GIFTS & FREEBIES
Deciding whether to request, accept, or feature gifted products, items, and experiences, is another huge decision that is usually in connection with collaborations. I think it’s in connection with, but not the same as. You’re so much less likely to be judged and criticized for your decision on collaborations than you are for sharing content featuring freebies of any sort. You see growing up, whenever I was bullied, I was always told it’s because people were jealous of some aspect of me or my life and I never believed it. But when it comes to horrible comments around this aspect of blogging, I can totally understand having that mindset. Though I do appreciate that some who make those comments might have – in their opinion – a more ethical, reasonable objective to this issue. I mean, some people say that it’s superficial and shallow to be so appreciative of material things.
There are so many obvious reasons why someone would want to accept gifts from organisations, but there might be some which aren’t so obvious. And as a blogger who does accept gifts but doesn’t request them, I thought I might explain my rationale for the decision to do that. Firstly, I was raised with the mentality that you don’t just get everything you ask for. Usually, no matter what month of the year a new toy was released, I would wait until my Birthday or Christmas and even then, it was only if my Mum could afford it. As I got older and it stopped being toys that I wanted or was interested in, I got money for going to College and then got a weekend job too so that I could buy myself the things that I wanted. So that I felt I had deserved them. That I’d worked hard and earnt them for myself. And that’s how I look at these gifts with my blog; that I’ve put in a ton of effort, and that I’m allowed to accept something that feels like a reward or acknowledgement of that.
Another reason I’m ok with accepting gifts is that I’ve never asked for them. When I’ve approached organisations – even ones who I know have given other bloggers gifts – it’s always purely been about having the ability to say I’ve worked with them. It’s about feeling I’d achieved something, and that I could add it to my CV and my list of incredible experiences/opportunities. I honestly think that if you’re contacting companies asking for freebies, you’re in blogging for all the wrong reasons. Even when I accept gifts, and very obviously appreciate them, I’m not motivated by them. It’s not the most important aspect of blogging for me.
NECESSARY ITEMS FOR A BLOGGER
HP Stream Cloudbook: £199.99 (my actual laptop)
A5 Notebook: £6.99
Three Pen Set: £8.99
Weekly A4 Planner: £2.50
Sticky Notes: £1.00
2021 Diary: £5.60
External Power Bank: £13.99
Charger Cables: £10.49
Multi-port Mains Charger: £9.99
Wireless Over Ear Headphones: £15.99
CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE
As with a lot of things in life, once you find something you’re passionate about – or even just interested in – it’s almost inevitable that at some point, you’ll face some sort of crisis in your confidence levels. That you’ll reach a time where you’re left thinking ‘am I good enough to do this?’ or ‘am I worthy of doing this?’ Blogging is no exception! No matter how many readers you have, how successful you deem it to be, how many achievements you feel you’ve made…
I feel like I probably have a small one every single day. Every single time I see the reader count go up I wonder whether it’s deserved. The reader count also leaves me questioning my confidence in publishing absolutely any sort of blog post. It’s like if I really think about it, I get stage fright and lose the courage to be honest and open in my post. It’s intimidating to think of how many people could be reading the words I write. How many people might even care about the words I write.
Mostly, though, my crisis of confidence comes when I’m looking to contact organisations to pitch a collaboration. I frequently check myself before sending a message or email and debate whether I’m NOT Disordered is good enough – important enough – to collaborate with them. Is it – or me – deserving of such an opportunity? But I always think back to what my Mum told me ‘shy bairn’s get nowt!’ and develop the mindset that if I don’t try, I’ll never know.
This is something I’ve said a few times to people recently – “why are we putting so much responsibility on technology when it means that, if it fails or breaks, you’ll be lost without it?” I say this about the healthcare system where everything from A&E to the pharmacy is electronic. I do sometimes feel like I’m a hypocrite for doing the exact same thing with being a blogger. I mean, I think I’ve already made it pretty clear how much my blog means to me, and how big a part it plays in my life. So even when it was just that my bunny had chewed through the broadband cable, I stressed and panicked. In the end, I just tethered the laptop to my iPad to use its data/connection, and I felt so relieved when I found a solution that it made me realise how important blogging is for me.
Another stressful experience with technology was being at an all-day event in London and having my data run out on both my iPad and my phone! I’m not even exaggerating when I say that I almost cried! And I felt quite stupid and silly for it at the time because I was sure that those looking on would be thinking how superficial I was for actually crying over something like that.
But, I think a big part of my upset wasn’t all about the importance it had for me, it was also the thought of how important my blog might have become to people – or has become to people because I’ve had so many messages validating that as fact. It left me worrying that some people have come to rely on me and I’m NOT Disordered and see my words as really helpful and useful for their mental health and I hated the thought of my technology problems getting in the way of that. I cried because I felt that I was letting a hell of a lot of people down. And, as someone who’s very much about pleasing others, that was such a challenging situation for me.
I think that those two technology hiccups have ended up helping me a lot because they’ve taught me two things; the first, is that I’ve learned how to cope and manage my emotions in a much better way than crying in front of so many people, if those issues arise again. Secondly, I’ve learnt to appreciate my technology devices so much more and to look after them well and recognize that they’re so deserving of that!
Above all, when I’m in those little technology crises, I try to remember that it isn’t the end of the world and there’s always something you can learn from it.
NO SUCH THING AS PREPARED
I guess the technology hiccups have sort of perfectly led to this point that you can’t be 100% prepared with anything in mental health blogging!
I’m definitely someone who likes to know where they stand with things and to be able to have expectations of what’s to come. I’ve learnt – through therapy – that this isn’t always possible and there are instances where you just have to accept that’s the case, in order to still move forwards.
I think that part of my fear of the uncertain is due to the abuse I experienced because it was probably the most negatively unfamiliar, and unexpected time of my life. Every day I would wonder if I was going to be hurt when I saw my abuser because we were in an environment where it didn’t – and couldn’t – happen every single time we were together. Another component to the uncertainty was that the Police labelled the ‘relationship’ as him ‘grooming’ me because he would sometimes be really nice, and kind and they explained it was a tactic he used to try to reduce the chance of me reporting him. So, it’s kind of meant that I didn’t know which side of him I was going to get each day. It was like keeping your eyes closed on a rollercoaster – there were ups and downs, but I couldn’t foresee them. I couldn’t prepare myself and warn my body about what was about to happen.
That experience has definitely contributed to my dislike of the unprepared nature of being a mental health blogger. And the uncertainty in this role isn’t all about the technology breaking! Another element to it is being unsure on how a blog post will be received by your readers. I mean, I’m almost eight years into this but I’m still trying to predict reader’s reactions to my words. That’s probably something that is made all the harder because of how large my readership is.
Another aspect of blogging which is forever changing, is the entire industry in general. Obviously, having blogged for almost eight years, things have taken a massive turn and there’s been so many natural, general, new challenges come along that I’ve felt completely unprepared for. Blogging is ever evolving and so if you want to join the industry, you’ll really have to accept that.
LUCK OF THE DRAW
I honestly feel that I’m NOT Disordered’s success and popularity is largely down to luck! I was incredibly lucky that there were really only a few mental health blogs in 2013 when I started blogging. And neither were written by a psychiatric inpatient, so I sort of found a niche without even trying to! And I feel like that’s almost the definition of luck!
Another aspect of being a mental health blogger which I find I’ve been lucky in, has been the huge increase in my audience. Considering I started off with just family and friends having access to and knowledge of my blog’s existence, I think luck is a good way to sum up why I now have over 800,000 readers. Some people would probably disagree with this though, my best friends and my family – or just anyone who really knows me – would probably say that I’ve earned this popularity. And I get that… I mean, I hate blowing my trumpet, but I guess even I should admit that a certain amount of readers is attracted because of the content…
But then, I go back to luck! Because I feel that I’m incredibly lucky to be able to create and publish content that people are interested in. And even luckier that it’s content I actually enjoy the entire thing! I love being able to talk about my experiences, mental health in general, and to be able to provide a platform for others to use my blog to do the same thing. It works out as a good balance against the resentment and anger I’m occasionally overwhelmed by when I think about the abuse. I’m not saying it makes it ‘worth’ it, but it definitely comforts me. To know that what happened to me could – in a roundabout way – has the potential to have some sort of positive impact on someone else’s life. That what I’ve learnt from it could help others to avoid having to learn those same lessons the hard way.
I do, however, try to resist peddling these thoughts on luck because I worry that others would think I was being fake and insincere. As though wholeheartedly believing that you’re lucky is a bad quality! I guess some people find that it can appear to be a way to encourage others to tell you that you’ve earnt your achievement or success.
This is something I briefly mentioned earlier but it’s an important aspect of blogging and a lesson I feel I’ve definitely learnt on my blogging journey… I talked about it earlier because it’s a quality that I believe my two blogging inspirations have. Each have incredibly successful careers now and whilst their list of achievements continues to rise and no doubt their bank balance does the same, neither ever seem to forget their roots. Both recognise and appreciate that it’s an honour to be able to go from how they started off in the industry, to where they are now.
I really hope this is something I also demonstrate because even though my bank balance isn’t rising from blogging, I appreciate the feeling that my content and collaborations have taken a few steps up since 2013! It’s like when I go to events with the same organisation and each time, I’ll be given more and more responsibilities. Like getting a promotion! And I hope that no matter how high up the totem pole I may become, I always remember and try to show the qualities I would like others who are above me to show.
I think that a vital quality that stems from someone who is humble is that they’re relatable and are still grounded no matter what their social media verification or reader count! It’s all about recognizing your position, respecting your responsibilities and the bonuses of it, but also remembering how it felt before all of that. I mean, I definitely remember celebrating my first 100 readers with another inpatient and we were screaming so loud that the staff came running because they thought someone was kicking off! And I remember my first 100,000 and the party I threw for it because it’s still the best night of my entire life! Remembering all of those milestones, I think, helps me to be that bit more grateful and appreciative of all the ones since and all the ones to come.
I guess there’s a balance though, about staying humble and not being in total denial! Like, there might come a point in your blogging career where you ‘being humble’ has some people saying ‘you can’t dismiss or deny the popularity of the blog or of the opportunities you have from that!’ So, you need to recognize those achievements, but don’t allow them to change your ethics and morals and who you really are. It’s ok to grow with your blog and you should never hide that.
PICK YOUR BATTLES
There’s a whole ton of controversial issues in the world of mental health and in blogging about the subject, you’ll almost inevitably come across some of them. You might even accidentally come across one as I have before. I was just typing away about my experiences and things that were happening on the psychiatric ward and found myself writing my thoughts on something that I quickly realised could potentially cause backlash. And it’s actually something I was talking to Newcastle University about in my interview for their Psychology trainees, the interviewer asked me how I’d coped with blogging for so long and not receiving many insults or even negative comments. I told her that I realise – and it’s something I taught the LEAPS Social Media Manager – that if you’re going to express an opinion on something on such a public platform, you just have to accept you could end up with tension or even in a bit of an argument.
I think it’s so sad that even merely talking about something controversial – like, just mentioning it, can start a whole drama on social media or your blog. I definitely agree that everyone should be entitled to their opinions and that they should be free to express those in the least offensive way possible. No one should be thinking ‘oh if I voice this then I’ll get a ton of abuse for it!’ I guess, at the same time, if you have an unpopular opinion or one that isn’t common, then it’s sort of expected that you’ll get that sort of response if you voice it or talk about it on your blog.
So, my thought process in this aspect of blogging, is to keep quiet unless it’s something I’m so passionate about that I’ll regard any kind of backlash as ‘worth it.’ I also like to stick to the mantra of picking your battles in that it might not be a good idea to share your views on every single controversial issue in mental health! You really need to find ones where you feel strong enough to cope with negative comments in response.
It’s also really important how you express the opinion. I mean, do you use it as an insult to others? Do you use it to undermine someone else’s thoughts? Are you doing it just to stir up some drama? Do you actually really care about this? And – where relevant – do you have any evidence for your opinion? Is it worth running your wording by a friend or family member to see if they would support the ways you’ve phrased things?
NEVER REST ON YOUR LAURELS
Honestly? I had to google this saying because I didn’t know the proper wording! I know what it means though!
Resting on your laurels is something I began to talk about in the part about having inspiration in blogging because it’s a quality that I believe my two inspirations Victoria Magrath and Zoe Sugg, embody. They are both so successful (in different ways) and yet neither have adopted the attitude that others have of thinking ‘well, I’ve achieved this, I’ll just wait for other things to fall into my lap!’ Or ‘now I’ve done that, there’s not much higher to go!’ I think it’s an incredibly easy attitude – or almost habit, to adopt and to fall into because you get comfortable.
It’s probably natural to achieve something that’s been your goal for a long time and to almost have to sit back and consider where you can go next. I mean, you’re striving to collaborate with one particular organisation and one of your pitches to them is successful, do you then need to find another organisation? Or do you circle back to previous collaborations with other organisations and see how you can build on them and improve them? You know, it’s incredibly easy to have to take time to reflect on things and consider what to do now; but the point is that you should do that. You should take that time and you should think about how to continue moving forwards and upwards!
Developing the expectations that now you’ve reached a certain point in your blogging, opportunities should just be thrown at you and you shouldn’t have to put yourself out there and request them, is a surprisingly easy process. Fortunately, it’s one that I’ve never done or had to face, and I think that stems back to my work ethic and the way I was brought up. The attitude I’ve always known around setting goals and achieving them. I think that my Mum has always set goals or targets for herself with different areas of life and once she’s reached that and achieved that, she’s ready to work toward something else. So, I’ve seen that mindset and looked up to her and been inspired by her to do the same thing in blogging.
As a blogger however, I realise that it might be more difficult to do this than it would be in – let’s say dieting or reaching a specific weight, because that’s probably so much more straightforward and a more natural and understood progression. But, once you’ve reached a target weight and you can’t afford to lose or gain more, do you choose a different target for another area of your life? Do you just continue to maintain what you have achieved? There are still decisions to be made around that.
I think that not resting on your laurels can actually be really inspirational because it really shows that a person is hardworking and that they are dedicated to what they do.