When I first come across my new, soon-to-be favourite creators, it’s often when they are blowing up, or have already passed that point, and are thriving. They have been slaving away for years, consistently improving, slowly building traction, and then BOOM. Copious amounts of blood, sweat, and tears presenting itself as an overnight success. It’s well deserved, but SO daunting to see.
When I see someone at the top of their game, it can almost feel as though they’ve just landed there. Like they’ve picked up a camera for the first time, and now they’re a YouTuber with 1M+ Subs, or full-time Instagrammer with 10K followers and the almighty swipe up feature. I know they must have worked hard, but I can’t physically see the hours they put in, nor trials and tribulations they faced to get to a place where they can call their passion, their job. But why is this? I’ve found that it’s often because where they started is hidden. Due to the amount they have produced, the fast paced nature of The Internet, or purposely by the creative.
For example, when I come across a photographer on Instagram, I don’t usually see the first ever images they took or posted. Or the ones after that. Or, sometimes, even the ones after that. This is either because; I’m not going to scroll back years and risk liking a post from when they started account in 2011… Or, if I am willing to take the risk, it’s not unusual for their beginnings to not exist online. They may not have shared where they started in the first place, or any photos they feel no longer best represent their work have been purposely deleted. And it’s the same with anything online - from old blog posts and tweets, to first ever YouTube videos.
Now this isn’t unusual or uncommon. Heck, I’ve done it. I did it when I converted my personal account into my portraiture account, and didn’t want tons of personal memories mixed in with my professional work. I also did it when I still used the account as a personal one too. I deleted a lot of my first images a few years down the line, as I didn’t feel as though those filtered so heavily they were reaching the point of distortion, of something like a Coca Cola can, with a chunky frame and a caption that is ZomG sO deEep!1!!1 were really very me anymore.
It’s within our human nature to want to be liked. In the digital age, we project our best selves in order to “perfect” the way others see us, in the hope they will like us, follow us, want to be our friend or work with us. This can often mean that the version of our ‘best’ we projected when we were younger, or when we first started a hobby or in a profession, isn’t our best now. Then, because it feels somewhat invasive and inaccurate for people to see all of our versions together, we hide things. We form our online space around who and what we are right now.
This can mean that our process goes unseen. All of the time that went into getting to where we are now, spent growing, hustling, staying up late, working on our craft, or crying over it… Gone. Tucked away in the recesses of our brain, as a line on our CV, or on old hard drives that sit, collecting dust. We can begin to forget where we started, or why we started altogether. Failing to observe the progress we have made, and the wonderful things we have achieved along the way. It’s okay though, because people like us…
In April, over the Easter Bank Holiday, I took a bit of an unplanned hiatus from my socials. I was fatigued from the bombardment of bad news on Twitter, and the overwhelming notion that the progression of my freelance career depended on how engaged I was online. I felt as though the content I shared online needed to be BIG, and GRAND, and ALL OF ME, ALL AT ONCE… I felt as though I didn’t have anything of worth to share, and had well and truly fallen into the highlight reel trap. So, I took a step back. Ate chocolate. Forgot about the world for a bit.
Ironically, the break from having to think about what I wanted to post online, led me to consider what I wanted to post online. I wondered why I worry about if something is “right” to share (in terms of its relevance), if I’m using my platforms in the right way, or why it’s so embarrassing to share my “bad” experiences. Like if I mess up, or if something doesn’t turn out quite the way I hoped it would. Do these things damage how I am perceived? Would showing my flaws and mistakes make me a whole person? Does it really matter? Do I just need to be true to myself? Who is my “true self”? Who am I? What started as a confused line of thinking had taken a handbrake turn into existential crisis mode.
I was processing. It was a process. I was in the middle of a process.
Then I thought about pausing, and going back to the beginning. To the memories I store on hard drives, in zip-lock bags, or in scrapbooks. To where I began, and the first steps I took... I realised that who I am is in my process. It’s in the time where I learn about myself. What I like, and don’t like, what I would do again, or what I would change next time. The mistakes I make when trying to improve are not reasons for ridicule, but vital to my own learning and growth. Things go wrong everyday; to err is human, as they say. And sharing these hiccups normalises them. I find it comforting to know when someone has been where I am. It makes my worries smaller, and into something to overcome rather than endure.
I love writing my Progress Journal posts every month. Observing where I have improved, noting where I went wrong, and sharing my findings is constructive. It helps me to stay aware of myself and career, and move forward. In the past I have written about not knowing where I was going, and feeling lost. At the time it felt freeing to get the way I felt out of my head. Now it’s reassuring to look back on; because I was moving towards where I wanted to be without even knowing it… And that’s what our process does. Every choice we make, and every move we take is our process. Our life is our process, and there’s no shame in that. There’s no reason to hide it. In actuality, it’s bloody exciting!
So… Why not use our process as our subject? In the past I have shared the odd silly photo of myself on my socials, because it’s amusing. I chose to litter this post with goofy shoot outtakes, because that’s where you really see me. Also, my butt looks really good in the third photo, and it would be a criminal offence if I didn’t share it, BUT THAT’S BESIDES THE POINT. By sharing these photos, I am allowing myself to ‘find’ me. To show me. To be me.
From this point onwards, I’m going to be making more of an effort to show my process. Whether that is through updates or reflection in my daily posts on Twitter and Instagram, taking the time to look back in a blog post, or documenting where I am right now in my Progress Journal entries. Looking behind the scenes, in any capacity, fuels my imagination. It always has. And seeing someone start somewhere and go on to slay? That’s inspiring. I’m hoping that through being more open and honest about where I am and where I have been, will allow me to become more connected to myself and consequently be more authentically me… Here goes nothing.