The mlms are out for the holidays and they want to make you a bossbabe or #girlboss! By now we all know I’m staunchly against anything #girlboss, #bossbabe or anything that remotely sounds like that. I find it to be infantilizing, filled with toxic positivity, perpetuating grind culture and it tends to target the vulnerable. It’s not because I think the women spreading this culture are evil – it’s because it’s remotely cult-like and triggers sorority girl memories that I would rather keep repressed. Because at one point I too drank the kool aid. I have fallen for the too good to be true motivational candy. And I’ve done it more than once. Usually that comes in the form of MLMs but today I’m going to highlight a few ways it’s snuck into our less obvious potentially problematic organizations.
**Before we begin this blog is my opinion and observation of bossbabe culture. It is not an attack on any one organization, company or sisterhood**
Bossbabe culture feeds us too good to be true motivation. Our too good to be true motivational candy is out there to dupe us into thinking we need to be more. A favorite example of mine is Beyonce (love her – this example has little to do with her as a person but just stick with me on this). Have you ever had someone try to motivate you by saying that YOU have the same number of hours in the day as Beyonce so you could be just as productive as her? That is a lie. It’s a fallacy. Sure, we all get 24 hours in a day but Beyonce has a team to help her…I run my business solo (with Brenton as my volunteer editor). We cannot all be like Beyonce – it’s bullshit. We don’t have her team, her resources and even if we did we are all still uniquely different people with different goals and life plans.
But, it’s easy to fall for these overly simplistic motivational statements. I know this first hand because I have done it. I don’t necessarily consider myself gullible but these statements feed off our fears, they tell us that anything is possible, they play into our optimism and hope that we can have it all (which maybe we can but its not doing to show up thanks to a toxic positivity quote). So I’m going to share with you my mistakes. Because I have a handful of times I’ve fallen for the candy, I wanted something so bad I was willing to ignore the warning signs – and to tell you that you should never be ashamed of getting tricked. But, you should be ashamed if you intentionally trick others.
Bossbabe and toxic positivity
Bossbabe culture utilizes toxic positivity as a marketing tool. Toxic positivity breeds in sisterhoods. Not legitimate sisterhoods, I’m talking about the sisterhoods you pay for. So joining a sorority at 19 was not my best decision. If you really think about it, a sorority can be like a mlm without the reward of income. You get suckered in, love bombed by your new friends for a quarter. You have to attend events, pay money to be told that you have to follow rules that don’t make any sense and then you are asked to recruit new friends BUT you can’t actually talk about what you do. (We were not allowed to talk about boys, booze, politics, money, or anything else that actually matters when joining a sorority). Since we weren’t allowed to blatantly talk about things we had to beat around the bush and ask probing questions like “have you taken any family vacations” (a sign of money) or literally lie through our teeth when asked about drinking “some of the girls who are 21+ like to grab dinner downtown and have a nice glass of wine with it”.
Recruitment itself breeds toxicity, it gaslights people with a false view of the organization, it lovebombs new members and then you end up resentful (ok so maybe that was just me). It was not all bad but it was definitely a rose colored glasses made me miss the red flags kind of thing.
Rose colored glasses hide red flags
So with all of these red flags how did I find myself a proud sister for three years? Philanthropy. I love helping people. It’s the best way to manipulate me – tell me I’m helping someone else. I love helping women, I love building strong empowered women up and I loved the idea of joining an organization that did that. But the politics behind the philanthropy, how little it felt like we actually helped anyone and the politics behind putting on any philanthropic events made me want to scream. Telling people you do something and actually executing on it are two very different things.
My senior year I dropped the sorority. Do I love the sisters I keep in contact with? Yes. Was it worth the money? Probably not but I had a safe place to live. Do I wish I had left earlier than I did – yes. But, without joining that sorority I wouldn’t have learned the warning signs of what comes after love bombing, I wouldn’t have met some of my best friends and I would have probably paid rent to a slumlord in Santa Barbara. I had to detox from the cult-like “in crowd” or “out crowd” feelings and I had to let the anger that accompanied how bad I had been duped go. But it was a hard choice to make. It was difficult to let go because I had already “invested so much”. So when I tell you that I understand how easy it is to get tricked into an mlm or a scam believe me – I’ve been there.
#Bossbabe & #Girlboss in Business
After college the bossbabe culture became a bit more obvious. The scams seemed easier to read – yet I still fell for them.
This breaks down into two sections for me. Time and time again I have fallen for the love bombing of a new job – only to finally have the rose colored glasses slip off my nose after the onboarding is over. I’ve learned a lot from every job I’ve had and I’m honestly grateful for all of them but I wish I had read the signs earlier.
But the final form of #Bossbabe culture I’ve fallen for is business coaching. SOME business coaches love to spew toxic positivity quotes about how mindset is the only thing separating YOU from Bill Gates. I’ve covered this on a past blog post but to summarize – toxic positivity is a wonderful marketing tool. This “anyone can be a #bossbabe” mentality ignores the enormous amount of privilege the coach may have had, it erases the struggle of their clients and it feeds lies to those who are struggling about how success is always just around the corner. Optimism is great but it shouldn’t be packaged and sold for thousands of dollars. Skills should be included with the price.
Much like an mlm up line spewing toxic positivity, these individuals can feed off our desire to believe that people are inherently good, that people are watching out for us and that everyone is capable of creating a life filled with rainbows and sunshine. Which is partially true. What SOME business coaches do is leave out the hard work (not all, after all – I’m a career coach and I have met business coaches with beautiful intentions), they skip over the hard stuff like OPERATING A BUSINESS and focus on “mindset only” work. After working with a couple of the coaches I’ve met I can attest that mindset without action is a recipe for frustrated stagnation.
Bossbabe has got to go!
In conclusion, we have to let go of our bossbabe culture but I get why we fall for it. I do not want to be a #girlboss – I’m an adult woman. I already own my own business (legitimately). So, if you have fallen for the pretty pink lettering and the “positive vibes only” content – it’s ok. I’ve been there too! We can detox from this together.
Need help getting your career together after an accidental stint in an mlm? Trying to get out of a company with a toxic positivity culture? Sign up for a free career coaching discovery call here.
**this blog is my opinion and observation of bossbabe culture. It is not an attack on any one organization, company or sisterhood.