In this blog, we will cover the topic of toxic capitalism in the coaching industry and how well-meaning folks create unethical, inequitable, and downright oppressive business models by overcharging absurd amounts of money for no natural sustenance in their deliverability, often directed at those most targeted for marginalization.
First, let’s explore what we mean when we talk about “toxic capitalism.” Capitalism is an economic system characterized by private ownership of the means of production and distribution of goods and services, with a resulting free market exchange governed by supply and demand. In other words, it’s an economic system based on profit.
However, “toxic” capitalism takes this a step further: it’s an exploitative system that benefits a small handful of people at the expense of the many. It’s a system that often results in workers being paid low wages while those at the top rake in huge profits. It’s a system that leads to environmental destruction and climate change. And it’s a system that relies on consumerism to keep the wheels turning.
In short, toxic capitalism is an unsustainable system that harms people and the planet.
Now that we’ve defined what we mean by “toxic capitalism,” let’s talk about how it manifests in the coaching industry.
There are two main ways toxic capitalism shows up in the coaching industry: exorbitant prices and false promises.
Exorbitant prices are one of the most common signs of toxic capitalism. In the coaching industry, it’s not uncommon to see programs and services that cost thousands of dollars without guaranteeing results. This is often done in the name of “investing in yourself,” but in reality, it’s nothing more than taking advantage of people who are desperate for change.
False promises are another common sign of toxic capitalism. In the coaching industry, it’s not uncommon to see coaches promising their clients that they will achieve their dream body, make six figures, or find the love of their life. These are all incredibly lofty goals that are often the anomaly to achieve. And yet, coaches continue to make these false promises, knowing full well that they can’t possibly deliver on them.
So why do they do it?
Simple: because they can make a lot of money doing it.
Toxic capitalism is perpetuated through social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram because of the culture bred through these platforms that, include “luxury lifestyle” brands, “spiritual love and light mentors,” and “abundance mindset” gurus.
These social media platforms breed a culture of comparison and consumption, which is the perfect breeding ground for toxic capitalism.
Folks already struggling with inadequacy and insecurity are bombarded with images and messages telling them they must buy this product or invest in that program to be happy, successful, and loved.
And so, they do. They spend their hard-earned money on programs and products that promise them the world but often deliver very little.
This is how toxic capitalism thrives: preying on people’s vulnerabilities and insecurities and convincing them to part with their hard-earned money in exchange for false promises.
You’re not alone if you’re feeling fed up with the coaching industry and its culture of toxic capitalism. There is a growing movement of folks rejecting this system and creating an alternative vision for the future.
This movement is about more than just coaching; it’s about creating a new way of doing ethical, equitable, and sustainable business. It’s about valuing people over profits and community over competition.
If this vision speaks to you, I invite you to explore the rest of this blog.
The Dark Side Of Social Media Marketing: The Underbelly We’re Rarely Acknowledging
Instagram-perfect pictures and Pinterest-perfect environments fuel the cultural pressure to “keep up with the Joneses.” There’s an inherent sense of “not enough-ness” that plagues us as we scroll through our feeds, seeing highlight reels of people who are “living their best lives.”
The problem is that we do not see reality. We’re not seeing the whole picture.
What we *are* seeing is a form of marketing carefully curated to make us feel a certain way. This type of marketing is meant to groom us into believing “we can have it all,” often co-opting empowerment movements when it’s toxic individualistic capitalism at its finest.
When we believe we can have it all, we are more likely to spend our hard-earned money on things that will supposedly help us get there.
We invest in the latest fad diet, the new workout equipment, the luxury handbag, or sign up for the online course to teach us how to be like the person we’re following.
The problem is that these things rarely ever work, and we’re left feeling even worse than before, leading us to believe that *we* are the problem.
When really, it’s the system. It’s the way capitalism has set us up to fail over and over again.
When chasing after the latest shiny object, we’re not only buying into a form of marketing designed to make us feel inadequate, but we’re also contributing to a system that exploits us financially, emotionally, and mentally.
This is the dark side of social media marketing: the underbelly we’re rarely ever acknowledging.
And it’s high time we start shining a light on it.
The Dangers Of Groupthink
When we’re constantly bombarded with images and messages telling us we need to buy this or do it to be happy/successful/worthy; it’s easy to get caught up in what I like to call “groupthink.”
Groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs when people are so focused on fitting in and being accepted by a group (in this case, social media) that they start to lose sight of their values and beliefs.
They begin to conform to what the group says is essential, even if it goes against their grain.
And when everyone is doing the same thing, it becomes the new norm. It becomes the new standard.
Groupthink can lead us down a slippery slope if we’re not careful. We can find ourselves in situations where we’re just following the crowd without stopping to question whether or not what we’re doing is actually in alignment with our values.
This is where things like “toxic positivity” and “perfectionism porn” come into play.
When we’re so focused on fitting in and being accepted, we often buy into harmful and destructive messages without even realizing it.
These messages tell us that we need to be happy all the time, that we need to have the perfect body, the perfect life, the perfect relationship, etc.
They fuel the comparison game and keep us chasing after an impossible standard that was created by someone else.
And when we can’t live up to that standard, we beat ourselves up, leading to feelings of inadequacy and shame.
Inadvertently, these feelings of inadequacy and shame combined with the faux pep talks of self-responsibility, personal power, and potentiality only confuse us into further fragmenting from our innate knowing and digging deeper into the groupthink model, trying to prove ourselves worthy.
We become “carbon copies,” believing so profoundly in the messaging we’re being fed because our survival depends on it, thus forcing us to perpetuate these inequitable and unethical practices further down the line.
What’s even more dangerous is that groupthink can have a ripple effect.
It affects the individual and the groups they’re a part of.
When we buy into these harmful messages, we start to repeat them to others. We become the purveyors of these toxic beliefs and begin to normalize them.
This is how things like diet culture, fatphobia, ableism, and colorism are perpetuated.
The harm of hyper-focusing and only celebrating cash collected and monthly sales publicly as a coach
This is an excellent article on groupthink and how it can be harmful. I think it’s essential to be aware of the dangers of groupthink but also to know that we have the power to break free from it. The first step is acknowledging that we’re being affected by it. The second step is to evaluate the messages we’re seeing and hearing. And the third step is to begin questioning why we believe what we believe. When we start to do this, we open up the possibility of change. We create space for new perspectives and new ways of being.
One way groupthink can be harmful is when people hyper-focus on one thing and only celebrate that thing publicly. For example, as a coach, if you only ever talk about how much money you’re making or how many sales you’ve made, you’re perpetuating harmful messages about what success looks like and excluding other essential aspects of your business and life. This can make people feel like they’re not good enough or are not measuring up. It’s critical to be aware of our words and actions impact on others and be mindful of the messages we’re sending.
And what’s even more insidious is that this form of marketing is becoming the norm. It’s no longer seen as inauthentic or fake because everyone is doing it.
But here’s the thing: just because everyone is doing it doesn’t make it right. I would argue that the blind following a system so profoundly rooted in oppressive, colonialist paradigms is downright dangerous.
Buying into the facade of hype-marketing, luxury lifestyle brands, and a culture that feeds on superficiality without any natural sustenance is a recipe for disaster.
It’s a dangerous mess we find ourselves in when our need and desire for “more” are constantly fed with the idea of “possibility” and storylines of “if I can do it, so can you” without any real context of the privilege and power dynamics at play.
When we strip away the facade, what we’re left with is a system that is built on the backs of those who are most marginalized. A system that relies on our insecurities and fears to fuel its existence. A system that is opposed to everything we say we stand for as a society.
And yet, we continue to perpetuate it because it’s become so normalized. We have become so accustomed to seeing these things that they no longer register as red flags. We have become numb to the messages of scarcity, perfection, and lack constantly being pumped into our brains disguised as personal empowerment.
The culture of faux Urgency and overnight experts
The danger of urgency in business and starting businesses without the actual training or experience needed to deliver results
Another way groupthink can be harmful is when people buy into the idea of urgency. This is often seen in business, where people are told they need to act fast or they’ll miss their chance. This creates a sense of panic and can lead people to make rash decisions without fully thinking them through. It’s essential to be aware of this pressure and to take the time you need to make thoughtful decisions.
Similarly, we’re seeing an influx of “experts” starting businesses without real training or experience. They’re riding on the coattails of current trends and taking advantage of people’s fears and vulnerabilities. This is extremely dangerous because it sets people up for disappointment and disillusionment when they don’t get the promised results.
We see this a lot in the coaching industry. People with no business being coaches are cashing in on the latest trends and using their social media platforms to sell a dream. This is not only unethical but incredibly problematic. People entrust their most personal struggles and challenges to someone not qualified to help them, often to the point of bankruptcy and retraumatization, with no natural consequence for the perpetrator.
It’s essential to be aware of groupthink and its dangers, but it’s even more important to know that we have the power to break free from it.
Getting out of groupthink models
The first step is acknowledging that we’re being affected by it. The second step is to evaluate the messages we’re seeing and hearing.
And the third step is to begin questioning why we believe what we believe.
When we start to do this, we open up the possibility of change. We create space for new perspectives and new ways of being.
We can also begin to shift the conversations we’re having with others. Instead of regurgitating the same harmful beliefs, we can start to share our own experiences and perspectives in a way that’s empowering and liberating.
This is how social change happens. It starts with each of us taking responsibility for our thoughts, beliefs, and actions. It begins with stepping out of groupthink and into our power.
So how can we break free from groupthink? How can we create our version of success that isn’t based on someone else’s definition?
It starts with becoming aware of the messages we’re taking in and questioning why we believe what we believe. It starts with evaluating our values and priorities. And it starts with creating our definitions of success.
When we do this, we begin to create our path. We begin to see the world through our lens. And we begin to build a life and business that is authentic to our identity.
If you’re feeling lost in the sea of groupthink, I invite you to take some time to reflect on your values and priorities. What does success look like for you? What does it feel like? How can you create a business and life that feels good for you, not just someone else’s version of what they think is best for you?
The answers to these questions will be different for everyone. But when we allow ourselves the space to explore them, we open up the possibility for something truly magical to unfold.
It’s time to create a new normal. A normal that is based on equity, authenticity, and connection. A normal that is rooted in healing, not harming. A normal that celebrates our differences instead of trying to erase them.
This is the only way forward. This is the only way we will create a genuinely inclusive, just, and sustainable world for all.
If you have questions or would like to join the conversation, comment below or email us privately at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Affiliate Programs To Support You
My incredible mentor, Trudi Lebron, has created The Art & Science of Coaching to support folks who are wanting a safe space to unpack the way we build coaching practices and start on their path toward a more ethical and equitable business. You can learn more and register using this link (affiliate link).
Why is Trudi teaching this? I thought she was an Antiracism coach.
She is. And what you might not know is she has also been a student of psychology for over 15 years. She has a Masters Degree in Psychology and has completed her PhD coursework in Social Psychology. As early as 2013, Trudi was teaching college-level courses on psychological theories, and critical skills coaches use every day. This brand new program is the convergence of all the things Trudi is most passionate about — equity, justice, liberation, business, behavior change, and social change. Antiracism will always be the lens through which Trudi sees the world, and the goal of The Art & Science of Coaching is to develop culturally responsive and trauma-informed facilitation skills and coaching practices.
Got it. So is this a course or a coaching program?
The Art & Science of Coaching is a professional development program and it combines live training with integration and coaching. There are 4 distinct training programs with 3 sessions each, delivered live and digitally and available for 12 months. In addition, when you enroll you get 24 Integration Sessions that will include 2x monthly time for Q&A, coaching support & additional skill development with Trudi and her faculty at The Institute for Equity-Centered Coaching®.
Is there anything else that comes with the program?
Yes! There are 12 months of community access included for you to network with other clients and alumni of Trudi’s other programs. What does this mean for you? This means you will instantly expand your network of colleagues who share your values of antiracism, equity, and inclusion and who share your commitment to elevating the coaching profession. The community is exclusive to people who have studied and trained with Trudi and her team and it will offer you an amazing, engaging, and safe space for networking and potential collaboration. Trudi has also put together a sweet / fabulous /awesome bonus package for all new students, including a ticket to her famous annual event Show Up & Serve, her updated for 2023 On-Demand Digital Course: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Basics for Coaches, and access to The Vault which will give you 12 JEDI basics workshops (which will cover things like gender equity, anti-blackness, xenophobia and more) and 12 curated learning journeys.
Sounds fabulous. Is there anyone who is not a good fit for this program?
It is my belief, and I know that Trudi and team share this, that any coaching practice that does not center trauma-informed, culturally responsive, equitable practices is, by definition, a negligent one. Meaning that ALL people who consider themselves true coaches would benefit from developing these skills, whether that’s in a program like The Art & Science of Coaching or elsewhere. That said, if you got into coaching thinking it’s a get rich quick thing or because you want to be an influencer and you’re not too into changing the world stuff… this is not the right space for you. This program is for coaches in the broadest sense of the word, for people who are called to this incredible profession and who thrive on engaging in the powerful and transformative work it offers.
Have another question I didn’t cover?
Feel free to email Trudi and her team at email@example.com, and I know they’d be happy to answer.
I will say, you know I don’t give my stamp of approval out easily.
For what it’s worth… I’ve known Trudi for a while and I haven’t seen her this excited about a new project for a long time.
This program truly is the epitome of her entire body of work spanning 15+ years of study and lived experience, and I’m certain it is going to be invaluable to those who join.
So what do you say… are you all in?