I have been actively working in the wellness world for years, but it has always been a part of my life. Growing up I had access to the best food- my mom even handmade our baby food- and was treated by the best doctors, nutritionists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, and physical therapists when I needed it. I had a support system, lived in well-to-do areas, and was taught where my food came from, how to grow it, and had the space and resources to do so if I so chose. My life as a child through adolescence was far from perfect, but when you look at it from a wellness point of view it was charmed: I was afforded the privilege of wellness.
In a general sense, I have always been aware of my privilege. In today’s world being a pretty, white, educated female from an affluent background makes navigating life a little less hard. While being female has its challenges (that’s a whole other story) I have never had to think about where my next meal is coming from, or feeling like the odd man out in a sea of people because of my skin color. The closest I’ve come is being assumed unintelligent because of my mermaid hair, but that can be disproven over a single conversation and I could also easily change that aspect of myself. However, over the last few months I’ve become more acutely aware of how exactly my privilege affects my everyday life. A lot of this awareness comes from social media.
The Privilege of Wellness and Social Media
In many people’s eyes social media is a scourge upon society. Lady Gaga recently even went so far as to say that, “social media, quite frankly, is the toilet of the internet.” And while I agree that there are a plethora of negatives about social media, it is also an incredible tool with which to build a community of like-minded people. So many people who I consider my close friends I have met through social media, I’ve been able to share what I am passionate about through my platform, and I have been given access to so much information that I wouldn’t have stumbled upon elsewhere.
With that access comes expectation. Being a holistic health influencer with a certain aesthetic, it is easy to get lost in an expectation of perfection; creating the most beautiful Instagram feed, taking part in all of the new wellness trends, buying the $25 single use face mask because it will ‘help me live my best life’ is an easy trap to fall into. It is a trap that all of us need to be more mindful of. I strive be as authentically myself as I possibly can while still being safe on the internet; I partner with brands of all price points to give accessible options for people from all walks of life, I freely talk about my issues with mental health, and I try to be as inclusive and welcoming as possible.
But I also realize that so many things I think of as easy or simple, like having access to organic bulk bins, a farmers’ market, a chiropractor, or even clean water, aren’t easy or simple for people who don’t have the privilege of wellness. They may live in food deserts, be living paycheck to paycheck and just don’t have the resources or time to head twenty minutes to an hour out of the way to get to a health foods store, or live in a community in which mental health still holds an incredibly powerful stigma.
Becoming Aware: How I Learned to Understand my Privilege of Wellness
I mentioned earlier that a few things recently have triggered this necessity of digging more deeply into my privilege. The first of which is a self care challenge I hosted through my email subscriber list and Instagram. I had originally intended for the challenge to be a light, fun exploration into our own self care and the different ways we can incorporate self care into our daily routines. But when I was sitting down with a kombucha that was sent to me to make a list of items for each of the 31 days I planned to host the challenge, the challenge I had planned on sending out to subscribers turned into one for me instead.
I hadn’t realized how tricky it would be to craft a series of emails to send out to a diverse group of people that would be accessible for all income levels, all physical abilities, and all locations. I am so used to being able to pop out to Sprouts to grab organic fresh veggies and a fun natural sheet mask that it just didn’t occur to me when dreaming up the challenge that a life like that wasn’t everyone’s reality. Crafting the challenge made me rethink all of my decisions and really dive deeper into how the Instagram wellness world and the actual world differ.
The second isn’t a what but a who. She is a wonderful woman I met, Chelsea, of That’s Chelsea. A powerhouse of a woman in the wellness world, she can be seen everywhere from POPSUGAR to Good Morning Washington on television, and I found her because she was featured along myself on the Natural Food Expo’s ’50 Influencers to Know’ article. Statuesque and striking, she definitely has an incredible presence in any room she is in, but what really opened my eyes was an off-the-cuff Instagram story that she posted after being at an event that we were both attending out in California. She noticed something that I was oblivious to. Completely paraphrasing here, she asked her followers if they knew any WOC (Woman Of Color) companies that were presenting at the Natural Foods Expo that she could support. The event that we had just attended was 98% (or more) caucasian with the exception of Chelsea and one of the panelists, and it didn’t even cross my mind until that moment that diversity in the natural foods movement hardly exists. And that is just not okay.
The last trigger was a debate that happened to get a bit heated over on Instagram surrounding the Zero Waste and Low Waste movements. My post about a silly breakup because of me being ‘too healthy’ for a man I was dating because I pulled my reusable straw and utensils set out of my bag on a date turned into a huge hullabaloo. While I won’t get into details here, (it deserves a post of its own) it came down to access. How a low waste lifestyle has turned into a different type of consumerism that is geared toward the affluent of society, who have the time and ability to change their lifestyles to fit into the #zerowaste mold.
How We Can Change: Addressing the Privilege of Wellness Head On
So it all boils down to this: I recognize my privilege, now what? That is going to be different for everyone. For me, it means being more aware and mindful of the content that I am putting out into the world. It means paying even closer attention to the privilege I have, and using that mindfulness to be more inclusive and lift up those around me who aren’t afforded the same lifestyle and background that I am and I have. It means being an active ally, it means being vocal, it means using my platform and my privilege as a catalyst for change, and it also means handing off the microphone to those who understand more than I do, and learning from them.
I want to use this platform to be the voice in companies’ ears asking them to do better and be better. And I’d love for each and every one of you to join me.