An Instagram Awakening
By Karen Hancock
I did something a bit extreme on Instagram recently.
I unfollowed all the jewelry makers, except for personal friends. A simple move, but a big change for my psyche.
My Instagram follows are a great mix of fashion, art, friends and inspirations. Up until last week, it also included about 30 fellow jewelry makers, the majority who were much, much further along in their careers.
On the one hand, those accounts are aspirational – I hope to be there one day.
But more than that, they were reminders to me of where I’m not, how far I still have to go. That was, unfortunately, what I saw when I glimpsed their fabulous photos and robust interactions. I was caught up in the comparison game.
Building our own thing in the world is challenging and magnifies our strengths and weaknesses in such a pointed way, we are forced to look them straight in the eye. Being hard on myself is one of my struggles, and part of that is an automatic, subconscious jump to comparison with other jewelry makers.
Funny enough, I don’t feel comparison with designs or skill – I’m fine there, knowing there is room for us all. No, the sick comparison feeling comes when I see their popularity on social media. “How the hell did they get 25K followers? What the f$*& am I doing? How on earth will I ever get out there like that? It feels impossible.”
Building our own thing in the world is challenging and magnifies our strengths and weaknesses in such a pointed way, we are forced to look them straight in the eye.
That’s pretty much the line of reasoning, a lot of cursing and a negative downward arc that occurs in about 10 seconds like a reflex. Ugh. This is obviously not a productive mindset. I take comfort in the fact that I’m aware of my behavior and that’s the first step to making changes. I’m working towards building the Amy Poehler reflex of “good for them , not for me.” Or if it is for me, something I do want, to stir up the creative juices to think of a plan for achievement.
Active awareness is great but sometimes in the meantime, other measures need to be taken.
Back to Instagram.
It was soon obvious when the negativity would creep in so I had two choices: see the daily images as a daily challenge or ditch the daily images. Deleting my Instagram account was not an option, for business reasons and because of all the positive things about it (connection, inspiration).
Just so happened that a weekly email from business coach Shenee Howard came through. The gist was six things to know about yourself as you get into business for yourself and one was know your triggers. There it was in black and white: “Are you prone to compare and despair? Then you should most likely stop following people in your industry.”
That’s it. A super-simple suggestion. It was like I was finally given permission to be a real person on social media. Whew.
It was like I was finally given permission to be a real person on social media. Whew.
It’s funny how terrified I was to unfollow these brands. A bit of “maybe I’ll miss something great” and “maybe they’ll be mad.” Both of those are insane, especially the second one.
A main reason I wanted to build my own business was to be able to bend the rules and be myself in the world. And here I was worried that I wasn’t playing nice by the “rules” of social media. Again, Ugh.
Clicked that white button to blue 30 times and felt much better.
Over time, these brands might make their way back into my life but for right now, this is so freeing.
I’ve noticed my Instagram interaction leaves me feeling inspired and creative, thanks to the other fabulous people I’m following. I’m more focused on my making and have embraced my personal voice more. I was so caught up in (and thinking I had to replicate) what the industry stars were doing, I forgot I’m my own star and am creating my own awesome thing. You are, too.
If you’re prone to comparison, this is your call to awareness and your permission to make some uncommon changes.
Karen Hancock is a metalsmith and jewelry designer with an enduring writing habit. She enjoys all this creativity for the heck of it, but mainly sees it as a potent form of human connection. She’s an advocate for individuality, humor, and animals. Connect with her at www.RightCollection.com.
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