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  • Writer's pictureJill Hartmann

Out of my comfort zone

Updated: Jun 14

Before I was laid off from my job of 25 years, I was selected to participate in a "40 over 40 Project." I signed up during one of the busiest times of my life. I was getting all three of my kids off to college and leading a team of 28 people through massive transition at my former company. Looking back, I think I signed up because I knew I needed to focus on myself. You see, I was so stressed during this time that I was losing hair and gaining weight. My blood pressure was going up and deep down, I knew I needed a catalyst to make some changes.


The "40 over 40 Project" is a photo experience that ultimately helped me feel empowered, uplifted and celebrated, but I didn't feel that way at the beginning. I delayed making my appointment - I was hoping to lose 30 pounds first, but that wasn't going well. Then, in December of 2022, I was laid off. Instantly my stress as work was gone. It was replaced with a new stress of not having a job, but I'll save that for another blog post. With a free schedule, I had no more excuses. It was time to embrace my middle-aged body and to make my appointment.


The entire team at Janel Lee Photography made me feel so comfortable in the process. I picked out eight outfits, based on the style guide they provided. I bored my husband by trying on 100 outfits, so he was relieved when I finally received feedback on my outfits during a Zoom consultation. On the day of the photoshoot, Sarah Lockwood did my hair and makeup. She was so kind and talented. This was the first time I had my makeup professionally done. I couldn't believe the transformation - I told her I looked like my niece! During the session, Leon and Tristin McDonald helped me relax and embrace the experience. At first during the photoshoot, I was trying to rush - I didn't want to take up too much of their time, but at some point, I just decided to be present in the moment and cherish the attention. They helped me with poses and when I talked about feeling overweight, they stopped me - this negative self-talk is something I'm working on! The photos turned out so much better than I expected - from the lighting to the posing. They really captured my personality and pushed me out of my comfort zone by getting me to dress up, show a shoulder or try a sultry look. And, I now have some gorgeous headshots for my job search that reflect my personality.


I learned something about myself during this experience. While I'm a very positive person and I'm always open to new adventures, I'm uncomfortable when the spotlight is on me. I'm a huge cheerleader for others, but not for myself. For this experience, I tried to own the spotlight and I'll take that renewed confidence with me as I figure out what's next in my career journey. I needed the reminder to embrace the fact that I'm beautiful, brilliant and vibrant!


Highlights from my experience ...

Top left: Tristan and Sarah getting all the small details right. Top middle: Selfie with Sarah, hair and makeup artist. Top right: One of my favs.

Middle left: Zoom session with Leon.

Middle: An elegant and bold little number.

Middle right: They captured my real smile and laugh! Bottom left: My husband's favorite. Bottom middle: Some new LinkedIn pics. Bottom right: This is as "hard ass" as I get (I probably started laughing right after this photo was taken).

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