- Sam Jones
- Influencers are turning to life coaches to help them deal with the pressures of forging a career on social media.
- Very few people understand the demands placed on Instagrammers, and how their job affects mental wellbeing and self-esteem.
- INSIDER spoke to two life coaches and the influencers who work with them to find out why so many are seeking professional help.
“There is huge pressure on us to be working all the time, we work 24/7,” Madeleine Shaw, a 28-year-old London-based nutritional health coach, chef, and Instagrammer with 278,000 followers told INSIDER.
Like many influencers, Shaw makes a portion of her income from sponsored posts, brand collaborations, and social media content creation, most of which she runs through Instagram.
However, the pressure of building a living out of her own image started to take its toll, a concept that is well known among the community.
This is partly because the idea of being an influencer for a living is an entirely new concept, meaning those who have managed to make a name for themselves in the crowded world that is the social media industry are often wading through murky waters all alone, with few family members or friends who understand what they really do.
Unsurprisingly, the misunderstood pressures of the industry can often result in mental health problems and identity crises, and it’s for these reasons that influencers are increasingly turning to life coaches for help.
Sam Jones is a qualified life coach and the founder of All In, a programme designed to help people achieve their goals, increase wellness, and boost life satisfaction.
- Sam Jones
Over the past few years, he told INSIDER his client base has become increasingly influencer-focussed – Instagrammers now make up the vast majority of Jones’ clientèle. Shaw is one of them.
Influencers are self-critical and hold themselves to a high standard
“Influencers come to me for many reasons,” Jones, 29, told INSIDER. “Generally they want to understand a bit more about who they really are and ensure that is coming through in their work and what they send out to the world.
“They often put a lot of pressure on themselves, they’re very self-critical, they have high expectations of themselves and their career. They almost hold themselves to a higher standard.”
Being hyper-critical can often mean never feeling a sense of fulfilment, and life coaches try and help combat this.
Shaw, 28, told INSIDER the main focus of her working with a life coach “was to be kinder to myself, however he has helped me deal with negative thought patterns, finding a way out of a mental rut and he’s given me lots of tools to live my life better.”
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Another client, 24-year-old Victoria Spence, is a personal trainer based in Manchester, UK who last summer quit her job to become a full-time influencer.
“After a few months, the influencer work was going great but I soon realised that I needed much more than social media to feel fulfilled,” she told INSIDER. “At the time I felt very lost and had completely forgotten my purpose and mission in life.”
She turned to Jones for guidance and has now been working with him for six months.
“Social media influencing is such a new job role, and a large amount of us don’t entirely know where to turn for support on the work we do,” Spence added. “There are high expectations placed on influencers to always have it together and to be continuously creating innovative ideas.
“There is a certain level of pressure for us to have confidence when delving into the different aspects of the ‘influencer’ role, for things like events, launches, and various brand partnerships, so it helps to have somebody backing you all the way, reminding you who you are and why you are doing it all.”
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You’re opening yourself up to be judged
Jones, who is based in south London, has found that many influencers start their accounts from a place of low self-esteem, mental illness, or perhaps an eating disorder, initially to document their journey to better health and happiness.
When it then grows into a huge account with hundreds of thousands of followers, this can leave the person behind the Instagram grid feeling vulnerable.
And when your audience is so large, there’s inevitably going to be negativity amongst the fans.
“Influencers are constantly putting themselves in the public, digital world which means they’re opening themselves up for a lot of judgement,” Jones said.
This can lead to extreme self-criticism, which “can be really harmful if you don’t manage it right,” Jones adds.
For some, they feel a pressure to be “on” all the time, constantly on top form, and consistently keeping their followers updated.
“No matter how confident, charismatic, relatable, and bubbly you are (and most influencers are), once you’re doing that you’re opening yourself up to be judged,” Jones said.
“It puts a strain on you and makes you question who you are which can really affect mental wellbeing. Self-acceptance play such a big role in mental health and as influencers, their self-acceptance is being challenged by the world all the time. It’s tough.”
Managing time – and criticism
- Sam Jones
As an Instagram life coach, Jones’ main aim is to help his clients understand a bit more about who they are so they can figure out the direction in which they want their life and career to develop.
He helps them manage criticism, their time, and the inevitable comparison and influencer politics.
Through one-on-one sessions and tasks to complete at home, Jones encourages clients to reflect on what their challenges are, what mental blocks they might be facing, why they might be lacking direction, what their core values are, and what they can do to achieve their goals.
“It’s about unlocking the answers inside an individual,” he explained. “I don’t tell them the answers, I give them advice to help them find them.”
He typically sees a client once a week for 4-6 weeks, before going down to every 2-3 weeks when someone has become more self-sufficient. Some clients see Jones for just three months, while others stick with him for up to two years.
Jones declined to share the cost of his services, but said he’s available 24/7, which means he can only have around 10-13 clients at any one time.
“I once received a call from a client at 2.36 a.m. when I was in bed with my then girlfriend,” he said. The reason for the call? Relationship troubles.
Finding a life coach through word of mouth
Most of Jones’ influencer clients find out about him through word of mouth on the Instagram grapevine – Spence, who has over 82,000 followers, turned to him after seeing the positive impact he’d had on an Instagrammer friend.
“Since working with Sam I have grown so much as a person,” she said. “We have worked together to build my confidence, and he encouraged me to own who I really am.
“He helped me figure out what I want from my life and encouraged me to put myself forward for more public speaking opportunities and I have since spoken on nine different occasions to audiences as big as 100 people.
“Aside from business-related things, Sam has helped me work through some difficult personal barriers, which have helped me let go and live my life on my own terms.”
‘Purpose-led’ or ‘cash-grab’ influencers
Jones believes there are two distinct types of influencer – and he’ll only work with one of them.
The first is the “purpose-led” influencer, who is concerned with making sure they’re coming across as themselves and being authentic.
“They want to be better people, learn, and do something meaningful so use their influence wisely,” Jones said. “They want to do something that actually matters” – and that’s why Jones works with them.
On the flip-side, you have the “cash-grab” influencers. “They don’t really care what brands they work with, they’re really into their metrics and they totally measure their success on how they’re growing,” Jones explained. He says he always turns down requests to work with him.
Jones believes the most successful people on Instagram, who have large, engaged communities, are those who are genuine and feel led by a specific purpose. “Sometimes they don’t really know what that is, but they know they want to support a certain cause, and my job is to make that a bit clearer in their heads,” he said.
“When they go on a journey to change something, people tend to follow.”
This simply isn’t the case for people who are only obsessed with growing their accounts and getting more brand deals.
And ironically, it’s when you’re focussed on putting out authentic content, your metrics tend to go up automatically.
Influencers don’t get media training like traditional celebrities
There’s no rule book for how to be an influencer, which means many of them find themselves treading a new path and being pulled in all directions.
“Influencers are in a new world but they’ve become really important over the last few years,” Jones said. “They’re being pulled in lots of different directions by agents and brands and fans, and they’re under a lot of pressure to perform.
“Their parents aren’t going to fully understand – some do but most don’t – so they need some external help.”
Jones believes that influencers need support because they’re in the public firing line but without any of the media training that celebrities in more traditional industries receive.
And he’s not the only life coach to appreciate the demands placed on this new breed of celebrity – Michael Serwa, who claims to be the highest-paid life coach in the UK, thinks it’s unsurprising influencers are looking for guidance.
“Just like Usain Bolt and other top athletes all have a coach to help them reach their physical goals, more and more people are turning to life coaches to help them reach their personal goals faster,” he told INSIDER.
“As influencers work in such a challenging and fast-paced environment, they are constantly subjected to pressure. A pressure and responsibility to keep their followers and fans happy, often times at the expense of their own personal happiness.
“In a world of endless opportunities, influencers are turning to life coaches such as myself to receive the guidance to help pave a clear path for the future, to navigate the emotional toll of the negativity found online, and quite frankly for no-BS honest feedback.”
You have to be ‘mentally strong’ to be in the business
As an influencer, your livelihood and career ultimately all centres around one thing: yourself. What is a fun way of documenting holidays and fun nights out for most of us is a job for others, and as with any job, it can be stressful.
This is part of what led Shaw to seek help from Jones, with whom she’s now been working for three months to try to get back on track.
“Having a job that revolves around yourself can often mean you are very self-critical – you get rated every day on how well you are doing from social media and that can be quite full-on,” she said.
While she sings the praises on being an “influencer,” she added that it can come down to the attitude you have going into it.
“It’s an amazing job but you have to be mentally strong to be in the business.”