At first glance Abbylee's instagram is a curated dream, soft tones mixed with nature and an obvious love for ethical fashion and life in the slow lane. It is only when you explore deeper you understand the importance of having women like Abbylee popping up in your feed. She is a dreamer, an activist, an artist, a creator and an open book. She talks about the importance of slowing down, the pressures of being a woman and a mother in our age, financial burdens and the continual journey of lifes challenges. Sit down, take a moment and read our catch up with Abbylee.
Looking at your instagram you can tell you have a deep appreciation for the simple things in life, seeing beauty in the extraordinarily ordinary. What inspires your outlook on life?
My pursuit of presence and joy!! Happiness is right up top for my values so to experience happiness often I’ve learnt to find joy in the simple, little things that cross my path daily, even several times a day; whereas if my expectation for happiness is incredibly high (which they have been in the past), ‘I will feel happy when I have the perfect family, the big house, the high paying job, the expensive car’ etc, all we’re really doing is limiting our happiness and how often we’ll feel joy. Find joy in the simple, feel joy often. Find joy in the extravagant, we’re likely to experience feelings of failure, unhappiness, comparison and unworthiness. And to find happiness in the simple, one must be present. When my mind and body are rushing around all over the place I don’t notice the sunlight coming through the window or the cicadas in the trees, here is the call for a practice of presence to really experience that joy.
Contributing your vision through little squares has obviously led to some amazing opportunities. Instagram seems to be a double edged sword for most people, how does it make you feel?
It makes me feel excited, anxious, inspired, overwhelmed, motivated, like I need more, like I need less – it’s a jumble of all the feelings and it’s really based on how I’m feeling in individual moments. Like if I’m feeling down I know I need to be mindful of how I’m consuming social media. I think like anything it’s really important that we’re conscious consumers, that we’re aware that we are consuming all these messages. After using it for years I’ve become mindful of when, how and why I go on IG. I make a point of having days, even weeks of it. I follow people who share versions of realness, creativity and I unfollow people not because I don’t like them as a person but because their vision and values aren’t in line with mine and what I need to be taking in.
I think IG, the whole social media phenomenon is wild... As a teenager, before social media was a thing, I used to wish that my eyes were a camera and I could blink and capture that moment then store it in my mind ready to recall it, re live it and share it with others. I really just love taking photos, capturing moments. I guess IG is kind of like that in a way, although in my imagination there wasn’t the likes or the comments, the validation. I’m practicing to share what makes me happy, not what will get the best engagement, this can be hard because I feel like as humans it’s built into us, maybe it’s a learned behaviour that we want to be ‘liked’ in real life, and in turn we want what we share to be ‘liked’. I’m really practicing the concept that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s just wonderful because too, everyone out their isn’t my favourite flavour either. Oh but also, then there is the IG algorithm which really just messes with us, so I think it’s important to know that the ‘likes’ (especially as there are people out there buying followers and engagement) that it’s not just not real, it’s an Instagram world.
There’s the other side of this because IG is partly a business and if I’m not getting the engagement then I may get less work, however, I’m trusting that by doing what I love I will attract the community and brands that feel inspired by my creativity and love for beautiful things, caring for ourselves and our planet. I guess what I’m saying is it’s been important for me to ask myself, ‘who are you doing it for?’ and ‘is this serving me positively?’, I’m really bored of doing things for other people and by this I mean posting content that others will ‘like’, it’s exhausting and not uninspiring for myself. I’m excited by beautiful and mindful feeds so this is what I’m choosing to share not the overly staged photos that are ‘for the gram’. There’s been times in the past where I’ve done things ‘for the gram’ but now I’m inspired to do things for me, to share the way I see things.
You have talked quite a bit about finances on your social media which I think is a really important topic. It is such a major part of peoples lives and can feel quite isolating when you are facing financial difficulties or feeling alone in your struggle. Considering it is a topic people often shy away from what made you feel compelled to start talking about your financial situation? Did it feel quite freeing? And what was the response like?
As a teenager I had a lot of conflicts with my physical body, I felt like I wasn’t enough as I was and I had a complicated relationship with food. I truly though that I was the only one in the world who was going through this. Isn’t that funny? To think I felt so alone in these feelings. It wasn’t until year of suffering later that I learnt that I was not alone, that many young girls and adults felt this way, and with that knowledge came comfort.
Money and debt is kind of the same, everyone’s out there alone, trying to live within their means but constantly being sold things they ‘need’, afraid to talk about these struggles or the tools they use to help them, and again I’m just so bored of the pretending that I have it all figured out. We lead these crazy individualistic lives while talking about community but really there’s a lot of competition and comparison, imagine the global sigh of relief if everyone just took a breath and stopped covering it all up. Maybe that’s a little harsh but that’s how I feel.
You wouldn’t believe the response I get when I talk openly about money, debt, savings etc. Everyone is going through financial highs and lows but no one really talks about it, particularly those lows, so yea it feels liberating to talk about it. It really started because my husband and I have really different money stories, we treat, spend and save money differently so that’s been a really interesting aspect of our relationship to explore.
I’ve learnt that in order to help your financial situation you need to stop hiding from it, you need to put it out there on the table, maybe this means setting up a spreadsheet that shows your debt, setting up a budget, sharing with your partner how much money you do or don’t have, really seeing it for what it is and creating steps to find a positive relationship with money.
Abbylee wears the Earth shorts
**Photography and styling directed by Abbylee Bonny
Her instagram portfolio is available here