Personal development has invaded the shelves of our shops and bookstores. But behind this catch-all term hides a new injunction made to women: that of going well, all the time, of getting better and, above all, that of constantly seeking to improve.
Bdetox fish, fasting, kale at all meals, meditation, Positive thoughtyoga classes… The (blessed) time when, to relax and take care of your Mental Health, we were going to take a trip to a spa and wearing a simple mud mask seems a long way off. Today, the well-being and personal development – of women, it goes without saying – are an industry in its own right that continues to grow : it weighs 11 billion dollars according to Psychology Today. A flourishing sector which, if at first sight it claims to be benevolent, has gradually become a new injunction to “be well” which we would have done well without.
Finished, the archetype of the perfect woman who quietly waits for her husband to come home from work, home nickel and dish in the oven while the children play or do their homework. Today, Wonder Woman 2.0 is deconstructed and independent : she does yoga every morning, prepares energizing smoothies for her family and runs 10 kilometers three times a week, loves essential oils and goes on solo trips to reconnect with her chakras, in fashion Eat Pray Love. Obviously with all that she finds the time to go to work, what a question!
“The more you focus on your well-being, the less you are doing well”
If in the 2000s, female pop stars led a decadent lifestyle, like the Holy Trinity formed by Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton – who certainly didn’t drink almond milk – today it doesn’t sell anymore. And the stars have understood it well. Who could blame Gwyneth Paltrow, the high priestess of wellbeing who rules the industry with an iron fist with her company? goopto want our happiness? queen of lifestyle – what does that mean, in the end? –, her advice is followed by millions of people, the products she offers on her site are bought en masse and his empire would be worth a trifle of 250 million dollars according to Fortune. Because, yes, your interior (literally and figuratively) will be much more zen if you turn on a scented candle “vagina by Gwyneth Paltrow” or one with the smell of his “orgasms”. A “punk and feminist” fragrance according to the star, who only committed the name: it will still cost you between 65 and 80 euros.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be well, but today well-being has gradually sided with the patriarchal injunctions to fight on a daily basis: a superficial fulfillment, a source of physical and psychological exhaustion in the women who are its first targets.Psychotherapist Nancy Colier, who has herself published several personal development books, explains to Psychology Today: “Everyone has a foot in the wellness industry. However, it seems that the more products we buy and the more practices we impose on ourselves, the more we are stress and tired. In fact, the more you focus on your well-being, the less good you feel”.
Women are exhausted from all these injunctions
So the wellness industry sells us a short-term solution, meant to reconnect women to an authentic version of themselves and their inner energy. A precept that strangely reminds us of another: aren’t girls taught, from an early age, to please at all costs, while taking care of those around them and being attentive to everyone’s needs? This cultural conditioning that instills in women that taking care of themselves, listening to their needs, is selfish .
From this point of view, the call to take care of oneself can only be commendable. Who has never heard the question “But you take care anyway – really?”A question that can be both benevolent and accusatory, however: if women aren’t well, maybe it’s their fault after all , because they do not know, or are unable to take care of themselves. The well-being of women therefore relies more and more on themselves: it is up to them to find the right guru, the right song feel good the course of yoga which will allow them to be perfectly relaxed, attentive to their needs and at peace with themselves.
The problem is that we will develop guilt towards ourselves if we do not put all the chances on our side to be well: how can I be at my best if I’ve already missed yoga twice this week?Besides, isn’t there a new activity, or a new dietary supplement, to improve myself? The injunction to well-being comes with a sidekick: the bulimia of novelty.
Women don’t always need to be improved
Women therefore became improvable beings, insinuating that something about them needed to be fixed, fixed. Their life as it is cannot and should not be enough for them: it must be upgraded, by adding options – yes, like in a car, you will appreciate the comparison. This is the concept found in the very title of our new mantra: “personal development”. Wikipedia defines it as follows: “a heterogeneous set of practices, belonging to various currents of thought, which aim improving self-knowledge, enhancing talents and potential, improving the quality of lifethe realization of their aspirations and dreams”.
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Improve, enhance, achieve. Our new motto. And this, whether thanks to the cures detox sold by the three-star cast of Marseilleson social networks, diets and sports routines presented by celebrities, passing by the care of naturopaths and other alternative therapies inherited from “witches” supposed to reconnect us to Mother-nature. Nancy Colier sums it up like this: “Personal development products and services are sold as gifts to each other, but under this marketing campaign, it’s a constant reminder that we can never rest, never feel good about ourselves or leave the hamster wheel of personal development”.
Because, although focused on our strong interior, the personal development industry leads us to think that our welfare is external: we need a particular person, object or activity to take care of us. Otherwise we will not be well. Except that we then forget to listen to ourselves. Yoga, meditation, wellness herbal tea, yes, but provided that our whole being, and our value, do not rest on it.
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How the personal development industry harms women’s well-being
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