Over the years, I’ve met a lot of amazing people online. Many of them now people I consider to be close friends, though we’ve never met in person. One thing that many of them will express frustration with is the fact that they feel like no matter how hard they try, they just can’t seem get noticed in a sea of people.
I get it. I’ve often felt that way myself.
We pour our heart and soul into the work we create, bravely release it into the world and brace ourselves for the criticism we expect to get. We’re ready to defend our work, or hear how we might improve upon it. For me it’s often a case of a couple factors. First, I’m hoping for the best case scenario, that ego bump in which I get the virtual pats on the back from people I look up to/respect. Second, I’m prepared for it to be torn apart because I feel like a fraud and I’m SURE they are going to see that.
But, deep breath and just hit publish.
WHEW! I did it. It’s out there and I’m ready for whatever feedback or praise may come from it.
Then it happens. We hear crickets.
It’s a bummer that those that you look up to haven’t noticed your work and given you a shout out. But hey, at least no one is ripping you apart for it either.
Though, when faced with either the negative feedback or the complete silence… well the negative feedback would at least let you know SOMEONE had a reaction to your work. At least I’d know someone had seen my efforts.
The silence feels crushing.
But here’s the thing. Rarely is it TRULY silent. Typically we’ll have at least some interaction with what we put out. Maybe not a lot, but some.
However, because it’s not coming from certain people, we convince ourselves we haven’t been seen. Sometimes it makes us feel kind of bitter. Leaves us with a sour taste in our mouth and skews our perception of someone we once looked up to.
Trust me, I totally get it. It feels like we are personally snubbed.
Truth is… It’s not usually the case. Most often it’s all in our heads. A fictional narrative that we’ve built up because we have created such high hopes and expectations of someone else and how we hope they’ll react to our work. In those times you have to find a way to step back and re-balance your mindset.
There are two factors needing to be addressed. Firstly the expectations you are placing on someone else that you may not know at all. Secondly the impact those expectations are having on you (and those people that DO actually care about your work).
You see, for me, whenever I’ve found myself in that situation where I was REALLY hoping that XYZ Photographer or Creative would take time to engage with me and my work, only to find myself frustrated that they “didn’t seem to notice or care about me as the little guy”, I’ve always stepped back and realized that I just shit all over the people that DO connect with my work.
I hate that it happens, and it isn’t intentional. I absolutely cherish everybody that takes time to reach out, like, comment, share, and just connect with whatever I’m making.
The problem is that because I’m so fixated on trying to make this “ONE BIG CONNECTION” I forget to pay attention to those that already enjoy what I’m doing. It’s a problem that will remain a work in progress, but something I have gotten much better with. I suspect that situation is the same for most of us. It’s not that we don’t appreciate the audience we have, it’s that we get so focused on growing that we lose sight of supporting and further engaging with what we have.
If I’ve ever made you feel that way, please accept my sincere apology and know that I appreciate you.
We’re all just human and the thrill of the chase, the challenge of growing or “getting to that next level” are easy distractions from what is truly important.
So how do we fix it?
Honestly, the answer is simple. It’s the age old advice and how YOU and I can adapt that to our unique situations.
You get what you give.
Take a look at how much time you spend worrying about and trying to grow NEW followers or attract NEW people to your work. Then look at how much time you spend really engaging with and taking time to build true connections with the people that support you right now, today.
Chances are you just realized that you spend WAY more time chasing more, than giving back to your supporters, your friends.
Time to make a change.
By taking a much more minimalistic approach, appreciating what we have rather than just lusting after more or the latest and greatest, we begin to truly appreciate and understand the value of what we have.
I would argue that you should have a 90/10 ratio. Spend 90% of your time enjoying, engaging with, just getting to know the awesome people that already love what you do and just 10% chasing new people to add to your community. See the thing is, if you GIVE of yourself and your time you’ll build TRUE connections. True friendships.
And that means more than any new follower count can ever mean.
You know what else?
When you give of yourself in that manner, you take time to build REAL friendships and connections, those friends are happy to tell other people about your work because they KNOW you.
Remember how you felt about popular XYZ artist that you HOPED would notice your work and didn’t? You felt ignored and possibly like that popular person was actually a jerk, or worse.
Don’t let yourself be THAT person to someone that is looking up to you. Because I promise you, no matter how far along your creative journey you are, you never know when YOU might be that person that someone else is looking up to and hoping to get seen by.
You get what you give, so give love.
Give positive support.
Give genuine appreciation.
Practice real, genuine gratitude.
Above all else, just give a shit about the people that give a shit about you.
You get what you give.
David (Usually Dave) Szweduik is a photographer, podcaster, and all around geek from the great state of Minnesota and can be found weekly on his podcast Adventures in Creativity. There you’ll find him having conversations fueled by curiosity around the amazing world of all things creativity.