Pressure of Perfectionism

June 15, 2016
Pressure of Perfectionism Hannah Argyle Photography

Pressure starts at an early age these days. My son who is 5 has just had a reading (phonics) test at school that the government says every child his age has to do. My feelings on that one are a whole other story! Pressure carries on through life and many of us know all about the pressures of work, deadlines, of juggling family, relationships and everything else in between. More and more though I think so much pressure in life is self inflicted and the greatest pressure of all is the internal one to be perfect at everything we do.

When I first met my husband almost 16 years ago I wanted so badly for him to think I was perfect, and I can clearly remember thinking that if he got to really know me he wouldn’t love me. Isn’t that awful? I had no self confidence, and I thought the polite, ever happy version of me was the only loveable version of me. Of course I should have had more faith because all these years later he’s still here, and I assume he’s got to know me by now 🙂

Our battle for perfectionism doesn’t stop here though, it extends to our appearance, our homes, our kids. We feel like we are judged at every turn, if our toddlers throw tantrums in the supermarket it’s because we can’t cope and are hopeless mothers. In reality we care far more than anyone else does. Obviously some people take extreme measures with their appearance, but I guess even those of us who are less worried on that front are hard on ourselves about our weight or our own perceived “worst features” too much of the time.

I think for those of us with creative jobs/interests, our self imposed standards of perfection are at times in itself crippling our creativity. I see this discussed quite regularly on Instagram, as people apologise for deleting or reposting an image, or confess to not knowing what to post next in order to keep up their gallery style. Sometimes people comment that they are upset that a certain picture they liked wasn’t well received, and I’m very familiar with each of these myself.

We all rightly or wrongly judge a picture on how many likes it got. It’s a struggle not to believe if a picture got half the likes, it’s half as good. Now some of my pictures on Instagram get as much as 5 times more likes than others! However much I try to look at things with a fair but critical eye I refuse to believe one picture is 5 times better than another, or one is 5 times worse!!

It’s important to know there are other factors at play in how well “liked” your pictures are, some hit the explore page and once they are there they are viewed as a thumbnail until someone clicks on them. My opinion is that if your picture hits the explore page it’s more likely to carry on picking up likes if it has something simple and striking about the colour, subject matter and composition, and nothing too personal about it.

I tell myself this all the time, yet still instead of congratulating myself on a picture that gets high likes, I berate myself about a picture that gets low likes in comparison. I am really trying to look at things in a different way and be ok with some pictures not doing as well, because actually its ok for people not to like a picture isn’t it? It certainly doesn’t mean it’s a bad picture, or they don’t like me, it just means they engaged with another one more.

I’ve always seen my gallery as a mood board. It’s very seasonal, I prefer to keep things current and I don’t jump back and forth too much to photos from other locations, seasons or points in time. Scrolling down through my gallery I love the way it ebbs and flows. Last Summer was punctuated with the red from the poppy pictures, in the Autumn the tones were earthy and in the Winter the shadows were deeper and the colours muted. For this reason I can’t keep up any one colour palette or mood, and I don’t want to. I want my Instagram to carry on reflecting the seasons, and my style to carry on evolving and changing.

Each picture for me is a small piece of a whole story, and I look at my Instagram as a gallery of images that are more effective standing together than they are alone. So really it shouldn’t matter if one image isn’t well liked, or indeed if things take a nose dive for a whole month or two (haha!) because it will continue to ebb, and to flow.

So I will keep telling myself this as I try to be less hard on myself, but in all honestly sometimes the pressure to post perfect images is too much. Today I felt like deleting half my gallery and I saw everything I had posted as not good enough. There will always be people who make life look effortless – work, appearance, parenting, and Instagram, but I’m certain that everyone has the same struggles with confidence even if it never looks that way. My advise if it’s worth anything would be if it bothers you delete it, and if you regret it repost it! Equally just don’t worry about it and move on, because in Instagram as in life you are probably the person being hardest on yourself, and actually everyone else is just busy worrying about their own thing 🙂

I’d love to know your thoughts, do you too let your confidence stifle your creativity? Do you have any tips for overcoming this?

Thanks for reading xx

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42 Comments

  • Reply Kim Young June 15, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    Well I think your pictures are perfection Hannah, every single one! A lovely, heart felt story too. I think we all lack a little confidence at times, I have been plagued by this my whole life so have absolutely no suggestions! I have always tried to instill in my children to ‘just be yourself’ – sounds easy but it takes confidence to do just that 🙂 love Kim xx

    • Reply Hannah Argyle June 15, 2016 at 3:03 pm

      Ah thank you so much. You’re so right Kim, I guess the key is to accept that our best efforts are good enough. So much easier said than done though! 🙂 xxx

  • Reply Michelle June 17, 2016 at 6:56 am

    The key is acceptance. And you’ve got that. To me, to you you are perfect in your own way! X

    • Reply Hannah Argyle June 17, 2016 at 9:33 am

      Thanks lovely Michelle, i guess we all need a little more faith in our abilities sometimes! xx

  • Reply jo June 17, 2016 at 7:07 am

    Instagram is a fabulous way to view the world through someone else’s eyes. Your pictures are unique, not generic copies, you are gifted, thank you for sharing X

    • Reply Hannah Argyle June 17, 2016 at 9:34 am

      Thank you Jo, that’s incredibly kind of you to stop and say. Have a lovely weekend xx

  • Reply Petra Matthew June 17, 2016 at 7:45 am

    It is so funny how you are in doubt about the quality about your ig pictures, while I see you get só many likes! I am on ig since a half year or so and I am happy if I get 20 likes for a picture. Isn’ t that funny? Should I delete all my pictures now? No way and I am also not going in a niche, just to get more people to like me. I do what I enjoy. I must say I wonder about all those people with the thousands of likes; so many times I get a message on ig to go visit this and this site to get more likes. I looked at it ones and what is it? You have to BUY followers and likes! Ridiculous. Just like me or don’t, I am not going to pay you for it. And now I wonder if all those very popular people did…………..

    • Reply Hannah Argyle June 17, 2016 at 9:37 am

      My point was exactly that the number of likes is not reflective of the quality of the picture, so it would be silly to delete all of yours! Keep being you and posting what you love!

  • Reply Lauren June 17, 2016 at 8:03 am

    Brilliant post lovely Hannah! I know just what you mean. As much as I tell myself and all my Instagram friends that it’s ‘JUST AN AP!!’ It’s so hard not to become obsessed with likes and followers.

    You’re so right though… We just need to do our own thing and give ourselves a break!! Xxx

    • Reply Hannah Argyle June 17, 2016 at 9:38 am

      Thanks so much Lauren, we definitely must just keep doing our thing and not let the pressure stifle the creativity! It can be hard not to look too much into the numbers but it doesn’t get us anywhere does it 🙂 Have a lovely weekend xx

  • Reply Anna June 17, 2016 at 8:26 am

    I enjoyed reading your story……. & agree there is a lot of pressure for perfection in today’s age….. I feel life is to short to add more pressure to our daily life believing that being ones self if far more attractive and endearing than to strive for perfection. This is not to say be slovenly with an outlook or be conplacent within family life or friendship, I believe surrounding oneself with authentic people is the biggest gift and a happy medium is found……. Perfectionism is all consuming otherwise! 🙏🏼

    • Reply Hannah Argyle June 17, 2016 at 9:40 am

      I really couldn’t agree more! It’s hard not to let it take over but life is too short. Being confident in your own skin and with your own abilities is so hard though isn’t it? x

  • Reply Elaine Taylor June 17, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    I think most people will know exactly what you mean. I certainly do. I question myself and the things I do a lot. It’s hard not to.

    With regard to IG, I’ve stopped paying too much attention to how many likes one image gets compared to another now. It’s a different beast now anyway. I used to be surprised at what my followers preferred on my feed – strangers on the street over my children. Eh? I know you understand that. But of course it matters that WE like what we post above all else doesn’t it? If we like it, it’s right!

    • Reply Hannah Argyle June 17, 2016 at 7:01 pm

      I agree completely Elaine! It’s so hard not to question ourselves, we are all creative and probably sensitive people.
      I understand completely what you mean but we definitely have to post what we love and I really don’t want to see the soul go out of my Instagram xx

  • Reply Amber June 17, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    This is bang on for so many of us! Thank you for your honest words and encouragement.
    I really believe that each one of us has a unique and beautiful and true way of looking at the world and creating beauty with what is around us. As distinct and different as a finger print.
    We should teach our kids to celebrate this… And remember this when I start feeling insecure artistically or personally! We all shine no matter how many people see it or Like it;)
    You do beautiful work by the way! 🌷

    • Reply Hannah Argyle June 17, 2016 at 7:03 pm

      I love your words Amber, so beautifully put. Thank you so much for reading and for commenting, it gives me heart to read your thoughts! Have a lovely weekend xx

  • Reply Zoë June 17, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    Interesting post Hannah. Totally agree that most of the time the pressure is all self-inflicted. We’re our own worst enemies aren’t we? I adore your gallery – to me it is just perfect. I think we all have self-doubt and feel we could always we doing more/better – we just need to recognise it and not let it stifle us. My followers have been dwindling lately and I keep telling myself not to worry – I have to remember why I post on IG – and it is because I love it. I want to be free to post the things I love, and these along with my style will evolve over time. I really enjoy the engagement and connection I have with like minded souls there – and for me that is what matters. So we mustn’t overthink it! Or get upset when other people’s photos are chosen for a feature and not ours – photography is such a subjective thing. xxx

    • Reply Hannah Argyle June 17, 2016 at 7:06 pm

      We definitely can be our own worst enemies Zoe, that’s exactly it! We are so hard on ourselves, sometimes to the point of inhibiting ourselves too much. You’re absolutely right and as hard as it can be we must remember to try and look at it like that. I adore your gallery – I’d know your pictures anywhere and your eye is amazing. I always appreciate your support too xx

  • Reply Elizabeth June 17, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    Thank you for sharing this post, all your pictures are so beautiful and perfect in every way. They always tell a story which is something I love. I have a tiny Instagram account and I already fuss and overthink the pictures it’s reassuring to know others do as well. Wishing you a lovely weekend. x

    • Reply Hannah Argyle June 17, 2016 at 7:11 pm

      Thank you so much for your comment Elizabeth, and I really appreciate your kind words. I think we all care about what we do don’t we, and want it to be the best it can be! Above everything though I guess Instagram is a fun and inspiring place to be, and that should be the most important thing. Have a lovely weekend too xx

  • Reply Susan June 17, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    That is totally me!! haha. I agree with you Hannah, you don’t even need to have a great technique as a Photographer to succeed on Instagram but what you do need is time. That’s what this little app asks of you, your time (kind of scary, right?!). You have to move around, engage, almost like you are all over the place and if you have good enough content, that is more than enough (plus the use of the right hashtags and of course if you post flowers even better haha). After a while I guess you can rest a bit -at least that is what I think because I haven’t reached that point yet haha- as your images will have a lot of likes and hit the explorer page or stay as a TOP POST in a hashtag, so people can find your photo easily. It wasn’t until recently that I asked myself what do I wanted from instagram, changed the course of my feed and what I was doing and confirmed everything that I’ve writed in here. I’m still working on learning what is “good enough” though. To let go a bit of my perfectionism or at least use it where it matters. THANK YOU HANNAH, here is a graphic designer that appreciates your work! 🙂 x

    • Reply Hannah Argyle June 17, 2016 at 7:16 pm

      Ah Susan thank you, your work is super SUPER inspiring and your feed is perfect!! I know you think these things too though. I will always fuss over how my feed looks because it makes me happy to see it looking tidy, so I am trying to let go of the ones that aren’t as well received, because like you say there are so many factors at work! I really don’t want to let the pressure to post the right flowers (haha!) prevent me from exploring photography further and getting creative in new ways. Have a lovely weekend xx

  • Reply Jules June 17, 2016 at 8:22 pm

    Well you know I relate to this ten-fold! Brilliant, honest and heartfelt post Hannah. And your Mrs – are doing an incredible job. Go easier on yourself. Much love xxx

    • Reply Hannah Argyle June 20, 2016 at 3:06 pm

      Thank you lovely lady. You know I love everything you do! Much love to you too xxx

  • Reply Katie Russo June 18, 2016 at 4:44 am

    Thank you Hannah, I really needed this right now. Today. And again and again! I love what I do- I love most of my work initially and yet I fine ways to dislike my work and subsequently myself- ugh!!! I look forward to hearing more from you!!!! Best, Katie

    • Reply Hannah Argyle June 20, 2016 at 3:05 pm

      Oh thank you Katie I’m so glad you enjoyed reading. It’s funny how we can feel confident one minute and then hate our own work the next! As someone else said a step back is probably best at those times to put some perspective on it. It’s good to know we’re all in the same boat! Thanks for your lovely comment xx

  • Reply Sally June 18, 2016 at 8:33 am

    Thanks for such a lovely post, it’s kind of comforting to know that we all have these struggles but you’re right in the sense that I bet everyone is too concerned about their own to bother about why I have less likes on one of my photos haha. Everything you’ve written is so true, thanks for sharing and honestly I would never have thought you would have ever needed to delete one of your photos because they’re all amazing and beautiful!! xxxx

    • Reply Hannah Argyle June 20, 2016 at 3:03 pm

      Oh thank you Sally, I’m so glad you enjoyed reading it. Likewise your feed is beautiful and very honest and I love how you capture your life and family. It’s easy to be too hard on ourselves isn’t it? xxx

  • Reply Julia June 18, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    So well written Hannah, perfectionism gets in the way of creativity and we are our own worst enemies aren’t we? Your photos are consistently beautiful and the swing in likes is a strange phenomonen indeed without any apparent logic. Best to just post what we want how and when we want and enjoy the creative process isn’t it xx

    • Reply Hannah Argyle June 20, 2016 at 3:02 pm

      Thanks so much Julia, we really are our own worst enemies! We judge ourselves very harshly I think. Post what we love is definitely the way forward 🙂 xxx

  • Reply dawn June 18, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    hannah, i just wanted to say that i do find your work ‘perfection’ … across the board i think you are my favorite ig account .. probably because of all the things you mentioned .. not a single palette, moves with the seasons, has wonderful light and captures your days … i think there is a certain personality type that leans toward perfection (and i am one of them) … i go back and forth on my feed … good enough-not-good enough-not … and then i say … the app is not my life … but i still continually try to improve it … i love your work and aspire to such beauty 🙂

    • Reply Hannah Argyle June 20, 2016 at 3:01 pm

      Oh Dawn, thank you that’s so very kind of you to say. I love your perspective on it all and of course you’re absolutely right, i guess we are all a little hard on ourselves over it all. I’m so happy to hear you enjoy the fluctuations in my feed, thanks so much for taking the time to say xx

  • Reply Sandy Deadey June 19, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    Hi Hannah, I can totally relate! Confidence is a daily battle. Sometimes you’re winning and everything seems so easy, and then out of nowhere, the wind goes out of your sails and everything seems so difficult and you can’t seem get anything right. Insecurity really does stifle creativity. It can be such a challenge to get your confidence back, but especially important when your work relies on it. I find it really helps to take a step back and look at the big picture. Make a list of all the things you have accomplished in your life and you’ll start to see yourself as others see you. A lovely and talented human being. You just need to change your perspective once in a while.

    • Reply Hannah Argyle June 20, 2016 at 2:56 pm

      Hi Sandy,
      you put it so beautifully, and I’m really very touched by your kind words. Thank you! I did exactly that this morning and took a step back, it helped 🙂
      Thanks for your kindness and have a lovely new week xx

  • Reply Bois et Lin June 27, 2016 at 10:54 am

    Simply love all of your work. Thank you for sharing it!

    • Reply Hannah Argyle June 27, 2016 at 8:56 pm

      Thank you so much, that’s so kind of you to say 🙂 x

  • Reply @oftheeveryday July 25, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    dear hannah, thank you for the post, so honest and perceptive. I have only recently joined Instagram for a creative outlet in between being a full-time mama. Your story has definitely been an inspiring one on this new journey and I enjoy your captures and insight on the subject. The nervous anticipation of a hunt for an image and the satisfaction of a capture are already proving quite addictive, but, my stars, I was totally not prepared for the daily “likes” anguish! It has totally replaced my view of self with the number of virtual likes I get, which are not even all that high! I am having to regularly remind myself to focus on the enjoyment of the creative process but, as you say, it’s hard not to focus instead on the stats and try and rig the process to somehow better those. It has been a great exercise in mindfulness so far!

    • Reply Hannah Argyle July 27, 2016 at 1:26 pm

      Hi Krissy, thank you so much for taking the time to read! Oh I comp[letely agree with what you say, i stag ram is so addictive isn’t it? I so easy to get pulled in. It is a great creative outlet though and I hope you continue to enjoy it. I took a peek at your gallery and it’s so good! I love the concept of a picture a day. Hope to see you around! xx

  • Reply Maria August 9, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    First of all – I sooo know how you feel about that sheer panic when your kid is throwing a tantrum at the supermarked, and you feel like everyone is judging you… (when in fact most people probably – like myself – quietly thinks -” glad Im not the only mom who has a kid who throws tantrum”s, when they see another kid glued to the floor screaming his head off because he couldnæt get the chocolatebisquits he wanted)

    Secondly – I love that your instagram feed is vibrant, and changes with the seasons – something I try to reflect in my own feed as well. I think it is easy to see other peoples work and just think – god I wish I was THIS good! And then maybe forget that different styles doesn’t mean better or worse. It is just different… Something I have to remind myself very often – because to my mind, everyone else is just so much better than I am at photography and blogging and instagramming etc… I just have to give myself a break sometimes and stop being so incredibly hard on myself. 🙂 As – from what I do understand from reading this post, I am probably not the only one. Something I will bear in mind for future 🙂

    Thanks for a great post 🙂

    • Reply Hannah Argyle August 10, 2016 at 6:47 pm

      Thank you so much for reading Maria and for your thoughtful comment! It’s so true, I think we are all way too hard on ourselves and it’s so not not to measure ourselves against other people in every respect!
      I guess we can only do our best though 🙂 xx

  • Reply Chloe April 22, 2017 at 10:06 pm

    I just found this lovely post and it really resonates with me! Even with my small account, it’s so easy to get drawn into over analysing every detail of how well an image is or isn’t received and the growth of my following! I need to learn to quiet those voices and self doubt but it’s reassuring to know that even some of my favourite accounts like yours have the same feelings xxx

    • Reply Hannah Argyle April 29, 2017 at 3:02 pm

      Ah thanks Chloe. its a constant battle I think! I think we are all too hard on ourselves, in all areas of life probably 🙂 xx

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