The impostor syndrome haunts me. “Is this my life? Am I really writing and speaking about my passions?”, I sometimes ask. Am I qualified? Am I nice enough and a good role model at all times? I keep thinking I’ll get caught out. Not that I think have anything to get caught out for, but I worry that someone will comment on something that I’ve written, saying ‘I saw her once, she was really rude to this sales assistant’. I am flawed too.
I remind myself that people won’t always like (which is different to won’t agree with) everything I write, and sometimes I tire of having to validate that stigma and intrusive comments really do happen. But that’s ok. Because I am ok with myself.
Sometimes I worry about being a health blogger – especially this week. It’s a huge responsibility to have people read about my life and take advice or comfort from it. I want to show my integrity.
There’s a rise in health and wellness bloggers – many of which have reached celebrity status. And celebrities have now reached medical practitioner status. As my friend Anne Marie said, introducing this article, “get your medical advice from a doctor, not from a celebrity” (or blogger). These people are not qualified to dispense medical advice or treatments – they are social media celebrities.
The very wise Pip Lincolne wrote
“Being well-known does not mean you know well.”
Ain’t that true.
Lila Wolff wrote about how inauthenticity is harmful.
“What’s dangerous here is not just the people who damage themselves with their inauthenticity but the damage it does to those following, admiring and emulating.”
I don’t have cancer and I don’t practice alternative treatment over traditional medicine. But I do have a lifelong, severe chronic illness and people look to me for advice. I feel that I have a responsibility to you, my readers and social media followers, never to provide advice that might damage your health. I always write my truth, which doesn’t mean it will apply to all readers.(And I don’t write this to discredit myself, but in the interests of disclosure, I am qualified in Communications and eCommerce, and only have lived experienced with Ichthyosis and disability.)
I always want to be authentic and transparent. I want you to know that some of the donations for the Australian Ichthyosis Meet have now gone towards the Foundation for Ichthyosis and Related Skin Types. The me that you read on my blog and see on social media is the me in person. Sometimes I put some flowers in the shot for a photo, but it’s all my life.
And I never want to sell you treatments or life-practices to help Ichthyosis (or any other illness). I won’t be paid to promote pharmaceutical products, or feature affiliate links to over the counter products. (Sometimes I will promote non-skin related products through a sponsored or affiliated post or ads, but I will always disclose up front.)
I am not a doctor. Or a psychologist. I can’t provide a diagnosis. There are many types of Ichthyosis and there are many treatments that work differently for different patients. What works for me might not work for you or your child. And I don’t want to risk that. And I will never claim that going to a hot spring or taking a juice cleanse will make you well.
Last year I was contacted by a woman who expected too much of me. She had diagnosed (and then undiagnosed) herself from my explanations of Ichthyosis. And she wanted more emotional support than I am qualified for, and when I told her I couldn’t provide it to her, she said I’d disappointed her. She said I’d put myself out as a role model, and she saw me as a support person, but didn’t provide. My heart sank. While I know I didn’t fail her, I still felt as though I did. It upset me a lot.
I admire those illness and health bloggers who are genuinely making the world a better place by responsibly sharing their stories online. And I am disappointed in those who take advantage of the vulnerable. There is no health blogger’s rulebook or union. I’m winging it. We all are. So I’ve made my own pledge to do the right thing by health bloggers, my community and my values.
I am a health blogger. I will:
Be truthful about my illness, and accountable to the charities and causes I support.
Always encourage a healthy diet and lifestyle in conjunction with medical and psychological support.
Link to support groups that may help you.
Never claim a food or life-practice will cure you.
Never receive payment to endorse prescribed and over the counter treatments that I use for my skin (this includes affiliate links).
Write about what has helped my skin, but always provide a recommendation to seek advice from your doctor before trying new things.
Own my writing and my mistakes.
Acknowledge that all patients have different symptoms and levels of severity – and what works for me might not work for them.
Continue to foster a positive, supportive and educated online community.
Seek help if I am experiencing vicarious trauma from others sharing their stories.