If Instagram were anything to go by, you’d be forgiven for thinking that being a female entrepreneur means working from a different cafe every day, popping on the perfect blazer when it’s time for another lunch meeting, and popping champagne every time there’s a win to celebrate. Taryn Williams, founder and CEO of theright.fit and Wink Models, has experienced the reality—and it’s not always as glossy as it seems on social media.
Deep down, I think we know ‘insta-life’ can be curated and an exaggerated construct of a person’s existence. Does anyone really live their life 24/7 looking their best with their hair did, makeup on point, sunning themselves by a pool or on the beach without a care in the world?
Entrepreneurs are not racking up unlimited #wins, without brutal painful defeats, even though on social media we often only portray the celebration moments. So why do we let ourselves feel less-than because of it? We need less #envy and a bit more Insta-real in our lives.
First, a mea culpa. I’ve been a model, entrepreneur, CEO, blogger, content creator, and ‘influencer’ for over a decade, and yes – I’ve been guilty of sometimes unwittingly fanning the flames of Insta-envy. Working hard! Kicking goals! Looking good! There are definitely times that match these posts and I am incredibly proud to highlight the wins. However there are so many times in between when it’s just a hard slog and life is anything but the shiny glossy perfection of social media. Perhaps as I get a little older, and wiser, I can see the importance of showcasing the not so happy times especially as I take motivation from others who choose to do the same.
It can be great to share the positive sides of life and business with your followers and for them to see you succeeding and honestly on some days I really do have my sh*t together.
But behind the camera there is real life and for me this really came into sharp focus one afternoon recently. I was in the middle of trying to negotiate a big international commercial deal, in a tense negotiation with a key staff member, and about to hop on a call with our cornerstone investor and chairman of my board. Meanwhile, my boyfriend and I had just broken up. I just wanted to find a quiet corner somewhere and have a good old-fashioned cry.
My phone rang, and it was someone I’d met at a conference a few years ago, wanting to ask if his daughter could do work experience at one of my companies. “I called you because I want her to be exposed to strong, inspiring female role models and leaders. I want her to see what she can be,” he told me. We’d only met briefly, but he remembered my drive and hustle, and had been watching my LinkedIn and Instagram feeds from afar. “It’s great to see you killing it!” he enthused.
If only he could see me at that moment. Puffy eyes, riddled with anxiety, feeling totally out of my depth and exhausted. Feeling and looking way more real than any of the #wins I posted to social media.
I’ve since recognised that maybe the best thing I could do for this man’s daughter would be to show her the reality of what it’s really like navigating the world as a woman in business. You know – try stuff, win at some of it and suck at the rest. Skin your knees. Get your heart broken. Break a heart. Change career. Navigate shifting friendships and competing priorities. Never feel sure of yourself. Adventures. Anxiety. Crushing it one minute, being crushed the next.
Entrepreneurship has this golden glow to it on social media, all about #hustle and #sweat and #success. In reality, it’s staring down a dwindling bank balance trying to prioritise what you can pay until your next funding round lands. It’s convincing your team to keep carrying big rocks uphill for your vision, when at night you stare into the abyss doubting your idea all together. It’s watching your competitor secure a major partnership, and having a key staff member headhunted with a salary you could never possibly dream of matching. It’s all of that, and then doing it anyway. It’s about as far from glamorous as it’s possible to get.
We could all stand to be a bit more vulnerable, less filtered. In an ever-changing society, the world is starting to see that as empowering, rather than a sign of weakness. The next generation might have fewer days wondering why everyone else except them is ‘killing it’, and more feelings like they were getting the rich experience of life – good or bad – that we all experience but choose to curate.
What I want for that man’s daughter is to see someone who falls over and picks herself back up again and gets on with it, rather than just posting the glossy wins. To see the reality of life in business. And if that means being a bit more of a hot mess at times, then so be it.
Now that would be work experience to prepare that ambitious girl for the real working world.
Taryn Williams is a successful business woman leading two multi million dollar companies, theright.fit and WINK Models. She has been a business owner for over fifteen years and has spent two decades working in the advertising, modelling and creative industry.