NOMINATED // Women Of Influence Awards, Samantha Wills
‘The Sporteluxe WOI Awards recognises successful, game-changing women standing out in a crowd of influencers.Those who are using their reach to inspire not boast, encourage not demoralise.Those who have turned their double-tapping into more than just paid posts, looked beyond individual gain & utilised their position for positive social change.
The WOI Awards was created to celebrate the achievements of influential women, to remind us that her success is not proof that we’re failing, but proof that it’s possible to succeed.’ - @Sporteluxe
----That is some impressive intro, huh?!
I was notified of this nomination a few weeks ago, on the last day of a long weekend vacay in Tulum, Mexico with some of my best friends.
The impact of social media has been at the forefront of lots of conversations I have been having, with many people recently. No matter the topic, the consistent thread of the impact of social media (specifically Instagram), it the vortex we find ourselves in, of comparison of ourselves / our looks / our possessions / our happiness / our lives, to the images posted by those we follow.
I was nominated for this award for my work on the @SamanthaWillsFoundation. I am incredibly proud that the awards criteria; ‘Those who are using their reach to inspire not boast, encourage not demoralise.Those who have turned their double-tapping into more than just paid posts, looked beyond individual gain & utilised their position for positive social change’ aligns with the work we do at the SWF. Our goal is to provide a platform for women in business, that openly shares the hardships, realities & vulnerabilities that come with a start-up business – Not just a glamourized, edited, filtered, version of an **Overnight Success Story. In doing so, hoping that women can feel less isolated in their journey, & see the hardships that they are facing, have or are, happening to others also. (**There is no such thing.)
If you scroll back thru my feed, only 12 images or so (at time of publishing) – you will see the Tulum vacation I was on, when I was told of this nomination…. Those photos tell a story of the happiest girl in the world! I mean, look at her dancing on a beach! Laughing over a glass of pinot! Worlds biggest smile on her face, as she sits on a beach in her cossie, sipping a cocktail from a coconut (That one even made it as her new Facebook profile pic!) Owning life, laughing barefoot in a beautiful, white flowing gown!
That ‘she’ is me. But it wasn't a true portrayal of me at that time. The reality was, on that vacation, I found myself having to continually apologize to my friends (who are fucking amazing) for ruining their vacation, because out of no where I would often have a stream of hot, silent tears running down my face, that I just couldn’t seem to turn off.
My heart was incredibly heavy & as such, I was riddled with an overriding anxiety because I, & someone who is really important to me, had somehow found ourselves in a deafening silence of a no-communication Mexican stand off (Even though that would be perfect to use literally, I use that purely metaphorically, & sadly cannot link it in anyway to the fact I was actually IN Mexico ;)
The last few months I have been working through some serious personal fork-in-the-road choices, that are quickly approaching, and are about to require final decisions on. The debating going on in my mind, of over analyzing all the things that could go wrong if I make the wrong decision(s), was not at all eased by the jetlag & fatigue that my body was going thru, having flown back from Australia only 48 hours prior.
To try to numb all of that head noise for a bit, & also to force my body clock to do a quick 180 degree flip to make it sleep on Northern Hemisphere time, when it had just only adjusted to sleeping in Southern hemisphere time, I was taking multiple valium tablets a day in an effort to try to quiet my mind for a minute, & get some sleep. They would often kick in at about 4.30am, seeing me in a medicated haze each morning as I would than force myself to wake up at a normal local time, & start a new day to do it all again.
Now here’s a recipe; Add jetlag & mental fatigue, with some severe anxiety. Mix in a heavy & confused heart, some tears of bottled up sadness, a minimum of 3 valium tablets daily + the pressure of an pending life-course impacting decision…. Oh, and some tequila, (because – Mexico!!) and voila!; you have what Ye Olde Urban Dictionary would refer to as, a Red Hot Fucking Mess.
So why was I posting photos of the happiest, not-a-care in the world girl? I don’t know. To keep up appearances? To portray an aspirational vacation? A ‘perfect’ life?
I was broken. I was a shell of myself. And it’s important to acknowledge, bring broken is OK. It is part of life, it is what makes us human. But what is NOT OK, is portraying the complete opposite of that, to over 220K people.
What I SHOULD have done, was stayed off social media all together. Got my shit back together with some rest, self care (….and possibly 37 less Margaritas), taken some time, dusted myself off, & then when I had put most of the pieces back together, given voice to the experience in a way that may have given even one person in the over 220K who follow this account some comfort, that they were not alone in a rough time that they might have been experiencing.
But instead, at Cancun airport waiting to board our flight back to JFK, with no emotional energy to even force a fake smile, I hit ‘SHARE’ on my white flowing gown / huge smile / owning life pictured, to over 220K people.
Not even 2 minutes later, in my inbox arrives an email telling me of this nomination. A nomination that lists among other things, that the nominee is being recognized because they have ‘utilised their position for positive social change.’…. Had my fake-happy, dance floor, #ToBlessedToBeStressed (ok, I didn’t actually post that hashtag, but fuck, I may as well have), best-holiday-ever!, not a care in the world posts had a positive impact on social change? Well, the answer is not just, no. The answer is that not only did they not have an impact for positive social change, they were actually a damaging contribution to the fuckery we have found ourselves in. The compulsive vortex of comparing ourselves / our lives / our vacation / our bodies / our level of happiness, to filtered, staged, smiling-when-we-are-actually-really-broken-on-the-inside pictures, we see on instagram. A stream of images that we compare our reality to, but what we are actually comparing to is more often than not, not a reality at all.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have long been conscious of the social footprint that comes with a 220k+ audience. I try to post with authenticity, humor & vulnerability. I share photos of my outfits because I enjoy the creativity of styling, showing how I wear @SamanthaWillsOfficial Jewellery, supporting other designers, and as always, the crowd favorite of awaiting my Dad’s fashion critique commentary.
The recent Tulum trip as an exception, the majority of vacations I am lucky enough to take, I am truly fucking LOVING life – (and might I add, for those who may now be changing their future vacation plans with me – I am usually (like a self rated YELP review): a fucking five star delight to be around #JustSaying) ---- The week I have referenced in this article, was just not a great one for me, (and that’s ok – that is life), but rather than laying low, & working through what I needed to, I did the opposite & projected to over 220K people, that everything in my life was fucking aces, & for that, I want to apologize.
I want to apologize, because if any one of you where experiencing a shit week, a rough month, or a longer ongoing battle, it would have been more socially (and as such, humanly) responsible of me, to not project a fake image, & as I said above, go through a process of healing to than give a voice to the reality of it. That way, you would know that not only were you not alone in what you were/are experiencing, but you would also not have been hit in the face with pictures to add to our good old habit of self comparison, of a girl with a huge (fake) smile, on a beach in Tulum, who appeared to not have a care in the world….
The timely arrival of this nomination in my inbox, has forced me to really look at my contribution to the problem, and as such, my commitment to actively contributing towards a shift towards a solution.
I am very proud of this nomination for the work of the @SamanthaWillsFoundation, but most of all, I am very grateful for this nomination, and what it has forced me to reflect on. The frame work of criteria of the awards, if you are being really honest with yourself (Me. Right now), makes you place your values, & moral compass against what it means to use ‘their (my) position for positive social change.’
I hope this sharing allows you to see through the filter(s) on your Instagram feed with a little more transparency. To add further visual example to this, I have commissioned an artists impression for the three images across this article, that show the actual reality that was going on behind the fake smiles…..(And by ‘Commissioned an Artists Impression’, I mean I printed the pictures out at home, on my shitty Canon ink-jet printer, that is running really low on ink right now, & scribbled over the images, with a white Crayola & a sharpie marker).
Posted with love, & apologies,
You can view all the nominees, and VOTE at: SPORTELUXE WOMEN OF INFLUENCE