fbpx

My story isn’t finished, but I’ll give you a cliffhanger. I walked into fashion blogging in 2013 and became a viral success at the young age of 22. Fashion blogging was gaining epic momentum, the word “influencer” hadn’t even yet been coined and I was leading the pack.

This story is the short version. But simply put, I didn’t know that chasing a life of status, lots and lots of money, epic Instagram trips and squad goals was headed down a very lonely and empty path. And I wasn’t just walking in the wrong direction, I was running. I wasn’t just swimming in fame and money, I was drowning in it. I was what the world called “successful,” and it led me into the darkest days of my life. This story—where the glory was all mine—is made up of the days I like to call “the dark days.”

I want to make this very clear. I am in no way condemning Instagram, bloggers, influencers or social media. What was bad was how unhealthy and toxic being a “fashion influencer” was for me. What was bad was how I let Instagram influence *my heart* and how my intentions to glorify only myself was influencing others. The toxicity was not in the job—but the way the blogging world manipulated and warped my mind, my pride, my priorities, my community, and my to-do list. 

Blogging about me changed me. I began to obsess and micromanage every little piece of life so that I could throw a continuous “me” party. I didn’t know how to eat a meal without photographing it, or spend a moment without my nose in my phone. I planned my daily routine around taking photos of myself, compared my likes to others, and chased after hair extensions and loop giveaways—costing me thousands of dollars which went down the drain, tossed in the trash. Real friends? I didn’t know what those were. Community? Just for the photos. Epic trips and travel? Why did I find myself so sad and empty in the most glamorous places in the world? 

Fast forward through 3 years of walking around with nowhere to go with a really big ego. The “direction” I traveled was pretty much this: more followers, more sales, higher likes, more clothes, more travel…and more success. However, I felt lost in a maze, and I truly craved purpose. I needed depth to chase after, and I needed a mission or person to follow [cough, Jesus] that wasn’t the rest of the world. I was given everything I ever wanted the day I graduated from college, but then I ran on empty. 

So here’s where the story takes a twist. In the years of the dark days, I was saved and accepted Jesus as my savior because of a series of prophetic dreams. The Lord was pursuing my heart and boy – was I ready to listen. One night, the Lord spoke to me in a dream to create an online ministry dedicated solely to His glory. Let’s just pause here and accept how somewhat crazy this was and felt. Fashion blogger takes on ministry? You can imagine how hard this was for me to swallow, let alone act on. 

But remember, God gives us choices. And that was a choice I had to make – to obediently take my worldly platform and give the glory to Him. I found out what it means to follow Jesus – publicly. I was to do the opposite of what the world was telling me. After months and of prayer, fear, I created a separate account on Instagram called @my_darling_diary, an online journal dedicated to captions glorifying Jesus. 

This was an abnormal, terrifying, and extremely rare choice for a girl like me who normally posted bikini pics, swipe ups to expensive jumpsuits and beauty hacks. But it was worth it.

Thus, @my_darling_diary was born. I began to fall in love with the purpose behind ministry and grew bitter towards fashion blogging – because of the peace blogging took from me. I had a hard time living in both worlds, as I continued to straddle a past job where I was supposed to be obsessed with clothes, the way I looked, and the high and drug-like drive of likes—and a newfound love with ministry. Because I had found a deep purpose in seeking God’s peace and influencing for good in ministry – I fell in love with posting scripture and encouraging women. 

Less of me, more of others.

Exhausted, in August 2019 I walked away from my fashion-based account of hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram. I was finally getting somewhere. I came out of the “me” maze and I felt free.

It was then that the real change happened. I stepped away from the only world and industry I knew and I ran to the church. I watched the old. I observed the new. I clung to the church and I found and invested in deep and real friendships and mentors. I discipled and I got discipled. My life began to flourish in peace as the purging of the old continued. 

Although it sounds like things got easier, they didn’t. Things got harder. I felt rejection from the blogging world and old friendships, and experienced betrayal, being harshly left out. Regardless, I began to take active steps to walk towards a new me. I took out my eyelash extensions, got rid of my highlights. I hired a friend to sell my entire blog closet on Poshmark where we sold over $6,000 worth of clothes (enough said in that number). God continued to show up in my dreams, and I started a shop that’s dedicated to supporting young women who are recovering from a life of trafficking called Shop Darling. We sold 800 sweatshirts on day 1 and popped up in Nordstrom 3 times.

Unfortunately, I did believe that following Jesus meant that life would become easier, and I was proved wrong. I lived the teaching of Jesus – that you can expect a life promised with difficulties (John 16:33), but you can do it with a best friend, a loving father who provides – with immeasurable, unexplainable peace (John 14:27). It’s up to us to decide who we want to do this difficult life with.

God calls us to action every day: in our steps, in our thinking, in our speaking, and in our ways of following Him. And he calls us to truly look at our definition of success—and re-define it. When we start to re-define success – or perhaps even peace – according to God’s standards, we start to understand His will for our lives. I look back at the series of decisions I made, and I truly can’t believe God changed a girl like the old me to make a new me. And to think I did it all in His peace. 

Here’s where I encourage you: every moment we spend scrolling through a feed is a thousand milliseconds of our minds and subconscious being influenced. The way our social media is hardwired today, it’s yelling and screaming the world’s message at us, cyclically, whether we realize it or not. We can follow the world, or we can follow the Word of God. We can help others or we can help ourselves. We make decisions every minute: what we eat, who we spend time with, or what we wear. The same goes for how we steward our influence, whether it’s 3 people or 300,000 or 3 million.

There are holy and pure ways to impact on social media. Where we fear failure less and prize heavenly wins more. Sure – it may take persistence; it may even take rejection from others, and it may take away likes – or the things that make us feel “worthy.” But winning souls for the kingdom, helping others, and finding peace in God’s will –  I assure you – will outlast any short-term high that a hot bikini photo or a new follower will ever spike. That high is short-lived, and empty. God’s will for your influence is eternal and it’s on hearts, not on vanity. 

It is in the power of our choices to steward our influence on others wisely. So how do we discern where or how to begin?

  1. Pray, fervently and persistently—and listen to your peace; the Holy Spirit speaks through it (John 14). Some of these prayerful seasons for me have looked like months or even years. 
  2. Re-define success. It’s important to do so. Is God glorified? Am I helping someone in need? Am I winning souls for the kingdom? Am I meeting financial goals for myself (remember God wants us to flourish, but not make money an idol (I Tim. 6:10). Read and get to know God’s heart in the Word; God is clear about power, pride and money in the teachings of Jesus but also in the chapters of 1 and 2 Kings.
  3. Search out your calling and purpose in the world, but not of the world. Understand that your calling isn’t everyone else’s. It may look shiny for someone else – but God has given us each unique skills and gifts to accomplish His will. If we spend too much time looking at others, we will miss His plan for our lives.

2020 was a big wake-up call. I watched the past normal of fashion blogging temporarily go mute – when travel, parties, conferences, and fancy outfits were temporarily halted by a virus. But what was megaphoned? The message of Jesus. What are people concerned with? The revealing of racism, sex trafficking, and darkness – and the clear starvation of hope, of a Savior who is bigger than a virus. @my_darling_diary flourished, doubling its following as the world craved for meaning and purpose. And to think all these years God had me sewing and planting, getting ready for the harvest in this season. After all these years, I am ready to tell His message. 

My prayer is that this story lifts you up so that you may be encouraged to do the same.

I call this story a cliffhanger, because who knows how He will redeem my account—the one I abandoned for Him. Maybe I’ll make a comeback on the account I ditched, but this time for His glory. Wouldn’t that be a fun story? 

Jessi Afshin is a writer and encourager on @my_darling_diary, lover of blue skies and bicycle rides. She’s the owner of a lil’ comfy-cute shop and label called shopdarling.com

Follow her personal account on Insta @jessi_afshin and also find her on Sadie’s app, LO sister, as an ambassador where she shares even more encouragement and fun!

Spread the love
Jessi Afshin

Author Jessi Afshin

More posts by Jessi Afshin

Leave a Reply