Hope After Mary Kay
Written by Frosty Rose
Mary Kay is the best opportunity out there for women. I mean, really. Think about all it offers! Financial freedom, be your own boss, control your own time, focus on your family. And that’s just the hook to get you in the door. Once you’re in? Well, then you really have a seat at the banquet table. Life-long friendships, leadership training, mindset training, spiritual support, ALL. THE. THINGS!
If you hang around long enough and really buy in, Mary Kay becomes the foundation of your identity, the keystone for all the positive building blocks that make up your life. So, then, what happens when the scales finally fall from your eyes and the corrosive truth of multi-level marketing becomes clear? The keystone is pulled, and the entire building that is your life comes crashing down.
I started transitioning out of Mary Kay over four years ago, but it was gradual. I wasn’t fully ready to release everything Mary Kay had come to mean to me. I had lost my directorship, stopped trying to rebuild my unit, and gone out and gotten (oh, the shame of it!) a J.O.B. Several months later, I moved into a career-focused job and finally boxed up the last of my product, sold off the last “business tools,” and called it quits right before the pandemic hit (fortuitous timing, I know!)
Even then, watching the last of my 14-year-old business roll out my door in so many boxes and bags, it felt like my failure, my fault. I was still sold on the company line. Mary Kay was the best opportunity out there for women, but for some reason, I just couldn’t hack it. And I couldn’t afford to keep trying anymore.
Now, nearly three years later, I still find myself rediscovering the solid ground upon which my life was built before I joined Mary Kay. Focusing on the positive, maintaining a good attitude, things that are absolutely good for my life? Well, they start feeling like toxic positivity, and I start shutting down. I have had to relearn that critical thinking is not the same as being critical/negative and realign with my own discernment. Since I no longer see the world through pink lenses, I have unfollowed and unfriended so many people on social media. People I believed were building me up with their positive attitude. With clearer vision, I can see how truly toxic they are.
Honest work is ridiculed. Life choices, which in the rest of the world are a matter of personal preference, are mocked when they don’t fall in with the company line. And, most importantly, Mary Kay is an open opportunity, so if you’re not where you want to be with your business, it’s because you didn’t work hard enough or have the right attitude or say enough positive affirmations or because you missed that one company event that conflicted with your kid’s birthday. In short, IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT!
My spiritual walk has been damaged, because every prayer starts to slip into Prosperity Gospel, and I freeze. I recall all those times I prayed, as I had been taught by my Mary Kay mentors, for my business, for money, for worldly success, for more women to come into my circle so I could sell them on the dream (uh… nightmare) of Mary Kay, and I am ashamed.
All those lifelong friendships? They evaporated instantaneously, and, by golly, it’s hard to make friends in middle age! Especially when you spent most of your adulthood basing friendship only on selling makeup and recruiting the next sucker. And especially when you’ve burned through your entire social circle as a happy, smiling bulldozer who had a script for every occasion and never took no for an answer.
I find myself trying to set New Year’s resolutions around this time every year. Attempting to recapture some of the determined, high-achieving, goal-oriented energy that brought me to MK in the first place. But every time I sit down with pen and paper, ready to forge ahead with new goals, I am recalled to every “New Year New You” moment in Mary Kay, every new month beginning, when I set ridiculous goals based on my national’s recommendations and “Mary Kay math,” and I remember each failure that dragged me down, that convinced me that I was the problem in the equation. And my self-esteem takes another hit.
So I step back from my resolutions and resolve instead to continue to simply muddle through in my personal life. Goal setting is critical in my current profession. But I had to learn how to do it from scratch. Because, as it turns out, you can’t just print out sparkly tracking sheets based on imaginary math and produce professional sales forecasts. Who knew? I certainly didn’t before I left Mary Kay.
I was young when I started my MK business and wasn’t ready for a family. By the time my husband and kids came along, I just knew that every woman’s dream was to stay home with her children. It had never crossed my mind to stay home with my kids before Mary Kay, but it was obvious, by then, that any good mother should want to raise them herself and pour her values and belief into them, not drop them off at a school or daycare for someone else to be the primary influence in their lives.
But, though I didn’t yet recognize it, when my children came along I was already trying to pour from an empty cup. I had lost my way and lost myself. And I found myself deep in the throes of post-partum depression that turned to long-term anxiety, primarily because I had no direction and our finances were floundering. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that that is not the best environment for kids’ formative years.
Since I’ve rejoined the real workforce, I have discovered that I’m much happier and healthier when I am out of the house at work on a normal schedule. And my family is happier because I am. The stress level is so much lower in all areas when I am working out of the home, especially since that means a consistent, predictable income.
There is hope after Mary Kay, however. For those of us who were deeply steeped in the pink fog, we find ourselves at Pink Truth, in community with others “in recovery.” And day-by-day, we make choices that bring us further from who Mary Kay told us we should want to be, and closer to the person we choose to be. My hope as I contribute to this community is that people will read these words before they join, or before their entire identity becomes their Mary Kay business. It is to prevent others from getting sucked into the toxicity that poses as a supportive community, that they will not have anything to recover from. For fourteen years, I built the castle of my life on the quicksand that is Mary Kay cosmetics. Three years later, I’m still trying to find solid ground and rebuild. Please, if you’re reading this, don’t make the same mistake.