Out of my comfort zone

In February of this year, just 8 months ago, I thought I was too old to attend a workshop on how to use Instagram to grow my art business. I am 54 years old, and I remember dreading showing up at the event with all the young 30 somethings. No one wants to feel like the odd one out. And I already felt the rejection that I predicted was coming my way, as I painstakingly chose my outfit to wear. I wanted to be on trend, but not look like that lady that was trying to pretend she was 30 when she is 50. I decided to go with a conservative look of black pencil dress pants, a black blazer and pumps. My stomach was churning with anxiety at I drove to the event, and the thought of ‘Why am I doing this to myself?’ kept going through my head. I didn’t have to go to this event, no one was forcing me to, or for that matter even asking me to. I signed up and paid of my own free will, and if I was a no show, no one but me would know the difference.

But, I did go. I walked through my wall of dread and anxiety because I wanted to learn. I had bought a few books on social media marketing and I had learned quite a bit, but it all changes so quickly and I needed current information from people that were marketing successfully on Instagram. And the 2 women that organized this event were doing just that. I had just opened my store, and I was at a loss for how to market it except to say, ‘Hey, my store is opened’. I needed help.

I didn’t start out on social media wanting to sell my art, and I was as surprised as anyone when I decided to open a store. My first love and passion has always been writing. I started posting to Instagram to direct people to my blog; to read my words. The funny thing was, when I first started I knew I had something to say but I wasn’t even sure what it was. I just felt a story and a whole world inside of me that was busting at the seams to get out, and for some reason I thought that other women had stories they wanted to tell too. I couldn’t verbalize it very well, it was more a feeling that I was trying to turn into a reality.

I focussed not on my Instagram followers, but on my email list so that I could email my blog posts for people to read and hopefully connect with. It was exciting to see people sign up to receive my weekly blog posts and start commenting. Through this creative expression, I also rediscovered my love for art and drawing women. I had forgotten that I used to draw fashionable women as a teenager, and that I had wanted to be a fashion designer. But beyond the fashion, the women I draw are always powerful and beautiful, and when I draw them I feel powerful and beautiful too. I fell in love with my art again, and other people fell in love with it too and wanted to buy it.

So, that is where my store came from, and my Instagram business. It was a meandering journey of self discovery that led me to go onto my Go Daddy website where I wrote my blog, and discover that I could open a store right there. So I took a day off my full time job, stayed home, and figured out how to put products into my store and price them for sale. At the end of that day, I announced that I opened my store. Within a few days, someone wanted to buy something.

A few more people reached out to me to purchase my art, and I realized that I needed help. I had never owned my own business, I had always worked for big corporations, so I had no idea how to serve and maintain my customers through social media. So, I signed up for this Instagram workshop, where I knew I would be one of the oldest but also knew I could learn how to run a business on Instagram.

I was excited about it, until the morning of it when all of my insecurities crept up and I had visions of me sitting alone while all the young women looked right through me. And I would completely understand if they did, because I remember being young and attractive and thinking that I knew it all. It was a great and powerful feeling, and I only wanted to be around other young people. So, I wouldn’t blame them if they ignored me, I expected it.

But, the fact is, they didn’t ignore me. I showed up that day to learn, and I did learn. I walked through all my fears and insecurities and put myself in complete discomfort, and I was ok. In fact, I was better than ok, it felt great to know that my fear was not going to hold me back. I took the information that I learned and I used it to make my customer experience better. I learned about photo editing and apps that I could use to plan and schedule my Instagram posts. I also learned that people are kinder than I was giving them credit for, and I wasn’t ignored or brushed aside.

Tomorrow, these same 2 women are having their biggest Instagram workshop to date. Not only am I attending, but I am a vendor. I will be selling my art, tank tops, and Halloween cards. They reached out to me to create a photo backdrop with my art for their event participants to take pictures for social media, and in exchange I am a VIP at their event.

8 months ago I could barely get out the door due to my insecurities to attend an Instagram workshop, now I am one of 4 vendors at an Instagram media event and a VIP. The person I was 8 months ago was trying to make it through the event, fit in, and not make a fool of myself. Now, I am engaged in the event, participating, and excited to go. I still have all of my insecurities, they haven’t gone away. Even as I type this my stomach has butterflies in anticipation of how my art will be received by the participants. Will they look at my drawings of my women and be confused and shy away from their disproportionate bodies and their matter of fact expressions? Or will they see the power and beauty in them as I do. I don’t know, and thinking about it gives me anxiety, but I am willing to take the chance to find out.