Last week I wrote a post on Instagram about the effects of social media on self confidence. I got so many responses to this that I decided I would write a blog post about this.
It is ever so easy to forget why you joined a thing like Instagram when you're a few weeks in and start seeing the posts of large accounts. You probably joined to share what makes you happy, to share wonderful moments you captured and all of a sudden you feel like you have ended up in a rat race. You see the accounts of people with a large following, in fact you are starting to feel like everyone is more popular than you and very quickly this wish to share your photos ends up becoming a confidence trap.
You start to think your work must not be good enough, or perhaps you are doing something wrong, because feeling invisible can be extremely painful. You start posting more, look at how others are working, start to unconsciously emulate their approach, all to heal this pain of not being worthy or visible.
You have unknowingly started to equal the amount of followers with your value and the value of your work. Your confidence now all of a sudden depends on this amount of followers and this means that you feel worse and worse every day, except perhaps for a few short lived moments when all of a sudden you gain 100 followers over night
I fell into this trap too a few years ago. I thought my work was worthless if it got so little attention. I thought this needed to be fixed. I started to take social media classes to learn what I was doing "wrong". What I learned though is that in these classes I was taught to be inauthentic. I was taught to post bright and colourful images, pictures needed to be cropped to a 1:1 or 4:5 ratio, they said things about pods (which I have understood to be like voting circles where everyone in it likes the others' pictures) and that you needed to post every day, you could not ever miss a day or it would hugely affect your account and so on.
I don't know about you, but after a while this started to sound really weird to me. "So, in order for my work to be visible ("popular", I hate this word...) I needed to become someone I was not and create work that I did not like or cut up work that I did like?" That sounds off, doesn't it?
I can't even begin to wrap my head around the concept that success would then mean to be someone I am not, doing things I don't like and destroying work I do like, so I can have more followers. How can I call my life a success if I am trying to be someone I am not? Why would I even have been created to be unique if this is the purpose?
Of course this is not the purpose of your life or why you started sharing work on Instagram. You started sharing your work, because you love photography, you have captured moments that mean something to you in a way that captured a bit of your soul. And comparison then started to take you away from your source and the lack of self confidence started to crush your soul.
The keys to staying confident on social media even if you have less followers than those you admire, are these:
1. Ask yourself why you are on social media in the first place? Was this meant to become a competition that you can not get out of? What do you think is so important about being more popular? (Believe me, it is not worth sacrificing your sanity over)
2. Remember that what makes you different from others, also those that you admire so much, is actually your strength and not your weakness. What makes you unique is the source of your greatness. It is your unique qualities that you need to build upon. Trying to be more like others is like you are denying that you are just as valuable.
3. Ask yourself if a huge following is more important than having the RIGHT following. The RIGHT people are those that are attracted to the you-ness in your work. If you show up authentically, if you put yourself into your photography, the people that will be attracted to it, will be those that belong to your "tribe". These will be people that you will be able to really connect with. You see, a huge following is certainly not the same as being successful. There are businesses that are hugely successful on Instagram who don't have that many followers, but because they deliver unique content that speaks to their audience on a deep level, they are very successful.
4. Be true to the followers you already have, those who love your work. They look at your work because it makes them feel better, because your photo has sparked something inside of them. Don't be so busy chasing new followers that you forget to connect to the loyal followers that love everything you do. Be grateful for what you already have.
5. Remember that being popular on social media can also be someone's strength. Just like the most popular kid in high school, someone can just hit the right nerve or is possibly of the same age group as the majority of the active members of something like Instagram and knows how to address that majority. This can be a strength. If this is yours, yes....go for it....build on it, but I don't think you would be reading this blog post if this is you. If you are more introverted, your strength might not be "being popular", but you have other strengths that will possibly give you a more connected following, people who really care about what you do and this is actually the only group of people you should care about.
What you think makes you vulnerable (not being like the others) is actually the greatest source of power that you have. Continue to put you into your photography and your connections on social media will become more true as well. Be proud of what makes you unique instead of feeling bad that you're not like the others. Work from your own unique vision and then....quite magically followers will show up and they will be the right ones.
Needless to say that I have not taken the advice that I was given in these social media classes. I post many pictures that are considered the wrong dimensions, I post long captions (which you are also not supposed to do if you want to be popular), I stuck with my darker photography style (because this is what makes my work mine) and I have also not started cutting up pictures. I decided to do the opposite, become even more dedicated to following my own vision and make it work in spite of that. And this worked. This strengthened my belief in myself tremendously. I believe more than ever that you are not only allowed to be yourself, but it is your calling to be true to yourself and what makes you unique
I can help you confidently create pictures from your unique vision in my eCourse Your Vision Your Story. Sign ups will close on August 31st 2018