In the past year, I’ve had two experiences with women who are leaders in the wellness industry—but turned out to be “false teachers.” And I think it’s important to be open and share this stuff, even though it’s not the popular thing to do.
A few months ago, I connected with a girl who runs her own business and has a pretty healthy Instagram following. We instantly hit it off and I helped her put together some marketing things for a workshop she was hosting.
I loved her vibe and her message—all about empowerment and living an authentic and healthy life. Because I liked what she’s all about, I went above and beyond to help her, charging her way below my usual rates and giving her tons of my time and insight. (Looking back, this was my first mistake.)
And my hard work totally paid off! In two weeks, I doubled her email list. Like thousands of people joined her list, based on the words I wrote. I felt so happy! And after her workshop, I helped her earn thousands of dollars in revenue by selling her product, based on the copy I’d written again. With so many wins happening, I felt so pumped about where this working relationship was headed. I really love seeing people succeed!
After this success, she wanted to work together to develop a new digital product, so we had a few talks and I shared tons of ideas and tips. We made a plan and I sent her an estimate, along with a full outline for creating the entire product and a marketing plan.
And then…silence. Lots of crickets.
I sent her an email to check-in and she said she was really feeling into the idea and would get back to me soon.
But I heard nothing. And then, two weeks later, I saw my ideas being put into action on her Instagram and in a series of emails that came straight to my inbox. She didn’t even bother to take me off her business email list before sending out MY work—after totally work-ghosting me. My jaw seriously dropped to the floor.
I couldn’t believe that someone would rip off my time, creativity and ideas—while preaching about “how just being is beautiful.” Are you f’ing kidding me?
But sadly, working with so many people with large followings in the health and wellness industry, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. So I probably should have known better.
The Ultimate Lesson
Last year, things were really taking off with my work—like I had tons of legitimate clients and almost too much work. A wonderful problem to have!
And then a shiny new offer came my way. To work full-time for a bestselling author (who had been on Oprah!) and was connected to lots of people I looked up to.
Because I’d love to be an author one day, it seemed like a no-brainer to say YES to joining this author’s team full-time—and therefore, giving up the business I’d built for myself.
But three months in, I realized I’d made a huge, huge mistake. There’s no other way to say it than bluntly: this woman was a total nightmare to work for. Hands down, the worst work environment I’ve ever been involved with. I can’t even waste my words to fully explain how truly awful it was.
Her expectations were insanely demanding, her feedback condescending and her team was expected to not only worship her, but be at her beck and call, like on-demand 24/7, nights, weekends, 6am, 11pm, Sunday, the 4th of July, two days after a loved one passed away. It felt like working in a virtual version of an ER, only zero lives were being saved.
Ironically, I read the book The Circle during this time, which is all about a girl who takes a “dream job” and ends up getting sucked into a tech world that will just keep demanding more and more from her. I could totally relate with the feeling of being stuck at a desk and overwhelmed by a never-ending barrage of pings and alerts. It was seriously like a twilight zone kinda work experience.
I realized that I’d been totally blinded by the little bit of fame she had and the connections she flaunted. And I drank up her plant-based Kool-Aid. When I spoke up and said “Hey, this workload is like literally insane,” the response was a series of smoke and mirrors responses which resulted in no change—and even more work! I could never get a straight answer to anything, from her or her second-in-command.
And even with all this, my brain couldn’t compute or understand how someone would build a business on wellness and self-care, preaching balance and kindness, yet take advantage of other people and milk them for all they’re worth.
It just didn’t add up to me. I was writing materials for her company, telling people to “take a rest, sweetheart, the world won’t end if you take a break”—while they were piling on more and more work, and more and more criticism and toxicity. It was insane and honestly, so hypocritical! And I felt super fake being a part of it, so I got out as quickly as humanly possible.
Ultimately, it was a huge blessing in disguise because I was outta there within less than a year and back to doing my own thing. And I got to see what the life and work of a “bestselling author” could potentially look like behind the scenes—and basically learned everything not to do. Also, I met some amazing people who also were on her team (and thankfully, got out too!)
False Teachers v. True Mentors
But really, the biggest lesson I learned was, unfortunately, some “thought leaders” and “wellness warriors” are, actually, phony af. And what’s worse is they’re capitalizing on, and making money from, vulnerable people who are seeking support with their health and well-being. It’s truly just sad.
I came across this quote that really sums all of this up quite nicely, from one of my favorite books by Elif Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love. This is one of the rules:
There are more fake gurus and false teachers in this world than the number of stars in the visible universe. Don’t confuse power-driven, self-centered people with true mentors. A genuine spiritual master will not direct your attention to himself or herself and will not expect absolute obedience or utter admiration from you, but instead will help you appreciate and admire your inner self. True mentors are as transparent as glass. They let the Light of God pass through them.
I realize sharing these negative experiences isn’t exactly the most cheerful thing to do. But my intention is to shine a light on two instances where I was working, both kinda closely and very closely, with (fairly) well-known wellness leaders—and the reality of what happens behind the curtain. I’ve now learned to use clear discernment in who I work with and who I follow—and I make those choices based off people’s actions, not fluffy, self-help lingo. A person can be on a national talk show and make millions of dollars selling affirmations and recipes, but what matters most is if they walk their talk. Because if they do all that and treat people like shit, they are, most definitely, a false teacher.
Both these experiences have made me incredibly conscious of:
who I follow and look up to as a mentor
walking my own talk.
Authenticity in Leaders (and My Favorites!)
I really believe in 100% authenticity—and sometimes, that means writing about experiences that aren’t all roses and sunshine, but have an important nugget of truth that’s worth sharing. Like watch out for fake gurus!
On a lighter note, there are some wonderful, truly amazing and authentic women that I now work with and learn from—and I’m so, so grateful. And I’m going to share a list of true mentors that I follow (almost religiously) because they walk their talk and are “as transparent as glass.”
Here are my favorite (and most importantly, authentic) mentors and teachers:
Rebecca Campbell @rebeccathoughts
Connie Chapman @connie_chapman
Marie Kahle @zaantireiki
Paolo Mendoza @paolomendoza
Cleo Wade @cleowade
Rupi Kaur @rupikaur_
Ruby Warrington @the_numinous
Sophia Bush @sophiabush
Marlee Grace @marleegrace
Rob Bell @realrobbell
Elizabeth Gilbert @elizabeth_gilbert_writer
Cheryl Strayed @cherylstrayed
I hope this helps you discern (and feel better) if you’ve had a similar experience with a “false teacher.” And I’m so grateful for the true mentors and the example they set for the rest of us 🙂 I’m hoping I’ve finally learned my lesson on not giving away my ideas (or integrity) to someone who talks a big talk, but doesn’t back it up. No more phonies. And I know I have because the women I work with now couldn’t be more amazing <3