The other morning I was driving to work and listening to one of my favorite Podcasts, The Goal Digger Podcast with Jenna Kutcher (you can find my list of favorite Podcasts here) and was excited to discover that she had interviewed Erin Loechner, author of Chasing Slow and one of my favorite bloggers over at Design For Mankind. While I had anticipated that their conversation would focus on Erin’s new book and her incredible blogging success, it centered mostly on how Erin recently able to find a balance between her real life vs. the one she had online, something I have been struggling with myself lately and wanted to share my thoughts about.
When I started this blog I intended for it to serve as an extension of my Instagram account, which had unintentionally grown in a matter of months from my personal account to one focusing on fitness and the healthy lifestyle I had adopted since my collegiate hockey career ended back in 2015. Before my Instagram following began to take shape, I was not someone who shared or posted frequently. I like to think of myself as a fairly private person, and I would say that is still very much the case. For me it was much easier to share my fitness routine or what I ate for breakfast than my inner most thoughts, fears and aspirations with people.
…it felt like the more authentic and honest I tried to be on Instagram, the less authentic the app became.
But as time went on I began building genuine connections with my followers, connections that encouraged me to share my true story and the emotional journey I had taken to get to this point in my life. I was much more confident in who I was and what I had to say. I would still say that is by far the greatest part about my account, and I have had many incredible conversations with people from all over the world through my platform.
Ironically, however, it felt like the more authentic and honest I was on Instagram, the less authentic the app became. There were more and more people starting fitness accounts, which I thought to be a wonderful positive thing until for many it became nothing more than a competition between accounts. What was once a platform to simply share my story and routine quickly became an intense rat race for the most followers, engagement, and brand partnerships. The focus was shifted from helping others to selling products, and it was a giant turn off for me.
Trust me, I understand the allure behind having a large Instagram following or building a profitable blog. Who wouldn’t want to get paid to share curated photos of their life or write about the things they love? We all have bills to pay, and when granted the ability to influence thousands or sometimes millions of people with their words and images, Instagram influencers have an easy decision to make in regards to sponsored posts. When I reached the point where brands began approaching me, I knew there had to be a way to do all of those things and still remain true to myself, but it has proven to be incredibly hard to do sometimes online. Whether you have 5 followers or 5 million, there is an unspoken pressure for our online lives to not just be picture perfect but constantly on display, and therefore dangerously inauthentic.
I went from someone who posted once a month, to once (sometimes twice) a day. The pressure to keep up with content and like-worthy photos was starting to dictate my life more than I felt necessary. I would spend what little free time I had asking my mom to take photos for me, or feel pressure to sit for hours scrolling through Instagram and commenting on other people’s pages because everything I read said that you had to be actively participating in the community if you wanted to gain more followers and build strong connections with other accounts. What happened to commenting and meaning it? What happened to reaching out for genuine reasons and not just for a follow back?
Once I took on some sponsored posts I had a more strict calendar I felt I needed to stick with, which meant I wasn’t posting when I felt like it, I was posting when I had to. While my page has mostly centered on fitness and health, I could feel my other interests being pushed further and further to the back. Everything I wrote and shared was and always will be genuine, but the platform itself started to feel really fake to me. Eventually I reached a point where posting and being on the app wasn’t making happy, just stressed and sad.
Sometimes we reach a point in our lives where we feel it is no longer sustainable for us to stay inside the box we have created for ourselves [online]. We all grow and change and embrace different seasons of our lives, and so instead of quitting, we can try to make the box a different size. -Erin Loechner
While this blog allowed me to pursue, write, and post about my other interests freely and without feeling like I was dissatisfying my target audience, the same could not be said about Instagram. I felt like I was only sharing what I believed my followers wanted to see instead of the things I loved and was passionate about, and so decided that I needed to take a step away from it. I lost over one thousand followers in the process, but the break has been the best thing for my happiness, and that is priceless to me.
There appear to be less people sharing what they themselves love, and instead focusing on what they think other people will like. More and more girls are expressing how burnt out they are with the pace at which content is being shared and the pressures that come with it. What was once (and still can be) a space to inspire and be inspired can teeter dangerously on the edge of being unhealthy if you let it. The curated lives and content of others has an impact on not just the viewer and consumer but the person posting the photo as well.
So how does anyone find a balance between the two? I had been searching for the answer for months, but as I listened to this Podcast episode between two incredibly successful bloggers and entrepreneurs I realized that this struggle was something everyone was and has experienced on some level before. I was not alone in feeling this way, and Erin’s answer struck a chord with me: Sometimes we reach a point in our lives where we feel it is no longer sustainable for us to stay inside the box we have created for ourselves [online]. We all grow and change and embrace different seasons of our lives, and so instead of quitting, we can try to make the box a different size. We make the box work for us and no one else.
Simply put? Success is relative. If remaining inside your box is hindering your growth or happiness then you can always open up a flap. Worrying about the money, the followers, and pleasing your online audience before yourself not only hinders your creativity, but can have negative effects on your mental health as well. When someone is feeling unhappy, burnt out, or inadequate, then their work will be a reflection of that. We are all different and have our own unique thoughts and stories to share with others, and the fact of the matter is that not everyone out there will connect with that story! That is okay. What matters is that you, the writer or photographer or blogger, are happy with the story you are telling, regardless of who might be listening. There is far more to life than how many likes you get on a photo.
So when I took a step back from Instagram, I thought long and hard about what I wanted out of my platform and at my lowest point I debated deleting the account and this blog all together, but I know deep down that is not what I want. There is something inside me that loves to do this, I wouldn’t have started one if that fire to create and share and help people wasn’t somewhere inside of me.
I am constantly changing and growing and learning about what makes me excited each day, and I want this space to be a reflection of that. So I am taking Erin’s advice to not quit, but simply make my box bigger. Post more of what I love, invite whoever is interested in my story to join me, and focus more on my happiness. Should any of my readers find themselves in this situation—be it in the world of blogging or in your personal life—try and remember that simple message; you can always change your box.
Have any of you experienced this recently? Drop me a line in the comments and let’s discuss!