Is social media guilt destroying your mental peace?

Is social media guilt destroying your mental peace?

If people showed up on your doorstep whenever they thought of you, would you feel obligated to open the door to them? Or would you politely ask them to come back later? What if there were dozens of people doing this, day in, day out?

You’d stop answering the door unless you had the energy, right? You wouldn’t rush to the door all day, just because you heard the doorbell.

So why do we feel like the existence of a messaging system on social media somehow means we must make ourselves available to it? Who asked us whether we WANTED to be available? I don’t remember ever signing up to being emotionally and mentally available just because I enjoyed sharing a stupid cat video! Yes, I want to stay connected with your existence through a friend request, Jane, but no, I don’t want to have to cater to your unaddressed emotional issues. Yes, I want to be in touch with a lot of you wonderful people — but not at the cost of my mental peace.

We must stop accepting that an *existence* of a messaging system somehow means an obligation to cater to the unwritten rules that we have created as a community. Yes, every space has its culture, but not adhering to internet culture only makes you lame in the eyes of people with the emotional intelligence of a leftover sandwich, so what are you really losing out on?

I write this today because Facebook keeps reminding me that I’ve been promising a message catch-up SINCE 2010 and I’m quite honestly pretty tired of carrying a burden of guilt that isn’t necessary. As a result, I’ve been less of a friend to the people I care about — lumping their correspondence in with the guilt-inducing pile of steadily growing messages by people who feel entitled to my attention and energy.

In my entire friendship history, my most genuine friends loved me both when I could and when I couldn’t reply. And my closest friends? They loved me when I didn’t *want* to.

Yes. That is an option. Not wanting to open the door because you quite frankly can’t be arsed to communicate with another human being today — that is an option that you have the right to use. No is a full sentence, and we must stop adding reasons and excuses and lies and softeners in order to avoid upsetting others. We must stop carrying guilt that people do not deserve. Those who actually matter don’t mind, and vice versa — so here it is: your permission slip.

Have you ever considered only checking social media messages once a week? Once a month? Go ahead and do that. Have you considered only replying to the people that you feel good about, and literally not opening the door to people you don’t want in your home? Makes sense. Is your mental health fragile, and would you prefer to create a cocoon that allows you to be at your fullest when you do message people? THIS IS YOUR RIGHT.

“But what about….????”

Work-related conversations that are worth your time will use Google or ask for your email address, and close friends will have your number. Now what?

Of course I’m aware that you are part of society — I’m not suggesting you turn into an awful person who is rude to everyone. I’d like to trust that anyone who has actually read this far and enjoys my content, is also someone who has self-awareness and morals! Of course it’s important to consider other people’s feelings. But in this online world where we are suddenly “connected” to someone with one click, how many people can we afford to consider before we completely lose ourselves in the process?

I say this as the person who feels GUILTY for blocking and muting persistent people who have proven themselves self-absorbed and ingenuine — and if I’m doing it, then I know you might be, too. If I, Ms Piscean Softie of Softeria, can express this, see this as the gust of wind that pushes you to choose yourself over the pressures of social media.

Every message sent out of obligation is taking away from the activities and people that make you feel seen and safe. Every hour that goes to absorption of the uninvited is one less hour of anything you want to invite more of into your life. Your home is sacred — and since the only real home you have is the one that lets you look at the world — so let’s treat it that way.

You didn’t sign up for a pager with 24h availability, so why live like you did?


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I stopped listening to industry experts – and it was the best thing I ever did

I stopped listening to industry experts – and it was the best thing I ever did

Your industry will tell you that you must do things in a certain way.

You must realise that doing things “according to standard” will lead to standard results. I will share some of my wins over the last 10 years of using a camera — not to show off, but to show you what is POSSIBLE. Sometimes, the only thing in the way of your wildest dreams is your own awareness of what is possible.

The glamour portrait industry told me that I must charge a tiny session fee of between $100 and $250 — and then have a sales session that could bring in $5000 on average. Because apparently people can’t see the value of photos until they see themselves in them.

… I don’t do session fees, I don’t charge per photo, and I sure as hell don’t insult the empathy and intelligence of my clients by assuming they won’t trust me to deliver incredible timelessness. My income shouldn’t depend on me being a good saleswoman or having excellent prints displayed in front of them — it should depend on the quality of my work. I have a flat rate, and if someone doesn’t like that they can find a photographer they do like. 🙂

The UK photo industry told me that I need to take down my US-rates and fit in with the £100–300 day rate that so many of my peers here seem to charge. There’s also a burn-out evoking trend here to give dozens of photos without charging extra.

… I no longer take on clients for less than £1100, and at that rate I give a REALLY limited amount of images (while my bigger packages include no image limit). I mean… it took me working my ass off, years of feeling like a failure, multiple moments of wanting to give up (in more ways than one), and a lot of trying and failing…. so that’s also something to keep in mind before you glamourise or envy my position.

The general business industry tells me that I must charge according to the market in my area.

… I don’t suddenly go down in quality because I happened to move to a place where people value photography less. I charge the same rate in any location, don’t feel guilty for it (unless portraiture was suddenly at the bottom — along with Lamborghinis and trips to Bali — on the hierarchy of needs??). I also don’t stick to borders I am in — if a client in Tokyo wants me to come over, why do we limit ourselves to thinking that we must stay within the pond we call “home”? I must stress over and over: if you provide a service that 1) has a flavour dependent on who you are, 2) is not a necessity, and 3) is all about quality: you deserve to charge whatever will allow you to be your BEST for your clients. Anything less than that is actually a disservice to your audience and the world in the long run.

The marketing industry told me that I need to make content every single day “even when I don’t feel like it”, that SEO is important, that I must manipulate others by reminding of their “pain points”, and post pictures of myself in Facebook groups with “value” that are pretending not to be an invitation to check out my profile (c’mon guys, let’s be real here).

… I don’t know about you, but I like clients who are emotionally intelligent. Which means they’d see through my group posts, my forced content, and manipulation from a mile away. Don’t get me wrong… I’ve tried that format. I practiced it for a bit. I was left feeling grossed out with my lack of authenticity, and I stopped. Most of my clients show up because they love my expression, who I am, and what I bring to the table SIMPLY BY BEING MYSELF. I don’t post unless I feel like it. I don’t express unless it’s real. It’s a slower form of growth, but all my clients become my friends, and are people I genuinely admire.

The coaching industry told me that I was not enough for just my personal expression — I needed to express how I was going to change a person’s life. I spent so much of my career trying to CONVINCE people my work would be transformative.

… My current sales page is short and to the point. If my work doesn’t give you a visceral reaction and instantly pull you towards me, then we are probably not a great fit — and that says nothing about you OR me. There is space for everyone in every industry — which automatically means that you cannot be the right fit for everyone. Ma$e was right: Breathe, stretch, shake, let it go.

I remember constantly being told not to use certain Photoshop tools because it destroys pixels and is technically amateur.

…I dodge and burn some pixels until they’re utterly destroyed — and have been known to occasionally go wild with the paintbrush and disrespectfully paint some pink into a sky that originally was completely blue, or — gasp — even add a little bit of paint to hair to shape lighting in a way that suits me. Not ONE client has demanded a refund because of the Photoshop tools I so wrongly use.
Note: I apologise to professional retouchers who may be feeling nauseous or offended — I’m aware of why you do what you do, and respect your craft and ways! This was not a knock on your immense skills and 32412543654 hours spent in Photoshop. My point here is that “the right way” for your industry isn’t needed by my clients, and so I don’t spend time doing it when I could be spending time on what truly matters to them.

The scholarly side of the photography industry values technical knowledge and “correctness” over doing what feels right.

… After years of trying to stick to doing things according to what the books and forums and teachers told me — I noticed that the highest-paid artists were the ones who didn’t give a hoot about the rules. They saw what was considered possible, and said “Fuck that”. A metaphor, for those who are willing to see it.

The End.
… Or, the Beginning.


If you’d like to find out more about who I am, what I do, or why you may be avoiding my work: click here.

Don’t surprise me  - acknowledge me instead.

Don’t surprise me  - acknowledge me instead.

Surprises are great.

I’m an absolute sucker for them. I mean, I was raised by a mother who obsessed over them. Each year, she’d try to find a way to make a surprise for my birthday that I didn’t expect. At that age, I was already pretty good at “reading” faces — so I’d quickly understand that she was hiding something. But I kept it to myself, because I understood intuitively that the pleasure was also hers to experience.

As an adult, I understood that idea in a practical way — while I’m awful at keeping secrets, the joy I felt when I got to give something unexpected was always very gratifying. Perhaps this was also because I had been raised within a “surprise culture”, who knows.

But while I love surprises, as they make me feel very cared for — I found myself doubting my need for surprises within relationships.

A few weeks ago, someone asked me to describe the safest I had ever felt with a man. I decided to list out the characteristics of how that person made me feel — and then apply those things to myself, since I should treat myself the way I expect others to treat me. One of the main things I listed first was ‘acknowledgment’.

You see, the safest I’ve ever felt was with a man who acknowledged my every word, every feeling, and every thought as though it was both lovable and sacred. I could send twenty useless texts and he would even reply to the emojis. I could feel jealous, or ashamed, or any of these emotions that we often want to hide — and he would accept these feelings as being valid (even if he didn’t agree with the source of those feelings). I could speak about what was on my mind, and if he was able to absorb, no thought was too silly or too strange to share.

As I created this list for the purpose of my self-love, I found my mind wandering, as I thought about how these qualities would apply to sex.

I suddenly realized that my adoration of surprises translates differently in the bedroom. Now, I’m not speaking about the occasional thoughtful surprise — surprises are great, and still make me feel absolutely special and adored. I should also add that I am speaking from a cishet perspective — so perhaps your experience may differ from mine.

But here’s what I believe: a man who focuses on consistent and constant surprises in (and out of) the bedroom, is a man who would make me very unhappy, indeed.

Why?

Well, I’ll try to break it down for you in a way that makes sense outside my head (I struggle with that sometimes).

A man who surprises me constantly would need to have an air of mystery to him. It would be difficult to constantly surprise me within a relationship if we had a bond with complete openness and transparency. Of course, a surprise for a special occasion would work, but if a man was able to constantly surprise me with bigger and greater feats, I would wonder whether he was trying to distract me from who he is, by creating ways for a relationship to be interesting.

A relationship can be exciting all by itself — without constant surprises and prior secrets. How much of that effort spent on surprises, could’ve been used on simply connecting with me in an honest and open manner? To me, that’s the height of excitement: seeing someone naked, as they are, without extras.

In the bedroom, I find it a more obviously ominous trait. After all, would you prefer a partner who constantly shared tricks with you, designed to exclaim, “Oh WOW, look at you GO, you absolute BEAST!”? Or a partner who takes their time understanding every moan, every gasp, and every change in breath — and then applying small changes to their behaviour in response?

When a partner is “good in bed” the first time, is that because they are truly that wonderful, or because they have had to build up a few tricks to make up for the lack of intimacy they tend to showcase?

When a potential partner is charming and perfect, is this because they match you, or because they’ve spent time learning how to match people — to avoid truly connecting with others (and themselves)?

Neither of these questions has a concrete yes or no. But they are questions that deserve to be asked.