Written by Raisinberry
Over the years as I have contributed here at Pink Truth, I started noticing that there were largely two groups of Mary Kay victims. Individuals have their distinct stories, but throughout the majority of anti-Mary Kay sentiment, there emerged a distinct line between those who stayed in, bee-lieving for the best and able to function without results and those who were able to figure it out pretty quick, trusting their gut, that enabled them to cut losses. Of the women and men who got hammered by the scheme, there were also a series of remarks and feelings that they shared that were all similar to each other. A common denominator started emerging.
Many questioned how did I fall for this? Why did I stay doing it, while I hurt myself and my own family? When I knew things didn’t add up, why did I pretend that they did? Why did I stay silent just because it was assumed we wouldn’t share “negative” things?
These questions and more plunged me back into counseling I had received early in my twenties, concerning the effects of being raised in an alcoholic home. Recently revisiting this history, as I resumed counseling once again, has convinced me that Mary Kay and all other MLM systems that use the same dynamics, are capitalizing on the poor decision making, coping skills, denial and rationalizing behaviors of those of us who may have crawled out from under the dysfunctional rock, never having truly healed the wounds.
It is reported that there are over 76 million people in America who have been exposed to Alcoholism. That makes for quite a lot of children affected by the behavior of both the active alcoholic and the enabling spouse. Studies show that Adult children, as much as they might never wish to duplicate their family environment, often grow up to marry an alcoholic or become one themselves… eventually producing even more adult children of alcoholics.
But lest you think you didn’t have alcoholism in your home, so this wouldn’t apply to you, the research shows that addictive personality disorders and other various dysfunctional behaviors stem from a variety of “isms”. Workaholism, rageaholics, controlaholics, religio-holics, dry drunks, even those who have a family member who consumes the attention of the family because of illness, create the conditions whereby the children in these environments grow up with certain behavior (coping strategies) and self esteem issues.
Suddenly it struck me that Mary Kay herself, was an “adult child”, since her father’s illness commanded all the attention, and her mother wasn’t there. It is easy to see this was born out of necessity, yet what isn’t so easy to see is what it produces in other family members.
Mary Kay Ash lived on morsels of attention, and a “you can do it”, instead of a present, participating active set of parents that put her needs at least, equal to their own. It is said that one of the biggest heart aches of Adult Children is to “matter”. Somebody else in their home always takes center stage, with inconsistency, drama, and out of control situations which develop the 4 major methods for coping; be perfect, be the scapegoat, be the placator, or be lost. And within these rolls, denying what you see, learning not to feel, learning not to trust, surviving on your own, and more, become coping strategies. Above all else, the Adult Child does not want to revisit the deep shame they felt, that was birthed in those days of embarrassment and humiliation, when non-dysfunctional parents would have noticed and prevented such conditions.
So where does that connect with the systems and functioning of Mary Kay Cosmetics? Mary Kay is nearly identical to living in an alcoholic/ dysfunctional home. One of the key components is not being able to talk about what is going on. Children living in these dysfunctions do not talk about what is happening. Its embarrassing and can get you in trouble with the “active” drunk as well be denied by the enabler.
“Mom, is Dad drinking again?”
“No, honey, he is just tired.”
Adult children get comfortable being told lies and shutting down their own assessments. They learn to doubt what they see.
“Mom, I can’t stand it when you drink!”
“If you would stop fighting with your sister, maybe I wouldn’t!”
Adult children get comfortable with blame shifting and accepting responsibility for the behavior of others. They think to themselves, if only I could be better, I could stop Dad from drinking. ACoA’s readily accept blame for poor results.
When the alcoholic makes a mess, the Adult Child “fixes” it to avoid confrontation and reality. The Adult child will do whatever is necessary to make the conditions appear normal. They have no problem “faking it till they make it”.
It is no wonder then, that MLMs prosper because of the sheer numbers of ACoA kids and the other various survivors of abuse in all their forms. Children of these scenarios respond on cue to the predatorial and self serving manipulation of pyramids because they feel very familiar functioning in denial. Name a bigger “elephant in the living room” that the hundreds of thousands of independent beauty consultants, buried in debt, funding Mary Kay on their credit cards, pretending Mary Kay is wonderful until they are sent adrift when their credit lines maxed. Yet every Director I know never speaks of the former offspring and diq’s and on targets in their units that they know have tens of thousands of dollars of unsold inventory, purchased largely on the Director’s encouragement. Pretending it is all alright is key to functioning In Mary Kay.
In Claudia Black’s book, It Could Never Happen to Me, the dynamics of these roles and relationships are outlined and I believe necessary reading to avoid being tripped up by coping mechanisms that may have been used as a child, turning into destructive mechanisms as an adult; denial of reality and self destructive choices topping the list.
ACoA’s have trouble properly assessing the reality around them. ACoA’s make excuses for authority figures. ACoA’s rationalize a future scenario that perhaps next time, (parent/ next month’s production) will be better. ACoA’s of the responsible variety become adept at setting goals, but generally believe they have to do it themselves because others can not be relied upon (easier to put it on my own card). ACoA’s typically believe others will not be available to them when help is needed. They are used to suffering alone. (Don’t tell)
The topic is obviously more complex than a short article can cover, but it may give direction to some of our more wounded members as to why they may have denied for far too long, what they were actually experiencing.
- Dysfunctional homes are ones which tell you something is one way, while living another. (Everyone is making great living selling cosmetics…aren’t you?)
- Dysfunctional homes blame shift. (You aren’t making money? Why aren’t you holding more classes?)
- Dysfunctional homes are shame filled and embarrassing (Don’t tell anyone you can’t afford to go! They won’t want the position!)
- Dysfunctional homes have big secrets (I paid for all these kits and have to lie about why these women never attend meetings or participate)
In dysfunctional homes, the acting out one gets all the attention while the others needs go unmet. And so the children of dysfunction are used to functioning within this abusive and lopsided environment, perfectly able to pretend and play the game and do whatever they need to to cope. Starved for attention and battling low self esteem, they are perfect victims for the entire MLM industry, which gains its greatest financial progress on their unresolved wounds. To the degree that this dynamic may be in all our lives, those who are deeply wounded and perhaps have not seen the correlations between these behaviors and growing up in tough situations, stay in these environments finally believing that they have a place, acceptance and recognition. A childhood gnawing pain is temporarily satisfied in all the hugs and love and praise… this scenario becomes hard to walk away from, and it is utterly impossible to believe, that it is as abusive as the childhood that crushed them.
Because Claudia Black’s book characterizes “dysfunctional families” in a number of ways, think about how large the pool might be that holds children from these dynamics. If your parent was terribly ill and all attention went to them and you raised yourself, you qualify. If your dad or mom was a controlling raging loon, you qualify. If your Mom or Dad was a drunk, and even if it was your grandparent who produced the 1st generation of ACoA who is your parent, you qualify. If your parent is a religious zealot, you qualify. If there are drugs, or insanity or compulsions, the children of those unions suffer…and produce predictable coping strategies that backfire on them as adults. These coping strategies just happen to function very comfortably in an industry that needs pretense to sell, and inability to evaluate. Wa-La: Multi-Level prospect pool. Healthy kids grow to be healthy adults, who recognize trouble, don’t doubt themselves and make no excuses. They get out. Not so true for the wounded.
Denial and a placating style worked for me as a kid. As a grown woman, it produced disastrous results. I now recognize that Mary Kay’s sales leadership loves those who need attention and respond to the “pump ups” because they will “stretch” to help the team, to their own detriment, just to avoid ever feeling again what it is like to be kicked to the curb. ACoA’s also become responsible, “fixer’s” another perfect characteristic that can be exploited. An ACoA will “make it happen” because they learned to be the go-to gal, when Dad passed out, or mom was on a tirade. But one thing holds them all together. They function well within an environment of people who lie, who are self important, who abuse, who shame, and who use.
For some of us, Mary Kay fits the bill perfectly. If that’s you, it is time to shed the abuses and beliefs of the past, and step away from any environment that duplicates what has kept us in our “rolls”, into the truth and the light of a new dawn. Mary Kay capitalized on our wounded ness; they made a lot of money at our expense. We stayed because we believed a deep need would be filled, so we pretended, just like we did as children, that this wasn’t as bad as it was. But it was bad. They took advantage, and told us lies. They simply do not deserve one more breath. And you deserve, a new start.
Trackback from your site.