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Leaning Out and Leaning In: One Can't Exist Without the Other

Tia Bustanoby's work, mindset and writing have shaped so much of OutGrowth's message this month. Offering her unique perspective on "Leaning Out," Tia talks to us about seasons of leaning in, entrepreneurship, and mental health. Enjoy our Q+A with Tia below, and be sure to check out her feature in our October issue of En Root!

This month's theme is all about 'leaning out.' Tell us about how you interpret this theme, and how it has played a role in your personal or professional life.

I've always thought about the concepts of "leaning out" and "leaning in" as I do "dark" and "light." One can't exist without the other. In both my work as a wedding photographer and in my personal life, whether it be with relationships, etc.- there are seasons of life that require me to lean in. However, if I don't set aside periods where I intentionally lean out, I won't have the same capacity for fully investing myself during the seasons of leaning in.

At OutGrowth, we believe in designing the space and time to reimagine the path forward. How do you believe the concept of 'leaning out' can impact our perspective and influence our future decisions?

Our culture in the last several years has prided itself on the ideals of "grind" and "hustle." I think that is oftentimes partnered with an expectation that if we work so hard and sprint to get everything done in a short amount of time, then we are deserving of whatever we value- whether that be money, rest, happiness- you name it. But really our lives- both professional and personal- are more of a marathon than a sprint. As people we require rest/breaks, fuel, and a steady pace to be able to truly achieve our goals.

Tell us about your most significant professional moment since the start of the pandemic.

The most significant moment of my professional life since Covid began was when I was laid off from my 9-5. I've worked as a photographer since I was 18, but have held onto other part time ventures up until Covid hit. I was working as a photo re-toucher for a clothing brand, and while it was work that I enjoyed, it took up so much time and energy, I was underpaid, and between that and my photography business, I had no time off. When Covid hit, my department was in the first round of layoffs, and it was from then that I had to assess how I was going to pivot.

How did this experience change the course of your life, your career or your outlook from pre-pandemic times.* At the point where I was laid off from my job as a re-toucher, I committed to going self-employed full-time. Starting then (summer 2020) to present day, my business expanded from not only providing photography services, but also social media management services to clients. Today, I can't imagine ever going back. My entire world felt like it was turned upside down when I lost the job I deemed "consistent." But that shift pushed me to commit myself to the work I actually wanted to be doing- work that allowed me to connect with others on a deeply personal level, as well as work that allowed me to schedule in time for myself and my needs- and I wouldn't have it any other way!

What is one competency or skill you hope to develop/are developing in 2022?

In 2022, I've been investing a lot of time and energy into developing expectation and boundary setting with my clients. Admittedly, starting a business as an 18 year old, I didn't have a tremendous amount of confidence in myself and my abilities, and would often compromise my business policies for clients when challenged. In more recent months and years, it's been important for me to learn how to communicate confidently with the people who hire me, and hold to the boundaries I need to be able to maintain a work-life balance.

What inspires you these days?

Most people get to be solo wedding photographers by working alongside someone as their assistant when they're starting out. Looking back, I'm not sure why I didn't start there, but I pretty much ventured out on my own at the beginning, and it wasn't until the last year or so, that I decided to "lean out" a bit, and take on some work assisting other photographers instead of always being the primary myself. Recently, I was so inspired by working with another wedding photographer in my local market-her name is Tiana Pluck Hardman, owner of Olive and Mint Photography. There is something so refreshing about seeing how other creatives work with their clients, and I have so much respect for not only her warmth and connection with her clients, but also how she has an incredible attention to detail in everything that she does. Every time I work with her, I feel the desire to be better at what I do and hone my skillset even more. It's been so valuable to me to have that inspiration, especially in such a busy season where it can get easy to feel uninspired.

At OutGrowth, we believe in preparing the next generation of leaders. What is one resource (book, podcast, article, anything!) you'd recommend to those looking to carve out the time for growth in the next year?

The best resource I've found for self growth has been going to therapy! It has truly changed me, my relationships, and has given me the ability to create a life I love by processing past and present struggles.

What's next? What are your next steps toward growth in 2022-3?

Ahhh where to start! I feel like I have a million things I want to do in the coming year. I'm actually going back to school online to grow in my education on something I'm really passionate about- which is psychology and mental health. I think that being able to invest myself in growth outside of work will also motivate me to grow professionally. In the work space, I really want to branch out to travel-based work. I would love to be able to connect with more couples around the world and document their memories.

Tia Bustanoby is a wedding and elopement photographer based out of Baltimore, with a passion for documenting the stories of people in love.

Outside of her work, she maintains a passion for human connection and the things that bring people together. Tia loves to spend time with her people, loves to cook, and is a huge fan of 70's rock music.


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