The wellness industry has been under fire recently for loads of things, and as someone with a Master’s degree in a physical and mental health professional program (occupational therapy), I definitely see problems popping up in the mainstream social media.
It seems like on any social media platform you log into, you can see people pushing wellness; skin care products to make you glow, green powder to give you vegetables, magic hair serums, special powders to give you energy in place of a morning coffee… the list goes on. But with each of these wellness products, comes another piece of the puzzle that can do more harm than good – the big push of self love and confidence.
As a queer woman who has a passion in working with children and with mental health, I am the number one supporter of self love and confidence. I think that everyone deserves to love the body they are given, to be proud of the things they can do, to be confident in themselves, and to know they are worthy of love and happiness. But at the same time, I am very aware when working with my clients that just telling someone to have these things is not an empathetic piece of advice, and is sometimes seen as not possible. We can’t just tell someone to get over their fears, to love their body, and not to worry what other people say. As an individual that experiences her own mental health challenges, I can tell you that I feel lucky that on my best days I can name tons of things I love about myself, I can strut down the street listening to my favourite music and not care what people say…. but on my worst days I feel that everything I’ve ever done is wrong, I am a failure and I hate my body. And I say I’m lucky, because for many people, they can’t even find that confidence or self love on their best days. For me it can be a roller coaster of ups and downs that is everlasting and one that is hard to just get off of.
The entire wellness industry can be a pool of people pushing weigh loss, diet culture, unachievable (and often covertly racist) beauty standards, and among it they still preach “self love self love self love”. But recently on my social media feeds, and becoming ever more present in society especially due to the economic troubles of COVID-19, a new section of the industry is pushing self love harder and harder – Multilevel Marketing.
In an earlier post, I talked about Multilevel Marketing companies (aka MLM’s) in relation to the Netflix documentary Unwell (see post here). If you haven’t read my previous post, and don’t know what a MLM is, here’s a small blurb:
I have many issues with this business model, for a variety of reasons. If you want to learn more about what kind of things people dislike about MLM’s, I will link some youtube videos and instagram pages to check out down below. But personally, it is the way that the people who are distributors of these businesses conduct themselves in selling that bother me, in terms of what they preach.
Often times, MLM’s for many people are made to represent freedom. Many distributors talk about how running their MLM business has given them “financial freedom”, has given them a community of positive people, and has given them confidence. If this is true, then absolutely yes those are wonderful things for a job to be able to give you! The sad truth however comes when looking deeper into the MLMs and their culture and payment structure.
Payment structure/the business
By reading the income disclosures that are mandatory for MLM businesses to make public (these are charts that show how much people make and how many people make that much money – the finance guy has a bunch of the different companies listed here), you can see that for most MLM businesses, around 90% of people don’t make any money. And sure, there are some people who are THRIVING in this business, making so much money with their product sales and their downlines. But according to the numbers, this isn’t a large number of people. Which means you have way more of a chance to lose money than gain money in this investment. This is why I find the pushing of the companies on people who are struggling with self esteem, finances, confidence, community etc to be so toxic.
Often times, you see people being brought into this business model to help their finances, to get a bit of extra money or to feel like they are contributing to their family. Often times, these people who might be struggling with community connections etc don’t have the huge followings on social media (students, stay at home moms, military wives are often the people targeted by MLMs). So while someone at the top of the company in sales/recruits is saying it is super easy to make money by sharing things you love… consider how many social media followers they might have. How many people are they influencing in real life? Are they someone people look up to and want to be friends with or someone that people feel have changed their life in some way, or maybe view as a mentor? The business for them might be much easier as they have loads of people willing to listen to their advice or wanting to join their team so they can be a “girl boss” along side with this neat individual. For the rest of the distributors who might need to cold message people they don’t know in order to sign up distributors underneath them and to sell their products, this can be a LOT of work for commission that may never be made back.
Culture and Community
Often times something that draws people into the MLM structure is the culture and community aspect of it – MLM distributors flaunt the community that you gain, the support your team gives you when you hit goals and when you move up to higher levels of the company. There is a strong focus on self development and building confidence and self love.
As someone who knows the struggle with self love and confidence, I am ALL FOR this learning. I have loads of self development books on my shelves and read them on days I really need something. But I also know that these books are not everything and are not a replacement for other education, therapy and love. You can find these things in facebook groups, volunteer groups, people in your 9-5 job. You can find help with self love and confidence through yoga, art, therapy, going back to school, learning how to cook, taking care of your kids, dancing in the kitchen with your partner, snuggling with your pets…… there are so many more things out there that can help with these things that don’t involve being constantly productive and improving yourself. If you are feeling low about yourself, know that you are not alone. You don’t need to look a certain way, act a certain way, or be productive in a certain way to prove your worth. Often times MLMs flaunt the “hustle” and talk about how they are constantly hustling to deserve a trip, deserve a treat, deserve deserve deserve. Let me remind you… you don’t need to deserve anything. You can just decide to do something because you feel like you want or need it. Whether you are in an MLM, considering an MLM or shutting down MLM recruiters in your inboxes, let’s remind ourselves:
You are ALLOWED to have a treat just because you want one
You are ALLOWED to take a break from working because you need one. Because you are sick. Because you are tired. Because you want to take a break!
You are ALLOWED to skip a workout, skip a protein shake, use whatever products you like.
You are ALLOWED to binge watch a Netflix show (I don’t know why MLMs shame people for using their time to watch tv instead of “working the business”)
You are ALLOWED to say you do not have time for another hustle even if an MLM recruiter is trying to tell you that it is easy and you can fit it into the nooks and crannies of your day (when I was heading into my Masters degree where I had a yoga teaching job even though our professors told us we wouldn’t have time for anything but school, an Arbonne rep kept telling me I definitely would have time….. even though I definitely did not)
You are ALLOWED to say no without an excuse/defence/reason.
And you are ALLOWED to quit something that isn’t working for you without being a “failure”.
The culture might seem fun and loving from people’s instagram, youtube and facebook videos, but watching people who have left MLMs, speak about their experiences reveals quite a bit of toxicity in the group. Shaming people for not working hard enough, pushing the self love and positivity narrative where you need to always be positive and confident, and discounting fear are things that I have noticed being repetitive in each person’s experience. People work hard and are allowed to have hard months, are allowed to feel negative and to not feel confidence and self love all the time – even someone who seems to have it all, be flawless, beautiful, smart, wealthy, healthy etc etc etc, can feel low at times and that is NORMAL. Fear and avoiding things that make us anxious is valid – I do it all the time, is it the best thing in the world? No, of course not, but for some people getting over their fear is not as easy as just “pushing through and trying something that scares you”. So remember, if the constant positivity, self love, productivity, facing your fears is the ONLY culture an MLM (or any group for that matter) has…. it’s not realistic and invalidates the human experience.
Finding Self love and confidence outside of an MLM community
So if you are tempted to join an MLM for the growth and community it offers, or if you have just left an MLM and feel like you’re missing those aspects, let’s figure out some ways to get that in a better way!
- Join a facebook group where everyone is working toward an honest self care goal (I just joined one where people are trying to walk 1000 miles in a year, and it is so wholesome and sweet!)
- Grab some personal development books at your local book store! If you need that goal oriented push to read them, journal after each chapter or recruit a few friends to start a book club with you and chat about them! Instagram is also a great place you could share some quotes or learnings from the book for others to enjoy
- Take a reflective journalling journey into what made you feel good in the MLM and try to recreate it in other places. If you need community, search for some free ways to find that in person or virtually! If you’re looking for the learning aspect, there are free courses all over the internet these days! If you are craving running your own business, do some research into what kinds of things people enjoy buying and start your own shop! You can start small with selling items to friends and family, then move to social media and even open up an etsy or shopify store!
- If you enjoy the coaching and mentorship of an MLM, find someone that might provide that in a free way (like a friend or colleague), or look into coaches, therapists or groups that can provide the same service without requiring you to do too much work. I provide coaching, occupational therapy and counselling services and can connect you with others who might do the same!
- If you’re enjoying the products of the MLM, there are loads of blogs and videos that share dupes that are the same or better, and you can get SO MANY virtual workouts these days for free on youtube or through virtual studios, so get searching~
At the end of the day, remember – MLMs are businesses. They are not something that are side hustles that won’t take up much of your time and make you tons of money. If you’re going to put the effort in, start your own business. And if you need that community and confidence, find it with someone who won’t be using your presence to make money.
You are incredible, you can become anything your heart desires, and you can be your own sunshine ❤ I support you always!
If you have left an MLM and feel shame, guilt, trauma etc, please feel free to reach out to me and we can chat – I have spoken to a lot of people who feel lost after leaving, and it’s ok to feel these emotions. You are not alone ❤
Youtube channels about MLMs for further info and reaction videos to toxic videos: