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Whether you call it multi-level marketing, direct sales or network marketing, these type of businesses have been around for almost 130 years. They entice you with a start up package and promises of becoming rich beyond your wildest dreams. While many won’t admit it, there is a level of brain washing that happens. I can say that because it happened to me… multiple times. Everything you hear, no matter how false, becomes truth. The more you get involved, the more that story will become embellished and by the time it reaches the next person, it’s more fiction than it is fact.
Like a lot of people, I’ve signed up for a number of these companies. And while it was fun to find a group of people that were like me, with big dreams, I never really achieved the financial stability they spoke of, because in most cases, I was spending my earnings PLUS my own savings, buying the products, in order to make my monthly goals or to win trips or other incentives. I promised myself that I would never get sucked into another MLM… until the next opportunity of a lifetime rolled around.
Since I’ve been sharing my battle with anxiety and depression more openly on social media, I’ve been bombarded with messages from people. Most are encouraging and super supportive, but there are the ones that I just can’t keep my mouth shut about any longer. These messages are from people who tell me that the answer to my mental health issues is joining their MLM, or in some cases, just buying some of their products… miracle products.
I’m not joking.
I get them regularly. And while some masquerade as people trying to genuinely help me, I can see through it all. Let me explain. Most of my anxiety and depression comes from the fact that I’m super overwhelmed in my day to day life. Since my husband lost his job last April, I have been the sole supporter of our family. I work 14-16 hour days (sometimes even longer, if you count the hours I lay in bed, thinking about what I need to do the following day). I’m exhausted. I love that I’m able to do something that I love, but I fear that I will burn out if I don’t slow down. Of course, I can’t slow down, or we can’t pay the bills, or eat, for that matter. And so, my stress and anxiety level are through the roof on most days. On the other days, I feel defeated and can’t leave my bed, which of course, doubles my workload for the following day and starts the pattern all over again.
So when I comment on a post on social media with something very raw and in the moment, like “I’m feeling super overwhelmed today and my anxiety is pretty high”, I don’t expect a response. It’s just me, releasing my feelings. It’s how I cope. When I get the messages from other Mamas who suffer in silence, and they share their stories with me, I’m grateful. It’s nice sometimes to know that you’re not alone. I’ve built some incredible friendships over the last couple years with a number of ladies that have reached out to me, after a post or comment I’ve made. We have found a commonality and feel comfortable enough that we can go to one another when we are having one of those bad days. I am grateful for each and every one of them and I hope that I continue to connect with other people who are struggling.
What I don’t expect, and what honestly irritates me, is when I get a message like the one I got last week…
“Hey, I just wanted to reach out because I saw your comment on [@ignameremoved] and I can totally relate with feeling overwhelmed! First I just want to say… you got this! I am so impressed with all you are balancing. Second, I have been there and I don’t want to be intrusive but I want to share with you what I am doing because I have finally found my direction and overcome the constant anxiety that was occupying my brain for too long! It has been two faceted for me. 1st, it was a life changing nutrition program and 2nd it has been the tribe and culture I have found in [MLM company]. (Yes it is network marketing and I have always been anti but I so, so happy I took a chance on myself and this business.) I would love to share more with you if you would like to hear it… Once I went all in on [MLM company] it gave me my direction and I finally felt content with that direction! Anyways! Thank you so much for being vulnerable and sharing! You are amazing! I hope to be in touch!”
I’m sure you can read this and take it in many different ways. For me, it started off great, but as you get to the middle of the message, what I see, is someone who is using my mental health struggles for their own financial gain. And while this isn’t the first message I’ve received like this, it was the one that finally caused me to speak up. My response wasn’t an angry one, it was me trying to provide a different perspective as to why this is not a good approach. After trying to sell me a second time, she unfollowed me and then disappeared, convinced that she had done nothing wrong.
Opening up about anxiety and depression is not easy. In fact, it was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done in my life. It’s gotten a tad easier over the years, but it still takes so much courage to click that send button, no matter how many times I’ve done it in the past. I’m afraid I’ll be judged. I’m afraid people will look at me differently. I’m afraid if I admit it, I’m giving it power. But I do it anyway because sometimes you need to speak it, to release it.
And while I have always supported my friends and their businesses, whether it’s an MLM or not, I finally need to publicly explain why this method shouldn’t be used. Ever.
Would you seek out someone in a wheelchair and tell them that your product will help them walk again? I’m willing to bet that 99.9% of people wouldn’t, because giving someone false hope like that is wrong. SO WRONG. And while I’m not comparing myself to a person in a wheelchair, my mental health issues have debilitated me in ways I never imagined, including not being able to leave my house for a number of months.
While this company or product may very well have worked for you, telling someone who is already struggling with every day tasks that adding to that list, would help them, really makes no sense. What we need is support, someone to listen, someone to encourage and someone who has advice to lessen the stress.
I’m not saying that you can’t make a living through an MLM, in fact, I do know a number of people that do very well. But I can tell you that those people are not using these tactics. Instead, they are building relationships with people the right way. Using someone’s health condition to make money, whether it be mental or physical is wrong.
Please stop doing it.
And if you genuinely want to reach out to people who are open about their mental health issues, I encourage you to do so, but without expectations. See how you can help. Give them encouragement. Never do anything just because you might get something out of it. A true kind heart is genuine, not masked in a sales pitch.
What do you think of this approach?