The Mary Kay Guilt Trip

Written by sadnpink

Guilt and shame are two of the most powerful manipulative tools in the tool box of MLMs and especially Mary Kay. It is one reason so many women stay in the company and find it difficult to leave.

The thought of “who am I going to let down if I leave” can be strong enough to keep us in a holding pattern when we know we should go.

At the very beginning of my MK career, I came in to have fun and use the products. It was my third go round with MLM, but I thought Mary Kay was different. After all, I was told it was “dual marketing.” not multi-level marketing. I bought into that thinking even though my husband informed me that there was no difference. The “guilt trip” for me did not begin until I started to attend weekly meetings as an adoptee. It was there that I quickly learned about recognition. Those who did not bring guests, recruit someone, or order enough to be a star did not receive the time of day let alone recognition. So I jumped on the bandwagon to prove that I was no slacker.

As I moved up the ladder of success, I found more and more pressure beginning to be added to my plate at each conference I attended. The goals got tougher and things were said like: “God wants you to be great” or “God doesn’t give you a dream that He doesn’t give you the ability to achieve.” This played into my psyche since I am a Christian. Certainly I didn’t want to let God down.

So when I began to have difficulties as a Sales Director making production, I began to look at myself and say, “What’s wrong with me? I must be a bad leader. I don’t see anyone else struggling like this so it must be me.” I even began to question whether my spiritual life was okay because God was not blessing me the way I saw others blessed. Do you see how guilt can be destructive? I began to lose confidence in my ability as a leader, so I worked over time to prove I was successful. Little did I realize that it was a failed system – not me – that kept me from achieving my dreams.

A more subtle method of applying guilt comes through an hierarchy mentality in this company. You are NOBODY unless you are in the top ten as a consultant, red jacket or director. At each level, unless we stand out, we do not get the praise, recognition, or assistance we desire. Who wants to feel left out? Yet, all you have to do is go to seminar or some banquet and sit there all evening long while others are lauded and you don’t even get a nod. Somehow, I was told that in Mary Kay we were “praised” to success. Where was the praise and recognition for at least helping to support the whole pyramid? I had that thought from the time I was a consultant all the way through directorship.

Over and over again we are told to be a “team player”… meaning order up and churn women as recruits. If we fail to do this, we don’t get phone calls from our director or those upline from us. The silence is all the guilt we need. We are also told that this business is simple. Just book, coach, sell and recruit. If we do this consistently 3+3+3, we can write our own ticket to success. So the implied message is… if you cannot do this, it is your own fault. You didn’t work hard enough, or work the numbers enough. The reality is much different. 99% do not succeed in any MLM. 99% fail in Mary Kay. I didn’t know that or realize it so for a long time I kept running as hard as I could to make it work. I appeared outwardly successful but inside, the guilt was piling up.

When I finally could no longer take the emotional roller coaster, I resigned. However, I felt a lot of shame. I felt as though I had let a lot of people down. I think this is the reason that keeps many from leaving Mary Kay sooner. You see, I did not know that there were others out there asking themselves the same questions and dealing with guilt too. We are told not to be negative or to even talk with those who question. Yet that is mental suicide. Why would a smart woman not ask questions? We should and we must!

Let me close with this example. In a recent call to red jackets, a NSD told her people to get the prize booklet for the new quarter out and show it to her children. Let them see the beautiful pink piano for children in the flyer. Tell them that you are going to win this for them with your business. This will help you set a goal.

Can you see the manipulation in something like this? How would you feel if you didn’t order enough to get that prize for your child? How would your child feel? Things like this are said all the time in Mary Kay to make us dance to a certain tune. Guilt and shame often keep people trapped in a sick, dysfunctional relationship for decades. These two tools can also keep women from leaving a business that does not work. We need to recognize that we do not have to please or answer to any company or upline. The guilt and shame are false and based on greed, envy and power. None of these bring out the best in any of us. In a true business opportunity, we would be trained on how to sell the product, encouraged at every level and not made to feel spiritually inferior if we do not hit a goal.

This summer don’t take “the Mary Kay Guilt Trip” . Take a real vacation and leave Mary Kay behind!


  1. BestDecision

    Not wanting to wear our suit in 100 degree Dallas heat, not wanting to wear 3-4″ heels at Seminar, feeling exhausted but having to keep up your positive attitude and peppy spirit. Those are just a few of the guilts I faced every Summer.

    The abuse of Christian guilt is something you hit on, and it’s profound. I rad the latest book everybody was reading and even began to question if I had done wrong so much so that God wasn’t cheering me on. I had scriptures quoted at me by some of the very people that began to show their true colors and were nasty to me as I resigned.

    It’s ironic that I felt emotionally, mentally, and spiritually stronger the moment I resigned and returned my inventory. And, as Seminar is in full swing right now, I’m happy to be cool, wear seasonally appropriate clothing, and am surrounded by real friends that aren’t fake, egotistical, and are doing financially better off than we were as Cadillac Directors.

  2. Lazy Gardens

    If we fail to do this, we don’t get phone calls from our director or those upline from us. The silence is all the guilt we need.

    It’s called “shunning” and it is a very powerful behavior modification technique. First they welcome you into the group and it’s all “love bombing”, rainbows and unicorn farts. You get used to the petting and praising.

    was told that in Mary Kay we were “praised” to success
    They use withdrawal of the praise to get you to do more. It was not the praise, it was losing it, that was the big motivator.

  3. gotheart

    Sad pink, so insightful.

    The FALSE HOPE MLM manipulated me with were deliberately meant to deceive me AND THEY SURE DID.

    The false hope the consultant is given to TRUST in, expecting to happen, with the Mary Kay scam is camouflaged to resemble the system of religious belief of her faith. Her TRUST in the MLM scam is overloaded with the leaders preaching on on spiritual TRUST much like her religious up bringing. You know? Accounts of how to have faith in her god from the repeated stories she was taught to TRUST in as a child? ‘Trust and obey there is no other way,’ or ‘the faith of the mustard seed,’ or trust in the Lord with all of your heart lean not on your own understanding, acknowledge Him in every thing and He will make your path straight,’ her day of worship is full of those examples. Trusting like the spiritual great leader, she holds dear in living her life to please her god, David and Goliath.

    Never give up, she can TRUST her way to the top ten by believing she is using the same selling and recruiting practices she is taught by her leaders. But the deceptive practices, con scheme her leaders use to make it appear they are successful are not the same as they preach. You know 30 faces in 30 days, 3+3+3, do not work at all. They don’t even make mathematical sense but the consultant TRUST in what she is being taught.

    The MLM, Mary Kay company is a parasite who relies on a consultant to take it into the safety, privacy of a trusting woman’s home, exploiting both the consultant and perspective customer/recruit at their expense, giving nothing in return. The consultant at first innocently “shares” her cosmetics. Again at first she thinks she has accomplished a sale with a mercy purchase and a booking to return. She attends her Scam Directors meeting to share her experience feeling great about it not realizing she is being exploited by her Scam Director to spreads false hope to others as she receives her recognition ribbon. Then the Scam Director addresses the consultant in front of her peers and promises another ribbon when she brings her new customer to a Muffins and Makeover night to be recruited by the Scam Director.

    The consultant’s booking is eventually canceled and the mercy purchase is never reorder which is the cycle most of the time and she has to find another victim to lure to Muffins and Makeover.

    1. enorth

      Heard a training vid where the SD then asked if there were any questions…
      Q: How do you keep your people motivated? A: You can’t. You need to do a lot yourself; even then, your team will only do about a third of what they see you do.
      Q: When bookings keep on canceling, what do I do? A: Offer them more incentives. If you were offering $10 in free product, make it $20.
      Q: How long should I keep calling people who won’t book? A: Until they tell you to stop.
      Q: I have a few customers who order, but they refuse to book a facial or party. What should I do?
      A: Call them and sound excited. Tell them you just got off the phone with your director and you are close to getting your MK car, or tell them you have a big goal.

      MLM training in a nutshell: Suck it up, give bigger bribes, harass people, and lie.

      1. raisinberry

        And would you have to do ANY of that if any of what they were offering was true??

        The day i realized that all the bribes, bait, lies and half truths were only necessary because the average woman had to be tricked to join, the pink scales started falling from my eyes.

        If mary kay actually WAS what they claim it is, the’d have to limit the order quantities and recruitment and use waiting lists!

  4. Iescaped

    In all other aspects of my life I have never fallen for the guilt trips or concerns about letting someone down. I have always been able to make decisions that were the best for myself and my family.

    But when I wanted out of MK, and wanted to quit in DIQ, I was all of a sudden concerned about letting strangers in my Unit and Area down!

    I still can’t wrap my head around this. There is powerful brainwashing going on and you don’t even recognize it.

    In a real J.O.B one might feel a bit guilty of taking another job and possibly leaving people in a lurch. But in a real job, those people are just a small part of your life. In MLMs they invade all aspects of your life.

    The decision to quit MK is probably similar to making a decision to disown your family. There are way more emotions and feelings involved with quiting MK than leaving any other job.

    1. MLM Radar

      I think the reason you were concerned about disappointing strangers is because you’d spent your entire time in Mary Kay trying to impress them. Suddenly the ugly truth you’d so carefully concealed was about to be put on public display. Furthermore, you knew from watching other “failed” MK consultants that your vulnerability was likely to be highlighted by your ex-director and you’d have no chance to defend yourself.

      That hurts.

      The real truth is that the Mary Kay petty witches are the only people who were actually upset about you leaving, and only because they were watching another cash cow (you) dry up. Strangers didn’t really care after all, and your true friends had been there all along, waiting for you to see the light.

      Glad you saw the light.

        1. MLM Radar

          You’re sharing your story and inspiring others to free themselves from bondage. Payment has already been made in full. Thank you for your generosity.

          p.s. I’m an accountant.

  5. cindylu

    The problem is that this company was begun pretending to care about their IBC’s and directors. Even pretending to have Christian philosophies. Pretending to be something called dual marketing when they knew from day one this was an mlm. Squeezing every possible opportunity away from their sales force so the company makes massive profits while ruining women financially. The exploitation women through scripts, false praise, meaningless training, the inability to advertise and constantly changing products ensures those at the top of this pyramid scheme are the few that profit. The answer to NO real customers or recruits is to give more products away. The joke is we were taught NOT to break up the skin care set. Problem is absolutely NO one wants to book a skin care class/party with the creepy MK lady or business that has exploited women for decades.

    1. enorth

      Anyone wanting an education about MK must listen to the training videos.
      Here’s what I heard today from an NSD: “When you wake up in the morning, ask yourself these two questions…’Who will be my next personal recruit? and, Who will be my next DIQ?’ “

      1. BestDecision

        Directors recruit an average of 1 person a year, so it’s no wonder big money isn’t made. The business model is flawed because it almost mandates a person recruit to make good money. Sure, you make 50% on your sales, but when so few actual consumers want the product, making 13% + 13% + 10% commissions as a Director on your personal’s larger inventory orders is more lucrative.

  6. Deb

    A long while back I thought I’d “do mk”. I do like their products, and it sounded like it would be fun! After all, I allI had to do was book maybe 2 parties a month and ppl would book demos from there right? WRONG! The biggest thing I remember gearing was “I’m allergic or I use Olay or Neutrogena”. I also remember not getting the discount on inventory unless you purchased a certain amount! Like I believe it was 200.00. Crazy! I stayed with it a while then knew nope this is not for me!! I saw that this organization made $$ off me purchasing inventory and then trying to sell it to make my money back plus some. I also saw the mentality of MK — what your goals? Just do this and yes lies too!! Nope not for me! I ll never forget meetings when I had a summer dress on and a remark was made by the speaker/ Director about wearing sundresses! What???crazy!! I gave up MK and later sold Avon — no lies, no pressin you. Order what you want and thats that! The books sell themselves too. Its not for making big bucks unless thsts your thing again, recruits but its fun to get products! I think MK is one of the worse direct selling companies. Their product is good though!

  7. Areli

    Well I have 6 mouths in MK, learning. But something inside of my did not let me be happy. Know that I’m reading all of this make sends too me. I personally dont like the fact that they us God all the time. I do believe in the creador of Heaven and Earth but I belive that there is a place and time for everything. I love sales and MK has good products. But I got separed from my husband when I started saling Mk. They do make you think you can get everything you desired if you give a 10 % extra every week. Well I will have to think about it!!!!!

    1. BestDecision

      The a use, misuse, and frequency of “God” in MK is one of the things I grew quickly tired of. There are some NSDs like Pam Shaw and Kathy Helou that use scripture in almost every speech they give, and I agree–there is a time and place for it. MK Ash never quoted scripture, yet she asked us to follow the Golden Rule, which is based in Christianity. I value that, but, you’re right, it gets old quickly.

      I drove pink Cadillacs, and My greatest advice for you is this: Pay attention to your gut. If you’re less than a year in and already have red flags waving about things, I assure you it won’t get any better. It gets worse as a Red Jacket, and it gets uber bad as a Director. Directors aren’t making the money you think they are until they do the extended “Prestige Trip”. Most aren’t making what they could make working part-time elsewhere.

      As for Seminar, good for you to not go. It’s just a bunch of fog machines and egos!

  8. No Pink For Me

    Yep, I felt like I was letting down my SD and my unit. I knew I shouldn’t feel that way but I did. It bothered me that I felt that way. I knew it wasn’t normal, yet it was starting to feel normal. I am glad I left when I did. I think I would have been sucked up on the bubble for years because I was starting to adjust to the MK norm and culture.

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