18 October 2011

Addressing my arrogance and narcissim

I received a comment from a reader named Joanne in response to my Everything to everyone post. I guess it was like being pulled up by a parent for getting too big for my boots. Here is her comment.

"Hi Carly, long time follower but first time commentor. I think your blog is fantastic, you are a truly funny and enlightening person and I enjoy reading your posts everytime you update. Congratulations on your new website.
I have to say, though, this post left a bit of a bad taste. To me, and perhaps I misunderstood you, but you appear to be saying that you're becoming "overwhelmed" with your fame, that you can't deal with being a "role model" for all your "fans". I found this post a bit arrogant. Im sure you have loads of followers (myself included as a dedicated one!) but I think this might be a bit ahead of yourself. You always used to write with such modesty.
I hope I havent offended you, I just wanted to give you food for thought as I feel like these posts are kind of sliding towards arrogance and narcissm. You dont have to publish me if you don't want, I understand. I dont have a blog so I can only post my name (Joanne) instead of being Annon (which I hate!) I wish you all the best!"
Thank you Joanne - it did provide some food for thought, hence this reply via blog post. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and to write to me. I am not offended.

It is always really hard to write about these issues without seeming like I have an inflated ego. I never meant that I have a fan following, or that I am a superstar of any degree. But I'd be lying if I denied that my profile hasn't risen recently. I think that we all want some attention and praise, and blogging is an immediate way of receiving that. 

But as a blogger, I think it can get overwhelming at times, a bit like a celebrity (and I am not saying I am). People can relate to stories we tell, and want to share their own, and also find some hope and assistance through our words. And for the most part, it is flattering, and I want to help. While I understand it is a choice about what I share with the world, it is not my choice about who contacts me. And so when I receive messages like I did last week, it can be overwhelming. (Perhaps if I posted the messages here you'll see why I was overwhelmed. But they're private messages, very personal to the senders, and so I won't.)
It was after months of receiving emails from one particular reader, and that confronting email that I wrote Everything to everyone. 

I share a lot of myself on my blog. I'll admit at times I have written a post - Untouched for example - and it has been so emotionally draining that I've cried while writing it. I am also continually worried about offending someone or revealing too much of those I write about. I often seek approval or run posts by the person I write about. Most things I blog are written with a conscience - who may I offend?

It is hard to be authentic and honest through blogging without it seeming like your life is there on show - you can't be a carcrash that readers thrive off. But at the same time blogging allows that community, that support that you need during difficult times.Which may be a contradictory statement given that I feel overwhelmed.

It was never my intention to seem narcissistic or arrogant in that post or any of my writing. I was simply trying to articulate my feelings through writing them out on my blog. Maybe, like so much of the other 'therapy through writing' I've done lately, I should have left it unpublished. 

My feelings of being everything to everyone have definitely stemmed from my experiences in the past few months. I helped someone I love through an extremely tough time. I was 'there' to answer each text, each email. I went to a counselor to see how I could better help him. (Without meaning to sound like a martyr) I put my own feelings for him aside and just focused on his healing. And when he was healed, and I told him my feelings, it was too late. I'm no longer needed. It was too much at times. And I believe I worried myself sick. I don't think it is a coincidence that I ended up in hospital - twice - during the time I was providing support. While it wasn't in me not to provide support - and he told me that he couldn't have gotten through without me and a few others - I can't give so much of myself again, just yet, because of this. He loved me because he believed I'm strong, and maybe leant on me for that reason too. But even the strong ones can't take on everything. Who will support the supporter?

For the past seven weeks, I've felt broken, lost, used and so very sad. Not depressed, just sad because of grief. The best I can explain it is here, and I've tried not to saturate this blog with my feelings. And that's why I needed to take a step back. It was difficult supporting someone I love. And so I can't be there to assist others (strangers) who contact me because they relate. I take on a lot, and I can't let myself get hurt again. It may seem blunt, callous, selfish, narcissistic or arrogant of me. But I'm looking out for number one right now - me.

Blogging. It's a tough balance. I'm always going to be myself here. But that may mean seem arrogant or selfish at times. Humility and modesty wont always shine through my writing. Because I can't be everything to everyone.

I'd be interested to hear from other bloggers (or people with disabilities) whose profiles have increased or receive requests of support from strangers. How do you deal? And who else relates to this episode of SBS Insight?


  1. Hi Carly

    Thanks for your honesty in sharing your thoughts in this post. You've outlined many of the challenges bloggers face and I can relate to where you're coming from.

    To me, a post is an expression of how I'm feeling at the time of writing. The tone of my posts change to reflect my changes in emotion. I have to say though, that I generally try to keep my posts on the lighter side of things. An escape from the sometimes painful realities of life.

    I think readers will always judge posts. I am both a blog reader and writer myself and you can't help but make judgement on what you're reading.

    In the end, so long as you are true to yourself and seek to do no harm then just keep on writing and bringing your world to all of us.

    SSG xxx

    Sydney Shop Girl blog

  2. Hi Carly
    Im Joanne from your original comment. Thank you so much for addressing my comment, I appreciate your time and most of all, your honesty! I think I misunderstood what you were staying in the first place, which is easy to do on the internet! Definitely you should have published this post, I disagree when you say that you should have left it unpublished.

    I really hope I wasnt being rude. I really like you. I've seen other bloggers who get 'famous' and 'well-know' (Im not sure what the right words are- but you know what I mean!) who become alienated from their followers. I really didn't want that to happen to you.

    Again, thank you for your response! I wish you all the best and will continue to eagerly await your next post!


  3. It's a bit hard to avoid putting yourself into a blog post, isn't it? I mean, that's what any blog is all about: you! It's a type of journal you're sharing with the people who'd like to read it. I do think it's great that you have readers who are comfortable enough to say something they're not sure you'll want to hear... but to say it so supportively. I had a comment along those lines once, although it was completely nasty - I was expressing my opinion about something and somebody told me it was the wrong opinion (ie. it wasn't theirs) and that I should, basically, stop expressing my opinion on my own blog. Yeah, that was a bit bewildering. If I can't do it there, where am I meant to do it? In my wardrobe or something?

    I'm really glad to see your posts popping up in my reader again. I've been missing my regular dose of your blog but I quite understand that sometimes, real life stresses are just that bit more important than a blog. Hopefully you're due a whole lot of good stuff now. :)

  4. As the saying goes, you can't please all of the people all of the time. You're doing well, Carly; I never got a sense of arrogance, but, rather, an honest blog about achievements (and nothing wrong in being pleased with yourself, celebate it), fears, concerns and frustrations as well as joys and the highs and lows.

  5. It's such a hard one. I have a relatively unknown disorder, which receives some attention overseas but bugger all here in Aus as we are simply so few. It's a lonely and difficult path to diagnosis and, if you are lucky, treatment. The symptoms are also confronting and difficult to deal with. As a result many feel alone and scared, hell I know I was when I got ill.

    I started writing my blog about my experiences at a time when there was little information out there. Over the past couple of years my readership has grown and it is well known in our community here and overseas, with many even calling their illness the same nickname as I call my own.

    In many many ways it has been rewarding. With people who find comfort in what I write as it makes them feel less alone. People who enjoy my rather sarcastic take on it all. Or simply that I talk about issues that no one else seems to want to address. But it has also meant a huge increase in private emails asking for help or people sharing their entire life stories. As much as I want to help them all I simply can't, and I feel guilty a lot of the time as I understand their need only too well.

    It's hard to know what to do sometimes. I am clear that I never offer medical advice (that's a minefield I want no part of). I tend to direct people to official channels. But there is a feeling of responsibility that can weigh me down at times and I have to step back at times or it can become overwhelming. I think that sometimes people who contact me forget that I am still sick myself (housebound, and frequently bedbound, currently). It's not intentional on their behalf, but it is easy to get so swallowed up by your own experience that you forget that others are in the same boat. Or that the person behind the blog is just a person with all the same baggage as everyone else, and not whatever they perceive a blogger's, blog persona to be.

    It can be easy to be swamped by the desperation and need. I'm sure there are some who think I am a rude cow for not giving them back what they want, but sometimes you have to work out a balance that takes into account your own needs. That's not selfish or upyourselfness (okay so I'm making up words now, it's the end of the day and I'm exhausted), it's about survival.

    There is only so much you can give of yourself Carly, and only you know how much that is. If all else fails I highly recommend margaritas as a coping mechanism. :)

    Good lord, just read that back. Sorry for the ridiculously long rambly response.

  6. The mere fact that you have a blog is in itself narcissistic, the fact that you have so many readers suggests you are especially so, because you promote often and successfully. Do I care? Nope.

    Like with any piece of writing folks can choose to read or not. What draws readers to your blog is your intelligence, and honesty. Narcissism is a very misunderstood characteristic and is often a positive attribute such is the case here.. Keep doing what you do and write what you want regardless.

  7. Wow great post.

    I think that the thing about being a blogger who is building a profile and self-promoting to give presentations and pursue her dream of being a writer - is that you need to be EVERYTHING. You need to keep giving us your readers, YOU and you need to keep coaching and believing in yourself in order to take things to the next level all the while trying to maintain that vulnerable/strong/humble character that we your readers first gravitated to. And that's not an easy thing to do.

    I like that Joanne felt comfortable enough to honestly share her thoughts with you (with some tact!). I also hope that your response will give fellow readers an idea of what you are up against and why we sometimes need to cut you some slack :)

  8. Put narcissism and ego-based stuff aside for a moment and have a look at the actual underlying reasons why you have been feeling overwhelmed.

    Having had a brief and minor incursion into 'being famous', I completely understand that feeling.

    Walking down the street and having total strangers call you by name, ask you to have a coffee with them, go to a party, to listen to their stories. Being surrounded by ten or fifteen people who all want to ask questions or talk, or hang out, and all you want to do is go home after what is, after all, a part of your working day..

    It's part and parcel of being a 'celebrity' yes, but it doesn't render it any easier to deal with. This is why the truly famous surround themselves with minders and bodyguards!

    No offense to Joanne, or anyone else, but being sucessful and admitting it in public, as Carly is and does, through her own hard work and self-promotion (which is NOT a dirty word), is not arrogance or narcissism. It is part and parcel of being a public figure.

    I totally understand your decision to pull back from social media (however briefly it was ;) ), in order to gain a bit of space.

    Keep up your good work Carly - you mean many things to many people...which is hard in itself :)

  9. These are all such great responses. I feared getting "flamed" for my comment but I needn't have worried. Carly, you have some intelligent and articulate readers thats for sure.

    I think now I'm the one who has been given some food for thought! I liked the person who made the point that narcissism is not a bad thing- certainly gave me something to think about thank you.

    I understand your point better now Carly.

    Congratulations on your success too. And for your honesty on your blog. I think what I have captured from your last few weeks is that you don't have to show everyone that you are "strong" (whatever that means) when something hurts. That its best to hurt, to talk about it and to heal in the way that you find best.

    - Joanne (original commentor)

    P.S Carly Im having some troubles submitting this commenting because I am a blog fool so my apologies if you receive it 50 times!

  10. Well done to both Joanne and Carly for addressing this subject. I think a personal blog is a bit narcissistic by nature (and I have one!) Part of it is sharing stuff about yourself and your own life - thinking it out aloud, as therapy, sharing, raising awareness, getting feedback. It's finding the balance I guess, and I think Carly does it well, and I think Joanne put her side very nicely too.

  11. Personally, I have never found your posts arrogant or narcissistic, but I'm really glad that you took the time to address this persons comment. I love that you write so honestly about how you feel at a particular time, and I can certainly relate to feeling overwhelmed by other peoples demands of you, whether you're well-known or not.

  12. Here's what you are writing about at the end of this post

    'There was once a time when each of us met life in an innocent and totally open way, without reservations or defenses. But then something went wrong – our innocence and openness were abused, our love was not returned, our spontaneity was ridiculed, our sensitivity was hurt, or our faith was betrayed. From that time was born a series of reservations and suspicions, ranging from the ordinary common sense of the mature adult all the way to an ingrained resistance, sometimes total, to surrender to the new. One just does not want to be swindled by life again.'

    I read this on http://thecirclegameofsobriety.com/ a blog I have been following, just today.

    I hope you can come back and trust again. In the meantime, good luck and keep blogging.

  13. Hi Carly,

    Great blog. Regarding your 'leaving Facebook' posting:

    * I didn't interpret it as being narcissistic at all.

    * You might enjoy Grace Dent's 'How To Leave Twitter', published a few months ago.

    * Four billion years of evolution has given us sophisticated social brains, and text messaging - what could possibly go wrong? ;)


  14. Damn, girl! You can write. You express yourself so brilliantly.

    It IS a fine balance, as you do share SO MUCH of your own personal opinions/thoughts/feelings/experiences. This blog is all about YOU and those opinions/thoughts/feelings/experiences. Sometimes this may sound narcissistic, surely. I did not get that from your post, however. I simply found myself drawn into your thoughts and feelings regarding facebook and contactability (is that a word?), all of which I felt to be very valid. Having said that though, Joanne seems like a lovely person who provided you with some food for thought, as you said. Keep doing what you do, Carly! Lots of love,
    Heidi xo


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