So, a few months ago I posted something on Instagram (that I was pretty excited about), and it received what I considered a "low" number of likes. However, the people liking it were artists with large platforms, magazine editors, and even art directors. I ended up leaving it because of WHO was engaged. And while this had me really torn (do I take it down? why didn't it resonate? but what about the people who did like it?) ... I suddenly had this moment of clarity about WHY this might happen and how cautious we have to be about these moments that feel like "failure."
Because let's be honest... when we post something we're really excited about but the number of likes doesn't seem to reflect our own enthusiasm, we beat ourselves up about it and then actually start questioning the content we were previously so confident about. So how do we balance being strategic without falling into the pit of others defining your work's worth?
First, before posting it at all, you have to start with YOUR honest thoughts on the piece. In your gut, do you think - YES, this piece represents something that I care about, reflects my artistry, and most importantly, it is a piece I am proud of.
You have to have this peace with yourself because once you release your work to the world - they will influence your emotions. They can (unintentionally) change your idea of how *worthy* your piece is.
You guys, this what goes on in our heads! So do we remove it? Leave it? Beat ourselves up about it?! This is tricky because it's two-fold:
On the one hand, there will always be certain pieces/projects that might be tapping into something you're *evolving* to, which may show you that not all of your followers align with this transition. That's okay, as long as this transition is absolutely intentional and TRULY representative of you. You're the captain steering a ship that others signed up to experience with you. Our audience does have a lot of insight into letting us know when certain pieces just don't connect with them or THEY believe don't represent you - the person/brand they thought they knew.
In other words, it's definitely important to listen and be aware of your audience. But on the other hand, it's also okay to have pieces that may make them hesitant, uncomfortable, or unsure if there's a greater significance to that piece.
Why? Because curiosity and failure may teach us something more about ourselves from the pain of that one post that (seemingly) failed. Sometimes our audience isn't ready but if we always allow them (or honestly, our assumption of what they think) to constantly dictate our path, we may never tap into a growth we're meant to experience. What if a certain art director immediately resonated with my "unsuccessful" post because s/he could see something greater through that image? Could it be possible that when you rebranded, you built followers on an old, less representative version of your brand? All of these things are VERY important to ask yourself because all you might see is a number. Or.. failure.
You will constantly shift your sails with the sea if you don't have a shore in sight.
There's a time to float, get lost, and adjust your sails - always. However, if we find ourselves constantly seeking others to affirm our direction, then we lose our desire to sail, right? It's paralyzing and exhausting. That's usually when people want to give up.. Right as they're about to tap into a significant growth. So my advice? Always start with YOUR own certainty (and peace) about what you're going to share. Don't forget the significance of JUST growing and sharing -- *without* the need for it to be effective, strategic, or productive. Sit with that discomfort and learn from it, or give yourself the freedom to accept it and move on. But most importantly... don't let your worth be dictated by a number of likes.