New Year is coming so, before you sign up for YET another new “spiritual” self-improvement program, consider these thoughts (see extract below) from Casey Conroy, which mirror mine pretty darn closely. In fact, I feel like I had been keeping an eye out for someone…anyone…saying it like it seems to be to me, on this topic, as she does in the linked article.
Meanwhile, consider instead that the self-improvement “work” you “need” to do is an inside job and calls for no one else to tell you how…since its organic, free, probably quite unlike anyone else’s journey of personal transformation and is guided by the signposts of enJOYment. In otherwords, if it feels good, you are probable on track.
This is that extract from Casey’s article, which nails some disquieting feelings I’ve been having around spiritual “programs” for quite some time:
“Despite the sexy, spiritual wrapping of inner-goddess-path-to-success workshops, overpriced juice cleanses, body-beautifying yoga challenges and expensive detox retreats, the Sexy Successful Spiritual Woman ideal is yet another marketing tool that feeds off a woman’s sense of “You’re not good enough.”
You’re not thin, successful, sexy, or conscious enough. Let me fix that for you.
It’s just better disguised than the old Beauty Myth or the Feminine Mystique of years past, in this case by quasi-spiritual, female empowerment disguise-wearing, be-a-goddess/unicorn/mermaid BS. Ironic really, given how disempowering targeting this common vulnerability in women, is. And sad, because it’s carried out – not by men – but primarily by both new and experienced business women.
And although there may be payment plans to “accommodate for the poor”, they often cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars more than the original product in “administration fees”. Payment plans like this capitalise on a person’s poverty, which is antithetical to the “love and light for all” catch cry these businesswomen are selling.
The SSSW ideal hinges on the belief that we too can attain the perfect body, unbounded financial success and an aura of sereneness to boot… if we could only think positively, get a yoga / pilates body, and of course, buy whatever it is that’s being seductively placed under our noses.
In short, marketing of the Sexy Successful Spiritual Woman ideal relies on feelings of inadequacy and shame in the women it targets. This is in direct opposition to what the businesswomen who employ these tactics are allegedly trying to create: confident, capable women who respect and love themselves unconditionally.
It’s a fake movement of pretending to be empowering masses of women, when in actual fact these businesses do nothing to further actual social justice issues. Rather, they focus on “improving the individual” by turning her into the ideal woman, without actually lifting up an entire group of marginalised people. Real empowerment elevates both the individual AND the collective.
Far from empowering women, this kind of marketing actually disempowers them by colluding with and perpetuating the oppressive patriarchal institutions that co-opted this bullshit ideal woman diversion in the first place.
As Kelly Diels (writer on The Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand) says, “these women are not actually trying to lead or create change. They’re trying to build personal empires.” ‘
What irks me is the fundamental mechanism behind this marketing ideal: it underestimates the intelligence and moral substance of women by relying on the fact that most of us have swallowed our social conditioning hook, line, and sinker. The conditioning that teaches us that the most important things in our vapid little lives are to be beautiful, to be sweet, to be successful (but not so successful that we scare the boys), and to be ‘spiritual’ – which is too often codeword for confident, positive, loving, and never, ever angry.
Finally, I’m sad. Sad because I work in a field where I see just some of the casualties…who’ve blown year of savings on “life changing” goddess programs or “empowering” female business development courses, only to come out the other end more confused, broke and looking for the next program to save them or finally get their micro-business off the ground.”
This is just an extract of an excellent article…and I do heartily recommend reading the rest of it if you are interested in cultural currents or are caught in this particular slipstream. It can be so refreshing to realise you need none of it to be and do all you ever wanted, as appropriate to your own personal aspirations, gifts and body type and not some airbrushed spiritual ideal. If you like to have a New Year’s resolution to get you up and started in January, why not commit to spending more time with yourself; I mean, really with yourself, paying attention fully. After all, somebody else’s program is always going to be just that…somebody else‘s program!
How the ‘Sexy Successful Spiritual Ideal’ Hurts Us – Casey Conroy (with deep gratitude for articulating what I wanted to say).
Related (and recommended) reading:
Kelly Diels, writer and feminist marketing consultant, writes about The Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand (“not a good thing” in her view as its “bad for women and marginalized people” and “undermines many women and gender non-conforming entrepreneurs striving to rise”).
In one of her articles, she points out that many of the countless number of self-proclaimed empowerment entrepreneurs setting up in business draw, knowingly or second-hand, on a formula offered by Jeff Walker in his book called “Launch”.
Walker recommends certain triggers to activate in your potential client base in order to garner a following. These, in brief, are scarcity, authority, and community. If we perceive something as being scarce, we will give it more value; if we consider someone to be an authority figure, we are influenced by that person; and if we consider ourselves part of a community, we act in accordance with how we think the people in that community are supposed to act.
This latter “trigger”, in my experience, is used as extraordinarily powerful leverage when appealing to women who otherwise feel isolated or as though they long, with every ounce of their being, to be annexed to some far-bigger “party” that seems to be going on amongst all the other spiritual females they know. This is just an illusion propogated by social media…but one which is often triggered in women who are in the early stages of their spiritual awakening which is, by necessity, a lonely, deeply personal and often quite unsettling process so, if other women seem to be doing it all-together in one big happy “family”, that lonely woman will automatically feel as though she is missing out or doing something “wrong”. When they think they see a whole gang of other women seemingly having a blast doing all this spiritual work together, making great strides under the instruction of some so-called woman guru who seems to have it all and is like some sort of big-sister-best-friend to them all (for a fee…), they long to join in and will pay almost any price to be included.
Yes, in the very early stages of my own wake-up process, somewhere around the 2010-12 mark, this used to be me, paying out massive fees for access to material and communities which, at best, offered nothing more than what I already innately knew, “packaged up” to look glossy and mysterious or, at worst, a complete waste of time and a crashing disappointment. I never fit in with the glossy-seeming friendships I imagined were there waiting for me and found those communities to be brimfull of all the same playground politics as I remembered from school. Often, I would feel quite sick at what I had to shell out to gain access to what I truly hoped would be “it” (this thing I was constantly looking for), at a time of my life when I was bearly earning a thing due to the profound health issues I had. Everything I really need to know was already there, it turned out, just waiting for me to allow it up to surface through the layers of my own experiential adventure…yes, there were no shortcuts and it was lonely and intense at times, but it had to be that way since no one else is like me or has my story to process through; which goes for all of us. We are the way we are because we have lived that story and we unravel it when we stop thinking we are like anyone else, with a formula key for the door.
So why do we do it? Seeking an authority figure to guide the way is such an ingrained human behaviour and women have it more deeply wired into them than they realise, coming from centuries of entrainment. Diels quotes the part of Walker’s book where he cites an anecdote from his own life, when a friend of his managed to direct their car out of gridlock congestion by jumping out into the road and using a flashlight to act like a figure of authority, directing other vehicles to move so they could get theirs out. People in the other cars just assumed he was in some sort of authority position, because he was holding a light, and followed his directions like sheep. People offering “spiritual enlightenment” programs can act a lot like that…as though they have a flashlight and the authority to wield it…when, in reality, we all have our own internal flashlight, the question being when will we ever get around to switching it on or even notice we have it if we keep looking outside of ourselves for guidance? Whilst I subscribe to people whose work interests and resonates with me, I regard them as peers, not gurus, and its been a very long time since I paid for access to anyone else’s methodology since I trust my own implicity, way above anything that could ever be “packaged”.
Given our shared facination with this topic, I have to say that I plan to explore more of Diel’s writing as its refreshing to come across someone who is prepared to cut through the latest version of BS like a hot knife through butter.
Great post- I’ve been writing about this for the last few years.Once you grasp inside out thinking or Three Principles,you free yourself from any lingering pressure to”work” on yourself.However,the attraction and craving for what appears to be the new,the answer,the next shiny thing is far more appealing than the solo,often lonely,process of living your life as a creation,on your own terms.
I enjoy your writing as a fellow INFJ,
Oh another INFJ, lovely to connect as there are so few about as you know (I think you are my first outside of some pretty unsatisfying FB forums where no one seems to like being INFJ…I love it and wouldnt be any other way). Thank you for that feedback, makes it feel all the more worthwhile. All the best, Helen.
Excellent post Helen. As you know, I have recently experienced this through the life coaching free program I was part of. I will admit, it was fun to do the daily challenges, but then it very, very quickly became a sales pitch of the most intense kind. And, there was a strong vibe of not being one of the cool kids if you didn’t choose to be “in sisterhood” with the others. The fee was absolutely over the top. Now, I see this same woman running the challenge again in order to gain more followers for the lifestyle and system she promises will be successful. I am grateful for your words and those you’ve linked. I will check these out as this is a hot topic for me. These programs feel inauthentic to ME!
With love and appreciation,
Thank you so much for speaking out about this Kat…I knew you had been through it but to be prepared to say it outloud where others may benefit from your frankness is huge and leaps us all way beyond any hurt pride we may have once associated with these kinds of experience into a new place where we grow from them. I sense a sea change around this topic, its feeling like time for yet another shift! Appreciating you right back for speaking out x