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How to buy — and sell — with integrity this holiday season

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Especially in the world of MLM marketing, it's vital to remember human dignity.

So here’s a thing you might not know about personal trainers: when we go through the process of getting certified, we have to learn a lot more than how to correct squat form and design effective training programs. Particularly with reputable programs like the National Academy of Sports Medicine (which I’m certified through), we get a fair amount of training on behavioral science and psychology. In order to truly be able to help our clients achieve their goals, we have to help them find a solid why. 

A “why” can be anything from wanting to be healthy enough to play with kids or grandkids to wanting to get off blood pressure medication or stave off diabetes. A “why” cannot be hating your pants size, or yourself. Self-loathing is not an effective strategy for enacting real, lasting, healthy change — self-loathing is a recipe for cycling and despair. Essentially, you will never find the will to create a new and better life for yourself unless you believe the simple truth — that you deserve that life.

Unfortunately, that’s not a common message in the world of Facebook-driven MLM marketing, something I was reminded of when I read Simcha Fisher’s recent post on selling self-loathing.

My husband likes how I look, my little kids think I’m beautiful like a princess, and objectively speaking, I know I look fine, and sometimes quite nice. But show me enough photos of women who look like me, and then tell me they’re the loathed, detested, unacceptable “before” version, and I will start to listen with at least part of my ear. I start to think I’m fooling myself that I look okay. This is what you’re doing to me, because you want a commission.

I have lots of friends who make money through MLM companies, and I’m not here to hate on them. In my experience, most of them really believe in or just plain like their product, and they want to share it with their friends and make a (usually quite small) profit on it. It’s brutal to try and find ways to bring in extra income when you’ve got many small kids at home, and this is one solution that’s appealing because of its flexibility.

But I do think there’s something to be said for changing the way we approach people, especially women, when promoting anything we believe can be life-changing. I’ve seen too many of my female clients completely ignore genuine, measurable, exciting victories because the number on the scale didn’t move. I’m talking about women who couldn’t run the length of the parking lot and can now run a mile without stopping, women who have moved from five-pound dumbbells to 15, women who couldn’t skip and can now fly through agility drills better than my eight-year-old soccer player — but they don’t see it. They only see the pant size that’s the same or the scale that hasn’t moved.

It makes me angry, y’all. We have been so conditioned to view ourselves through lenses of self-loathing (me included!) that we can hardly recognize genuine victories unless they’re the kind that make us look the way the cover of a magazine says we should. But that’s such a narrow, reductive view. It completely negates literally everything that makes up who we are, including our inherent human dignity.

I truly believe that if we are going to sell anything to anyone, we must not abandon our integrity. And that integrity includes a recognition of the humanity of the person we are selling to. We must not reduce each other to “before and after” projects, because we are so much more than that. My clients who are stronger, faster, healthier, and happier fill my heart with joy because they are amazing people, and they have achieved amazing things through hard work and dedication. Most of them still don’t look like they belong on the cover of a magazine, and you know what? I hope they never do. Because the truth is, the models on the covers of most magazines probably couldn’t lift the weights we lift, carry the firehoses we carry, or run the endless sprints we run. Honestly, I wish I could train those girls!

Whether you’re on the selling or being sold-to end of the MLM world, don’t lose sight of the fact that you are worthy. You are worthy of living a good and healthy life, of loving and being loved in return. That’s what human dignity is. And if the product you’re selling or buying doesn’t reinforce that truth, you know what you should do?

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