Two years since I nervously hit “publish” on my very first Cotton Stem Instagram photo and held my breath. Two years since I said “yes” to the Nudge from above to try something new, to take a risk, to put myself out there. Two years of learning, failing, trying again. Two years of losing my way, of learning what it means to create balance and boundaries, of finding my tribe and my people.
And you know what?
It feels like all of two minutes has passed!
Here are a few things I’ve learned along this crazy journey that I wish I’d known from the start…plus a glimpse back at the first few photos I posted to @cottonstem!
1 – Find your tribe and love them well.
Oh man, if you had told me two years ago that there were thousands upon thousands of buddies waiting to be found on Instagram that shared the same interests, life stages, values and love of all things decor, I would have laughed! I started my IG account as a new mom to my fourth little daughter, and it felt as though I hadn’t stopped for breath, let alone a creative outlet or a gathering of community, in what seemed like years…because it HAD been years, ha! Once I started @cottonstem, it was like a door was opened to so many like-minded, amazingly talented and super kind-hearted Insta-pals that just made the whole thing that much sweeter.
2 – Know “YOU” before you ever put yourself out there.
This one is so so so dadgum important. Social media is a place of inspiration and community, but it has an underbelly, make no mistake. We all fall prey to comparison and competition, so before you ever put yourself, your craft, your home, your style, your heart and soul out onto the Internets, be secure in who you are and what you’re about…because people will try to change you, judge you, make you defend yourself, pull on you to be their everything. If you go in with a firm grasp of YOU, then it’ll be easier to stay the course and stay true to the YOU that you are meant to be!
3 – Establish the WHY of your Instagram.
Let’s be real: IG can be a time suck. In order to stay focused on the purpose at hand, it became apparent that I needed to clearly define my “why” for running this account. Without it, I had lost track of my boundaries and sort of started to burn out, to be honest. Once I took a sec to literally write down my “why” for Cotton Stem, things bounced back into focus and I felt in control of this platform I’d created. Maybe take a sec and jot down your “why,” too!
-support my little fam
-be a light on IG
-build my tribe
4 – Say NO and say YES, even when it’s hard.
For awhile there, I said way too many yes’s and found myself lost and drowning in a swirl of people-pleasing. It’s so easy to do, because the people in my tribe are AMAZEBALLS and I wanna do all the things with all the people! But…it took its toll, and I came very close to burn out. I had to learn the hard way to say NO in order for my YES to mean more. Likewise, I’ve had to learn over the past two years that sometimes big things come when the “yes” is a bit scary or intimidating. Sometimes I felt too inexperienced to say yes, too new, too green, too this, too that, and it held me back from some seriously freakin’ cool opportunities. These days, if I feel a peace from Up Above about a big, seemingly scary YES…I just go for it and figure it out along the way! Learning the value of our yes’s and no’s is crazy important if we’re going to survive in the world of social media.
5 – If this is my job, treat it like a job.
What I mean by this one is that I was taking ZERO time away from Instagram/blog in the beginning. Granted, I was putting in my hustle to get this Cotton Stem gig off the ground, and the payout was good. But…in the hustle, I forgot that I was hustling in order to make this one-time hobby a job, and I didn’t set aside time away to rest. Having zero boundaries took me to a dark place about a year ago, and I learned from a scary panic attack on my bathroom floor just how crucial boundaries are for a creative-based job like this. Once again, I put pen to paper and mapped out how to make this social media gig work for ME, instead of working myself to a pulp for IT. Boundaries look different for everyone, but I think mine truly saved my job and my mental health. Now a year later, I can confidently say that things like taking weekends away COMPLETELY from @cottonstem along with other daily boundaries have changed the game for me and made this a healthy and happy place to be creative, to earn an income for my sweet fam, and to try to use my platform for good while building my tribe!
These two years have taught me so much about myself, about social media (the good, the bad and the nutty!), and, more than anything, I’ve been given a place to be creative among my fellow tribe members, all while earning income for my family and (hopefully) being a light in a sometimes dark online world. Whether you’ve been part of this tribe with me from the beginning or you’re here for the first time, I appreciate you so much! Thank you for being part of a pretty dadgum awesome two years of ‘grammin, buddies.