I’m so excited to explore the final section in our series on the internet influencer and how we can protect ourselves from predatory marketing, manipulation and being sold a bill of goods.
Today I want to dive into how we can interact with this world of self help and spirituality in way that allows us to get what IS beneficial, while avoiding what’s only going to lead to more harm, confusion and obfuscation of what we need.
If you’ve not already done so, please do read:
Now, let’s wrap this baby up, shall we?
The Missing Piece Is Systems Thinking
With all the N1 advice, all the ignoring of where they come from and where other people may be coming from, all the lack of time spent actually diving deep into what they are teaching and without the ability to see the world from a larger context - we see a lot of our influencers sell things that are simply blatantly false, or only helpful for the very few.
They often ignore systems, they ignore that we are born into certain conditions, certain bodies, certain places and space that aren’t within our control and that have a MAJOR impact on our life experience.
They ignore that change is subtle, nuanced and different for everyone.
They sell magic bullets instead of multiple tools to add to our tool belts.
They oversimplify, dramatize and make transformation look like ONLY a personal choice - and in this, they deeply mislead people via tapping into our cognitive bias’ and vulnerabilities.
Oftentimes, they don’t even know that they’re doing this - and that’s part of what makes a lot of them so good at selling.
They don’t see that perhaps for THEM they were their only obstacle. For THEM perhaps it was just a matter of working harder or setting their mind right. For THEM they took for granted all the access they had and the foundations that allowed them to do what they did. And so they are convinced that their success came from just working harder than everyone else/finding some secret they can now disseminate for a pretty penny.
This is the issue.
We have to think critically about where our guru’s are coming from, their histories, their level of privilege and access and we have to be REALLY honest with ourselves about whether or not what they’re selling ACTUALLY applies to us.
We have to be willing to take what they are selling with a grain of salt.
We have to have healthy skepticism.
We have to adjust our own expectations so that they’re realistic - these people may have PARTS of the solution, tools, help - but they are never going to have everything you need and there’s no simple solution to complex problems.
We have to be willing to admit where our issues are multifactorial - and if we’re being sold a ONE SOLUTION - knowing that something is being missed.
We have to guard ourselves from manipulation/ignorance on the part of the guru/teacher/guide so that we don’t get sucked in.
Because these people are always going to exist, and they are always going to use storytelling and emotion to connect with people - and this is how we get manipulated into buying things that aren’t real.
We have to start to witness our own bias and our own tendency to want to believe things - and we have to catch ourselves in that.
We have to look for history and the bigger picture so that we’re not sucked into the dream of perfect solutions, perfect power and complete knowledge that will rescue us from having to try things, make mistakes and experience confusion and set-backs on our own paths forward.
We have to look for where our emotions are being manipulated, where things ‘look’ a certain way but may not BE a certain way - and we have to allow ourselves to KNOW that perfect doesn’t exist - only progress.
This is hard work, and again in our world that is constantly selling us quick and perfect fixes, it’s a battle to maintain this healthier, measured perspective - especially when we’re feeling lost, desperate or a lot of pain. It’s HARD to do this.
But these people are always going to be there to take advantage of those who don’t - so we have to do this for ourselves.
How Do We Interact With These People?
Again, all this is not to say that there aren’t truly helpful people out there doing 100% legitimate and helpful work. Of COURSE there are tools in the self help/spirituality world that do give us tools to help make our lives better. Of course there are people who are sharing valuable insights and information that, when applied, will benefit you.
What we want to look for is nuance, scope of practice, steps, and a reasonable level of competency in the people we are taking information from.
What we want is to realize that anyone selling PERFECT solutions is likely selling at BEST a step, and at WORST a scam.
We want to realize that while it’s totally reasonable to use ‘pain points’ in marketing so as to demonstrate what the tool or technique is going to do for us - we want to watch out for emotional manipulation in the sense that we want to really be mindful of any messaging that centers around the idea that ONLY THIS PERSON has the ONE answer to your problems. We want to be wary of people who say that they’ve discovered some as yet unknown ‘secret’ that will unlock the healing that so many people are searching for. We want to be VERY careful with anyone claiming to have a cure-all for COMPLEX issues like anxiety, depression, chronic illness, finding the PERFECT partner/job and so on. We want to take everything we read, hear and see with a grain of salt. We want to be able to read testimonials that claim ‘total healing’ or that this thing ‘fixed everything’ and realize that a lot of the time what we’re ACTUALLY reading is people sharing short term results and people looking for approval from the guru by being ‘good students.’ It’s so important that we look to where we really want to BELIEVE that there’s a perfect answer/solution that’s going to fix our pain and where people want to sell us that there is a perfect solution - and we want to be able to step back and be measured in our expectations.
We want to ask ourselves - if what they are selling ISN’T going to fix EVERYTHING, but if it may be a STEP for me - am I still willing to try it? Does it still interest me? If I know it won’t be the be-all-end-all, no matter how much they want me to believe it will be, am I still drawn to this thing? If the answer is yes, proceed with caution and moderated expectation. If the answer is no, then I suggest letting it go.
We want to be really honest with ourselves about the people we’re listening to and if they are actually a reasonable source of information. We want to again not be totally drawn in by how someone looks, by how they are presenting themselves and their lifestyle, how they are posturing their relationships and the way they are filtering their content so as to ‘appear’ to be whatever they are attempting to appear as. We want to take a step back and look for credentials, look for actual lengthy experience, where they have knowledge of experience OUTSIDE of their own personal one, we want to look for where they actually started and the whole SYSTEM that got them to where they are now and see if that entire picture applies to us. We want to be honest with ourselves that no one got anywhere through a single thing - so as much as we can see if the person we’re looking at journeyed through a similar SET of circumstances as us. We want to get super honest with ourselves if their stories make sense, or if it’s possible they are dramatizing.
Next, we want to look for a pattern of repeatedly coming out with a relatable problem, selling the solution, then coming back 6 months later with the same problem and a NEW solution. We want to really watch for people and their tendency to sell different things with the same ‘miracle solution’ narrative over and over again - and again - be skeptical. Has the person you’re following come out with a meditation program for their depression, then a while later it was a supplement, then it was a new therapy style which you can read about in their book - and so on? If so again, be measured in your expectation of what they’re selling.
If the person is claiming to have the secrets to manifesting abundance/business success that ANYONE could have - we want to be REALLY careful here. We want to look to see if the person ever actually had a successful business, or if they only became successful via selling that they could teach you how to be successful. We want to look for the content they share and if it’s actionable and not just stuff you can google. We want to be SUPER careful with anyone claiming that the secret is something energetic or spiritual - which can be a ‘part’ of things, but will not make up for the lack of a marketing strategy, qualifications and skill. We want to be careful with anyone saying that they can teach ANYONE to be successful, and telling people to start before they’re ready or actually qualified. If they are encouraging people to ‘invest in themselves’ via buying very expensive coaching or programs, if they really want money to come back to them, we want to see that as a massive red flag.
We want to be careful of para-social connection. We want to really guard ourselves against being pulled into ideologies and programs and products because we feel ‘connected’ to someone who we don’t actually know and who doesn’t actually know us. We want to again really be careful to assess if what they are talking about actually applies to us, or if we’re just feeling connected to the person and that is softening our boundaries and making us feel more open to suggestion than we usually would be. We want to be clear on the difference between liking someone and the content they share about themselves and their lives, and their ability to actually help US where WE are as an individual.
We want to again realize that while we may be seeing people in ways that make us FEEL like we really *know* them - this just likely isn’t real reality. We don’t actually know the people who’s content we’re consuming, no matter how much they appear to be vulnerable and authentic. We don’t know all the parts of their lives they’re not sharing, they’re not taking about and that they may not even be aware of themselves. We don’t know their history. We don’t know their minds and hearts. We have to be very aware of our desire to feel seen, heard and validated by people and how much social media feeds us a fake version of this in order to generate sales.
Finally, we want to be super clear on where the person we’re listening to is coming from. We want to understand, as best we can, the conditions that are creating their experience, so that we can understand deeply how their actions are impacting that experience. We want to be honest with ourselves if the obstacles that were in their way and if the help and support they had mirrors our own reality - and this will give us a good idea as to whether or not doing what they did (or even what they claim to have done) is going to have a similar impact on our lives as it did them and theirs. We again want to be honest that we can’t ever really know everything that they had at their disposal, that they were going through and that was going on behind the scenes so again, we want to be measured in all of our expectations around results we’re going to get while following people and their programs.
There is a tonne of value out there in the self help and spirituality world. We want to be clear that not everyone is scamming, not everything is fake and not everything is exaggerated. We want to understand that therapy and individual attention isn’t perfect, that there are just as many uniformed and harmful trained professionals out there as there are grifters in the self help space.
At the end of the day, everyone who is offering support or wisdom in any space is just a human. We have some good information, we have some good tools and awareness and there are people sharing and spreading those things in ALL spheres.
We have to be the ones to see our own patterns of wanting a perfect solution, of leaning into manipulative sales tactics, of looking for solutions where solutions don’t exist and looking for connections where that doesn’t exist. We want to think critically about everything we take in, and we want to look for context and the broader picture. We want to be aware of our own vulnerability and go into our interactions with self help with those in mind.
We can find the good within the mess - it just takes a lot of self awareness and practice to do so.
So with all of that - what do YOU think? Was this helpful? I’d love to hear your thoughts below!