I'm Taking a Sabbatical... from Instagram

PSA: I'm taking a sabbatical from Instagram. 

Say, what?

Yes, but not a year or seven years off, just 7-days. Hear me out..

I'm taking a break from the 'gram. As ironic as it may sound, I have always had a love/hate relationship with "social." I love how it can connect people and like-minded professionals. I have met and exchanged ideas with some fantastic designers, bloggers, and influencers with whom I wouldn't otherwise have connected with. I've found incredible connections through it and even all of my clients.

But then there's the negative side. The constant need to see what everyone else is up to and getting lost and worked up about the algorithm, stats, analytics, engagement rate... Let me keep it real; it's mostly the algorithm and drop in engagement that has been driving me crazy as each day I see my follower number drop, my engagement drop... basically as volatile as watching my cryptocurrency plummet by the second. But that is the thing... engagement and analytics... it's taken the fun out of this social platform.

These last 6 months have been chaos in the 'gram world for me, to the point where I need to take a break from my own social account to help me regroup, recharge and refocus. I've lost sight of what my blog and feed are about. I need to find my focus and stay true to it. But hold up -- clients and work -- don't worry... I'll still be here for your accounts. I merely need to take a step back from mine. It's almost even made me wonder if my account has gotten hacked again? Is there some crazy bot associated with my account that IG has flagged me? Not sure. My engagement rate has dropped drastically. A photo that used to get over 1k likes and plenty of comments is now 1/4 of that. Drastic and frustrating!

You Might Also Like: The Ultimate Mind-Detox 

There are the insta-famous, the insta-influencers, the insta-models, the insta-travelers, the-insta photographers, the insta-fit, the insta-foodies, the insta-writers and on and on and on. I'll agree, it's a great platform especially if you have something to share with the world.

When I first joined Instagram back in April of 2011 it was simply a visual diary. The first photo I believe was a photo of coconut water or Coachella or possibly coconut water at Coachella. Instagram was fun, but I didn’t think much about it. I occasionally posted pictures of myself and my friends out at night, food photos with a filter, where I was off traveling to, or my dog. Maybe a landscape or a pretty sunset with a short blurb, no hashtags. It wasn’t a particularly mind-blowing feed. (Obvi.) But it was fun. 

I'll be the first to admit, using Instagram to leverage my blog was the best tool for reaching a greater audience and working with brands. Somewhere along the way, I fell completely and madly in love with photography as well, improving my skills more and more when it came to snapping a photo with my camera and using post production to clean up photos. Early on, I was savvy enough to never capture photos with my phone, but instead with my camera, text or email them to myself and post on Instagram. It took my heart whole and refused to let go. But the tide slowly started to shift, and the fun of it all was no more.

The day that Facebook bought Instagram is the day that part of my Instagram soul died. New changes happened after Facebook bought them; the algorithm began to change... constantly. This rad, scrappy start-up would soon face what every acquisition faces, the bureaucracy of change, monetization, and ads. 

Instagram became very saturated with micro-influencers, bots, and those trying to cut corners to gain a substantial "following" for brands to recognize them. The idea of working with brands was very appealing and making money off of my posts that I shared with my audience was more appealing than getting sponsored posts for my blog. Plus, one instagram photo was less work and highly more valuable that writing 500 words and 5 photos about a product. It was much more organic and more native than a direct ad. This slowly started to take a toll on me. It made me lose sight of why it is that I post on Instagram and my blog. Every time I'd post, it had to be super strategic to the time of day. Then I waited to see how many people would like my posts as if that was a reflection of my worthiness of a creative.

However, as time rolled on, I found myself getting sucked into a world that I was not always so enamored about. I found myself comparing my work to that of others, and left with a gnawing sense of my inadequacy. I found myself doubting images I wanted to post, as perhaps they were slightly dark or different, strange; doubting myself and comparing myself with my peers. They wouldn’t “fit-in” with the rest of my “feed.” I wasn’t sure how people would respond to them. I felt the constant "need" to double my follower numbers and engagement rate to get noticed by brands. It wasn't until I reached 10k followers that brands started to reach out. Getting to 20k then 30K then 40K and almost 50K was impressive. The engagement and sharing of brands but also getting paid up to $500 per post was mind-blowing and something that I quickly had my eye on. And rightfully so, since my efforts to build my audience was of value to brands. Like other influencers and bloggers, I had an audience that they wanted. My audience was one that listen to me and my opinion. They trusted what I had to say. Brands and advertisers want that. This is why I always tell people to never post for free for a brand. Whether you have 1,000 followers of 1,000,000 followers -- if they are very engaging, they are valuable assets to you, and brands want a piece of that. Never work for free. I'll talk about this another time.

Then 2017 happened and the algorithm changed drastically, effecting everyone. Since then, it's been a constant battle of keeping up with the latest changes and staying true. This in return caused a domino effect and started to effect brand work, brands not renewing their contracts, decrease in traffic to my blog, decrease in email subscribers, a decrease in affiliate link purchases, and so on.

It's pretty easy to get all caught up in this vicious Instagram circle. As a blogger and influencer, these things matter if you want to work with brands. With that said, I've noticed that the last 6 months I've lost my focus on my feed, my blog, and the type of blogger I am. A few months ago I made it a point to decline every single brand opportunity that presented itself -- paid or not paid. (Sorry, I do not work for free.)

In recent months I've stayed true and have only worked with brands that I absolutely LOVE and use in my daily life, brands that I believe in and enjoy and happy to recommend and shout them out on stories. They are the constant brands that you see within my feed, stories, and blog. I realized I need to stay true to myself and my audience. I think this is something many bloggers and influencers disconnect from. It's funny... in the 90's this is what people would refer to as a "sell out." It makes me wonder, are we all "sell outs" and how does this play into transparency of what people are endorsing and what they actually like and love?

With that said, I really believe that taking a break from it will help me regroup and find my focus again.

Have you taken a break from Instagram? How did you feel after? Share here!


If Not Today When

Oh, the places you will go when you stop with the self-doubt!  

monday motivational quote

Sometimes we need a little motivation when we've lost focus of our goals, our dreams, our journey. Losing focus and motivation can be tough, and it happens. Sometimes we can be our own worst critic.

You can waste so much time by doubting yourself when you really should be using that energy to take risks and focusing on making yourself happy. YOU CAN DO IT! You deserve to get everything that you want out of life; you just have to go out and get it.

Force yourself to take risks and get out of your comfort zone. Life is too short. There's no time for Shoulda-Coulda-Woulda's. NOT. AT. ALL.

Do what you’ve always wanted to do. That business you’ve wanted to start but were too scared to start. That trip you’ve wanted to take, but through you didn't have enough money to take. That goal you wanted to accomplish but were too scared to start. That starting step to better health but were discouraged each time you caved in to cravings. Don’t listen to anyone, DO YOU. You were given with one life; live it!

Give yourself permission to fail. It’s OK to fail from time to time. Failing teaches you valuable lessons in life, and it also builds character and strength. It’s much better to try and fail, then to not try and regret it.

Celebrate yourself! When you accomplish something, celebrate YOU! When you’re feeling great about yourself, celebrate YOU! One thing that we don’t do enough is pat ourselves on the back about our accomplishments. You’ve worked hard, so reward yourself. Heck, throw yourself a party!

Just think.... The places you will go once you start trusting and believing yourself and your journey.  Get out there and find what makes you feel alive and brings a spark back into your life. You only get one life... live it the way you were meant to live it. Go where you feel most alive, and ask yourself... If not today, then when?✌🏼

Share with me your biggest goals in life on Instagram - @valeriefidan!

Press For Progress: International Women's Day

#InternationalWomensDay is an occasion to celebrate the progress made towards achieving gender equality and women's empowerment but also to reflect on those accomplishments and strive for a greater momentum towards gender equality worldwide. It is a day to recognize and celebrate the extraordinary acts of women. It's a day to press for change and create a movement beyond a social media hashtag. Janne Robinson really hits it home with this poem titled 'For The Women Who Don't Give A Fuck.' I leave you with this...

International Women's Day

"This is for the women who don't give a fuck The women who are first to get naked, howl at the moon and jump into the sea. The women who drink too much whisky, stay up too late and have sex like they mean it. The women who know they aren’t sluts because they enjoy sex, but human beings with a healthy sexual appetite. The women who will ask you for what they need in bed.

This is for the women who seek relentless joy; the ones who know how to laugh with their whole souls. The women who speak to strangers because they have no fear in their hearts. The ones who wear “night make up” in the morning or don’t own mascara. The women who know their worth, who plant their feet and roar in their brilliance. The women who aren’t afraid to tell a man to get the fuck out of her heart if he doesn’t honour her heart.

This is for the women who rock combat boots with frilly skirts. The women who swear like truck drivers. The women who hold the people who harass or wrong them with fierce accountability. The women who flip gender norms and false limitations the bird and live to run successful companies giving “the man” a run for his name. The ones who don’t find their success a compliment just because they have a vagina. Women like Gloria Steinem who, when she was told, “We want a writer, not a woman. Go home,” kept writing anyway.

This is for the women who drink coffee at midnight and wine in the morning, and dare you to question it. For the women who open doors for men and are confident enough to have doors opened for them. Who use “no” to be in service for themselves. Who don’t give a damn about pleasing the world, and do sweetly as they wish. For the superheroes—the single moms who work three jobs to make it. I salute your resilient, cape-flapping, ambitious selves.

This is for the women who throw down what they love, and don’t waste time following society’s pressures to exist behind a white picket fence. The women who create wildly, unbalanced, ferociously and in a blur at times. The women who know how to be busy and know how to plant their feet in the earth and get grounded. These are the women I want around me."
-Janne Robinson

💗 Share on Instagram - @valeriefidan - what you love about being a woman and tag a friend that you are celebrating today. 

My Effortless Trick To Live The Life You Deserve

"...I would rather drink the ocean, again and again—celebrate being madly alive..."
Janne Robinson 
how to live a better life

I don’t know all the secrets on how to have a better life, but I definitely would love to offer some advice. I see a lot of people who are down and out. They’re strung out, disappointed, feel helpless and stagnant in life. But instead of feeling sorry for yourself, ask yourself... What makes you feel alive?

For me, it's travel. There is something so exciting and exhilarating about travel, being in a new place, in a new environment, and feeling ALIVE. Because of that, I fill my life with plenty of it, near or far places.

It’s no secret that travel is a guaranteed way to discover yourself and make you happier. However, traveling is costly and not financially possible for everyone. Even if you can’t jet off to Europe or bask under the sun on the British Virgin Islands, there is still hope for you. Taking the family to the nearest large city is a great idea for a vacation. And vice versa, if you live in or near a major city drive a few hours outside of the city to a secluded little town. Even taking a day to staycation helps to recharge. Getting away for a few days lets your mind and body recuperate and take a break from life. 

But, maybe travel isn't what makes you feel alive... 

One guaranteed way to answer the question how to have a better life is to smile! It's seriously that simple.

Have you ever heard of the theory of what you put into the world is what you get back? In other words, if you put out negative vibes, you’ll be greeted with negativity at every turn. Create the change you want in your life by being positive, cheery, and happy -- if it’s not what you’re feeling on the inside.

I am naturally a happy person that is always smiling. I can't tell you how many times, people have told me that my smile is contagious... and guess what, yours is as well! Soon enough, you’ll see the people around you change for the better and what you’re projecting on the outside will translate to lighter emotions on the inside.

Now that you know my effortless trick to living a better life, I want to know... what makes you feel alive? Share it with me on Instagram - @valereifidan!

Effortless Trick To Live The Life You Deserve.png

Another Year Around the Sun

I am 32-years-old today, celebrating another year around the Sun. Reflecting back on 31... what a whirlwind in the best and worst ways. But, hey, I can honestly say that I am happy. I say that so plainly because, well… it takes time. It takes time to be happy; To figure out how to be kind to yourself. To not just choose that happiness, but to feel it most unapologetically. It's taken me time and probably 32 years to get here.

 Me with my Dad 32-years ago.

Me with my Dad 32-years ago.

Turning 30 was rough. Knowing that my 20's slipped away and I didn't feel like the decade was fulfilling. It was even harder dealing with a divorce this past year, something I never thought I'd ever had to experience. My 20s were brutal. A constant battle with myself, judging my weight, my style, my desire to be as cool, as hip, as smart, as “whatever” as everyone else. And, although I traveled an envious amount, I struggled with inner happiness. My teens were even worse; grappling with how to fit in, and what that also meant. As a child, I also never quite fit in with my peers. Being Latina and someone who never exactly looked like the stereotype, I found it hard to fit in with kids of my own background as well. Kids can be mean. I fell somewhere in between the mix of it all of being accepted and not. The shy little girl then hadn't had blossomed into a social butterfly yet.

But, I wouldn't change anything. Not one bit. These experiences have shaped who I am.  

“You need to know that you’re enough" the words my mom, friends, family have all said over and over to me. A mantra that has now engrained itself so profoundly within me that not a day goes by without hearing it chime in my head. So much so, it is a mantra I write at the start of my week in my bullet journal. It wasn't until a solo trip to London and Madrid that it made me realize... I am enough. I am exactly who I need to be and exactly where I need to be. For the first time in my life, I can honestly say that I am 110% comfortable in my own skin, doing my own thing, and owning every single part of it, without apologizing for who I am.

You need to know that you’re enough. That five pounds lost won’t make you happier, that more makeup won’t make you prettier, the trendiest bag or shoes won't make you cooler. That the now iconic saying from Jerry Maguire "you complete me” honestly, isn’t true. You are complete with or without a partner. You are enough just as you are. I can honestly say that being very open about my struggle with self-image, entering recovery for an eating disorder, and most recently my divorce has helped me gain perspective as to who I am, and what I want in life. My divorce more so than anything has opened my eyes that I am enough. 

So for my birthday, here’s what I would like as a gift: I want you to be kind and compassionate to yourself.

I want you to challenge yourself. I want you to stop gossiping, to smile a stranger, to try a food that scares you, to buy a coffee for someone just because, to tell someone you love them… and then to tell yourself right back.

I want you to find your happiness.

I did, and it’s never felt so good.

I am enough.

You are enough. 

Cheers, to another year of life!