As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been rethinking some stuff lately- I know lots of us have over the past couple of years.
For me, it’s been driven by a combo of…
- I’d just sold my old biz before COVID hit
- Pandemic life in general
- Observing the wellness industry throughout pandemic life
- Traumatic life event
- Graduating from that very intense stage of very early motherhood into something more spacious
- Committing to my intersectional feminist education
- Activism in my local community (I work with friends to run a Community Care Bank and we protest Tory fuckery and stuff)
- Making new friends with a wider range of perspectives
- Training in an ICF CCE Accredited Programme with Sas Petherick
- Being in regular therapy for over a year now
All of this (and I’m sure other stuff I’ve not thought of) has contributed to the shifts in perspective I am sharing.
Babes. I totally understand that you might not wanna hear about it. I get that it might be discombobulating, activating, confusing, annoying, etc. I wont blame you if you unsubscribe, unfollow, mute, or whatever.
It’s also fine, lovely even, if you don’t agree with me but you wanna stay and hear me out.
I’m writing this email today because I’ve had a fair few chats with people about how difficult it feels to confront the shortcomings or painful consequences of a belief system or framework you’ve been committed to, and I’d like to unpack it a bit here. AND ALSO- I’ve had some convos along the lines of “ok but you’re not presenting an alternative, so what am I meant to do now?”, and I really want to pick up on some stuff here too.
(If you’re NOT struggling with what I’ve been sharing, and you agree with me, you might find what follows helpful for having discussions with people in your own life).
So, first up: IT MAKES TOTAL SENSE that you might feel huge resistance to critique of an embedded perspective, especially from someone who used to share that view with you, and/ or who you otherwise like and/ or agree with about stuff.
I remember how I felt when I saw Derren Brown and Brian Cox poo pooing (is that how you spell it that phrase?!) mainstream self help culture and the hijacking of quantum physics. I felt pissed off. Betrayed, even. Mugged off. “I can’t like them anymore. It must be their white maleness just making them think they know better than everyone else. Screw them and their closed mindedness.” It’s an understandable response to a disturbance in our world view.
Psychologically, we tend to enjoy ‘sameness’ (continuity, consistency, agreement) much of the time- ESPECIALLY during times when there is a lot of risk across our lives.
If we were all feeling really safe and stable, really valued in our wholeness, cared for, accepted, rested, nourished… (if we weren’t worried about the cost of living crisis, or climate change, or our rights to bodily autonomy being removed, or what our kids are being exposed to online, if we had robust community care, healthcare, Universal basic income, etc etc)… In those circumstances, it would be NBD to have someone come along and be like, “Hey, have you noticed some stuff here that doesn’t quite add up? I think it might be bad for us as a collective”. One might argue that in those circumstances, many of these concepts I’ve been raising would have been forgotten anyway. But if not, if we were all soothed and connected to one another, it’d probs be like, “hmmm, that’s interesting”, followed by reflection and discussion, whilst continuing to FEEL fine.
BUT THAT IS NOT WHERE WE ARE BABES. I know you know this.
We are living through an era of late stage Capitalism, where White Supremacy and Patriarchy come to play, AND we’ve just done 2 years of next level shitshow adulting where we have experienced schism after schism after schism. I can totally understand if you’re like NO NOT ANOTHER ONE.
Sameness is comfortable. We don’t always want it, but sometimes it feels like we need it. Difference is disruptive. Again- if we were shiny happy people holding hands, a bit of difference every now and then might be psychologically thrilling. And despite our social pressures, at certain times in our lives, most of us will desire that things be shaken up in some way.
Perhaps this is how you first came to be interested in the Girl Boss Feminism/ Spiritual Hijacking/ Manifestation Soup in the first place? The sameness became too tedious. “There must be another perspective out there- something to help me make sense of all this and bring me some optimism about life again”. When we are seeking it, difference can be delightful. When it is thrust upon us, it can be really hard going.
This strongly reflects my experience. I became interested in this stuff when I’d recently become a mother, and my sense of self was obliterated.
I had thought I was a high achieving retail manager. I had thought we didn’t need feminism because I earned more money than my husband. (I know babes…)
I had identified so strongly with my day to day activities- my work, my achievements there, my place in the hierarchy, my interactions with others who saw the world in a certain way, my income, my appearance, etc etc, that when all of this was disrupted, so was my sense of self.
You know the whole- if a tree falls down in the forest and no one hears it, did it make a sound? It was like that. If I lived a day at home with my baby and no one reinforced my ideas about who I was, did I even exist?
This is a totally normal stage of our psychological development- experiencing ourselves as a function of how others experience us.
And when we lose our place in a group, it’s normal for us to seek out spaces where we will experience ‘belonging’, or what we perceive to be belonging (and is more likely ‘fitting in’).
And so I found myself postnatally depressed, lonely, lost, sad, so so tired, disconnected. Nothing made much sense to me anymore. I decided to start a business teaching hypnobirthing, and thus my adventures in the wellness and self development industry commenced. (And alongside it, as a birth worker, my adventures in feminism- this is an interesting combo).
Once my own experiences in becoming a mother had led me to difference from my old world view, I found plenty of ideas that seemed to give words to my feelings- that there must be more meaning in life than I had previously imagined when I’d been reading the Daily Mail all the time, that life actually IS unfair on women, etc. It was such a relief to find an existing framework to cling onto, a ready made group to slot into, brimming with people who were willing, nay thrilled, to let me know how life ACTUALLY WORKS. Phew.
And this is the phase I think some of the people who are struggling with my relentless naming of the problems might be wading through now. Identity threatened, ‘belonging’ threatened, ideologically homeless.
And so this feeling of resentment (maybe too strong a term, but you know) that I am not presenting ‘and this is what we are doing instead, THIS is how life ACTUALLY works, THIS is how to boost your wellness, THIS is how to think about things to alleviate the existential stress you experience in our society…’ makes absolute sense. It’s natural for us to wonder… WHERE DO I BELONG NOW THEN? WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?
And also-I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU ARE LEAVING ME TO FIGURE IT OUT ON MY OWN!
Because babes, I notice four key factors driving this hard
- the psychological demand for a sense of simplicity, possibly heightened by recent experiences
- the human yearning for belonging and connection
- the way that same culture tells us we do not belong with anyone who isn’t in complete agreement with us
- the way the wellness/ self development/ mainstream mindset culture has trained us to wait to be told what’s what, rather than think about it for ourselves
I think we’ve explored the first 2 a bit already, so let’s get into the other 2.
I saw a post just this morning saying, ‘you’re not lonely, God is just separating you from the people who can’t go to the next level.’ What the actual bejeesus?! I demand to know what these levels are. All I can think about is Super Mario. Babes, I don’t believe our human existence is meant to be a relentless climbing trip. And what if I love those people who aren’t going to make it? The post was such a good summary or representation of the lack of acknowledgement of our (individual and collective) human needs that runs throughout this industry.
And on being told what to think- MY 7 STEP FORMULA. THE EXACT CODES FOR THIS THAT AND THE OTHER. MY BLUEPRINT. MY FRAMEWORK. THE SECRET. The way someone running with this will do a Facebook/ Instagram live and say something provocative, black and white, oversimplified and stripped of all context to the point of meaninglessness, then stare at the camera to ‘let that sink in’. Followed by wild gesticulation, perhaps banging hands on the desk for emphasis, and loads of heavy pauses and intense stares later they will present you with the confronting question- what are you willing to do in demonstration of your acceptance of what they have told you (and hundreds of other people with completely different experiences) about HOW LIFE WORKS AND WHAT YOU NEED TO DO etc.
(And babes, let me say- I have done this. I have played the part of enlightened, connected, evolved, wise, liberated woman dishing out ‘tough love’ and ‘truths’. Because you have to have a ridiculous amount of conviction and confidence, charisma even, to be ‘successful’ at that stuff. AND because in my experience- you believe what you are saying! You’ve gotten to a point where you think you know everything).
How comforting for some of us to encounter someone who knows everything. Again- THANK ALL THE GODS FOR THIS SIMPLE CLARITY IN AN OTHERWISE EXHAUSTINGLY COMPLEX WORLD.
In contrast, what I’m offering up now is
- I don’t know
- Perhaps in some circumstances
- For some people
I absolutely acknowledge that there are some incredibly supportive concepts in the wellness and self development space. I also think it’s important for us to think about where they came from, what contexts they might have been grounded in (like community care, life in harmony with the earth, etc) and how they have been filtered for a Capitalist culture. And this appropriation is a whole other topic.
I’m over 1800 words in, and in alignment with the messiness I’ve just described, I’m going to resist trying to wrap this up in a neat, tidy and amusing bow.
Instead, I’m gonna offer you big booms of thanks for reading all this, and for sitting in this space with me. I’m gonna promise to continue learning in public and sharing as I go.
I’m gonna mention ONE LAST TIME because there are a few new people here that you can access my recent workshop Mindset: But Make it Feminist here, and ALL THE MONEY will go to All Rise Collective Community Care Bank, where we distribute toiletries to people struggling with Government inflicted poverty.
The first piece of feedback I received was this:
“This was an insightful, thought-provoking, surprising and brilliantly hosted session. It was brilliant to connect with people with so many different experiences to really dig into some of the subjects covered and get a different understanding. I really appreciated that we didn’t shy away from the tough stuff and it was an opportunity for shared vulnerability and gentle calling in. Such an incredibly worthwhile way to spend time in connection, thank you Keri.”
This post was originally an email- if you know anyone who would like these emails, they can get them here.