At the end of 2018, I was feeling so burned out and tired. I absolutely love my job and I feel so grateful daily that I work for myself! However, the combination of me working from home and Aaron working 90+ hours a week away from home had led me into a habit of just working, working, working all the time. By December, I had done 50% more work than the previous year, and I could not figure out what to do with myself when I wasn’t working. I took a couple of weeks off between Christmas and New Years and realized how much I needed to reset. I couldn’t stand the thought of going back to work after my holiday, and that is not the way I want to feel towards the job that is also my greatest passion!
So I decided that it was time to invest more in other interests/hobbies again. I wanted a focus outside of my work and a couple of dedicated activities I could spend time on to intentionally draw me away from my bad work habits! My two other favorite things are fashion and baking, so I started a new ‘lifestyle’ Instagram account to document those things. I found it so refreshing and enjoyable to be on social media just for fun, with no pressure to talk about my products or appear professional before my audience.
I had already been really into slow fashion since I started my journey a few years back, but actively engaging with others who share the same interest and discovering new brands drew me in even more! I found myself waking with more energy and looking forward to picking out outfits to play around with and share. I was so encouraged every time a follower reached out to me for sizing, fabric, or color advice because it felt like I was able to play a tiny part in helping others explore the very same passion that I have been. I also started blogging again - very casually, and just because I enjoyed it. When I first settled on the idea of starting my own business, I originally thought that lifestyle blogging was the way I wanted to go because I love writing, photography, and reading other peoples’ blogs! I changed direction pretty quickly because drawing and painting has always been my absolute favorite thing, but I still really loved writing those few blog posts early on in our marriage. I wanted to return to that to share more about my favorite brands, our home, and new recipes I tried.
However, over the last few months, I’ve also really struggled with feelings of self-consciousness and doubt, and that’s mostly what I want to talk about today. My fears were - as they so often are - rooted in what other people would think of me. I worried that the people following my business would feel like I was stepping out of my lane and (in some cases) into theirs. I worried that people would wonder why I was trying to start this other thing since I’m already pursuing my passion for art through my job. Why would I need to explore another avenue? Would people think that I was prideful or full of myself because I was posting so many photos of my outfits? Would my friends and acquaintances worry that I was becoming shallow and vacuous? I worried that I looked foolish. I worried that I would appear un-original and uncreative. I wanted to share my thoughts and perspective on slow fashion and on different brands I tried, but I was afraid that I wouldn’t be saying anything different or adding any value to what’s already being said. I worried that people would find my outfit posts annoying. I worried about what people would think of my blog - everyone has a blog these days, and I was afraid that people would roll their eyes and think I thought too much of myself when I started sharing my ideas and experiences in that way.
I’ve also struggled with where to take this interest of mine. I started investing more in fashion for fun with the intention of it being a low-stress, enjoyable distraction from the hectic pace of the rest of my life. On the other hand, ethical and sustainable clothing isn’t cheap and we live on a very average income. I started feeling guilty about spending our money on my clothes and taking what could be put towards savings (or something for Aaron) and using it on myself, instead. I am always very intentional about my purchases, but there’s no doubt that my shopping has increased since I started to focus more on fashion. Now that I follow more brands, I see more beautiful new pieces every day, which is highly tempting! I also feel pressure to not repeat my outfits as often since I don’t want my posts to be redundant, which makes shopping for new and fun pieces more appealing.
I started wondering if I should try to make something more out of my Instagram account or my blog - maybe I should start using hashtags to increase my following and seem more ‘legitimate,’ with the end goal of being able to receive gifted items from brands. Then I wouldn’t have to spend as much of our money on this hobby of mine. Or, if it became something more than a hobby, it would be easier to justify spending the money.
What it all comes down to, though, is that I started my account and sporadic blogging for fun - as a way to de-stress, not to add more complication to our already crazy lives. I started it because I wanted to do something that I enjoy, and that’s how I want to continue. I don’t want to be swimming in my own fears about what other people think of me or let that rule my actions. I don’t want to let anxiety about the opinion of others take away the joy and excitement I felt about investing in a passion.
There is an attitude in our country these days that encourages people to monetize their passions. It’s almost like there is an expectation that when someone has a hobby, the next step will be to turn it into some sort of business or side-hustle. I’ve heard this talked about more and more lately, and it’s really gotten me thinking. I think it’s wonderful that people are able to pursue their passions and work for themselves (as I have done), but I also don’t think we should all have that as an expectation. I think I have been feeling that pressure to monetize my interest in slow fashion, but there is no need, and I don’t want that to take the fun out of what I’m doing.
I also think it’s really important to note that - because ethical/sustainable fashion often has such a high price point - it often seems unattainable for the average person. So many style bloggers/Instagrammers receive gifted items or do sponsored content, and that is a big part of the reason that they have the wardrobes they do. And don’t get me wrong - I don’t have any problem with people accepting ads, gifts, or sponsored items in moderation! I know that’s a part of many peoples’ business models which also benefits clothing companies. However, I have always wanted my slow fashion journey to be very relatable, and in order to keep it that way I need to purchase the majority of my wardrobe myself. So far, I have accepted two gifted items, both from the same wonderful small company. Everything else I own has been either purchased by me or given to me by a family member. I’m proud of the fact that I can speak from a place of experience when it comes to shopping ethically on a budget, because that’s how my whole wardrobe has been built and that’s how it will continue to be built.
I wanted to write this from a place of transparency and honesty, in hopes that I can encourage other people going through similar feelings of self-consciousness, doubt, or anxiety. I had to talk all this through at length, both with a dear friend and with my husband, before sorting all of the negative voices out from the truths of why I’ve started doing what I’m doing. If we could all simply be ourselves and honestly live out our thoughts and passions, it would be so freeing! This is my first small step in that direction. I don’t know exactly where this is going or where it’s going to end up, but I’m ready to pursue it without letting doubts and anxiety being the loudest voices in my head (so cheesy, but true!). I’m going to end this with a quote that my friend shared with me that was really encouraging:
“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”
- C.S. Lewis