£70 candles, champagne bubble baths and #inspo quotes on Instagram – how are these fake wellness trends REALLY impacting your business?
Let me start by getting one thing straight: wellness is a beautiful word and a deeply important concept. Afterall, it’s the practice (and state) of being in good health, especially when part of a consciously pursued goal.
So, what’s my beef (or *ahem* tofu… #vegan over here)? I can’t help but feel that we’re slowly but surely losing the real meaning of wellness. And that in doing so, it’s becoming a scapegoat for poor business service and a lack of accountability.
We need to stop wellness from becoming a fad. And it should never stand in the way of our values.
It used to be that wellness was something wonderfully unique – it was about our personal pursuit of ‘being well’. This, combined with genuine medical advice and a balanced lifestyle can only be a positive thing. Yet more and more we are battling against a whitewashed, pretty damaging industry where impossible promises are made with a hefty price tag attached. As a result, it’s given us all a ‘get out of jail for free’ card.
I am not writing this article so that you all cross ‘wellness’ out of your dictionary. Far from it. I simply believe that it is our responsibility as business owners to ensure we handle the concept with integrity and purpose.
If wellness (or wellbeing, however you choose to refer to it) is an important part of your business and its values, then you need to make sure that you understand the ancient roots at its heart. As a white woman who is fortunate enough to never have had to experience prejudice due to her race, I won’t even attempt to put this into words as eloquently as Anita Bhagwandas in her sublime article for Glamour about whitewashing and the wellness industry. Here’s a snapshot:
“For me, [that’s] one of the biggest issues with commodifying wellness – who it’s been taken from, and who it’s being marketed to. Lululemon’s British yoga website has only one visibly non-white ambassador in 11, while luxe leisurewear Lucas Hugh has only two pictures of people of colour in 112 photos on its website. Looking at the way yoga, in particular, is packaged and sold, you’d easily think it was primarily for Caucasian, able-bodied, thin, rich women able to do headstands in designer Lycra – the exact opposite of the ‘oneness’ true yoga seeks to bring.”
She’s far from wrong.
When we start to consider our values, I also think it’s crucial that we take a look at the difference between self care and bad business practices. This is something that Steph Sanderson from Innovate + Thrive co discussed in a podcast episode on boundaries, values and ethics. While I am the biggest advocate for prioritising your mental health in business, there are times when these higher boundaries can become so obscenely lengthy that they actually lend themselves to bad customer service. As a business owner, is ignoring emails for weeks on end ever acceptable? Is it okay to totally disregard client feedback because of #wellness?
I think the answer is no. Instead, I believe that the best thing we can do for both ourselves and our clients is to make sure we have people, systems and processes in place that can hold the fort whenever we do need the time to process and reflect. This could look like:
It’s a fine balance, of course. Health is wealth, and without it your business will crumble. But, we also need to remember that there is a stark difference between maintaining consistent boundaries and throwing our values out of the window in pursuit of what we believe to be a formula for wellness.
The genuine joy of wellness (and everything it should represent) is becoming overshadowed by pseudoscience and social media trends.
When I think of the word ‘wellness’ (and the incredible business owners I know who operate in this space), I think of mindfulness, the permission to pause and mental equilibrium. Trace it back, and wellness is rooted in Buddhism, Hinduism and Stoicism. All represent a state of being that focuses on finding inner happiness, free from external validation and… Well, *stuff*.
And yet, of course, you’re now but a scroll away from a product dubbed ‘the ULTIMATE self-care solution’ despite having nada to do with wellbeing. Let’s take booze, for example. It’s a fact that depression and heavy drinking have a mutually reinforcing relationship. Even so, you only have to Google ‘wine and self care’ and you’ll find pages full of articles and advertisements telling you why wine and self care totally go together. Ahem. Just no.
Or, take a hop skip and a jump over the water and you’ll find yourself in the world of Goop – the one place you can buy a candle that apparently boasts the scent of Gwyneth Paltrow’s nether regions which (you guessed it!) is marketed as a wellness product.
There’s an even darker side of the insincere wellness trend too. In 2013, Belle Gibson – an Australian super influencer – shared how (after being told she only had four months to live) she “cured” her inoperable brain cancer through healthy eating. Sadly, the truth was an entirely different story. In 2015, it was found that Belle had been falsely claiming that she was donating a portion of her book and app sales to charity. Shortly after, it was revealed that she was lying about having cancer in a bid to make more sales and build upon her global empire.
Sure, this is an extreme (and absolutely disgraceful) example. But, all around us people are taking advantage of our desperate need to be happier and healthier; and, in doing so, they’re detracting from the people out there who are making a real difference.
Can we bring the pursuit of wellness way back to basics?
Whether wellness is a part of your business or your personal life, perhaps now is the time to fight back against the comparison-itus that this $4.2 trillion global industry promotes and, instead, look inwards and ask ourselves: what does ‘being well’ really mean to me? Is it:
I’d hazard a guess that your answer won’t be a skincare regime that costs more than a house deposit or a candle that smells like a vagina.