Okay, if you missed PART ONE of the organic Instagram growth series, click [HERE] to catch up! I think it’s pretty important to peek at the first part, because it kind of shows you why this series might be a bit against the grain, and it gives you some background on my own IG journey, too! Take a sec to catch up with us, and then let’s move on to the next in the series…outline below:
In this second installment, we’re going to chat about figuring out WHO you are in regards to personal style and taste and exactly HOW much you’re going to give to the online world…
Today we’re going to discuss two topics that are vital to not losing yourself as you try to grow on social media: your style + your boundaries. Social media is such a great tool, but it is also a time-suck, a comparison game and a self-confidence crusher…if we let it be these things. Knowing who we are and who we AREN’T before ever dipping a toe into social media is so vital, because…once that toe is dipped, errrrrrybody’s got an opinion about it. And they will tell you. Sometimes with tact, lots of times not. It’s so important to know WHO YOU ARE before you open yourself up online to others telling you who you are. Know yourself before the online world tries to define you. Staying true to yourself and setting your boundaries before you begin will save you a ton of heartache and distraction, so let’s chat! Each topic will be broken down into the categories of DO YOU and then BE KIND….
No matter your genre on IG (fashion, lifestyle, home decor, food, beauty, mom life), we can all agree that there are SO MANY talented people out there! So much inspiration with every single scroll, and I’m constantly impressed with the level of creativity, hard work and beauty I see from my IG buddies! Because there is so much gorgeousness online, it can be easy to second guess your personal style, tastes and loves. What if the style you prefer isn’t as popular as another? What if you see a certain genre skyrocketing at the moment, while your own seems to be less “in” than others? Or what if you have a crazy, out-of-the-box idea, but you’re afraid to share it because it’s not quite in line with the mainstream? Totally get all of these questions, and to them I answer with…DO YOU!
It’s certainly cliche, but most cliches ring with truth: you are the only you there is. ❤ Your eye for design, your taste in fashion combos, your writing style, your way of editing photos, your color schemes, your web layout….they are unique and special and should be celebrated, because they represent YOU! Here’s a silly example from my early days of IG but one that shows what I mean: if you scroll back all the way to the start of my feed, you’ll see that I used to edit my photos way differently. What I saw happening around me at the time were lots of beautiful pictures that had the exposure cranked way up, the saturation pulled way out and a soft haze cast over the image. Certainly a lovely way to edit….but it didn’t feel like “me” for some reason. Want to know why? Because I was just trying to match what I saw going on around me, instead of putting in the work and finding my own style! Not a big deal, and it does take some trial and error as we find our personal style. I’ve since gone through two other methods of editing photos (the second was basically NO editing and the third somewhere in between), and the journey of finding what I love has been pretty fun! Nothing at all wrong with having a style similar to another or asking advice from someone else on what works for them….not at all! You’ll find that many within your creative genre tend to have similar styles and tastes, and that’s all good. As long as you TRULY love what you are doing, what you put out there, then DO YOU, man!! 🙌🏻 It’s just when we try to emulate someone else without knowing ourselves enough to know if WE truly love it…that’s when things get murky.
Another reason to be fearlessly YOU in what you put out there on Instagram is that unique ideas and fresh perspectives are what we all crave. In this age of social media image sharing, there seems to be no new idea left under the sun, but…when one comes along, people are so inspired and can see the YOU behind the concept. For instance, the weirdest ideas I’ve had and the ones I was most nervous to put out there have become some of the farthest reaching, most reposted images to date. And…on each and every one, I was so scared to hit that “publish” button, because what if it was too weird? Too out of the box? Too different? Gotta tell ya, super glad I pushed myself to push that button. The book wall that represented my love of and former career of teaching literature (long before I’d seen another book wall online….I was so nervous about that one so new into my IG journey, you guys!!), cutting off some logs to create a faux fireplace insert with moss, hanging embroidery hoops lined with greens and flowers behind my bed, vintage copper tea kettle “pumpkins” in place of the orange real deal, creating a “naked” Christmas tree forrest, and filling up a larger than life dough bowl full of summery lemons were some ideas that gave me the most butterflies in my tummy before showing the world, but you know what? They represented ME. The swirl going on in my brain, the need to create or bust, the things that inspired and moved me…and because they were different and unseen at the time, I think that was what spoke to others, too. Certainly not bragging on my weirdo tendency to nail odd objects to walls, BUT…I am giving these examples from my own journey to urge you to DO YOU within your own style, your own genre, your own creative path! Create and be unique! Show us what you truly love, what moves you, what defines the real YOU!
Since this is a DO YOU + BE KIND series, let’s look at this idea of knowing yourself from another angle. While it is SO important to be self-confident and stay the course while forgoing the temptation to be like everyone else, it’s also important to celebrate the creativity of others and never put people down because they might do things differently than us. Being an encourager on Instagram goes a long way towards driving out the effects of mean trolls and their untimely comments, and you never know who could use the encouraging word that day. Find someone doing something creative, new, different, strange, brave, out of the box and send them some love! Repost them, tag a friend on their post to show them off, leave behind words of encouragement and kindness. Whether we are in the same genre or not, community over competition goes a freakin’ long way, even if we don’t always get to see the outcome of the kind gesture. And you just never know what new style might inspire you in the future….
Next, let’s discuss something pretty convicting for me personally: boundaries. It’s so dang easy to get lost in a mindless scroll on Instagram, and it’s certainly a temptation for me on days when I’d really rather not change another poopy diaper or answer that millionth seemingly inane toddler question, thank you very much. 😩 Escaping to Instagram to see what the rest of the world is up to can become a dangerous habit, and, on the flip side, creating content and trying to GROW on Instagram can be just as addictive. We talked a lot about this IG culture of GROW GROW GROW on the previous post in the series, and I stand by what I said: growth is not the most important factor. It IS an important factor, but not the MOST important.
I’m not here to tell you exactly what to do, what boundaries to set in place, or to try and sound preachy. All I know is that I let myself go to a pretty dark place [read more about that experience HERE] before I finally set up boundaries with regards to Instagram/social media. If I can save any of you sweet readers from that path, then I’m out to do so with this series! Here are just a few of the boundaries I’ve put in place that work for me, my particular family structure and my personal lifestyle…use these as examples and then create your own!
1 – WEEKENDS OFF OF IG/SOCIAL MEDIA: this has been a complete game changer for me, you guys. Instead of day-in and day-out posting and commenting and answering DM’s and trying to keep up and worrying about post performance, now…? Now on the weekends, I delete the app (and all other social media apps), put my phone away and SEE MY FAMILY with my actual eyeballs. 🙌🏻 This creates a breather, a moment away, a true weekend like others take who work M-F jobs. My job is Instagram and blogging, but I wasn’t giving myself ANY time off, time away, weekends. This has been the best change I’ve made to date, and you know what? If my growth suffers slightly from a short period of inactivity, so be it. (It hasn’t, by the way for those nervous about a day or two of no posting. In fact, I think people need a break from us IGers, too. 😉 Give them a minute to miss us instead of being in their face 24/7, ha!)
2 – TRY TO POST WHEN KIDS ARE ASLEEP/AT SCHOOL: I was listening to all the articles telling me the ONLY TIME I’d get a good response from my posts on Instagram was, you guessed it, the times my kids and hubby needed me most. Well, crap on a stick. 😩 I’m 100% all in for making our posts count and being wise with post times and such, but you know what? I got sick of posting during dinner, posting during our evening family time, posting when it was crazy getting the kids out the door, etc. Made me grumpy and distracted, and my kids were bugging me…by just needing their Mommy. Gross, Erin!! 😥 That had to change. It doesn’t always work out exactly perfectly to post ONLY when they are asleep/at school and I still post in the evenings, etc, but I now know how to find more appropriate pockets of time for posting, no matter the time of day. The way I view post times has shifted in a BIG way, plus it’s lead to positive changes in how I treat my kids…and how much less they see Mommy glued to her phone.
3 – MAKE THE “YES” COUNT BY SAYING NO: Social media and Instagram specifically are so much FUN most of the time that I found myself saying “yes” wayyyyyy to often: YES to this hashtag group, YES to working with this company, YES to sharing other Instagrammers, YES to repping small shops, YES YES YES…until I found I was so in over my head that I wasn’t doing anyone any favors. 😳 All good things to say yes to, don’t get me wrong. But too many “YES” answers leads you away from your purpose and doing you. Now I try to consciously keep track of what I’ve said yes to: small shops, other IGers and teaming up, working with larger companies, blog tours, etc. I try to save a certain number for each category per season or month, and once I’m full up, I’m full up. If we YES ourselves to death, what’s left of our time or creative energy to pursue our own passions, dreams, creative plans? Make the yes’s count by saying no sometimes.
Those are just a few of the boundaries I set for myself, and I have others in place for personal reasons, too (turning off story DM’s unless I know you after my child was attacked there – not how I want it to be but how it’s GOING to be for IG to remain a healthy place for me and my family; spending my time commenting publicly with IG buddies on photos rather than in private DM’s, because private, unknown DM’s are where I’ve received 99% of all hate notes and degrading messages. Not a healthy place for me so not really going there as much anymore, whether that’s a popular choice or not.👍🏼) For me, boundaries keep the most important people in my life the most important. Social media boundaries help keep this IG/blogging adventure a fun and healthy place to spend some of my time, rather than letting it suck me into the addiction that it can become. Boundaries are not easy to set nor keep up with at first, but a bit of personal discipline goes a long way in maintaining a healthy balance. Boundaries keep the main things the main things.
While boundaries are an absolute must to maintain a healthy balance as you grow your ‘gram, another must is to use what time you do give to Instagram/social media to be a light! You certainly can’t be everything to everybody, but when you CAN invest some time online, use it with intention. Instead of only gobbling up your own comments and likes on your photos, spread some love outward by intentionally commenting and liking on those you follow. Reach out on stories if something inspired or moved you, and if you THINK something kind about someone, TELL THEM! You never know who could use a boost right at that moment, and there have been many many many times complete IG strangers have spoken a kind word over me at a time when I was super low…and they had no idea. They were just being a light and spreading love with no benefit to themselves! Let’s do that more. Let’s be a light in a sometimes dark online world.
It makes me a little anxious to share sometimes-personal things like my struggles and failures with you guys, but my hope is that someone out there is nodding and thinking, “Me too. I’ve been there, too.” We all have, if we’re being honest, and maybe by sharing my own journey, I can help someone on theirs! Anyone relate on fuzzy boundaries for social media…? Thanks for reading, friends! The next post in the series will cover topics like photography, using Instagram stories and so much more…stay tuned!