The Lovely Collective and Some Thoughts on Community

Can I be honest for a minute? I used to be terrified of making friends. I was homeschooled, and while I interacted with lots of people older or younger than me, I was never quite sure how to approach getting to know girls who were in my own age group. That time of my life was a pretty fancy cocktail of social anxiety and fear of rejection, with a good dose of an "I need to be not like other girls" mentality.

Looking back on my middle--to--high--school years, I think I viewed friendship as something of a competition ----- girls will be friends with people who impress them the most, and if you're not close with someone, you're probably just not good enough for them. I deeply wanted to get to know the girls in my general social circles, but perpetually felt that there was nothing I could do to "win" the friendship competition and be welcomed into their group.

I'm eternally grateful for the incredible women I did know and was close with during this period of my life, but as I got older and planned to move away for college, I firmly believed that I would never find real friends again, and was destined to live out the remainder of my life as a lone wolf (I try to forget how melodramatic I was, but my journals look like poorly written Shakespearean monologues). A couple wonderful girls at my new school took me under their wing in my first year, but unless someone else approached me, I was thoroughly convinced that they did not want to be my friend.

I justified not reaching out to other girls and getting to know them, because if they really wanted to be my friend, they would make an effort to do so. And if they didn't, then they must really not want to be my friend. I lacked the awareness to see how this logic must apply to myself as well, if it were true; that by not approaching others, I was (according to my logic) sending the message that I didn't want to get to know them.

That was my approach when I met each of the girls you see in these photos. I thought they were all too cool for me, and that I would never win their "friendship competition." It took me a while, but as I got more involved in the community we're a part of, I started to realize that none of these women were holding friendship competitions. Our interactions weren't auditions for approval, our conversations weren't tests to see if I would make it to the next round. Becoming friends with these girls didn't bring the rush of winning a competition, but the comfortable, cozy feeling of being surrounded by people who love and support me, who celebrate wins with me and won't just disqualify me when I do something awkward.

It was through this group of women that I learned the importance of not just having friends, but being part of a community. When I approached relationships with others by expecting them to reach out to me, I was letting potentially great friendships slip away. I still had some wonderful companions at school, despite my flawed approach, but I wasn't providing myself with the opportunity to give to others!

As insecure as I felt starting conversations with others, I can honestly say that my life would not be what it is now if I hadn't taken those first baby steps towards actively engaging with my community! My conversations with Amy while I volunteered in the kid's ministry at our church made me feel confident enough in myself to say yes when Sam asked if I'd be willing to take photos for their social media as well. My friendship with Angie, Abby, and Kier made me confident enough to say yes when Sam later asked me on a date (I was confident enough to say yes on my own when he asked me to marry him 😉). As I served my church community through photography, I was also building relationships with those who would later encourage and empower me as I launched into starting my own photography business.

Those people would also be the ones to support me as I figured out all my complicated emotions that arose in the beginning of the pandemic, tried to plan my wedding, and dealt with stress regarding school and work situations. Having best buds that you share everything with is so important, but there's also something so special about being part of a larger community of people who are there to support and celebrate you in every season of life ---- and you get to do the same for them!

This is why I'm so honoured to capture some of the beautiful faces that make up The Lovely Collective, a group of women who truly embody the concept of community and desire to see people flourishing in Jesus. If you're looking for community but not sure where to start, check out their Instagram page and send them a DM!

Each woman in these photos has their own beautiful, unique story that you can read over on TLC's instagram, @the.lovelycollective!

You can also check out the full gallery from this shoot here!