Over the last few months I’ve been sharing my photography on Instagram. It has resulted in a near-constant desire for validation through likes and follows — I’ll write another article on that soon. The point is, scrolling through the newsfeed, I see copious amounts of photographers who are at the top of their game. Their craft is so refined and their style is so distinct that I can’t help but fawn over the pictures they take.
I decided I wanted my pictures to be like that. I really needed my pictures to be like that. Soon my admiration became a months-long effort to hone and refine my pictures to the point that they’d look exactly like these Instagram-famous photographers’ photos.
I figured if I could make my pictures look like theirs I’d instantly get hundreds of new followers, which would lead to new opportunities. Then I’d be able to sell hundreds of prints. The problem is, I could never quite get there. I could never quite get a grasp on the styling and editing techniques.
That’s how it goes, though: we chase something that we think will provide the success or appreciation we want.
For me, it was just making money. If I had to hone and tweak my photos exactly right in order to make money, so be it. But I was causing myself a great deal of stress over the whole thing. The stress to achieve success and become better and better is something that, whether I like it or not, guides my decisions. And that’s not good.
I’ve written before about how stress can be the light switch between symptoms and stability. Stress may be the biggest determinant of whether you’re able to maintain stability.
But I came to a conclusion through sickness and stress, feeling overwhelmed and exasperated that I wasn’t ever able to do it exactly right. I concluded that I should just stick to my own style. I have a very distinct style that I was pushing away in order to get more likes and follows. It occurred to me that if I stayed true to myself, I would be much happier.
This decision wasn’t driven by the desire for likes; it was driven by a desire to end the mounting stress. The funny thing is, people seem to like my photos. People are actually receptive to my unique style.
I realize that wanting likes and follows on Instagram may sound a little shallow, but I think we can all relate to the stress of trying to make a living, doing something, anything we can to find security in this world. That’s a notion that reverberates in pretty much everything we do.
I found that staying grounded and secure in my own method is much better for my mental health. Trying to please everyone is a recipe for disaster. We should be true to ourselves and learn to do things simply for our enjoyment. If other people appreciate it too, that’s just an added bonus.