carla coulson, life lessons, self esteem, life the life you love, change your life,

Life Lessons I Wish I Knew At Sixteen

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Life lessons: That’s me in middle showing my undies with my two sisters.

Have you ever looked back through your journey to see the big life lessons that were dark moments at the time but ultimately brought light?

This may be a little too personal for some of you so please feel free to click off here.

When I was sixteen, I lived in Port Macquarie and in theory was having the time of my life. I had great friends, my first boyfriend, and a bike that I pedaled from one end of our town to the other; I felt as free as a bird.

In those days, I would creep into my brother’s bedroom when he was out (he was the only one with a full-length mirror), turn my back to the mirror, and angst about the width of my ankles. My bestie had long lean legs with pretzel thin ankles and mine weren’t shaping up anywhere near close to hers. When I was done with my ankles, I would turn around and with all my muscle power I could summon, I would try my best to create a gap between my legs like the glam girls with long legs at the beach. This was the beginning of many years of comparing myself to others.

On the odd time my mother would catch me, she would tell me that ‘One day you will realize how lucky you are to have strong legs that will carry you through life.’

Hey, I was sixteen as though I was going to listen to my mum!

Not long after my sixteenth birthday, my little world fell apart, my dad had a transfer in his job to Sydney and we were all wrenched out of our happy little ‘surfie’ lives in Port Macquarie.

My brothers and sisters were all at different ages; one stayed and the others were young enough to move on but when I hit Sydney my life stopped. I mean literally stopped. I reasoned, I already had lifelong friends in Port Macquarie, I had been to 3 schools by this stage and no longer wanted to try.


life lessons, Carla Coulson with family in Port MacQuarie Australia in 60s, self-esteem

Me in green in Port Macquarie with my family and grandparents before we left.

For the best part of the next 5 years I shut down, made no friends, didn’t have a boyfriend, refused to get involved with life, and skirted around its edges, doing the minimum I needed to get by. There were many life lessons headed my way.

Fortunately, in my twenties, I found a job I loved in marketing and slowly I found a world in the big city where I fitted. I met great people and started a new chapter of my life.

But something was always missing. My self-esteem by this time had taken a battering, the carefree years of a teenager were missing and I did the best I could to cobble together some sort of ‘mask’ that I was together on the outside but on the inside I was still that girl crying in the backseat of the car as my family drove away from my safe place.

I did a dangerous thing, I started to put my self-esteem in the care of others — men.

How I felt about myself was based on how men saw me, treated me, loved me, and then eventually left me.

My self-esteem plummeted from one failed relationship to another.

By the time I was 32, I had ‘wasted’ a good half of my adult life not knowing who I was and not feeling the power that you can feel when you believe in yourself. It seemed I needed to learn more life lessons than my sisters and brother who had moved more easily into this stage of their lives.

Things got so bad, my life kept me up at night! I could no longer sleep at night, I would drag myself to work, work in a daze, and then an exhausted mess head to bed for another sleepless night. I started to take sleeping tablets and things just got worse. This went on for years.

I was lucky, my day of reckoning came and I decided to do something about how bad things had become and found my way to a great bunch (by this stage I needed a whole team!) of healers.

Over time, they taught me to value and love myself, to take care of myself, not give everything away to others as I had always done, and keep something for myself. I learnt my boundaries and stuck to them.

And then I had an appointment with The Indian Guru. By this stage I was done, I was sick of talking about me, I had re-learnt to sleep (after having wiped out my sleep memory with sleeping tablets) and I felt I could deal with this on my own. One of the kind people who had helped me so much insisted I see the Guru and in one session of 1 hour my life truly changed.

The Guru read my mind and not once did I open my mouth, I cried, he talked and he promised when I walked out of the room I would be different. He moved more energy than a nuclear bomb.

I didn’t even make it to my car before a stream worse than someone afflicted with Tourette’s Syndrome hurled from my mouth. For the first time, I can remember I was truly angry, I sat in my car and yelled, screamed, and swore. All of a sudden, I could ‘see’. Twenty years of angst was gone, those boyfriends appeared weak, frail, and unworthy, and in that moment I couldn’t understand why I had wanted to be with them.

But most importantly, I could see me. I could see that the kindness was more important than the size of my ankles, I could see that the empathy I had for others was far more important than the gap (or no gap) between my legs, I could see that the goodness outweighed any physical faults and my intelligence was alive and well. My mother after all was right!

I now know, after spending the past 7 years working with women as a life coach, what happened. I literally had an energy/cathartic/mindset shift. A sort of fast-forwarding of life lessons all at once that allowed me to start seeing myself in my environment, how I behaved and reacted. It was like being projected outside of my body and becoming an observer in a situation that previously I had no perspective on.

From that day forward I have never compared myself to others, I have never looked outwards for my self-esteem but allowed it to be nurtured from inside.


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The inside cover of Italian Joy and the life I found.


If you, too, have low self-esteem, you can start doing the following:

    1. Honour your word, do what you say, and treat your word towards yourself impeccably. Your words are as powerful as spells. Cast only good ones.
    2. See the good in yourself, keep a journal of all the great things you do, and recognise the positive.
    3. Live in creative energy not competitive. When you are creative, you believe that there is enough space for you and you don’t need to compare yourself to others. Instead, you can support and be supported.
    4. Do what brings you joy, let it be enough, and pay attention to what you like. Follow the feel good, it will show you a lot about yourself.
    5. Pay attention to the people around you. Make sure you have a group of friends that love and support you for being you.


I realized, once I had healed my low self-esteem, how much it had held me back, how it had stopped me from living the life that was waiting for me, and the difference when your true power flows into your bones and sticks.

I couldn’t hang around my old life for much longer and some of you already know the end to this story but eventually, I hopped on a plane to find a new life as a photographer in Italy as told in Italian Joy. On the other side of low self-esteem was the most brilliant life waiting for me.

So dear friends, if you are 16, 20, 30, or 60, the age isn’t important! It’s never too late to turn those life lessons into gold, if you too feel you haven’t yet met the real you or tapped into your true self, you can watch my free training HERE.

Remember: kindness is more important than the width of your ankles and your mother was probably right!

Love and kisses.



Want to discover your life lessons? If you want to know how you can live more wholeheartedly, reconnect to your joy, creativity, and purpose, download my free Reawakening your Lust for life PDF here.

Carla Coulson, Carla Coulson Photography, Carla Coulson Coaching, Business coach, blog, this is better for you than green juice

This Is Better For You Than Green Juice 


Dear Folks, 

The past four years have been beyond interesting in all things growth for me. Thanks to three different auto-immunes Alopecia areata, Graves disease, and Lichen Sclerosus, I got to take a VERY good look at how I was living my life.

I pulled up a train crash speeding at about 100km an hour before it hit a wall and in the process have learnt some of the most marvelous life lessons of all time. 

Jumping off a cliff into a new life 18 years ago, leaving Australia for Italy and a business for photography brought me so many insights into who I am and why I am here. There was so much to learn once I woke up from the trance I had been living that I couldn’t wait to get started. 

There was photography and Florence, museums and art, a new way of living and being. And there was so much love and joy. 

Love for life, for the small things, the world around me and the adventure I was on. The joy was daily in riding a bike through the streets of Florence, in learning a new language and the belly laughs for the mistakes I made and finding a community.


Carla Coulson, Carla Coulson Photography, Carla Coulson Coaching, Business coach, blog, this is better for you than green juice


But somewhere in between Florence and the auto-immunes, my life got way more serious, I moved to Paris, got busy trying to make it work and being back in a big city. 

I credit the auto-immunes with giving me my joy back. They gave me the kick up the bum I needed to take responsibility of my life again and start living it the way I wanted to live it. 

I got back on the JOY TRAIN. 

And yes I did and do eat a million fruit and vegetables, Yes I did stop all those chemicals and loads of other things (YOU CAN READ ABOUT IT HERE) but the healthiest thing you can do for your nervous system is to laugh, to share, to find joy and to allow yourself pleasure with a capital P.

Isn’t this the best news you have had all year! Yes folks, the green juices are fabulous but your nervous system needs a break from doing, from the stress of work and life and all things serious. It needs to dance and ride bikes, it needs to laugh till tears come out your eyes and your stomach hurts, it needs to play football with your kids and lie in a park and do nothing. It needs to paint and to garden, to smell the roses and to go fishing.


Carla Coulson, Carla Coulson Photography, Carla Coulson Coaching, Business coach, blog, this is better for you than green juice


The more little breaks you give that poor shot to pieces nervous system of yours, the more it will fire up the hormones we need and get them doing what they are meant to be doing instead of freaking out and flooding our body with cortisol. 

So lovelies, light a candle, buy yourself some flowers, book a massage because it’s good for you.  

Five Tips for Getting the Joy Back

  1. Remember what makes you happy and build it into your daily or weekly life, it can be as simple as riding a bike or gardening
  2. When you feel like life is too much ask for help or when someone offers it accept it. Doing it all on our own is no longer a badge of honour
  3. Build something that makes you feel good into your life. You decide how often. A swim, a massage, a walk in the mountains or a dance lesson.
  4. Make frequent breaks in your day.. Yes you are allowed to rest. Sit down for 10 mins if your job is on your feet or vice-versa get up from the computer and do some stretches. Take time to meditate or do nothing, lie on the grass and look at the sky.
  5. Disconnect – being connected all the time keeps our nervous systems on call. So make some rules around the use of your phone and social media so you can be present with the ones you love 


The super big bonus of letting your nervous system calm down is that you let a little light into your heart and soul. And when the light gets in you get a little piece to your puzzle.

Sending love and light

Carla x

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2 PLACES LEFT – Masseria Potenti Puglia 2018 

Dear Photographers,

One of the things I love about dreaming up and teaching workshops is creating the time out for the participants from their daily life to not only concentrate on their photography and improve it, meet some new members of their tribe but to have the time to reflect on life and what they want.

It’s in this ‘bubble’ away from the cooking and the kids, away from work and daily chores that not only do you get time to concentrate on you and nurture your photography but you get the clarity on how you want to move forward or what you would like to shift or bring into your life. 


I too have had the exact epiphany attending workshops as a participant and loved the experience of sitting in a room and being inspired, nurtured and everything done for me.

This October we plan on making it our best workshop ever where everything and we mean everything is taken care of. 

At the beautiful Masseria Potenti not only are Maria Grazia and Chiara two of the most welcoming hosts but they have created an atmosphere of simplistic beauty that is a wonderful subject and backdrop for our portrait photos and at the same time good for the soul in every sense. We will look after breakfast, lunch and dinner, you will have your own beautiful room and all you need to do is to concentrate on taking the photos you have inside you and have yet dared to take.  


The photography lessons, models, trips to local villages to photograph the locals, the critiquing and inspiring you and pushing your photography to new levels will all be taken care of by us. We plan to create a unique atmosphere of joy and trust where you can learn to be a little more courageous in accessing something deeper within you that will allow you to go beyond those portrait moments when it feels like nothing is happening, to provoke your portrait subject to draw out something more than a pretty portrait and for you not to give up when you still don’t have the shot.

If you love people photos and want to improve yours, if you would love to come away with a beautiful portfolio of interiors and people and want to give yourself the gift of getting closer to life, the details and yourself, there are only TWO PLACES LEFT.

If you have any questions you can email us at or check out the full details here.

Related post: Why Photography is Good for your Happiness

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The Year of Yes

I recently read Shonda Rhimes book The Year of Yes. I loved it for so many reasons because it reminded me of me years ago when I was frightened of life and commitments.

I would say ‘no’ to everything. And it took years to realise I was saying no to myself and no to life.

Till one day I say ‘yes’ to me, I made the decision to leave Sydney and go find the right life for me and then there was no holding me back. I became the ‘yes’ girl (kind of like Jim Carrey in Yes Man) but without the old lady upstairs!

I said yes, to moving to Italy, to going out with cutie Italian hotties, to becoming a photographer, to having lunch with strangers, to improbable friendships, to picking a destination at the train station and going their spontaneously, to not knowing what tomorrow held.

I said yes to jobs that freaked me out, struggling with photography but kept on going, to learning about art and history, to meeting friends of friends for coffee or lunch. I said yes to Italy and travelled her from top to bottom, I said yes to writing it down in a book (Italian Joy) and I said yes to falling in love with the most beautiful man I know.

I said yes to life and that big old guy upstairs returned my Yes with love, friendship, tribe, happiness, excitement, travel and creativity. He decided to reward me for my bravery, my courage of going wayyyy out of my comfort zone and each time I became a little more open to life when I uttered the word Yes.

The last couple of years I got bogged down in stuff, in new learnings, a little too much routine and I started to become the ‘no’ girl again. I could hear it before it even came out of my mouth.

So yesterday I made a vow, that 2018 will become my Yes year. A year of adventure, love and happiness and I know the universe returns if you dare to open your heart and mind so dear folks anyone out there that wants to join me on the year of yes???

Ultimately the more we say no to others the more we say no to ourselves. What are you saying no to?

See you on the year of Yes??




Related Post: What Are You Starting?

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Get Published – Save The Date December 10th 2017

Dear Photographers,

If you have ever wondered how to break into the magazine or publishing industries to work with your favourite magazines and/or publish a book then save this date – 10th December 2017.

Due to popular demand Get Published, a one-day Workshop in Sydney is back in a new revised, updated 2017 version with exciting special guest speakers (superstars) from the magazine and book publishing industry who will guide you through the best way to have your images published in your dream publications.

Get Published – Save The Date December 10th 2017 Carla Coulson, Carla Coulson Photography, Workshops, Paris, Australia, Get Published, Publishing, Photography, Education, Learn, Class Black and white photography, photography workshop, italian photography workshop, travel photography workshop, travel photography workshop italy, portraiture, fashion portrait, movement, carla coulson, creative coach, creative entrepreneur, photographer, photographers life, italy, photography workshop puglia, beginners travel photography workshop, photography

I share my formula on how I managed to publish two stories in Marie Claire straight out of photography school and how you can too and how that lead to publishing and collaborating on 8 illustrated books and the guest speakers will talk on everything from how to pitch to a magazine and how to have our photographs published in a book. Stand back it’s going to be bigger and brighter than ever.

If you would like to be first on our list email us here at

*update* tickets can be purchased HERE

Stay tuned for full details next week and announcement of special guests.

Sending love




Related Post: Get Published – Sydney 10th December 2017