Those that are close to me know that I’ve been struggling for the past year to define who I am.
I’m divorced. In my marriage, I lost who I was. I gave it up. I took everything I loved and believed and put it aside to be the right person for my ex-husband, because he was safe and grounding and at the time it felt right.
This is ok. I made my choice, I don’t regret it. But, post-divorce, I’m having to rediscover who I am. And, to my surprise, it’s all new! It seems obvious, but I didn’t think about the fact that I wouldn’t be the same person 6 years later as I was when I first met my ex-husband. I’m older, I’m wiser. I have so much more self-esteem and self-understanding. Right after the divorce, I went back to who I was 6 years ago, but it was quickly obviously the wrong fit.
So then what? Not knowing who you are as a person definitely makes it difficult to create branded content for yourself. Who am I? What kinds of photos do I want to post? What vibe do I want to give off? What do I have to say? Do I even have anything to say?
I’ve doubted myself so much. I’ve struggled to define my content. I tried a variety of different photo styles, caption styles, but nothing felt right, nothing felt authentic. I don’t care enough about fashion to be a fashion blogger. I don’t travel enough to be a travel blogger. I don’t care enough specifically about beauty, food, fitness, or skincare to focus on any one of those things. I’m not religious, I’m not married, I don’t own a house, I don’t want children. What the heck do I have to say?!
Content started feeling irrelevant to me. I’m not a witty captions kind of girl. I’m not a long inspiring caption kind of girl either. Everything I said and posted felt irrelevant. It didn’t help that Instagram has been making so many changes to the algorithm, many of which have a negative impact on creators’ abilities to be discovered and for authentic/non-sponsored content to be seen. It all became so draining and I stopped posting as much, I stopped engaging as much. My following shrank, my engagement is abysmal. It’s a quick spiral downwards if you don’t give your all to your social media (I’m not sure people realize how much work 24/7 goes into this career).
So I tried different things. I tried being more edgy, but that didn’t feel authentic - I’m not constantly frowning or pursing my lips. I tried writing long inspirational captions, but that’s also not really me - I have a lot of deep thoughts but daily inspo starts feeling inauthentic very quickly .. sometimes I just want to be fun and lowkey. I tried pulling out my top-of-the-line Canon equipment that I use for client work and taking self-portraits, which only lasted a few days as I don’t connect to that type of content for myself, I don’t know what to say about a pretty picture. To be a successful content creator, you really have to believe in the content you’re putting out there. It has to feel authentic or it won’t be engaging. You have to be true to your voice.
Then, actually yesterday, I came across the profile of a girl who had very natural photos. It was her just existing, living her everyday life. And sometimes that meant a beach in the Mexico and sometimes it meant just a random cafe in her neighborhood, but the thing that really drew me in was that it all felt extremely authentic. It felt like I was looking into her everyday life - I felt like I knew her. Her photos weren’t overly processed, they were actually really basic, no photoshop, dirt on the ground, random signs and people on the street.
And it hit me. That’s what I want. I want to create daily content that truly reflects my life, that is a window into my life. I don’t want to spend hours editing a photo and having it be perfect. I just want to document who I am, what I am going through, what I believe it, how I change over time, what I’ve learned in the past and what I’m excited for in the future. I want it to be authentic. I want it to be my true voice, my true life. That’s why I love posting stories so much - because I don’t care how they look, it’s just a documentation of my life, and that’s what’s important. I want you all to feel like you know me, to feel like you can rely on me (because you truly can), that you can ask me anything, learn with me from my experiences and my mistakes.
So here we are. I feel passionate again. I feel inspired. I feel like I know what I want to do moving forward, and that’s just to be myself. It’s a huge relief. I don’t want to be curated and perfect. I’m not that type of girl. I don’t want to stage photos or be on the beach every day or spend 8 hours shooting 15 different outfits. I want to show you guys who I am, what I do daily. I want to be somewhere and snap a picture on my phone, and post it and write about the real experience. Because some people want to create art and some people want to inspire via their experiences. I thought I was the former, but I’m actually in the latter category.
You guys, I am SO excited to move forward. I am so excited to write more about what I’ve been through in the past year and what I’ve learned, because trust me, it’s a lot. I’m excited to share my everyday life. I’m excited to show you who I am and take you along with me on all of my journeys, good and bad.
I hope you come along with me.
Julia O Test is a lifestyle blogger and photographer based in Los Angeles.