Since launching her blog Fashion Me Now eight years ago, Lucy Williams has become one of the industry’s most popular influencers with an Instagram following of 335,000 and counting. Known for her fashion-meets-wanderlust feed, she writes for us frankly about the reality of being an Instagrammer, both the highs and the challenges.
When I first signed up to Instagram many moons ago, I thought it would be a friends-only social media app like Facebook. I never really thought it would become a big part of my job, which explains why I use my old hotmail address (LucyWilliams02) as my username.
Over the years, as my Instagram following has grown and become more and more a part of my business, it’s been the source of some amazing opportunities while also presenting a few challenges to overcome along the way. It’s made my job even more mobile and I’ve made real-life friends through connecting over mutual interests. But, there’s no denying that Instagram is prime breeding ground for negative comparison to those with seemingly more perfect lives, perfect bodies, perfect wardrobes and perfect relationships. As we all know by now, comparison really is the thief of joy.
Remember that not all is as it seems
I can be a terrible perfectionist at times and, despite working from the inside, I’m definitely not immune to the perils of Instagram. The thing that’s really helped is the fact that I get both sides of it. I’ll look at a Victoria’s Secret model while bloated and having a break-out and feel like Ursula the Sea Witch on a bad day, but ironically, I also receive comments under my pictures about how ‘perfect’ my life seems.
When I was going through a pretty tough relationship and subsequent break-up last year, I received comments – very sweetly I should add – about how “dreamy” my life was (I went on a break to the Maldives with a friend afterwards) and how great my body looked; in reality, I just looked skinny from losing my appetite for a few weeks and crying a lot. I felt like a total fraud seeing comments like that and wanted to be honest, but also to keep some semblance of a private life and go through stuff in my own time.
The silver lining of that time is that it made me realise there’s always more going on beneath the surface when it comes to social media. We all often present ourselves like synchronised swimmers; perfectly poised on the outside but frantically treading water below the surface. Being on the receiving end of lovely comments when life felt anything but lovely, has definitely made me more wary of falling into the comparison trap again, because I was living proof that sometimes things aren’t as great as they appear.
Of course, there are the occasional not-so-nice comments, but, overall, I’ve been really lucky with my followers. From meeting them at events, I’ve realised that lots of them are exactly like me in terms of age, interests and attitude which is so nice. I normally end up talking to guests about a boxset or podcast we’re obsessed with for half an hour before remembering I’m supposed to be working. Without the lovely followers I have, I wouldn’t have a job or half the opportunities I’ve experienced so I’ll never take that for granted.
A lot of work goes into looking like you’re not working
There was a time when I put so much pressure on myself to constantly create content and, being self-employed, I felt guilty if I relaxed on trips or at home anytime that I could be working. It’s 100% worth it, but I definitely can’t remember what an actual holiday feels like where there’s zero work involved – no pictures to post or emails to read. I fell into a cycle of feeling like I needed to document everything and forgot how to just go with the flow.
These days, I’ve realised it’s much better for my mind and makes for more genuine content to have some downtime and not force photos when you’re not feeling it. I’ve come to really love using an old 35mm film camera to shoot lots of my travel content. There’s something so liberating about just snapping away and not seeing the results until you’re home rather than constantly trawling through hundreds of pictures on-the-go and deciding, irrationally, that none of them are good enough. It’s weirdly revolutionised work for me as I can’t obsess, or over-shoot. I love that the results are never perfect, but even better for it.
Everyone has insecurities – even if it doesn’t seem like it
Photographing yourself for a living is strange and not something I ever planned on happening. I was that awkward teenager with train tracks who hated having her picture taken. I’ve come to really love making images, from the styling to the creative direction to the editing; it’s incidental that I tend to be in those images for my blog and Instagram. I can be my own worst critic and when I first started featuring myself on my blog I was super harsh on myself when looking back at pictures. These days, I’ve learnt to be a lot kinder to myself and from working in the industry with lots of different photographers. I now know what goes into creating great pictures and so much of it is to do with angles, lighting and editing.
Plus, from any shoot there’s always hundreds of not-so-great pictures amidst the handful of ones we end up seeing in magazines or on Instagram. I don’t believe in changing myself post-edit and I rarely wear much make-up or do my hair in pictures, but I definitely know a little prep goes a long way. If I need to take pictures on holiday (which I inevitably always do), I’ll either have a good fake tan before I go or wait a couple of days for the sun to take the edge off my pastiness and I feel a bit better in myself before I start snapping. I had one trip to Mexico years ago when I felt so down on myself and kept trying to shoot through it, only to end up crying into my guacamole every evening because I hated the outtakes so much.
It’s also not called golden-hour for nothing. I normally wait until the end of the day when the light drops a little bit to take pictures, especially when on the beach, as the light’s so much softer and more flattering at that time of day.
Everything you see is meticulously edited and curated
When choosing what to post, I can go into autopilot mode and glaze over the not-so-flattering shots rather than berating myself inwardly for them. Of course, I’m only human and would rather publish the pictures of myself I like rather than the ones I hate, but equally I’m much less interested in perfection these days. Personally, I think stretch marks actually look super sexy and cool and I love that e-tailers like ASOS aren’t airbrushing them out these days.
It’s really important to intersperse all the picture-perfect stuff with an occasional dose of realism – whether that’s through a picture, a caption or longer pieces on my blog about a topic I care about. Having known what it feels like to compare myself and come out short, I’d never want my content to be that place online for others. Having a balance of posts is important too; it’s not just about likes. I love travel pictures and shots that are a little bit blurry or have a light flare over them. These will never do quite as well as a straight up outfit picture, but I always post the pictures I like amid the more engaging pictures to keep my feed and page feeling like a true reflection of me.
The best brand partnerships are those that genuinely feel authentic
I often say to people that learning to say ‘no’ is one of the most important things I’ve learnt from doing my blog. We’re supposed to relish saying ‘yes’ not ‘no’, but turning down projects that aren’t right or allowing yourself to decline something when you have lots on, not only makes room for the really great work to come in, but also allows you to be on better form when it does. I make a point of only saying yes to the projects that really speak to me and that I think my followers would like too.
Working with Aeyde recently to design a capsule collection of two pairs of shoes really was one of those dream projects that I instantly said yes to. I’d been wearing some of their suede boots for ages and took them travelling with me when I did a Wild West road and riding trip last year – which is what inspired the collection that we created together, so I loved how full circle it felt. There’s nothing better than working with a brand you love to create something you want to wear, then seeing other people buying and wearing it too. I’m a real bag obsessive and am constantly hankering after new and vintage styles after seeing something in a film or online, but with shoes I really live in certain styles and will wear them to death. So, with Aeyde, I wanted to create two elevated summer shoes that I could wear both in London out and about and on holiday in the evenings – and I like to think we’ve done just that. It’s opportunities like this that make me take a moment and really appreciate just how cool my job can be.
We’ve had our ups and downs but, ultimately, Instagram has become a really positive space for me. I feel like I’m closer to finding that elusive balance between living online and offline now. I keep my personal life pretty private and don’t tend to post too much on Instagram stories if I’m with friends at the pub or at a wedding. Yes, Instagram is work and it’s a business, but none of us ‘Instagrammers’ are performing open-heart surgery; it needs to be fun and it needs to be positive. I sometimes catch myself questioning it all or wondering what it’s all worth, but then I’ll receive a message from someone who was affected by a post I wrote on happiness or relationships, or a girl thanking me for introducing her to a certain shampoo or the hotel where she went on her honeymoon and I stop questioning. There’s nothing wrong with allowing something seemingly trivial make you feel good about yourself. After all, we all know what a good hair day or a sunshine-drenched holiday can do for a girl.
From: Harper’s BAZAAR UK