It's 9:30pm and I'm laying in bed, scrolling through my Instagram feed when I stop on a colour filled image of another artist's newly created masterpiece.
"Omg, that is so amazing!"
"Wow look how many likes it got"
"How did they even get it to look so good?"
"Why am I even doing this?"
"There are so many artists out there with work better than mine"
"I should just quit and get a real job"
And just like that, any positive happenings with my business that day have gone out the window and all I can focus on is the negatives.
10 seconds later.. *Queue* my partner trying to console me while I rattle off all of my life's failures, and him wishing that he didn't ask "What's wrong Baby?"
( Ok so the last bit is a little dramatic but you get the picture! )
This past year of growing my art business has taught me so many lessons, most of which I'm still trying to implement or remind myself of.
The one that I struggled with the most, is that of the whole 'comparing game'.. those of you trying to run an online business know exactly what I'm talking about, and come to think of it, you don't even have to be in business to be comparing yourself to others on social media.
The world of social media is so mind-blowingly amazing and full of possibilities and inspiration, especially for anyone trying to run a business. So it's not uncommon to surround yourself with like-minded people to follow and admire. Following along with the journey of others is great but it's so important to not let it consume you.
I am writing this blog mainly for those of you that might just be starting out on your entrepreneurial/business journey, or even those of you just wanting to put your work out there on social media, because I know that it definitely takes more of a toll on you at the start.
When you are starting out, you are a lot more unsure of yourself. You may not have the direction to know where or how you are going to run your business or even what it is yet?
For me, I know I had the hardest time with this around 3-4 months into quitting my full-time job to pursue my art as a career. The first few months were fine because I was on a high from starting this new and exciting journey.. then the fear and insecurity kicked in.
I had a real issue with feeling like I didn't have a "Style".. that my work wasn't cohesive enough, because I paint in so many different styles and different subject matters.
I would look at other artists on Instagram and how their whole collections were so obviously theirs, and I didn't feel like that. I felt like I was struggling to paint things that felt like me, but instead I was painting what people would want to see, or what was on trend.
I had lost my direction.
Each night I would lay in bed looking at other artists' work, or even just other successful entrepreneurs and would compare my work/business to theirs, constantly thinking how I could get to that stage and wanting it to happen right away.
And there lies another issue.. we want everything now!
Just the other night I watched a video by Gary Vee on YouTube (If you haven't watched his videos or listened to his podcasts I highly recommend him)
It was titled 'How One Video Can Change Your Life' and boy oh boy was it a complete eye opener!
In his 'Ask Gary Vee' segment he had a young girl in her early 20's ring in, and in short, she asked him how to get out of the rut she was in, over wanting to achieve everything she wanted in her business. She talked about how comparing her journey to those she follows on social media was bringing her down.
"Every second you spend thinking about what someone else has, is taking away from time that you could spend creating something for yourself."
And it's true! If we added up all the time we spend scrolling through social media being jealous of other people's success or comparing our journey to someone elses, we might be surprised how much time we actually waste. Time that could have been spent working on ourselves and being put into OUR journey!
More often than not, we are comparing ourselves to people who have been on this journey for a lot longer than we have. How can you compare the skills and learnings of someone who has been hustling and running a business for years if you are just starting out? Someone that may be in a completely different position financially to you? Someone who may have spent years practicing and honing their craft?
We can't possibly achieve everything in one day.. it's a process. And something that we should embrace and enjoy.
So should we just delete all of these people on our social media who cause us to feel this way?
Trust me.. I considered this.
Maybe I would be more productive and positive if I didn't have to look at my news feed filled with talented entrepreneurs and artists? I doubt it!
Let them inspire you. They are just people doing the exact same thing you are, just maybe at a different stage in their journey? Or maybe even the same stage.
There is enough room for everyone to be doing their thing and absolutely no need to fight or compete.
Social media also has a funny way of making us see things with rose-tinted glasses.. after all, most people don't post about the struggles or challenges of their life or business. It's not often you see posts about the weeks where no sales came in, or the meltdowns between you and your partner after a rough day. Maybe if we did, we would realize how much we all have in common. That we are all only human.
My eye opening moment came around a month ago, when for the 5th time of applying, I was again unsuccessful getting into a design market.
The first time I applied I was so excited about the prospect of getting in and stressed so much about my application and making it absolutely perfect.
When my email arrived announcing that I was unsuccessful, I was gutted.
I spent the next hour or two researching what businesses made it in the previous years so I knew what I should be working on for next time. I actually think that it was around this time that the idea was planted in my head.. if I just keep my work uniform and cohesive like a lot of other successful artists do, then hopefully I'll fit in and have a better chance of getting in.
Fast forward to this year, when again.. I was unsuccessful even after carefully selecting images of my work that all matched and looked uniform.
Something happened at that moment.
After an initial feeling of let down, a switch went off in my head.
Why am I defining my success and my worth as an artist on this one market?
Why am I comparing my work to everyone that got in and trying to fit into a mould that might not be me?
I can't help it that I like to paint different things all the time, that I can't stick to just one medium or style?
I am sure hundreds of businesses and creatives apply to get in, and only a few can be selected. Does that define you?
We put so much pressure on ourselves to conform, to be perfect, to hit these unrealistic goals, instead of just focusing on "Doing You"
The last couple of months I have really taken some time to experiment with new styles of painting and paint the things that I want to paint, with no consideration whether its the type of work that will get me into certain markets or if it will appeal to everyone.
In running a business I still have to take into consideration what will sell (as we all need money to survive) but I'm really starting to find a feel for what I enjoy painting and what represents me as an artist and person. It won't appeal to everyone, but thats ok!
This may not fit the mould of every market that I apply for.
Will it stop me from applying? No.
If I don't get accepted, it really isn't the end of the world.
I am by no means at all an expert on this topic.. just a girl (standing in front of a boy.. jokes) wanting to share some of the lessons I have learnt and open up about something that I know its such a common issue and can heavily impact on your mental health.
SO... here are my top 5 tips on how to "Do You!"
1. Have a cutoff time for social media viewing before bed
Generally you are the most tired and emotional at the end of the day. If you are someone who is easily pulled into the world of comparison on social media, I suggest making a time to put your phone down and resting your mind before you sleep. Read a book or watch a TV show. Let your mind relax. Easier said than done I know.. especially coming from a workaholic. But trust me, going to sleep with negative thoughts in your mind isn't healthy for anybody.
2. Contact someone you admire and give them a compliment
I am all for dishing out compliments. Sure, you may not get a reply from your fav influencer on Instagram who has over 200,000 followers.. it doesn't mean you can't try? They may surprise you. Or you may know someone personally but have never told them that what they are doing inspires you.
I have messaged quite a few fellow entrepreneurs on social media or even introduced myself to them at markets and paid them a compliment.
Its surprisingly fulfilling doing this, and it's nice getting to know the human behind the persona or business you see on social media. You may learn you have more in common than you think.
You may even just make someone elses day. You don't know who might be struggling.. your one compliment could be the thing that lifts them out of a tough moment. Sometimes this is the best way to take the focus of your problems and feelings.
3. Make a list of YOUR goals
It's very easy to look at what everyone else is doing or what is expected of you and forget what YOUR goals are. Write a list of everything that you want to achieve and then break those goals down even further into baby steps. This will help you to stay on track and not get sidetracked.
There have been so many times I have a list of jobs or goals that I have set for myself, but after scrolling through Instagram my mind is a jumble of "maybe I should try that" thoughts!
Focus on your goal and plans and stick to it.
4. Take some time out to experiment
Spend time doing what you love, with no intention or care about what other people think. Create a Pinterest board filled with things that inspire you, and take away something small from each image that you can turn into something of your own.
5. Just Be You!
We were all made up of unique skills, talents, personalities, features, abilities that make us.. US!
Its so cliche but I am the biggest Dr Suess fan so of course I'm going to quote this..
"Why fit in when you were born to stand out!"
Embrace who you are and just concentrate on your own journey.
If you have made it to the end of this very long blog, then I thank you.
I hope that some of this, if not all of it resonates with you, and you have found some of these little advice nuggets useful.