Being offered a paid promotion was terrible for my self-esteem

I had a glimpse of the influencer life and I hated it.

Ruth Chan

Enjoys solitude. Finds comfort in watching the sunset and drinking milo.

Published: 7 April 2021, 12:36 PM

When a well-established e-commerce brand direct-messaged me on Instagram asking for a paid collaboration, I remember feeling surprised.

I mean, with only 1,400 followers, I didn’t have anywhere near as many followers as most influencers out there. But I also felt flattered that they would deem me “worthy” enough to be paid to promote their brand. 

Curious to see the reactions of people when they found out I was working with said brand, I let my desire for Instagram fame and validation determine my decision and immediately agreed to the collaboration.

It didn’t help that I was also a broke poly kid who felt earning a little extra money would make me a lot happier.

To say my rationale and intentions for accepting the paid collaboration weren’t the best would be an understatement. In hindsight, allowing others to determine my own self-worth was definitely a recipe for disaster.

Social media validation had always meant the world to me

When having a personal phone became the in-thing years ago, all my friends started using social media. Everyone was obsessed with Facebook games and maintaining streaks on Snapchat.

I was no different. FOMO made me create accounts on various social media platforms to keep up to date with the trends.

But it started to consume me. As a 13-year-old kid, I used social media as a place for validation. I felt a boost in self-esteem as I watched my follower count grow and found delight in receiving many likes on my posts.

The number of likes I got on my Instagram posts became my sense of identity, and the number of followers I had became my indicator of self-worth.


To 13-year-old me, all that mattered was getting as many followers as possible on Instagram. PHOTO CREDIT: MADDI BAZZOCCO VIA UNSPLASH


This was my mentality for quite some time, until I got cyber bullied. My classmates left mean comments about me online and it affected me so much I couldn’t focus in class, failing multiple subjects in school

Despite not asking them to do so, my closest friends stood up for me on social media. That made me realise that having a few friends who truly care about me matters more than garnering a high following or having a lot of likes on my social media posts. 

Over time, I stopped getting hung up over social media validation.

That was, at least, until I was given my first opportunity to be a nano-influencer.

Negative impact on my mental health

While being cyberbullied happened years ago, there is a part of me that still wonders if people are secretly judging what I post on social media and talking bad about me. As much as I tried to deny it, those hurtful words that were said to me online still affected me.

My insecurities about myself reared its ugly head, and I found it extremely difficult each time I had to take an individual picture to promote the brand. I stressed myself out about taking the perfect picture, which caused my sister and friends who were my photographers to become very frustrated with me.

These insecurities further intensified when I started to compare myself to other influencers who were getting far more likes.


I was jealous of the confidence bigger influencers had, seemingly being picture-ready all the time. PHOTO CREDIT: JON TYSON VIA UNSPLASH


These things severely affected my self-esteem. Why could others achieve so much more than me? Was I not good enough? 

I felt bad having a relatively small audience, but at the same time I was afraid of more public scrutiny that came with a larger following. Either way, it was simply too much pressure for me.

Finding myself again through self-reflection

I started doing some reflection and realised that although I’m extremely thankful to the brand for giving me the opportunity to experience a paid collaboration, my motivations were just not in the right place. 

In fact, I felt great relief after fulfilling my contractual obligations and had no plans to continue with it. 

Being honest with myself helped me realise my insecurities stemmed from what people have said to me over the years, as well as consequences of bad decisions I made in the past.

However, the biggest question was where to go on from here. It took some time, but the two most important things I eventually did was to take steps to regulate my social media usage and to learn to love myself. 

While it definitely isn’t wrong to be an influencer, it’s just not my cup of tea, at least not for the time being.

For now, my priority is figuring what I want to achieve out of life, caring for my loved ones, and learning how to live life in the moment, without feeling the need to document everything on social media.

If you are looking for more mental well-being resources, check out Youthopia’s resource page with everything from mental health self-assessments to tips for coping with challenging seasons in life.

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