The Wellness Industry is Failing Us and Taking Our Money Along the Way
I’ve been in the wellness industry in some way, shape, or form for a little over six years.
Back in the day when Instagram was a fledgling social media app that still showed people’s feeds in chronological order. Before we were being bombarded by detox teas made from magical mushrooms harvested in the Antartic tundras.
When we were a lot less aware of how fucked we all are.
I started as a blogger in the vegan scene. I one day decided to post my dairy-free recipes on a separate account I called Simply Vegan. Well, that was only about a couple of years lived, but I gained a lot of in-depth knowledge about social media marketing in regards to the healthy living industry.
Back then, people were starting their blogs for the most endearing reasons: A woman found out she had Celiac and no longer was able to frequent her favorite restaurants and found it hard to find gluten-free options; a mother had to figure out how to live with autoimmune disease while still making fun meals for her kids; a teenager was sick of being bullied about her size and took up weightlifting to get in shape.
People just wanted to share their stories in hopes that others would resonate.
But now we're in the age of wellness coaches, online courses, mushroom teas, and subscription fitness apps. No longer does someone share a product simply because they actually love it — there’s an incentive involved for them with an illusive #ad buried in a long, scripted caption.
Wellness is a $4.2 trillion (yes, TRILLION) industry. So part of me can’t blame people that want a piece of that very lucrative pie.
But on a smaller scale, the people on social media everyday bombarding us with ads for their elixirs and speaking to your inner-child guides are the people that are making things a lot worse for us all.
Somewhere along the line, we started feeding people the narrative that we’re broken. Not only that, but we won’t be fixed until we achieve this enlighted state at which we are eternally happy. And we must fight, blood, sweat, and tears, to get there.
But, guess what? That state will never come.
The famous Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, talks about suffering and the natural fluctuation of human emotions in his book Man’s Search For Meaning.
“Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.”
- Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning
Pain, bringing on suffering, is an inevitable human emotion. We cannot possibly foresee how each of our days will go; we can attempt to grasp onto our emotions tightly with great control, but there will eventually come the point where pain will overcome us.
So then if the pain is inevitable, why are our social media feeds littered with positivity quotes that pressure us into feeling like we need never to feel this emotion?
Well, there’s a lot of money to be made from people continually pursuing a better life for themselves.
And that’s where the wellness industry comes in.
Instead of working to make us “well,” these coaches, collagen powders, and Instagram doctors are making us very much un-well. They’re giving us a mindfuck in terms of our mental sanity.
Banking on the fact that consumers will always be looking for the next thing to make them happy plays into the idea of the “Backwards Law” coined by philosopher Alan Watts.
“When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; but when you try to sink, you float’ and that ‘insecurity is the result of trying to be secure.”
- Alan Watts
He describes the phenomena of continually grasping at something, only to watch it slip through your fingers even more. When we as human continually strive to achieve a state of eternal happiness, it actually evades us even more.
That’s how the wellness industry thrives. We’re regularly buying more products, trying new workouts, and seeking more advice — all to achieve a final state of “happiness.” People are banking out there that the Backwards Law’s description of a fatal flaw will work out in their favor.
But for us as consumers, that final state will never come because, as humans, we endure suffering. And that suffering is what allows us to appreciate the joyful parts of our lives.
It makes me tear up just thinking about this. I see it almost every day on Instagram, vulnerable people searching for answers, only to be met with people who mastered sales funnels and over-promise the impact they can give.
There are legitimate health and mental issues that some people seek help and answers for when they have exhausted other options. I do believe some blogs and doctors can help in those particular areas of expertise. In these specific cases, I genuinely believe the wellness industry is beautiful.
Unfortunately, that’s not the reality we’re living in. In today’s wellness era, we’re all made to feel like we need to be healed.
Wellness isn’t supposed to be complicated; it isn’t supposed to make us feel overwhelmed. Surviving life as a human isn’t supposed to be this complicated — and it sure as hell isn’t supposed to be this expensive.
Because really, do we need to be washing a slew of different vitamins down with ashwagandha tea while reading our mantras aloud to ourselves just before we hop on a call with our self-love coach, which all needs to get done before our live webinar on aligning our chakras?
Or do we just need to save our money, go for a walk, and lean into being human?