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Wellness Can’t be Sold

How corporate coopting of wellness has misconstrued and disempowered individuals in their journey to living better lives.

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Gwyneth Paltrow's Wellness brand "Goop" partners with Lululemon in live events, co-opting the ancient practice of yoga in to a western exercise program.
Gwyneth Paltrow's Wellness brand "Goop" partners with Lululemon in live events, co-opting the ancient practice of yoga in to a western exercise program.

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Rounding out the month of January, which started with my Instagram feed being saturated with decades and years in review, top posts from the year, and the unmistakable lists of resolutions-I wanted to write for those who may not feel much different after a month of going after these new goals; goals which are inspired not from love but are rooted in cultural conditioning. When we set these goals constantly, it reveals our implicit belief that we should be different from ourselves and constantly be focused on how to be “better” humans. The majority of these resolutions are undoubtedly singularly self-focused, and related to our current version of wellness- exercise and diet regimens, extensive and complicated skincare routines and of course, our bank accounts.

I will never denounce someone for making time for self-care, for trying to set goals and better themselves, but my point is only in cautioning individuals from allowing social media and influencer culture to make those goals for you. My point in this article is not to make commentary about those who pursue wellness, but to question the systematic way in which the marketing of wellness fails to provide individuals with a full picture of what living a life that is “well”, contented, and healthy, actually entails. Don’t get me wrong, I myself am a yoga teacher, and I drink smoothies and do face masks, but at the basis of these practices are joy and nourishment- not ways I prove myself to others. I certainly don’t believe these routines make me a better human than I was before I adopted these practices.

This dualistic consumeristic culture has bred and amplified countless wellness fads by preying upon the egoic fear of death and lack of security. The society we have been raised in has conditioned us to believe that external conditions and things we own are the source of our security and joy. But the hard truth is that nothing outside yourself can make you well, or at peace, if there is no connection to the truth of who we are. Wellness is not something we achieve, it is our default, our true nature. It is the nature that is revealed to us when we clear out the conditioning and heal the limiting beliefs that have led us to believe we are only worthy based on what we do, not by just being.

By selling wellness as a way to “optimize our productivity” we reconstruct our days as ways to get more done, instead of enjoying the days we have more. We no longer are humans, but individual data points- our calories consumed, steps taken, minutes meditating, etc. The point of being “well” or healthy isn’t to do the most, it’s to be content, to enjoy and thrive in our lives and not constantly be striving toward some invisible, future utopian body that we’ll live in. Corporations aren’t selling wellness, they are selling dependency, and any motivation we have that has an external locus of control is not something that lasts.

Another aspect that influencers and wellness advocates won’t mention is the economic factor; the wellness trend simply isn’t accessible for those who are economic minorities. In the scarcity economy, wellness is sold with the intention of it being an exclusive perk for the privileged- which leaves those who aren’t apart of the cult-like fad, striving toward a social media approved and idealistic image that is frighteningly similar to that of supermodel/diet culture. The belief being cultivated subconsciously to those on the outside is that they are missing out on something innate to a good life, but in reality, a good life doesn’t start and end with what we consume physically- it’s more about what we consume emotionally, socially, and psychologically- what is our self-talk like, our relationships, our spirituality and faith in the world around us?

Wellness isn’t exclusive; the corporate co-optation of what it means to be “well” has misconstrued the resolutions and goals of countless women (and men). We should not be beating ourselves over not completing the perfect, “instagrammable” morning routine, but rather figuring what makes our hearts sing, making mistakes, and avoiding social comparison at all costs. I do believe in rituals, but rituals should be sacred to the individual, and not another thing to add to the endless checklist of ways to make yourself worthy in a production-based culture. Worth is not measurable; this false narrative has been propagated by the belief that we must compete to prove our value, but the endless chase for perfection is burning out our spirit.

Let’s make 2020 the year we go inward instead of looking externally for the validation that we are taking care of ourselves in the right way. By preaching to others what is best for them and their mental/physical health, we disempower individuals from their innate wisdom and connection to their intuition. It is a hard truth for the mind to grasp that it will disintegrate at some point, and so it tries to prolong its life and grasp for a sense of control through products promising longevity and anti-aging effects. But once we understand our souls are eternal and our purpose in this physical realm is to experience the expansion our consciousness, we realize we don’t have to strive so hard and avoid pain at all costs, it is simply a part of life that we can relate to in an entirely new way.

So I implore you to analyze why it is that you have set different goals, is it because you think they will make you worthy, make you seem better to the external world, or is it to avoid your current reality and fantasize that things will be better “once I achieve x,y,z….”. I think a way to make a new year’s resolution that you know is rooted in your own values and can help you to decide if it is truly for you, is to inquire whether you would continue or even embark on such a new ritual whether or not society thought you “should” do it. If society believed it was wrong to embark on such a journey, there would be no Instagram stories of your workout, vegan meal, or skincare haul; just your own satisfaction in knowing that you are able to cultivate your own joy and explore new ways to expand the love in your life. Whether or not these things are a part of your life temporarily or permanently, that is how we become more expansive beings living purposefully.

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More Thrive on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis

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