It’s no surprise to anyone around me these days that I love the writing that’s coming out of Vancouver. Specifically, the work of Kelly Diels. If you’re not on her email list, check her out and sign up before Sunday to get this week’s Love Letter. (Hey, I love a lot of things about Vancouver, Kelly’s just one of the newest things I’ve found about the city to love.)
There are things that I love about this unnamed part of the economy, which contains lifestyle brands, divine feminine coaching, leadership coaching, and a variety of ways in which women are teaching women. At its best, it’s subversive and feminist, 1970s consciousness raising brought to the internet age. At its worst, though, it’s traditional “second sex” advertising dressed up in the clothes of feminism and subversity.
Nor is it completely dual - the same person can at different times, be part of the model at its best, and then on another day entirely, show the worst the model has to offer. I’ve seen this in 2014 when the leader of a women’s online spiritual practice group offered an in-person event. It was a small event, but ticket sales weren’t strong even for a small event. And so she took to her blog. The post that came out - which was later replaced with a discount offer - was a strenuous attack on women for failing to put themselves first. The message was - “I know you can afford this event, even when you’re telling me you can’t. You have GOT to learn to invest in yourself by sending your money to me.”
Very like the coach Kelly shares about in a recent Love Letter, who exhorts followers to draw from retirement or borrow from family so they can "invest in yourself and invest in your success."
Also very like a well known writer and teacher, who shared in a blog post in January 2016 that she’d been in therapy in 2015, learning boundary setting. Not coincidentally, the previous August - while she was, per the timeline in her blogpost, still working in therapy on setting good boundaries - she offered a multi-month online class in boundary setting.
Friends, we need to ask some hard questions of the people we are learning from. The first is, Are they truly called to teach? There’s nothing wrong in making money by teaching, and we should value all of our trusted teachers enough to pay them for the hard work they do. But there is something uncomfortable about teachers who are not invested in the growth of their students, who, in effect, use shame or gaslighting tactics to persuade.
The second question we need to ask is, What qualifies you to teach this to me? What’s your lineage? What training have you done that makes you ready to teach this to me? Have you done your own work in this area - or are you still in the middle of it? We need to ask because, truth is, we’re working with some hard stuff when we’re working to find peace with our body image, our sexuality, our relationship with food or money - and we deserve to be lead by someone who has already done their own work in this area. Not someone who is just getting started - that’s a peer and a companion on the way, not someone who knows the path, has been down it enough times to know where she herself feels scared and lost. It’s understandable - I feel the same way about the things I’ve been learning. It’s SO amazingly life changing, we want to leap out there and share it with everyone we can. The mistake is when a teacher mistakes that fresh, shiny new amazement for being ready to teach - instead of knowing that the work still has to be done, and inviting co-travelers to walk the path together.
I have intentionally not named either of the writers used as examples. This isn't about calling them out, or even calling them on, their choices, and so I have chosen to leave them anonymous.
How to play along
Because safety is a core value for me, I am asking that comments in this space avoid all the ugly things: shame, blame, judgement. I am asking that disagreement and discussion be polite, respectful, generous, and open to vulnerability.
Because community is healthy behavior, I welcome you to comment, to share your thoughts and responses and discuss this with empathy with me and with each other.