On Being Authentic

Although this is my favorite time of year and I've been enjoying my garden and the inspiration it brings my art, I've been in a bit of a slump. Not an art slump. Not a joy slump. But still, a slump.

Part of it is that I had a cold this week and that we've had days and days of rain. But this slump started before the rain and my cold and it's all wrapped up in the online presence of my art and me. This blog is part of that.

watercolor, painting, process, art process, painting process, color mixing, artist studio, Inspiration, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Back in March I pondered what I wanted this blog to be. I stopped posting Artist Interviews and Sketchbook Conversations at the beginning of the year and went from posting three times a week to one time a week. I wasn't quite sure where I wanted to go from there and in that March post I asked for your thoughts. There wasn't a clear answer, but I made a plan and moved forward with it. One thing I was clear on was that I didn't want to "follow anyone else's shoulds". I didn't want to write a blog just because I should. I didn't want to post certain things in a certain way just because that's what I'm supposed to do.

The internet is all about shoulds. Social media is all about shoulds.

In truth? I'm sick of it.

artist studio, winged pigs, flying pigs, inspiration, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

When we follow someone else's prescription, when we act the way we should, we can end up being inauthentic. It's an easy trap to fall into.

There's a tension between wanting to express myself authentically and wanting to fit in. Often behind it, there's the pressure of numbers. Numbers of views. Numbers of likes. Numbers of comments. Numbers of followers. As if by these numbers I can somehow measure my value.

I can't.

I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. I've been noticing, more and more, people opening up authentically online. Sharing, not just a pretty picture, but how they really feel.

Here are a few exapmples I find truly inspiring:

  • Ashlie Blake shared her thoughts in this Instagram post back in early May. What she says about not living a "lie-style" really resonated with me.
  • In this blog post Maya writes about "not making it", about that little voice in the back of our minds that wants us to be "successful" and about how she's happy with where her life is at the moment even though she isn't "Instagram famous" (she also shares a delicious salad recipe). The joy that flows through her post makes me so happy. This is true connection in a way that just posting the recipe would not have been.
  • Lizzie House shared her thoughts on Instagram the other day about how she is working on being her truest self this year. What a beautiful thought. I wish this for all of us.
  • Mary Wangerin opened up on Instagram wondering why we so often extend grace to others, but not to ourselves. Let's stop focusing on our flaws, ok?
  • Misty Segura Bowers and Heather Bullard each shared posts recently encouraging women to embrace who they really are instead of bowing to the cultural glorification of the perfection of youth. As someone in the "over 40" age bracket, I can certainly relate.
  • Stephanie Beaudoin opened up about mental health in this Instagram post. There is sometimes so much stigma wrapped around depression and anxiety and yet so many of us suffer from them. Maybe if more of us are honest about it we can break down that stigma.
  • Rochelle New recently blogged about reclaiming and reloving her blog. I think sharing what we really love, what truly fires us up is the most inspiring and the most likely to create connections. Like with Maya's post, Rochelle's joy brings me joy.
Sharing a pretty picture, even if it gets thousands of "likes" can be empty. Sharing how we feel, inviting conversation, opening our hearts... that creates connection.

roses, John Davis Rose, garden, gardening, pink roses, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Making meaningful connections is one of my main goals for my business this year. And I think it's also so important in our current political climate to forge connections, to share compassion and empathy and to find common ground so we can work together to create change. None of that can happen when we hide behind pretty facades, or when we hold back or disappear altogether, for fear of not fitting in.

And so, I'm committing, again, to sharing here authentically, to letting go of worries about numbers and oppressive shoulds.

inspiration, art studio, alphabet blocks, joy, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Are you with me?

I'd love to know your thoughts. Is this something you struggle with? What sorts of posts on Instagram and on blogs resonate most with you?


  1. Sorry to hear you have been in a bit of a slump Anne. I know what you mean about following everybody else's shoulds. I think that I should have kept my Linden Grove blog open instead of starting the PolyHobbyRous one. My new blog won't win me any popularity contest and I hardly get any visits, which upsets me as I haven't changed but I choose to leave out the personal stuff now. I don't post on instagram however I do 'like' a lot of posts and am now getting tired of letting people know how much I 'like' their photo just to receive a notification that they are pleased I liked their post! I don't feel part of the instagram club or facebook. I like Twitter and blogging but could really do without the rest. I feel sad that I am in a minority here and sad that blogging isn't what it used to be. I am sick of all the 'competition' on the internet and just being an insignificant tadpole among the huge ocean of 'creatives' all doing pretty much the same thing. Like you, I am no longer doing things because I feel I should. Sorry for the long comment/rant but just wanted to add how often the word 'joy' has come up for me recently. It seems my animal spirit guide is a Hummingbird which is interpreted as Joy - give your heart permission to seek joy and nurturing. Thank you Anne for your constant message of joy :)

    1. Ebb and flow. That's the way things go, Simone.

      There's no reason you can't start blogging at Linden Grove again, is there? Do what YOU want to do because you want to do it. I abandoned Facebook long ago. As for engagement on Instagram, I guess there are a lot of fake accounts and I wonder if people think yours might be because you don't post photos there? I have no idea. Unless you're having a conversation, asking questions and saying something other than just giving a photo a "like" it's really hard to respond with something more than a thank you. Just my two cents.

      I'm so glad to know that joy is popping up for you. A hummingbird is a wonderful spirit animal!

      Wishing you much joy, Simone.

  2. YES!

    Words like "should" and "always"...it turns out they are actually violent, oppressive words that can shut down honest communication. I invite you to check out this amazing book...


    1. Thank you, Karen! It's hard to break free from using those words, but you're right about how negative they are.

  3. I am 100% with you on this. I recently took about a month off of blogging and ended up posting a lot less on instagram and social as well as a way to reconnect with my personal reasons for sharing and doing all of this in the first place. I definitely felt like I was getting too caught up in everyone else's "shoulds," as you so perfectly put. There is a lot of great blogging advice out there when we need it, but I think it's a fine line between taking advice and starting to be overly influenced by what others are doing. I love reading more about other creatives and artists who are taking a step back and honoring their authentic selves online. Thank you for being one of those voices! xx

    1. Hi, Ruby, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here. I'm so glad to know that you were able to take some time off to realign with what you're doing online and why you're doing it. It's important for all of this to do that from time to time.

      We can so easily feel overwhelmed by all the voices, opinions, "rules" (which are usually just opinions touted as fact). Additionally, there is so much out there. So many creatives doing wonderful work and sharing it online. It's energizing and inspiring, but at the same time it can make us feel very small. We don't want to get lost in the shuffle and we want to fit in, but sometimes forget that the only way to stand out is to be ourselves.

      So glad to have your voice adding to the conversation!


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