the well crafted self
"There is a line, of course, between having fun with rocks and exploiting people’s fears for profit. It is OK to love skin cream and crystals. It is normal and forgivable to be afraid of dying, afraid of cancer, afraid of losing your youth and beauty and the currency they confer. We have no other currency for women. I understand why people spend their lives searching for that one magic supplement, that one bit of lore that will turn their “lifestyle” around and make them small and perfect and valuable for ever." - Lindy West (This article, my own experience and the experience of women around me inspired me to write this post)
So many of us are sold an image of what the perfect version of ourselves is: the product, the man, the job, the body, etc. Essentially, we are taught to hate ourselves and encouraged to actively seek out ways to fix our flaws. And while many of us have swapped our mainstream fashion, magazines and toxic make up for sustainability, self help books and all natural skin care, we haven't exactly traded our self distain for self love. While I think that the move towards wellness becoming mainstream is a positive thing, I am well aware of the subtle desire to be "fixed" by this movement; as if we are broken to begin with.
I've heard other women talk about it before. How they left the NYC fashion world to take a trip to Central America for a 200-hour yoga teacher training. Instead of going out every night after work for cocktails, they began sipping on green juice and using meditation as a way to unwind. And while this all sounds great, they also mentioned how they believed these newfound "healthy" behaviors would save them. Would somehow make them different than they were, shiny like the crystals lining their bedside tables.
We all know how this story ends. No amount of adaptogenic herbs or manifestations come true are going to fix us. I think it's really easy to transfer perfectionism to an industry whose purpose is to self improve. How bad can becoming a better you be? You drop fast fashion, you get a natural high from your kundalini class and swap out plastic for glass. And as a result of the wellness industry becoming more and more popular, it is only likely for you to become more and more involved. Your life is now filled with moon circles and ceremonies and pricey caftans. You are involved in sisterhood and use the words "Goddess" and "Divine feminine" frequently. Suddenly, you are being a good feminist, saving your body, saving the planet, even. You are clean, green and calm. But really, how many of us are actually saving ourselves from the fact, that buried somewhere down deep, is the belief we are unworthy?
Like Lindy touches upon in the quote above, there is nothing inherently wrong in loving any of the things I mentioned; in fact, they can be beautiful experiences. But in a lot of ways, the wellness trend is still feeding off our fears, not to mention that it is also a great way to become self-obsessed.
How am I feeling?
How does my social media look?
What is my brand?
Is my skin glowing?
Am I eating right?
This is not necessarily a realm that says fix the world. We say we are striving to raise the consciousness of the collective, but I don't think this is always the case; it can be much more self centric. In terms of the popular self improvement leaders, I tend to see hour long sessions that range from $200-300 (or more), which let's be honest, most people can't afford; if you aren't offering discounts to people of lower incomes, it isn't real service to me. I also see Instagram feeds filled with their faces, images that often require pricey photographers and staged experiences. I mean, I get it. I've done it. We are all trying to run businesses and make money, which is often referred to as just another form of energy, and perhaps find validation through work. Beyonce and Sophia Amoruso have shown us that we, too, can independently hustle and thrive as "girl bosses." But lately, with everything that is going on in the world, if we are only serving a select group of people or our egos, are we actually being helpful?
The idea that anything "out there" can fix us is a great delusion. And while it is ever so common, it's funny that the spiritual world trains its members to go inwards. I've been on retreats where everyone is on their phones at lunch. I receive messages about how to grow followings on Instagram and often have conversations about how expensive it is to be "well."
So where do we draw the line between living a good life and hiding our self obsession and perfectionism under a lifestyle? I guess it is a personal thing, an ever unfolding journey of self evolving and awareness. I don't think that most of these people participating in wellness are "bad"; instead, I think they just have no idea what is actually happening. Wrapped up in a pretty world, what I have talked about is subtle, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't all actively aim to get real and question who our actions are actually serving.
What is true wellness? Only you can answer that. But to avoid a real cold hard look at the question is, in my opinion, the perfect way to lie to yourself.
Photo by unknown.