Instagram and Imposter Syndrome
Wooowee! We are about to get into a conversation I’ve had a lot over the past few years, and especially lately.
It’s about Instagram.
Specifically, the imposter syndrome that I’ve experienced from hanging out too long on this app.
I have a lot of thoughts on this topic. I’ve had deep conversations with my husband about the effects of this app. I watched the Social Dilemma and nodded my head the entire time while having new realizations. I watched several creatives I know bid this platform adieu, and considered it myself countless times.
Instead of calling it quits, I’ve found a lot of personal growth in clarifying what triggers my negative thoughts (seemingly out of the blue) when I peruse Instagram.
It’s been a great exercise to identify why I “feel” pulled in to this platform, and what content triggers negative thoughts or addiction. It’s helped me grow!
Most days it’s not this dramatic and I get entertained, inspired, and educated from Instagram.
Yet every now and then, I log in not knowing I’m about to allow a false narrative to fill my mind about how I’m “less than,” behind in my business, not as good a mom as someone else, not booking enough clients, not exercising enough, etc. etc.
This is a common result of social media referred to as Imposter Syndrome that allows fear and doubt to creep in when comparing to others.
It’s not healthy. For my mind. For my productivity. For my marriage and family.
… And you know what? It’s not the person who posted [that beautiful design, their income report, glowing client testimonial, seemingly perfect family, ideal diet, etc.] who is at fault. It’s me who let lies creep in, and my pride to take over.
Imposter syndrome is only part of the problem. The real issue is this: What makes me feel like I need to login and check things on Instagram?! Why do I feel like I “need” to be on there for marketing? Is that true? (hint: it’s not necessary 😳).
Social media is built to where you don’t know what you are about to consume. Psychologically, it’s been compared to a slot machine — each time you refresh you don’t know what’s coming next. Sometimes it’s an inspiring image, other times it can be something that causes a new dialogue to form in your head.
Instead of backing away, I’ve set boundaries and done some work to figure out what triggers these thoughts and how I can confront them and shut them down when they pop up.
I don’t have this figured out by any means, but I thought I’d share my process as I navigate this!
Before we dive in, I want to make a few notes:
My intention is not to discourage anyone from using Instagram or social media. If you use this tool regularly, do not feel an ounce of guilt reading this article.
If you struggle with Imposter Syndrome, I hope you find this article helpful in both recognizing you aren’t alone, and also the tools that have helped me navigate this.
Though I have suffered from these thoughts, it’s not often. If you are on social media, my guess is you have experienced the negative impact of time spent + imposter syndrome as well. My main concern is about the addiction mindset that social media creates, when I know my time is better spent elsewhere. This is a conversation us designers need to have in both identifying and confronting the impact of social media, as well as setting boundaries for healthy social media usage. I also want to rid us of the thought that we “need” to be on social media for our business. That’s not true.
The right choice for you may mean to go cold turkey and cut Instagram/social media out. I support this, and fully know that you do not need this platform for a successful business or to maintain personal relationships. I repeat: you do not need Instagram. Countless businesses do not have an Instagram account at all or rarely use it. My income has grown the past few years, and I only posted 7 times last year, and 16 so far this year.
Maybe you aren’t affected by social media as I am and don’t need these boundaries or to read through this conversation. Happy for you! Also, this article might help to understand a lot of us who are negatively impacted by social media. (though if you are regularly on Instagram I would challenge you to check-in on your usage and thoughts as you peruse the platform)
I’m getting vulnerable and sharing my struggles here. Please be kind and recognize I’m sharing my experience with hopes it helps and encourages others, and absolutely zero other intention.
Let’s dive in!
Pinpoint why you use Instagram
One of the most helpful exercises for me has been finding out why I’m so drawn to this platform. Whenever I feel like I need a break, I look back at why I open the app and some alternatives.
This is helpful to keep me focused and productive, set-up boundaries so I’m not addicted to the “slot machine” of social media, and check-in on my mental health.
Here are a few top reasons I log in, and alternatives I’ve set up as healthy boundaries.
Likely the top reason I log in, I love feeling inspired by the creatives I follow! Everything from design, type, interior design, art, and business.
When I’m needing a break from Instagram, here are a few of my favorite ways to stay inspired:
Dribbble — graphic design inspiration typically without the dialogue of marketing, client testimonials, or financial wins.
Behance — another graphic design inspiration
Barnes and Nobles — I like to peruse cookbooks, home decor, and magazines for design inspiration. Cookbooks may seem random, but they have some fantastic type-driven layouts.
Books — This year I’ve restocked my personal design library after letting go of my collection when traveling with my husband across the country. It’s been inspiring to have them displayed in my office and easy to grab for inspiration.
Why not Pinterest? It has a similar impact for me (slot machine and distraction) and is no longer a place I can turn to solely for inspiration. There’s a lot of ads and marketing on there (no shade: I do it too!), so I’ve found other sources that are more focused on inspiration.
Politics, healthy recipes, marketing strategies, parenting and marriage. There is a wealth of quality education on Instagram, and these are just a handful of topics I find myself drawn toward this app to learn from.
Here are a few alternatives that have helped me:
Subscribing to a newsletter about politics. I recently subscribed to a newsletter that keeps me informed, while not biased by either political party. It’s been helpful to digest news in one sitting.
Cookbooks and blogs have been great to find recipes away from social media. I checked a few books out from the library I’m enjoying — one on healthy freezer meals which had been a game-changer for my daily routine!
I get overwhelmed when perusing Instagram and stumbling into marketing techniques. It’s been helpful for me and my business to invest in one program/year to really dive into. This year it was a program for memberships that has helped me focus on my Spruce Your Studio alumni coaching community fully, rather than get distracted by other strategies. (I also get distracted, but less when I’m focused on one program)
I’ve also been reading a few books on family and faith that have provided education. Back to the basics!
THIS. This pillar is why I actually stay on Instagram. I haven’t used my personal Instagram in 6ish years since starting Spruce Rd. I don’t use social media for myself at all, it’s purely for business.
I’ve thought several times about making my quiet exit from social media completely, but continue to recognize that it is beneficial for marketing and communities I’m in. It’s not my main strategy, but I do love connecting with others, sharing my process, and behind the scenes that Instagram is built for versus other platforms.
When I need a break from social media, I focus my marketing here:
Email newsletter — my #1. This marketing platform suits me best. It allows me to connect with you, share my process and thoughts, and doesn’t suck me in daily like social media does. It’s easier to manage being a mom with toddlers while running a business, while not feeling like I need to check DMs daily.
Repeat clients — the past few years I’ve really focused on serving my current clients well. So much so, it’s taken the lead in client service income over our branding package. I like it because it’s easy work, with easy clients, and easy pricing/process. And I get to continue working with clients and brands we love!
Repeat students — This year I’ve created a Spruce Your Studio alumni coaching community. I’ve always wanted to find a way to continue to support this fantastic group, so I’ve marketed privately to this group through email marketing. No ‘gram needed.
Scheduling posts — One of my coaching students (hi Jessica!!) shared a great tutorial with our community about how she uses a scheduling app to manage her Instagram in response to our conversation about Instagram boundaries. I use Buffer, but now I’m going to switch. Plann allows her to schedule posts and stories, comment, and better strategize Instagram without ever logging in. If you want to avoid the scroll, consider a third-party platform to create a boundary for yourself.
I love connecting with creatives I’ve become friends with, clients students, and new accounts I stumble into. Instagram is great for this relatability and connection. I also love following accounts that bring me joy and laughter!
A few alternatives:
Email people you want to connect with regularly to check-in. Set Up an ongoing check-in through Zoom, or create a Slack group for a few close business friends. There are ways to connect without social media.
If it’s for your personal relationships — even more to the point. Give them a phone call rather than relying on Instagram to update you on their life :). This will be much more meaningful and beneficial to your relationship. I love that my brother-in-law randomly calls my husband to tell him about a new song he found, a hilarious movie he watched, or to ask a random question. The conversations are 5 minutes, but impactful. Meanwhile, my conversations are almost always an hour or so ;).
Books, movies, and podcasts have helped when needing comedy relief as well.
I hope this peek into this topic has helped in some way. Whether to affirm that you are not alone in thoughts of imposter syndrome, or as a tool on how to create effective boundaries to limit your time on social media.
I want to reiterate that I do think social media is a great tool, and likely not everyone has the same thoughts I do. If this is your primary marketing strategy, please don’t take this post as discouragement from what you are doing! My purpose is to shed light on a conversation I’ve had a lot with fellow creatives over the years.
Have you found this helpful? Let me know in the comments below!