Written by Sad In Pink

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. “You see, I did not know that there were others out there asking themselves the same questions and dealing with guilt, too.”

    ^^^This is such an important statement.

    Mary Kay creates this veneer of success around everyone with all their “be positive!” mumbo-jumbo. And all those who are struggling (99 out of 100, give or take) think, “It must be me. Everyone else is doing so well!”

    Pink Truth’s invaluable service is to help peel away that veneer. To show why it’s not you; it’s them. It’s Mary Kay. THEY are the ones who set up this scam system of over-recruiting, supersaturating the market with “sellers” who are actually the customers, and reaping the rewards.

    Do you realize it costs Mary Kay nothing to bring on a new rep? Heck, the rep has to pay Mary Kay for the privilege of being abused by them. The rep pays for everything, and they don’t even get a protected territory in return. (Don’t buy the lie that “no territories!” is a good thing, because it most certainly is not.)

    It’s not just you. It’s practically everybody.

    • The really tricky thing about the “be positive” mumbo jumbo is it’s also used by legitimate motivational speakers, churches, schools, and pop psychology so it seems safe & familiar at first. It used to be everywhere for a while. But MK takes it to an extreme degree & uses it manipulate. I can totally see how people don’t realize it at first.
      Such a good point that it costs nothing for MK to add a new rep! I wonder if they break even on the starter kits or make money on them?

  2. Saw a relevant quote today:

    “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”
    — Carl Sagan


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