Can Too Much Inspiration Harm You?


By Elizabeth Fein

Social media is stocked full of beautiful pictures, creative ideas, and endless inspiration. We can spend hours on Pinterest hoarding ideas. We can scour through gorgeous pictures on Instagram and gather styling ideas. We can search hashtags on Twitter and find the best articles to tell us everything we need to know about whatever interests us. It’s wonderful, but at the same it can be overwhelming. 

Sometimes it can make us inadequate and we end up spending even more time searching for inspiration. It can be a vicious cycle, and we can end up smothering our own creative ideas in the process. These great ideas can even get lost under piles of inspiration. It reminds me of going to a hairdresser with a picture of Jennifer Lawrence from Vogue and saying, “Make me look like this!” (I am totally guilty of this by the way).

Looking to others for inspiration is great, and we all need to start somewhere. We also need to realize that our hair is not as thick as Jennifer Lawrence’s and our face shape is different. Cutting your hair like her’s may make you cry with regret.

Comparison on social media is often hard to avoid. We see people that appear to be winning at life and we want to be winning at life, too. Social media is a great tool for finding inspiration, but too much of a good thing usually turns into a bad thing.

Here are a few dangers of too much “ inspiration” that you may or may not have thought about. If you haven’t, I hope it helps you move toward the doing instead of the dreaming and comparing.

1. You will end up inadvertently copying someone else.
If you spend a lot of time looking at what a competitor or a personal idol is doing their words and ideas will get trapped in your head. It will start seeping out into your content, and that’s not fun for either party. You may have to answer to it, they may see it and ignore it, or you may be totally off their radar. Whether someone knows or not, you will be putting content out in the world that is a muddled down version of someone else’s idea. Keep your eyes on your own paper. This will clear up enough space to freely create new and engaging content.

2. You will lose control of your own story.
You are the author of your story. By letting someone else’s content guide you, you are handing over the reigns and letting them lead you into the dark forest. This scenario is awesome for them! But you will be ten steps behind them, following blindly, and end up stuck. They will have more room to spread their arms out and twirl around collecting the clients you want. They will end up in inspiration folders everywhere, while you are stuck in the forest dreaming.

3. You might end up emulating someone not worth emulating.
The majority of people on social media are great people. They are simply busy being awesome, living their lives honestly, and doing their own thing. On the flip side, there are people who are master curators and full of s-h-i-t. They curate, imagine, and tell stories, which is OK. Those people are usually fun to follow and there is nothing wrong with what they are doing. It’s just important to remember that they aren’t someone you want to be giving creative space to. They may not have the clients they want, they may owe a photographer their first born because they don’t take their own photos, and they may be unhappy. You can’t waste your time wishing your Pinterest were as awesome as _______ [insert whoever your Pinterest idol is], because that person’s space may not be the space you want to be in. You have your own space to build. A space that will house your content and tell a rad story people want to follow. Just remember, you and everyone else on this planet has something unique and worth listening to.

4. It will hinder you from acting.
Like anything we try to accomplish in life, there is a moment when you have to act. What good is being inspired if you are never going to act? You can collect all you want, scour all you want, and wish until it’s too late. It’s so easy to get caught up in someone else’s blog, tweets, and pictures. Amazing people can inspire you because, yes, they truly are inspiring. Just be gentle with yourself and don’t compare yourself to them. Spending too much time doing this can make you feel inadequate, and hinder your own creativity. Dreaming is not going to build your confidence and get you what you want. Acting is what’s going to help you carve out your own space of awesomeness. You have to take all of those Instagram screenshots, article clippings, and could-be thoughts, and move them out of your own way. You have your own content to make and your own work to do. However imperfect it may seem at first, step by step you will become an expert in your field. Before you know it, someone will be hoarding your content and putting it in their inspiration folder. Talk about #winning!

What are your thoughts on this topic? Does social media make it harder for you to avoid comparison? What are your struggles with comparison? How do you deal with it?

With a background in marketing, Elizabeth Fein is a social media & communications expert. She is a mother, photographer and business owner of Iterate, a social media management agency in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can find her on Twitter or Instagram.


Top Image: Steph Zangeneh