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Hey MLMs: Quit F*cking With Women’s Mental Health

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If you’re not living under a rock these days, someone you know has likely tried to get you to buy into their business. And when I say their business, I’m talking about an MLM. Full disclosure, I have never participated in an MLM. It’s just not my jam. But if it is yours, no judgment, no shade–more power to you. The problem I have with MLMs is the predatory and misleading tactics they use to sell people a dream that’s really more of a mirage. 

We all knew MLMs were a cautionary tale when it came to finances and friendships before. But something else stuck out in a major way when I binge-watched the LuLaRoe documentary. Ironically, they lure women in with the promise of financial freedom, empowerment, and opportunity. But when things fall apart, it’s because you didn’t try hard enough. It’s your fault for not succeeding in a system that was never designed to have more than the top 1% achieve a livable income. Make it make sense, y’all.

And just so we’re all clear, MLMs are nothing new. They’ve been around for a long, long time. So, knowing what we know, how do they continue to pop up time and time again? The answer is awful, yet simple: MLMs prey on people’s desire to have it all, or at the very least, make ends meet. More often than not, these people are women. SAHMs who want to contribute more to their household (because, yes, running a household is already a HUGE contribution) or a mom who is looking for a side hustle. Maybe it earns her a little extra cash for herself or her kids, or enables her to cut back a few hours at work. Under the ruse of a legging empire, cosmetics, supplements, or cleaning products, there isn’t one type of good that hasn’t fallen prey to this ‘business model’. To understand why so many women buy into the promise of financial freedom, you have to understand the psychology of MLMs, also known as toxic positivity. 

MLMs Thrive on Toxic Positivity

Ugh. Choose Joy. There was a solid point in my life where that phrase was my mantra. It also coincided with untreated anxiety and depression and disordered eating, which explains so much in retrospect. I was introduced to this (toxic) positivity mindset by a (now fallen) self-styled lifestyle guru who spoke to every insecurity I had about myself. She apparently was also a guest speaker, hypestress extraordinaire, at many an MLM conference. Ahh. Hindsight is 20/20. 

According to this lifestyle, I simply didn’t choose joy often enough. I wanted to lose weight, so why didn’t I? Because I didn’t try hard enough. I desperately wanted to be the best mom I could be. So why wasn’t I hustling harder to make that happen? I wished I could be more productive and actually query my novel. Obviously it was because I was lazy and didn’t want it bad enough, right? This is the mindset of toxic positivity. Everything is achievable, and life is always great. The only reason it doesn’t feel that way to you is because you are the problem. You are limiting yourself. (Waves multiple red flags vigorously).

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This is the same mindset that MLMs thrive on. Anything is possible if you work hard enough. They call it empowering; I call it manipulation and gaslighting. Society has a knack for already making women feel like they aren’t enough no matter what. MLMs are just driving that point home, but with a way out. It’s easy to dismiss real-life problems. Because people only experience mental health challenges and financial insecurity when you aren’t being positive enough? Cue the rage. The reality for the average person joining an MLM is that they’re looking for a fix to those problems, nor do they have those resources. In fact, they’re compiling every resource they have to afford to start up their own ‘business’.

Y’all have seen the suggestion by LuLaRoe for women to sell breast milk so they could afford start-up costs. What in the actual fuck? The problem isn’t that women were selling breast milk. Your breasts, your body, I don’t care what you do with them. The insidious part of this is, if you have to buy something from someone who brought it from someone else (so on and so forth), you aren’t running a business. You’re merely a pawn in a pyramid scheme that is making you a customer in hopes that you find more customers somewhere else. If you wanted (or needed) extra income, just sell your breast milk and keep the money. Cut out the ugly, smelly, MLM middle-man leggings.

It’s Not You, It’s Them

Do you know what’s wrong with wanting financial security? Not a damn thing. Is there anything amiss about wanting to run your own business, make your own hours, and follow your dreams? No, not for a minute. The reason people buy into MLMs is because they want a proven avenue to pursue all of these things. And the people running the show know this. They say, look, I did it, therefore so can you. The proof is in the numbers, and there is some truth to that. They aren’t technically lying, but they are absolutely not being transparent or realistic. It works if you are one of the first people in the door, but that number is finite. There is a limit. Not everyone who signs up for this venture will reap the same results.

There is so much out there about MLMs and their tactics. There are a million words of warning. But as it stands, the voices begging people everywhere to heed these warnings are not nearly as loud or as many. The people who are running this tomfoolery shout from the top of the pyramid. Don’t listen to these naysayers. They’re trying to talk you out of your success because they are jealous. They are unhappy with what they settled for in their life and want you to do the same. Be different, be bold, be brave. Well, maybe those exact words haven’t been used, but the message is the same. 

Listen up, friends — it isn’t you. It’s them. It isn’t wrong for you to want to better your life, spend more time with your family, and achieve financial security. But it is wrong for people to see that and then manipulate you just to further their own ends.

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