Beat the Mid-Year Blues

by Bethany Joy



How are those new year’s resolutions going for you?

It’s June and let’s be honest with ourselves. We set BIG new year’s goals back in January and before we knew it we were halfway through the year. It can be frustrating to set out to have the “Best Year EVER!” and then look at the unused gym membership, unchecked list of to-dos, and unexpected craziness life has thrown our way and get discouraged. Here are some ways to rethink the 2nd half of your year to inspire you to keep going! Life is tough but so are you.


Redefine What Success Looks Like

Setting ambitious goals is great. Pushing yourself to be the best is not a bad thing. However, in the design world, you have to do more than set a goal. You need to test it and evaluate if it’s working. This is a great time to re-evaluate your goals. If you want the vision in your head to become reality you need to be realistic about your ability to achieve it. For example, if you plan on traveling more this year but so far you have only traveled to the store take a step back and ask why? Are you spending your time on what you believe is important? Are you in a temporarily tough situation? Do you need to adjust the timeline? Spend some time reviewing what you have actually accomplished versus what you want. It may be time to re-prioritize your energy to what matters.



Own Your Environment

We all have responsibilities to take care of. It could be our families, jobs, or our home. Bills have to be paid and we don’t always get to choose what that looks like. What we can choose is to set our environment up for success. In a busy season, it’s normal to have things out of place including routines, our homes, and our schedules. Halfway through the year is a great time to stop and reset your environment to emphasize your values! Values in this case simply mean how you approach life. If you value adventure approach your day looking for it. Can you make cooking breakfast an adventure? Can you explore new ways to get your work done? If you value rest, how can you approach your day in a restful manner? Can you build in extra breaks even if they are only mental? Can you prioritize a 5-minute walk? The way you present yourself and craft your environment is up to you. Shout out to my therapist for this advice!



Cut Your Losses

Ego will cost you more than you ever wanted. Sometimes our goals are grounded in ego, grounded in proving others wrong, proving we don’t need help, or proving we are perfect. Take note: Are your goals for this year rooted in pleasing others, proving others or pride to avoid shame? When we spend energy on ideas or goals that don’t work because we can’t let go of our plans or admit that we got it wrong we lose more time. Sometimes the most effective thing you can do is realize what you are doing is not working and pivot. Sometimes I tell myself “plot twist” or ” The plot thickens” because it can be hard to let go of effort, time, or energy invested into a plan that has failed. Failure isn’t the end, it’s the beginning of learning.


Small Steps Equal Big Changes

Okay. This may seem cliche, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. If you have fallen off of your new year’s resolutions now is the time to check and see if you have fallen prey to chasing “States of Being” I talk about this in my podcast from the book The Personal M.B.A. A state of being is when a goal is to “Be Happy” “Be Successful” or “Be at Peace” which will not help you actually reach your goal. Instead, define what each means and put them into actionable steps. If “Be Happy” means working less and having the income to go on vacation, spend your energy examining what it would take to make that a reality. Get it on paper and get it with dates. Get that desire into action and start creating a path toward it. Imagine there are no barriers and dream up how you can achieve your goals. It may not be exactly what you imagine but don’t underestimate the encouraging power of small steps.


Encouragement is Like Dynamite

Encouragement comes in small packages. When everything seems to be falling apart, it can feel like you need a miracle for circumstances to turn around. In my life when I make one small positive change, I feel incredibly better. It may not take as much as you think to be able to see things are getting better. Give yourself encouragement by recognizing what is going well. When you have a bad morning believe that your day can turn around tomorrow. If you went off the line on your New Year’s Resolutions there are still 6 months to make it happen. Don’t throw away the baby with the bath water. One thing going wrong doesn’t ensure EVERYTHING is ruined! (This is for me to be honest).



I hope this gives you some ideas on how to gather the strength to keep moving this year. Remember that when you feel like everything is going wrong you can still choose to be kind. You can choose to be hopeful and fight for the better. Happy Mid-year! Let’s continue doing what we dream of. If you want some cute encouragement to check out the affirmations below!




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Fix the Foundation First

Has anybody seen are we done yet lately? It is a movie that came out in 2007 and I thought it was hilarious. I’m not sure why, but this movie is stuck in my brain. If you haven’t, picture this. The People’s family, city people, move out to the suburbs for their growing family to have more space. They recently found out that they are having twins so they need to buy a home immediately. The main character Nick doesn’t get the house inspected before buying to beat out another interested couple (btw never do that!) So they move in and start to find all these problems that need complete renovations! So it starts with mold, electrical work, and plumbing. Every day they find something new. One day they find the floor had termites so they gut it. Nick is about to lose his mind and asks why all of the renovations are necessary. I can’t remember the exact quote but the contractor says that ” it’s gotta get ugly before it gets beautiful.”

So today we are going to talk about getting to the root of your problems and getting through the ugly so you can find the beautiful!

Why is it important that we define our problems before coming up with solutions? In the design world, we define problems to make sure we stay focused on the goal. Here is a quote from career foundry that sums it up well. Without a well-defined problem statement, it’s hard to know what you’re aiming for. Your work will lack focus, and the final design will suffer. Not only that: in the absence of a clear problem statement, it’s extremely difficult to explain to stakeholders and team members exactly what you are trying to achieve.

Let’s reflect that on ourselves in the absence of a clear problem it’s difficult to ask for the right help, and find the right solutions and you will spend time worrying about the paint chips in your house instead of the termites rotting the foundation. That’s what I talk about in Episode 7 of The Creativity Cure! Listen below.




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.





Intentionally Getting

to Know One Another

by Bethany Joy



As I grow older, I want to be known. This wasn’t going to happen without my openness and the space to let myself be known good, bad, and ugly. In Episode 4 of The Creativity Cure, I talk about how I am going to live in a way that fosters real relationships that are strong. Here are some practical ways I am going to do that! Let me know what you think. What would you add?



Let’s Be Honest 

It was the first BIG step I had to take. Every day, I work on not going along to get along. As soon as I realized I wasn’t being understood, I worked harder to make sure I could be understood. Suppose I asked for guacamole at Chipotle and they said Queso I would speak up if the person heard something different about the food. On days when I’m having a tough day, I try to be honest with people about how I’m doing. It was only when I spoke honestly outwardly about how I felt that I was able to move through my emotions because I heard what my body was saying and I took action to move forward. While this doesn’t mean I’m right about everything, it does mean I deal with reality and let people know who I am and what my plans are. As I constantly engage in these little confrontations, I build my confidence for real big moments when I have to speak up.


Pay Attention 

The more I expressed what I felt inside, the more I noticed my needs and this really changed my life. If you know someone who gets hangry, you know what it feels like to argue and fight and then they eat and it’s all good. They probably felt hungry long before they got irritable. In the same way, when I listened to my needs, I noticed lots of additional needs I’d usually overlook until I got sick from lack of sleep or felt terrible from not taking care of myself. I mean I actually noticed when I was thirsty or hungry before I felt extremely irritable. Rather than being irritable towards my family when I get home from work, I could communicate decision fatigue. I did decide to go to therapy and it really helped me work through being out of tune. I began to feel more like the driver in my life and less like the rider of my emotions or lack thereof. 


Make Time to Get to Know People

Are there people you pass by every day and say hi to? Have you gotten to know your family well? How well do your friends know each other? Asking yourself these questions will help you find meaningful relationships and improve them. What you water grows. You have to be patient if you want to build a community. There’s a good chance you’ll be the one who calls and asks awkward questions. When your relationship with a sibling is always surface level, it’s hard. I actually find a lot of marriage podcasts so helpful because the key to all thriving relationships is communication. The Young Black Married Christian Podcast uses an acronym to remind you to go deep. They call it the BLESS framework. You ask questions about someone’s Body, Labor, Emotions, Social Life, and Spiritual Life. 

Body: How is your shoulder doing after you got hurt the other day?

Labor: What was work like for you today did you enjoy it?

Emotions: I know you were disappointed that you didn’t get a raise how are you feeling?

Social Life: How are your friends?

Spiritual Life: Are you hoping for anything? What are your dreams?

It might help you get to know your loved ones better by asking better questions. Try it out! The questions get deeper as you go along and you can actually repeat it to spark a good conversation.


Finally, Listen

Learning to listen is a skill. Learn how to listen if you want to succeed in community. It means asking follow-up questions! This means not adding to what someone said or twisting it to fit your needs. It means asking for clarity and repeating what they said. It means respecting people’s choices and preferences; sometimes we ignore them by not listening. Take the time to consider how your actions affect the people around you, without justifying them. I’m not going to pretend I’ve figured this out because this is hard. But if you learn to listen, you’d be surprised what people share about wanting to be connected.

I want to leave you with this last thought if you have trouble controlling peace by allowing your boundaries to be consistently crossed. 

One day, you may have to speak up for serious reasons like safety and protection. In an assailant safety class at work, there is a section that talks about how one of your defenses is your voice. Often, criminals will exploit people’s natural tendency toward friendliness. Some would look for those who were more concerned about being polite than speaking up. This reminded me that what you practice will become your reality. Practice talking to others, being honest in your emotions and thoughts, and verbalizing them even in disagreements, and you’ll be able to do it when it matters. The good thing about this is that you will attract people who see this as a good thing rather than people who like to dominate others. Your ability to listen to yourself will influence your ability to listen to others. It could be your children or your partner who benefit from the growth that happens when you choose to care for yourself the way you do for others. It starts with you. Practice with you. Be honest and build relationships that reflect you good bad and ugly. Check out this clip by Hailey Page Magee this one is for you people pleasers!



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

Contact Me





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.


What My Photography Was Like 10 Years Ago

Let’s Go Back

Yes, this is me in high school!


It has been 10 years since the first time I picked up a camera. I am surprised I stuck with photography this long considering how many other hobbies I’ve lost along the way. I made purses, sold cards, and even did Avon for a bit, and T-shirts! If you haven’t heard I have BIG news coming in February about how I am changing my business. I thought that one way to help everyone make sense of what is coming would be to look at how I started. I want to bring you into my circle here to help you understand how I built along the way. I have done a general blog on this before but this is a bit more in-depth covering 2014-2015. This blog is the first in this series and it’s looking at my work from when I was 15 and had just started photography class at school. I think it’s cool to share because if you are a teen out there please know you can grow your skills into a business even at that age. I also think some of you art lovers might appreciate it. So let’s go. I had way too much fun going through these. 



Portraits From the Start

From the start, I was in love with portraits! I started with portraits of people on the street and pictures of buildings. I was really scared of people getting mad so I would try and do portraits in stealth mode. I had to build the confidence to ask people for a picture. 


Projects I Still Love

There were some projects or moments that I will never forget. They sparked my love for photography and made me some friends I still have today!

These two portraits were my first studio work. One was a study of the lighting of a Joni Mitchell portrait. The second was a project on making my little brother look like an adult for a project on irony. I remember being so excited because I got the light to do what it was supposed to! This was a win in understanding how to make drama come alive in portraits.




The exploration of this time was so much fun. I teamed up with the Baltimore City Mayor’s photographer and shot the back-to-school giveaway. I started messing with color developing the style that I have now. Shout out to all of my family members who involuntarily posed for me! 




I started developing my warm and vibrant style in high school thanks to my friends and family modeling for me.




One project that I absolutely loved was Uniquely Human. A project where my friend Rebekah and I collaborated with our class to create a single portrait from 20 faces making universal emotional expressions. 





I look back at this and I am so proud of myself and all of the people I met along the way. I had fun just playing, exploring, and connecting with people. Can anyone relate to having a moment of courage when it comes to chasing your dreams? Lately, I have been doing a major rehaul of Bethany J. Photography and looked over all of the stuff I did ten years ago. It makes me excited to dive back into making art again. I tend to remember the fear and nervousness I felt when I would make work and constantly wonder if it was any good. I think looking at the images and remembering that all of that stress did pay off gives me some bravery to make new things again. I kinda wonder what Bethany back then would think of me now. On that note, that’s all I got for this blog. Next time I am gonna get a bit into art school and my first client work. What would you tell yourself 10 years ago? Drop it in a comment below or DM me @bethanyjphotography everywhere.


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