Only Prove it to Yourself

Cindy eye shadows. Saigon, 2017
Cindy eye shadows. Saigon, 2017

The sad thing is that I think a lot of our lives is wasted, trying to “prove” ourselves to others. But this is silly: I think we should instead focus on working hard to prove ourselves, only to ourselves.

Define success for yourself

Shadow selfie. Boston, 2018
Shadow selfie. Boston, 2018

The reason I like this way of thinking:

100% of what you consider “success” (as defined by you), depends entirely on you.

This means,

  1. You can dictate what your own purpose in life is
  2. You can create your own “KPI” (key performance indicator) of success for yourself.
  3. Nobody else can tell you whether you’ve succeeded or failed, only you can.

This is great, because it will avoid us from resenting others, feeling envy or jealousy towards others, and from us from becoming the slave to the opinions of others.

Intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation

Selfie and candles. London, 2018
Selfie and candles. London, 2018

For example in my personal life, one of my goals was to achieve a 400+ deadlift (four 45 plates on each side of the bar). This goal was a fun challenge to myself: to see whether I was capable of it or not. And by setting this goal only towards myself, I was more motivated, less stressed, and happier. I was self motivated because the ultimate goal was to please myself, I didn’t feel anxious of “letting anyone else down” (because I was my own audience), and I was happier because I had more control in my own hands.

Photography, on the other hand, was a different story. I became too dependent on achieving “success” in the eyes of others. I wanted external validation from others. I wanted other people to “respect” me as a photographer. I craved for outside “legitimacy”. But I failed to ask myself:

“Do I respect myself?”


“Do I see myself legitimate in my own eyes?”

Why have external validation?

Red selfie. Tokyo, 2017
Red selfie. Tokyo, 2017

I think this is why we as photographers seek to make a bunch of money from photography, to somehow “prove” to the outside world that we’re skilled and “worthy” of success.

This is why we seek more followers and likes, because we want to “crowd source our self esteem”— we belief proof of numbers, that having lots of people validate you is more accurate than having only 1 individual validating you.

Ricoh selfie flash. London, 2018
Ricoh selfie flash. London, 2018

This is why we seek sponsorships, and commercial/art world success. We want more human beings to give us the “thumbs up”, and giving us a pat of affirmation on the back.

What happens once you delete Instagram

I deleted my Instagram about a year ago, and have been happier since. Why?

Now, I don’t have an easy place to upload/share photos, to get a bunch of likes and feedback. Now, I only share photos to this blog, in which I cannot get comments or feedback on my photos. I am purposefully ignorant of my page views, my traffic, and my number of followers, because I want to judge myself to my own rules/benchmark of success, rather than letting the outside world/statistics define my own self-worth and progress.

Happy face. Lisbon, 2018
Happy face. Lisbon, 2018

Now that I no longer have an Instagram, I noticed this subtle shift:

I care less about what others think about my photographs, and I care more about what I think of my own photos.

Ricoh GR II: a camera that every street photographer should own

Not only that, but I feel more freedom, flexibility, and control in sharing/publish my photos how I want. I don’t let others dictate my own self-esteem as a photographer. I have been having more fun with photography in experimenting more, trying out new ways of publishing and sharing photos, and just taking photography less seriously. I treat photography more like a game, or a visual easter egg treasure hunt, than a way of feeling my ego boosted by the opinions of others.

Cindy happy, arms spread. Marseille, 2018
Cindy happy, arms spread. Marseille, 2018

In other words,

I have stronger self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-determination now that I am off Instagram and social media.

It’s your life

Cindy eyes looking up

This life is your life. Nobody can dictate how you should live your life. Similarly, we shouldn’t dictate how others live their lives either.

ERIC KIM EYE by Cindy Nguyen / Hanoi, 2017
ERIC KIM EYE by Cindy Nguyen / Hanoi, 2017

That means for us to stay focused on living the best possible life possible, unto ourselves. It means for us to focus on our own self growth, our own self development, and our own self exploration. It means turning a consciously ignorant eye towards others and what they’re doing. Let others do what they want, and become more and more indifferent towards the outside world. Rather, build your own inner-riches as a photographer, visual artist, and entrepreneur.

My mom. Busan, 2013
My mom. Busan, 2013

Live your own life to the fullest, focus on your own self-realization, and if you’ve discovered some things which have benefitted you (and you think can benefit others), share the wealth with others.



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