, or got angry. You can ruminate to control a problem you think you can’t solve or think you’ll be able to solve it if you think long enough. It can also be triggered by trauma. When you externalize it, however, consider what it means. Imagine if your friend failed to show up for your birthday after promising to do so. There was a genuine error and they apologized profusely. You keep bringing it up every chance you get, replaying it over and over out loud and telling everyone you know what a big mistake they made bringing it up. Is that person someone you’d want as a friend? It’s what happens when you do that to yourself. You’re human, so you’re going to make mistakes or make bad choices. It’s impossible to be perfect. As soon as you set a standard to never experience a situation with uncontrollable elements, you set yourself up to fail. If you can’t always control your thoughts, this technique says to make them a person and say hey, I’ll listen to you later but right now I’m enjoying breakfast, so set it aside. Trying to do simple tasks with the constant reminder of how you messed up in the background is exhausting. It’s okay to set that aside for 30 seconds. It’s not necessary to punish yourself constantly. Let your mind wander to things you enjoy. It may take some practice but change is possible. Think about that adventure with your friend. Think about a dream vacation or a good meal. When your brain isn’t trying to avoid pain, it can embrace the future. Being compassionate allows you to believe you can accomplish those goals, no matter how imperfect you are. Making mistakes is okay and you’ll do it. As a result, you don’t begin to rely on your body’s self-defense mechanisms (fight, flight, freeze). 


Set Boundaries

 Let’s talk about boundaries next. Being compassionate towards yourself means understanding you’re in control. You’re not responsible for anyone’s feelings or actions. In reality, you can’t force anyone to do anything. Boundaries simply mean recognizing where you end and someone else begins. Having boundaries keeps us safe and lets us enjoy our families. There’s a good chance you already have boundaries, but don’t know what they are. Knowing when someone crosses them is a sure sign you have them. No matter what it is, whether it is unsolicited advice, rude comments, or oversharing when you don’t want to, setting and recognizing boundaries is compassion.


Finally, Listen

Take care of yourself.

In addition to taking care of your mind, your body should be taken care of as well. There is a lot of strain and stress on our bodies. Both the good and the bad. It is crucial to take time to care for your body. If you have been ignoring your body, it may take time to get back into it. Pay attention to hunger, thirst, tiredness, and tension. Take care of yourself, whether it’s for a few minutes a day or for an hour each week. Give it a try! It’s becoming clear to me that my body yells in other ways when I ignore it. The physical or emotional stress forces me to rest. Getting help is never too late, even if you’ve never exercised or struggled to stay active. Consider taking one small step toward improving your diet or sleep if you’re not getting enough. We need you. Your friends and family need you. It is your responsibility to take care of yourself because no one else can understand what you need. You should seek help if you have consistently struggled in any area. Search for free groups online or see what your insurance covers. Some of us say we’ll figure it out later, but if it’s been 5 years, it’s time to admit you’re not an expert. Pain shows us what we need to pay attention to before it’s too late. So please pay attention and show compassion for your body.


Last but not least, soul care. For me, it’s prayer, church community, and Bible study. Peace for me comes from knowing God is in control and knows me. Casting my cares on Jesus is what I do when I don’t have compassion for myself or anyone else. Helping others keeps me grounded and reminds me that I’m not alone, by caring, I’m not just focusing on my problems. It’s good to get perspective when you feel like what you’re going through is all encompassing.

It’s time to change the way we motivate ourselves. Think about what care you need and if you don’t know, start by believing you can be kind to yourself. When you do that, your brain starts looking for solutions instead of your next mistake!



Thank you for checking out my blog! You can listen to the podcast on Apple, Spotify, and wherever you listen to podcasts. Watch me on YouTube as well by searching for The Creativity Cure. Let’s continue the conversation by joining Seen & Celebrated my weekly Newsletter where I share stories of women doing great things in Maryland. Subscribe for free below and access all of the stories.


I hope these tips are helpful, but I am only one person, so let me know what has worked for you! I can be reached here or via email at Interested in collaborating on something creative? Commission a portrait! The booking period for 2023 is now open.





Finding Joy

The Official Bethany J. Photography Blog with Bethany Joy Steele

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So last year I started reading again! I got through 4 books. This year I’m hoping to challenge my reading by finding more in-depth books on topics I find interesting! I thought I might share just in case yall were interested! Here are my top ten books I want to read this year listed by interest.





Own your past change your future






I found Dr. John Delony by listening to his podcast  The Dr. John Delony Show. I found myself looking forward to his new episodes because he had a compassionate approach to helping people solve problems. The advice he gave was really easy to apply. He recently came out with a book and if it’s anything like his podcast it will be worthwhile. If you have past trauma or want to learn how to communicate better this is a great book!





The Personal MBA


So I have to admit I bought this book already! I was curious because I have been looking for a way to better understand business to help guide how I improve my work. So far I am loving this book because it is written for the average person who doesn’t have any business school knowledge. I enjoy the conversational tone and I really like how it has practical help. If you need business understanding but don’t wanna take another course check this out.






Never Split the Difference




This title grabbed my eye because I don’t like confrontation! It makes my heart race and my palms sweat. In the name of scaring myself this year (read that blog here.) I decided maybe learning about negotiating is a great way to learn how to express my needs without feeling like world war 3 will break out.






Your Brain’s Not Broken




ADHD has become a hot topic lately but is personal for me. Only recently understanding how it has affected my life I am interested in learning how to move forward into working with my brain and body instead of against it. This book had a lot of good reviews so it may be a blind read.






The Prosperous Coach



I may be showing my hand here but I am interested in coaching. This is a long-term plan as I would love to be able to work from home one day. I searched for one of the best books on the topic and saw this one mentioned several times. I am curious about how I can improve my skills in working with people.






Getting Things Done




I have believed the lie that unhealthy stress was an indicator that you accomplished a lot. I am realizing more and more that if I want to live a life that has room to enjoy my family, fun, and my community I need to manage better. This book stood out to me as a great start, especially that uh…stress free… part!







Lean In





After taking the Katelyn James Business course last year I realized that regardless of whether I want to admit it or not I am a leader. I lead my daughter, my friends, and my clients. I wanted to look to see the thought process behind being a leader and this book was highly recommended.











We all have it! Influence. I am not a natural salesperson I would say. I don’t like convincing people to do things but I have learned that selling is a life skill you need. Part of selling is influence and persuasion. I would like to understand the basics of marketing and why people decide how they do it. I probably won’t leave a pushy saleswoman but I think I have something to gain on this topic. 





Built to Last



Operating a small business is not just so I can have a cool hobby. I truly desire to one day spend my time not only making a living enjoying what I do but being free to help those in need. I want to build a lasting business so that I can do this for as long as possible! 


Blue Ocean Strategy


Business is a huge theme for me this year! Running a one-woman side hustle here I have realized that I can’t compete on the same level as a business with a bigger team. This book looks like a great addition to learning how to build a brand!






Bonus Book!


The E myth



The E Myth looks interesting because I have heard the staggering statistics about how most small businesses don’t last. I wanna have the best shot at it so reading this may highlight some of my pitfalls!


What books are you thinking about reading this year and why? Tell me by following me on IG @bethanyjphotography. You can also reach me by emailing me below.

Finding Joy

Welcome to my blog. Here I am myself. I am an artist who shares her photography, her family, and more! I called this blog choosing joy because 1. That’s my middle name and 2. Finding joy when life is tough has been a journey for me. More often I am choosing to look for the bright side even when I don’t see it. If you are an artist, a parent, a small business or all three then you will like being around here!

Share your Joy Journey with me by emailing You might be featured in my newsletter!

Your Joy Journey can be something funny or moving your story of overcoming or what brings you joy.


Learning to Own What Makes You- You!

Somewhere in the fast paced rollercoaster I call my life I began to define who I am by my struggles and accomplishments. What I did or didn’t do became an anchor for safety when change rolled through my life and I needed familiarity. I always had an answer for what I was doing. Usually the answer was building my business! Making something new! Notice I didn’t say I always knew what I was doing because I definitely didn’t. I started checking off the list of accomplishments that I believed defined my future.

  1. Go to art school for photography
  2. Find a day job to expand your skills
  3. Get Married
  4. Move into your first apartment

Each check gave me a sense of belonging and identity. A huge YES you are on the right track. That feeling was great but very temporary. Each time a new change came and I struggled to keep up, the worries got bigger. The anxiety creeped in and when life didn’t go as planned I felt further from who I had always seen myself as. I thought of myself as the artist! The hard worker! What was I supposed to do when I lost passion for that because balancing it all felt impossible? Who was I if I stopped?

When I got in to art school I realized competition was tough! I didn’t really fit in. (I mean I never really fit in anywhere) My first job was tough. I felt completely overwhelmed and frustrated in a path that I believed was for me ( It wasn’t) Planning a wedding was a whirlwind and being thrown into learning about rent and insurance made me feel like a little girl in her moms shoes playing adult. As a kid I thought the plans I made would be fun and adventurous but life felt overwhelming. I was ready to give up on my dreams of owning a successful business, having a home life with my family, and sharing my love for photography with others. I’m proud of what I did but I didn’t fully enjoy it. I was looking for the other shoe to drop. Holding my breath because I felt like I was the key to holding it all together and couldn’t rest or else it would fall  apart.

Eventually through a long series of events I learned that I was dealing with anxiety and adhd. My world flipped upside down. The intrusive thoughts and overwhelming feelings made sense. I suddenly looked at my life with a new lens. How much of my life was impacted by adhd? I could think of the projects I started and stopped. The people I struggled to keep up with. The exhaustion from trying to plan to be on time and constantly failing. Even my focus on accomplishments was because I struggled with staying focused and wanted to overcompensate. I wondered how much of the “me” I had defined was “symptoms” of adhd.

Some days I felt as if I would never be able to “escape” the symptoms. I might have had a meltdown or two. Was my entire life gonna be trying to win against a brain that had a mind of its own? Many of you can relate to those epiphanies you have about your childhood. It’s like taking the red pill and learning everything wasn’t how you perceived it. I think in the middle of this revelation I lost sight of the fact that not EVERYTHING about me is due to adhd or anxiety. In this journey to being healthy I have had to confront and work hard to start addressing how I have functioned for years. I’m sure I will be doing that every day. What I want to remind myself is that Bethany is more than a checklist of accomplishments and she is more than a checklist of symptoms. You are more than what you produce and more than what you experience.

I have come to a place where I’m learning the “me” a part from the hang ups. Some things about me are not from anxiety or adhd. Some things are just Bethany things. These are things that have always been a part of my life and will always be a part of my life. Like I have always liked technology. I used to take a part computers and learn programs like photoshop for fun! I’m a firm believer that a good app can solve all problems! I love nature-A walk on a sunny day is as good as a cup of coffee. If I can make anything at home just for fun I will, this has resulted in me DIYing quite a few things. Doing my hair is therapeutic even if my creations go a bit sideways sometimes. I like dry humor ( The Office) and cheesy shows like Chicago Fire 🔥. I love photography because the technical side is interesting and the people I get to meet are awesome. I love a deep conversation and love listening to someone who is passionate about what they are interested in. I am still learning about how anxiety may have impacted the way I made friends but I am deciding not to let the sum total of who I am be a diagnosis. I have no shame admitting that as a human being I deal with all kinds of problems but I am still me. It took a long time to learn about ways my brain functions and what effects that had on my life. I’m so happy to put a name to the experiences I’ve had and to also identify that many things about me are just “Bethany things.”

Why share this story? Because I want to encourage you to stop and breathe and just be. You have value because you are one of a kind. You don’t have intrinsic value because of what you do. You don’t lose value because of what you go through. While you are out there trying to catch your dream or build a legacy keep those things that make you, you in mind. You can’t pour from an empty cup knowing what refreshes and brings joy to you will keep you going when life brings all the new changes your way. This is for all my hustle culture entrepreneur bosses! Make some room for Joy!

What makes you YOU? With all of your perceived imperfections what is a you thing that is important to embrace?


Finding the Joy

Welcome to my blog. I talk about choosing joy, to me, that means believing God is good and there is hope in the face of difficulty. I also talk about my goals and challenges. I believe in perseverance, grit, dreaming big, and choosing to challenge yourself to be better than yesterday. 

What does it mean to be a part of the #JoyJourney?


It means to choose JOY in the good and bad!
It means we focus on our goals!
It means we challenge ourselves to do better!


Wanna share your story? Join the #joyjourney in my FB group here! We encourage each other to accomplish more and meet up once a month for a nature walk! 


Sign up for our latest nature walk here!



5 Ways I Bring Back Sanity After the Holidays

Relighting your lamp!


October and December are my busy season for photography. There are fall sessions and holiday sessions and parties and preparations for Christmas(I wanna sleep just writing this.) When January sneaks up and surprises me each year, it’s time for a little hibernation and re-examination.  If you are time blind like me, meaning you struggle to grasp how you are allotting your time and resources, I have some tips that might help you refocus your time for the new year.



Prioritize What Matters Most

Before I rush into the new year with excitement, I take time to review my previous year and look at the goals from then. I look at what worked and what didn’t. Then I look at my priorities and decide if there are some I need to let go of or improve. I always prioritize my relationship with God, my husband and baby, and finally my work and community. Prioritizing helps me to set boundaries so that I can enjoy these aspects of my life. Failing to examine and reset boundaries can turn healthy friends and experiences into bitter relationships built on obligation. So I make sure my new goals help me to prioritize my energy and care in the right ways. This practically looks like not scheduling work during family time and making time for day-to-day connection with my loved ones even if I have to schedule it. The book that helped me do this was Take Back Your Time by Christy Wright. If you find yourself always feeling short on time it’s worth a read.


Clocks and Calendars

I am time blind! If I don’t have a clock in front of me or write down the intentions I forget. Often this causes more stress because it feels as if I am always behind. So this year I bought more calendars! I have a daily planner, and a monthly calendar on my wall, and added a yearly calendar as well. This will help me better see everything coming! I also will be getting out my digital clocks, watch, and timers to help me stay aware of the time at all times. Additionally, I carry a notebook where I write down things I need to remember (your memory is not reliable.) Usually, I will fall off wearing my watch or using my calendar so the new year is a perfect time to reset all of this. Here is a list of the items I bought. These aren’t affiliate links I just like this stuff.

Daily Planner

Wall Calendar

Annual Calendar

Moleskin Notebooks

Simple Watch






This one is hard for me but necessary. I will be working on accountability. This might mean finding a friend to work out with. Reaching out to people who are experienced for advice or using a system like a course to stay on track with learning goals. In addition to asking real people for help, I like some of these tools as well. I have personally used all of them and have had some success in sticking to my goals due to having accountability around them.

Maple: Coordinating home tasks

Noom: Daily accountability for weight loss and healthy eating

Coursera: courses for professional development  (apply for financial aid to try it free!)

Linked In: Reach out to experienced professionals and ask to interview them for 15 minutes

Facebook Groups: Yes they may be ancient but you can find some surprisingly helpful people out there willing to share tips on everything. This is my fave as a new mom.



Finding time to play

This is a new goal of mine. I would like to find time to play. I notice I really struggle to see anything that is not productive as necessary. It’s hard to make play a priority I usually wait for a vacation or break but that’s not a good long-term plan. Life is full and I am going to have to learn to stop and breathe right in the middle of it! Otherwise, my body will force me to stop by exhaustion or lose hours of my day to YouTube. I notice when I recognize this is a real need I work hard during productivity time and can bring more creativity to my problem-solving. If you have any ideas of what I can do for fun let me know!! 


Resetting is just part of life. It’s a part of the rhythm. I am learning how to be a bit less all-or-nothing and a bit more flexible by understanding this process can’t just happen in January. I need it every day! How do you get back to the norm after the craziness of the holiday season? What have you found helpful? DM me on social media or email bethany@bethanyjphotography.

Subscribe to my newsletter to join my community!





Finding Joy

Welcome to my blog. Here I am myself. I am an artist who shares her photography, her family, and more! I called this blog choosing joy because 1. That’s my middle name and 2. Finding joy when life is tough has been a journey for me. More often I am choosing to look for the bright side even when I don’t see it. If you are an artist, a parent, a small business or all three then you will like being around here!

Share your Joy Journey with me by emailing You might be featured in my newsletter!

Your Joy Journey can be something funny or moving your story of overcoming or what brings you joy.