Shehzeen Rehman - On Blogging, Savouring The Slow-Life And Being A Desi Wonder Woman
'I believe being kind is a learned habit, anyone can do it'
- Shehzeen Rehman
Often, life’s joy resides in doing the simplest things, seeking positivity and contentment in achieving the most basic tasks. And this is what Shehzeen’s blog focuses on – wholesome, happy living – and her audience clearly connects to it. The Lahore-born, Australia-based blogger is a desi at heart who blogs at @desiwonderwoman and identifies as someone who “actively pursues living a slow life, Ioves copious amounts of chai, eats less meat, tries avoiding as much plastic as one can and… like less of everything for herself.” The blogging trajectory in Pakistan is still nascent and Shehzeen’s blog is amongst the oldest blogs around for years, which became a trendsetter of the sort. With a fleet of over 70,000 followers, Shehzeen is not your quintessential blogger, but a desi influencer who enjoys endearment and respect from her audience, who live vicariously through her blog. Read on as we get chatty with her and unearth what goes behind creating good content and how digital influencing has become an all-encompassing job.
Please begin with telling us something about yourself? Who is Shehzeen and what defines her as a person?
I’m originally from Lahore and blog about everyday lifestyle. I’m 36 and currently live in Australia in a small, comfortable home with my partner who I’ve been lovingly married to for 9 years. I actively pursue living a slow life, love copious amounts of chai, eat less meat, try avoiding as much plastic as I can, use my best plates (and towels and clothes) for myself, buy second hand with as much pride as new, and like less of everything for me. I believe being kind is a learned habit, anyone can do it. And I deeply believe in equality for everyone regardless of their gender, religion, sexual identity or economic status.
Do you identify yourself as a Digital Creator or Influencer? According to you, what sets both these categories apart?
I personally see myself as a content creator. And when it comes to being an influencer, I think each and every one of us is one, not just people with public profiles. My own personal niche is lifestyle, but as a part of my content, sometimes I also talk about social and cultural issues because I really believe in the power of changing mindsets. However, I’m very watchful of neither taking on a hero complex myself nor accepting it from my audience. I think we live in a time where we have started to park our own decision making and capacity to influence, and have begun to attribute all of that to a few individuals. We’re constantly looking for someone to ‘save us’ or to talk about certain things, rather than looking at how we can reform our own immediate circles. I don’t think everyone with a public platform has the ability on speak on every matter or should be forced to speak about something – understanding agency of expression is very important. I’m clear that I am not here to rescue anyone, I’m here to discuss concepts, and then let people take those ideas and lead within their own social circles, friends, family. Content exists in media/books, but influence exists in our drawing rooms, our dinner tables, our conversations with friends.
Tell us about your blogging journey so far? When did you start? Also, what does it take to amass a devout following and fans like you have?
I started this back in 2014 simply as a side project, and when it kind of took off I realized I would enjoy making this my everyday job. While my content has changed over time, my purpose behind it has stayed the same – I post some parts of my life, but I don’t live my life for my posts. I’ve grown very slowly and organically which to be honest, has been a conscious choice for me. I’m not someone who wants a million people following me nor am I interested in too much fame. I like everything in modesty because I think that’s what maintains the balance in your mind most importantly. My goal with my platform has been to have a limited audience that’s thoughtful, tolerant, kind and has chosen to follow me and not just clicked because the algorithm kept showing them my posts. And business wise, I’ve always focused less on numbers and more on how much integrity and trust my following has in me because that’s what always results in sales for the brand, and of course pride for me.
Address a FAQ one usually gets, doing what you do – does blogging pay the bills? Can one take up ‘blogging’ as a full-time thing?
The industry in Pakistan is still in its nascent stages, compared with some parts of the world, but it has come a long way since I started. You can absolutely make this a full time gig, but if you don’t have an investor or savings to fund your initial few months/years, it does require a lot of patience because substantial enough pay cheques don’t come in instantly. I was personally fortunate that I came into this with a 6 year corporate experience, so I had enough savings but also I had the experience to understand my worth and therefore take a stand for my work if someone didn’t want to pay me right. A lot of times people want you to work for free or at very low budgets and you have to learn to find a way to balance various partnerships to sustain yourself if you want to do this full time.
What do you think is the most essential quality to have as a great creator/influencer? That being said, what do you think your followers like best about you?
Just being yourself. The only thing that works the same for everyone is to show the distinct you. You can be anonymous (that’s how I started) or fully public, you can wear too little or cover yourself from head to toe, you can post everyday or once a week – whatever your product is, the formula is to just be you.
About what followers like about me, I’ll just average out the thing I get told the most. I get extremely thoughtful messages nearly every day about how it feels like I’m very comfortable with who I am and that I seem very honest. I guess that’s how most followers see me and so probably what they appreciate the most.
What are some of your favourite things to blog about?
All things that I like doing mindfully (even if it’s folding my clean clothes, heh), things that are about finding meaning in my every day, average life (having chai, making my work plan for the day, taking a walk), and things that I can do with my own hands (organizing, crafting something, gardening).
What is your advice for someone trying to become a creator/get into influencer marketing?
Do it because you have something to say or create, not because you’re seeking validation or looking to make some quick money. Like all jobs, if you do it full time, you have to put in the hours and the legwork, so sort out your reasons for doing it before getting into it. And once you’re clear, present who you are, not a version of who you like best on the internet. There is something unique about everyone so find your own unique :)
As a blogger who shares the richness of her life on the ‘gram, have you ever felt that your privacy has been invaded upon? Voluntarily.
I’ve been careful with that since the beginning – not just my own privacy but also that of those in my life. I’ve consciously kept many things out. I also don’t post about someone before asking, I don’t photograph people in public places, I don’t post those under the age of 18 and cannot give consent, etc. It’s an active process and I think you get better with it with time. Because of how I’ve grown my audience over the years, I also don’t get many personal, invasive questions at all. Can you believe I don’t have children after 9 years of being married and still don’t get asked why I don’t have kids more than a couple of times a year. I think it’s something you can manage and set boundaries with, and if you have the right audience they will respect your space and privacy.
Can putting up with the digital front on a routine basis be exhausting, if yes, how do you ‘log out’ from the blogging life and unwind?
Absolutely and I keep myself very, very aware of my limited emotional capacity and possible burnouts. I’ve experienced burnout in my corporate career and it creeps up on you for months before you know it and can have devastating consequences on your mental and physical health. So now, I stay very tuned into how I’m feeling, and while defying all Instagram best practices, I stop posting for a while if I need to take a break. On an ongoing basis, I don’t check more than a few 100 DMs a day, I check only a few of my favorite accounts on a daily basis and don’t browse through social media mindlessly. Most importantly, I keep my job only as important as the rest of the things in my life, so there is always space for things like resting, spending time with family, reading, things that always help you unwind.
My instagram is @shehzeen.r if you’d like to come hang out more.
STYLING: SIDRA RAJA