Find Your Tribe
You know how sometimes things just sort of come together, and you get the sense that the universe is giving you a nudge? That happened to me last month... ironically, on Friday, April 13.
Friday the 13th has always been a lucky day for me...dating back to when I won a speech contest as an enterprising 11 year old with her eye on the $300 prize. From that day forward, good things seem to happen to me on the date that the rest of the world marks as unlucky. Chalk it up to my contrarian nature?
Anyway, on this particular Friday the 13th, I was scrolling through my Instagram and landed upon a stylish blogger Kayra Merrills, whose feed I follow. She mentioned that she was headed to Raleigh, NC for the inaugural Style Collective conference - a gathering of lifestyle and fashion bloggers. It sounded fun, was happening right in my hometown the very next day, and looked like exactly what I had hankered for: the chance to connect with other women who love writing, fashion, learning and connecting. I gave David the heads-up, cleverly spinning it as a unencumbered "bachelor" weekend for him (of course he knew this really meant he was in charge of the weekend grocery run & laundry detail, but he indulged me anyway because he's awesome!)
Saturday morning found me bright-eyed and well-heeled in my cheerful Kate Spade sandals, walking into the conference venue not knowing a soul, or what to expect. Before I'd had time to set my pop-of-pink bag down, I was greeted with a genuine hug from Annie Spano, the Style Collective's founder (and I'd also call her their CIO - Chief Inspiration Officer!) I quickly discovered that Annie and her team were having some pre-conference jitters of their own, since this was their first event of its kind.
Turns out they hit a home-run: an info-packed weekend that would challenge, motivate and connect women just like me. On many levels, it was the kind of weekend every woman needs - blogger and non-blogger alike.
Being Authentic in a Picture-Perfect World
If we're being honest, the world of social media influence can seem very superficial and narcissistic. It’s a world plastered in pastel selfies and images of impossibly perfect bodies, outfits, living rooms, and vacations! So, it would seem reasonable to expect that the women whose voices and images populate this world might be just like the pictures they post: intimidatingly perfect, patently artificial, or a discouraging combination of both.
But, in the Style Collective tribe, nothing could be further from the truth. The ladies I met at the conference love fashion and aspirational living, for sure. But far more, they were everyday girls with busy careers and multifaceted lives, hard-working women looking for friends to give and receive support for their passion, all while having fun!
Like me, these bloggers love to write, but some days even a passion can feel like a chore. We share similar ambitions and insecurities, as we navigate a social media landscape where authenticity and idealism must jostle, minute by minute, for elbow room.
Instagram, in particular, has become a medium with very lofty visual standards, and most of its heavy hitters are young, poreless, and waif thin: fashionistas who drift on the flutter of false eyelashes to magical places awash in soft, flattering light. Daunting! But if you look past those girls, (who understandably have massive followings...after all – who wouldn’t aspire to at least a few of those things?) – you find the rest of us: real women with real life and wisdom to pass along from our fails and our successes... and, I humbly submit, who manage to do it with real style. These were the women I met, and it was refreshing!
The Takeaways We Can ALL Use
- I learned how to be really disciplined about setting and pursuing your personal goals... and prioritizing them, even when you have a full-time job and a family to tend to.
- I learned how to overcome insecurities – not all at once - but a bit at a time, by focusing on what you want to achieve, breaking it down into bite-size pieces, and putting one foot stubbornly in front of the other. (And, giving yourself grace!)
- I was reminded that even the most successful social media influencers started out where we all do – with lots of ideas and a desire to share them...and lots of empty squares to fill on an IG feed.
- I was reminded to think outside the box, to challenge and stretch myself. These are things I know I should do, but somehow it’s a lot easier when you’re surrounded by other women who are already doing it, with success.
- I learned from the kind and accomplished fashion influencer Holly Boyd (another Raleigh blogger) that your friends and family may very likely never "get" what you're doing as a social media influencer, and that's okay. Just keep doing it, if it's what you love and you have goals and messages that you want to share in this space.
- I discovered a network of supportive women to help me navigate the ins and outs of a fast-evolving medium.
- I was reminded of the importance of taking time away from work and my never-ending to-do list, to focus on the things that bring me joy: my family, exploring the world, and finding beautiful and stylish things to celebrate along the way.
Most of all, I was reminded of the power of kindness. From their balayaged heads to their pedicured toes, every woman I met at this conference was kind-hearted, open, and willing to share her experiences – the good, the bad, the stylish, and the stumbles. It was wonderful to laugh together and lift each other up!
Enjoy the Pretty Little Things
And, to be perfectly honest, it was fun just to be in a really girly environment! Like me, these women find enjoyment in the world of style: a cute bag, a great nail color or a rockin' pair of heels. These are the pretty little things that add lightness and femininity to life, and if that's your thing, then you should enjoy them unapologetically along the way.
So, thank you Annie Spano and Style Collective...thank you new fashion and lifestyle blogger friends, and thanks to all of you who are following me on this journey through Instagram and here on my little blog. My commitment to you will always be to share some nuggets of wisdom from my journey, and a little style to brighten your day!