Meaningful conversations can only take place in a culture of respect and courtesy between people who are capable of seeing their highest ideals in each other. This is a quote that Whitney Lauritsen considers a part of her awakening. With all the unpleasant experiences people around the world are going through today, it can be a challenge to engage in difficult conversations bounded on respect and compassion. Dive into an uncomfortable discussion and join Whitney as she unpacks the damages of societal pressure, minority stereotypes, and COVID-19 discrimination. Take this time to pause, reflect, and find meaning in the little things.
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Finding Meaning In Unpleasant Experiences
Culture Of Courtesy
Meaningful conversations can only take place in a culture of respect and courtesy between people who are capable of seeing their highest ideals in each other and who can recognize and reflect the essential sameness which lies at the heart of each and every human being. That is a quote from a training I have been taking about Web 3.0. I’m so glad that I saved that. I have been taking notes during the whole training. I feel like I’m back in school.
Web 3.0 is very little if anything to do with this episode’s topic but I had those notes in front of me and they applied to what this episode is about. The other quotes that I wanted to share that I have been saving for quite some time and I don’t remember where this came from so I’m going to have to go look up the attribution, this quote is everything I feel, think, say and do is a necessary part of my awakening. Both of those quotes hit home for me on this topic, which is related to something I did the second week of March 2022, a few weeks before this episode comes out.
I’m doing a lot of processing. I think this episode is going to feel more like a conversation. Although technically, it’s not a conversation because you are not here and I’m just talking alone to you. I think that this will feel much like it would feel if you were a friend listening to me sharing some things. Imagine that you have asked me how I felt and what I thought about what my experience was of the Natural Products Expo, which is a trade show I have gone to more times than I can remember. I know for sure I have been there at least ten times but I would estimate it’s somewhere between 15 or 20 times I have attended this trade show.
It’s a natural products industry trade show, thus, the name, Natural Products Expo. It happens twice a year in the United States. Once in Anaheim, California and in the past, it used to happen in Baltimore, Maryland. Now, it happens in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I have been to both sides of it and I have enjoyed it over time. Last year in 2021, I went to the first trade show of its kind that happened since the pandemic started. That was in Philadelphia. I cannot remember if I recorded an episode about it. There’s also likely an episode on This Hits the Spot, which is the complementary podcast to this show and I do intend to do an episode of This Hits a Spot about this event that happened in Anaheim in 2022.
For a little background, if you have not listened to any of those episodes and this is the very first time you have heard me talk about the Natural Products Expo, it is an industry-only professional show in which people from all over the world gather to talk about, consume, try out and do business related to these natural products. It’s set up in convention centers with thousands of booths and brands from all around the world but in this case, mainly in the United States. They are brands of different sizes but generally, brands that can afford to pay a few thousand dollars or so to be there.
They set up these booths and they sample their products. They talk to retailers, distributors, people from the press and a lot of other different branches of the industry that I’m not even that familiar with. I go as part of the press and over the years that has evolved into this influencer world. I walk around with a badge that states that I’m an “influencer”. I’m putting that in quotations because I don’t use the word influencer for myself. I’m not a big fan of it. I’m also moving away from the word content creator.
On my badge, I wrote that I am a podcaster and I chose to wear my mask during the show, which is going to be something I’m going to talk about in this episode. I had a really cool mask. The mask says, “Ask me about my podcast.” That was given to me by Podetize, the company that does my podcast for me. They help with all the transcripts, the editing, the hosting and help make this show possible. I was wearing that mask and prepared to talk a lot about podcasting but spoiler alert, I did not end up talking about it quite as much as I normally would.
I go as this press/influencer and walk around the show, trying out products, talking to people that run these businesses, asking them questions and mingling with other attendees. Of all these times I have been, the last 2 times, this 1 in March and the previous 1 in September 2021, have been interesting because of the pandemic. I felt a lot of emotions that I wanted to process not just specifically about this event but where I’m at and how I have evolved.Gratitude is the key to feeling validated and feeling like your work impacted somebody enough to say, “Thank you.” Click To Tweet
This is a follow-up to an episode I did called The Ick Factor. If you have not checked out that episode yet, I shared how I was not even sure that I wanted to go to this event anymore, which was a strange thought for me. The pandemic, a lot of the isolation I have had, the feeling that many of us have experienced of everything being a bit out of sorts and feeling disconnected from one another if we have gone back to any sort of normalcy, it does not fully feel “normal” anymore. It is different. Things have changed.
During my time as I have evolved as a person over the last couple of years, I have recognized a lot of social anxiety. I have recognized neurodivergence within myself that I didn’t know was there and I have taken the time to reflect on what’s important to me. It’s interesting now having finished the trade show to reflect back on what I was feeling when I recorded that Ick Factor episode because I was wondering if it even felt right for me to go anymore. I went through a rollercoaster of emotions.
Now that I have set the stage for what this trade show is I want you to picture it a little bit more. If you have ever been to Disneyland in Anaheim, this trade show is across the street from it so you have a bit of a visual. If you have never been to Disneyland, I will paint a picture of Anaheim. There are a lot going on. There are a lot of hotels and smaller homes around them, many of which are Airbnbs. There are a lot of cars around and there are Palm trees.
March in Anaheim tends to be beautiful. It has blue skies and nice weather. It’s right before daylight savings so it’s that time of year when it feels like summer is so close. Technically, spring is about to begin but in Anaheim, which is right outside of Los Angeles, it feels like we only have two seasons. We have the chillier season and the warmer season. We have the maybe more likely to rain time of year and the much less likely to rain time of year.
I feel like in March, there’s a shift that happens. We have got the daylight savings change, which means that it will be lighter longer or later into the day, which is exciting and the weather starts to feel nicer. You can start going outside in tank tops again. In Anaheim you can, there’s a feeling to it and maybe it’s because I have spent the past years experiencing this shift in Anaheim during this trade show. Imagine a big convention center with a street that leads up to it and some hotels on the side and then imagine that during the Natural Products Expo, that street is filled with people.
In 2019, the last time the trade show happened in Anaheim, there were close to 100,000 people attending this event. This year in March 2022, it felt like it was about the same amount of people. Every hotel is booked, the sidewalks are packed with people and here are companies all over the place passing out samples of their products. It’s really fun because there’s a buzz in the air. There’s generosity. Also, who does not love free food? Who does not love trying new things? Maybe some people don’t like trying new things but I love it.
Health & Wellness
All of these years that I have been there, I walk in there and it feels like I’m a kid in a candy store. The energy and excitement are contagious. This is why I go to the show. I go to this trade show because I can and because I work in the health and wellness industry with my show social media and the blogging I used to do. I have been involved in helping promote these brands. You have to apply to go and someone like me is vetted out to see if I’m considered a professional, which luckily I have been.
They have accepted me into the show so I get an official badge. Every person has to show their ID and get their badges scanned. They take it very seriously. They have a good amount of security so nobody can just walk into this event. Trust me. I would love to bring all of my friends to it because it is so much fun but I can’t. You have to be working in the industry.
What I have done for a large part of the time that I have gone to this trade show is post about it. You could go back especially in my Eco-Vegan Gal days to find tons of YouTube videos. In the early days, probably the first 2 or 3 years that I went, I did some overview videos. I have a playlist of all the videos or most of the videos that I have made about this trade show. It’s worth checking out for reference if you are still trying to visualize what it’s like.
I remember in those early days, I was still trying to figure out my place in this content world. My first year going to this event was in 2010. I was starting to get things off the ground mostly with YouTube so I was recording everything. I recorded every restaurant I went to, everything I ate and I was reviewing every product. I loved doing that. I went to this trade show with my camera, recorded it and was trying to summarize the experience but what I also got into was the trends. I wanted to be one of the first people to share what was trending and what was brand new.
For many years, I had this strong drive for going to the show and sharing it as soon as possible so that I would be one of the main people known for new products. It’s interesting to look back on because I spent so much time and work covering this trade show in the past. I would spend probably the week leading up to it researching as many brands as I possibly could, emailing them, seeing what they were coming out with and connecting with them on social media.
When I would then go to this event, I went through a phase of interviewing the people that had these brands and that took a lot of work, booking all the time with them, meeting them, recording them, editing the videos and posting it. It was super draining but my hope was that it would position me as this top person in that field. As I’m sharing that, I’m thinking back to some of the other people that I modeled myself after. There was this one guy who used to do those types of reviews too. His name was Grocery something. He was an older man. I don’t know if he’s still around but I used to think I want to be that guy that knows all of the new products and is connected to all of the brands.
I made some progress there but I never really felt like I got to that point that I wanted. I never felt like people cared that much no matter how hard I tried. It’s interesting. That was true of Eco-Vegan Gal in general, which was a lot of work went into shaping that online brand and I never felt like people cared that much relative to how much effort I put into it.
As the years went on and I noticed the results were not getting me where I wanted to go, things started to shift for me. I started going to this event to connect with other attendees more so than the brands that were there. I started a networking event. I started a vegan meetup there. In one year, I threw this huge event. I got sponsors, catering and even rented out a room there. It was simultaneously a huge success and a big disaster. I’m not going to get into it. That was something I’m glad I did but it gives me anxiety thinking back about the things that went wrong. It was very heartbreaking because I put so much work into it and despite my best efforts, it did not work out.
Then, I put a lot of time into creating a guide. I had all this passion and knowledge I’d gained from going to this event and because I really like optimizing things, creating structure and supporting people, I decided to write an eBook called The Insider’s Guide to the Natural Products Expo. I don’t remember what year I published it the first time. It was maybe in 2014. I put together this 60-page book. I interviewed other people that went to that event, compiled all their best advice into this book and would update it every year. I did so through 2019 and I stopped in 2020.
I used to push out that guide. I put so much effort into it. I then shifted into wanting to become an expert on this trade show. I sold the book for $5. Sometimes, I would give it away if people would help me promote it and that was also interesting. After at least five years of working on that eBook, I never felt like people cared that much about it so once 2020 came through, I was like, “I don’t have to do this event because this trade show isn’t happening right now.” I paused on it. This year in 2022, I realized that there’s part of me that still wants to support people in that way but it’s not worth the effort. Let’s say $50 max is what I would make in a year from this eBook. I would then also give it away for free so however many people would download it for free and to do that, they had to share the eBook on Twitter or social media. It never felt like people were that grateful for it.Many people accept things for how they are because they don't believe that they can change. Click To Tweet
Gratitude Is Key
I realized over time that gratitude is so key for me. Feeling validated and feeling like my work impacted somebody enough to say thank you is huge for me. Even with this show, a fraction of the people that tune in to this show ever write me and say, “Thank you,” and that’s okay. It has truly become a minor concern. It’s not something I expect and something that I feel keeps me going. I love hearing from people and certainly, when somebody does write to me, message me or tell me in person that they tuned in to the show, it lights me up. It makes me feel good but that’s not the reason I do it.
I think that hearing thank you or making sales for a lot of my work in the past used to drive me. When that diminished, I did not feel as driven and that’s an important thing to keep in mind. I started slowing down the videos eventually and stopped worrying about this eBook. One person asked me about the eBook this year in 2022, by the way and that’s when I was like, “It is past its prime. It’s not worth it anymore.” I still get emails from a lot of companies that want me to come by and interview them. That has been an interesting thing too. It ties into the quote that I shared in the beginning.
Knowing Your Value
Over the years that I have been attending the event, I have received so many messages from companies that want something from me but are not willing to give it back and this has been a huge issue for me. If you are wondering where the value of this episode is for you beyond perhaps your curiosity into the business of the world that I’m in. I want you to think about any time in your life when you felt like somebody was asking for more of you than they were willing to give to you. I think all of us can relate to that. You can apply this to pretty much anything personally or professionally.
In the case of this expo, I have ended up on all of these lists as somebody in the press and now as what they would consider an influencer. It became incredibly transactional, meaning that these brands are in this state of mind, from what I can perceive, of trying to reach as many people as possible. There’s a term for this that hopefully will come to mind. It is like if you go out and try to spam as many people as possible with your message, maybe you will get a handful of them getting back to you. In this case, they will download a list of all the people in the press and they will email them all the same message asking if they will cover them in their content.
At the beginning stages. Going back to probably 2011 or 2012, once I had been more established in the trade show, I used to take these emails very seriously. I would respond to every single one. Most of them would never reply back to me, which was interesting. It’s like getting something in the mail that if you were to respond to a physical letter you received in the mail, you had probably never heard back because it’s like any mail that you get from a company. It’s not meant for you. You’re just the person at the address. It’s truly transactional. The only time that they would really respond to you is if you gave them what they were looking for.
It’s almost like a computer in a way. Do you know when you try to reach out to customer service on a website and they have an AI chatbot and they have automated responses based on the keywords that you type in or it’s like when you call customer service on the phone and you have to press a very specific number in order to get help? It’s that frustrating process when either in the chatbot or on the phone if you type anything outside of the algorithm that they have created. You can’t get what you want. It’s not customized. It’s designed to respond in bulk. It’s designed to respond to the average inquiry and not any specific thing that only a few people experience. That is what this pre-event email is like.
These companies only want you to say, “Yes, I will meet or interview you. Yes, I will publish you in my blog post.” If you say no, you will never hear back from them. If you say maybe, you might hear back from them but if you say anything that’s too complicated, you probably will never hear back from them because they are looking for the lowest common denominator.
For years, I would get these emails with interview requests and I would think, “This company sounds interesting to me. I will go and interview them.” I would interview them and spend fifteen minutes or so with them. Let’s visualize the trade show. If you have ever been to a farmer’s market or to a festival of sorts, it’s one of those types of booths where there’s a bunch of dirt rail and you are standing in a crowded area trying to find some room.
That would be me interviewing somebody from the company. I could tell that during the interview, they were trying to get it over with. They were distracted and giving me the usual answers. They were waiting to get it over with so that they can go on to the next person. It’s transactional. The interview then would end and they would follow up saying, “When is the interview going to be posted?” I would post it and would never hear from them again.
As a very sensitive, heartfelt person who likes to live intentionally, that wore away at me. That made me feel insignificant so over the years, I decided I don’t want that experience anymore but I still wanted to go to this trade show so I had to think about what I can do. I experimented with reviewing products but the company is generally similar to the interviews. Once you did the review, you’d never hear from them again. They would forget about you. They would move on to the next person.
It’s like dating the dating app where you swipe, you match with somebody, you feel a connection with them and then they ghost you. You swipe, you match with somebody, maybe you go on a date and the date does not go well, they move on to the next person or maybe, the date goes well and you are intimate with them but they are not interested in a relationship. They are just interested in that transactional intimacy. They will move on to the next person and you will never hear from them again or maybe, you will hear from them again the next time they are interested in the intimate connection that you gave them the first time. They have considered you somebody that they can go to when they want something but in between the first time and the next time they want something, you don’t hear from them.
For someone like me, I’m not interested in that and some people are. Some people are okay with transactional intimacy like they are okay with transactional business. I’m not that person and I’m practicing not judging people that are okay with transactional. What I have recognized is that the majority of people seem to be okay with transactional from my perception but because they seem okay with it does not mean that that’s what they want. There’s a metaphor for humanity. How many people are okay with the status quo or just go along with it because they don’t realize it can be different? How many people accept things for how they are because they don’t believe that they can change? I believe things can change and can be different because I feel so compelled about intimate, true, deep and long-lasting connections. It’s not romantically but in all facets of my life.
I’m very triggered by transactional over time. It’s worn away at me. In the beginning stages of this trade show, I was so new to it that I accepted the fact that I felt insignificant. A lot of times when we are new, we feel like we have to pay the dues that we allow that type of treatment. Over the years, looking back at all the things that I have done at these trade shows, I realized that outside of the trade show bubble, I didn’t feel or I don’t feel much meaning in people’s lives. Maybe there’s more meaning than I realized because a lot of people don’t communicate the meaning that you have. A lot of people don’t tell you when they are thinking about you. A lot of people don’t tell you when you have made a difference in their life and I wish that more of us would go out of our way to do that but I recognize that it’s overwhelming to communicate that much.
I struggle with communication. It drains me. Maybe that’s why it’s tough. Over the years, I have built a lot of connections. This year in 2022, I got texts from people letting me know they were going to the trade show and asking if I wanted to meet up with them but it was very different this year because I was concerned about COVID. I want to talk about that too.
I want to say there are some readers who have been very vocal with me about their COVID opinions. When I bring up COVID, it’s not meant to start a debate. It’s meant to share my experiences, my perspectives and if my perspectives conflict, contrast or are different than yours, that’s okay. I am aware that there’s a spectrum in which people view COVID. I’m not bringing any of these things up to say that my way is right and yours is wrong. I’m also not asking for you to change my mind. There are people that tune in to this show and see me on social media that have worked hard to try to change my mind about COVID and that’s okay. I can’t prevent people from saying those things to me but it’s important to state for me that it’s not changing my mind when you approach me that way. That’s my little disclosure.
The Natural Products Expo ahead of time said that they are going to require either proof of vaccination including the booster or proof of negative COVID test. You have to submit this ahead of time through their system and get verified and then when you got to the event and register, they would check your verification. On your badge, it would say that you had gone through that process.Communication may be overwhelming and tough because it drains people. Click To Tweet
I like that there’s a choice between a vaccination or a negative COVID test but it does seem a little silly to ask for a negative COVID test because from what I know, you could get a test now and an hour from now contract it so you could still be bringing COVID into an event like this unless you are tested at the door, which they did not do.
I think that the proof of the negative COVID test is not the greatest system. I wish there was a different way. They were not taking people’s temperature. They were just taking people’s words for it. The event also said that masks would be required and that was a little controversial I suppose because in California where the event happened. They had lifted the mask mandate so you are not required to wear masks indoors anymore but the Natural Products Expo said that they were still going to require it because there were so many people there.
I estimate there was a minimum of 75,000 people that were at this event or I would guess closer to 100,000 based on what I have seen in the past. I don’t know when they will release these numbers but that’s my guess. A bare minimum of 50,000 people is a lot of people. That’s the most people I have been around in one place to my knowledge since COVID.
In September 2021, I went to the event in Philadelphia, the same Natural Products Expo but it was very minimally attended. I would guess maybe 20,000. I’m not sure if they released those numbers. Regardless of what the exact numbers were, there were a ton of people indoors at once for four days straight. They said multiple times on their website and in their emails that they would require masks so I went in there with my mask in hand expecting other people to wear masks.
On the very first day of the event, I realized that people were not wearing their masks. It was a slow realization because the event started at 11:00 AM in an outdoor space. They have one section of the event that was outdoors. It was like a farmer’s market-style event and I think because I had just gotten there and it was outdoors that if I noticed other people without wearing masks, I don’t think it occurred to me that it was an issue. I either thought nobody was paying attention so they are not being regulated or perhaps it was okay for them to not wear their mask because we are outside.
I went through that part of the event and then I went to the indoor section of the event and that’s where it hit me. I’m walking around and it’s slowly becoming apparent that I am 1 of maybe 10% of attendees that were wearing their masks despite the signs, the emails and the notice on the website. Other people were not wearing them. I started to feel incredibly confused and uncomfortable with that. I had walked through the event trying to process how I felt because I went in there with an expectation and that’s not what happened. For me, it felt a bit violating.
Masks are a sensitive subject. I get that. They are controversial. They bring up a lot of emotions and opinions within people. I have traveled around the country a few times since COVID. I have had conversations with all different friends with different perspectives and the mask situation brings me a lot of sadness because, from my perspective, the masks have been helpful. I do not have a problem at all wearing masks. In fact, I enjoy wearing my mask. The only time that a mask feels uncomfortable to me is when I’m wearing my glasses. I wear driving glasses. I also was trying to wear my blue blocker glasses during the event but I could not because they kept fogging up. I find that extremely uncomfortable so instead of taking off my mask, I took off my glasses and did not wear them during the event.
I don’t mind breathing through them. I have chosen very comfortable masks to wear. I’m somebody who double-masks on the bottom layer. I wear a KN94 mask that has a lot of breathing room in it and feels comfortable around my ears and then on top of that, I wear a cloth mask. I have personally chosen that because I have heard some doctors and scientists recommend double masking. Two masks do not feel that much different than one to me. It’s extra peace of mind. Plus, as I mentioned in this case, I had a mask printed with texts on the outside that said, “Ask me about my show.” It was advertising for me to start a conversation.
I use the word violated very gently but because I felt confused and a bit sad that despite all of the notices about requiring masks, 90%, I would estimate of people, chose not to wear them. The reason it felt violative to me is that I chose to go to this event because mask requirements made me feel more comfortable. Had they been upfront about the fact that masks were optional, which is very different wording than required, I may not have gone to it but I had planned for months to go to this event based on that information. I checked it before I left and as of the day of the first event throughout the four days of the event, all of the information on the Natural Products website in their application and in signs in the event says masks are required and yet, nobody was enforcing them.
That was really tough for me. That made me feel very unsafe, insecure and uncomfortable because I am one of those people that based on the information I have gathered feel like masks are helpful in slowing the spread and not just of COVID, mind you but of cold and flu too. Somebody close to me had a bad cold for a week. The symptoms sounded awful. I don’t want to cough. I don’t want a sore throat. I don’t want to feel tired or lethargic. I don’t want my brain to be foggy. Those things are important to me.
This is not meant to go on a whole COVID thing. This is not the point of the episode but I feel like it’s worth saying that I do not want COVID. To my knowledge, I have not had COVID although I did have a “scare” in 2020 when I had a positive COVID test. For those that did not know this, I had three tests in a row. The first one said it was positive. I went the very next day and got another test and it was negative. I went a few days later and got another test, which was also negative.
To this day, I don’t know if that positive test was right or wrong. I don’t know if I had COVID and was asymptomatic but I have had no symptoms and I never want to have symptoms. I’m not only concerned about the symptoms that you have when you are contagious but I’m most concerned about long COVID. The reason I’m personally concerned about it is that I struggle a lot with my neurodivergence to stay focused and not get overwhelmed. I am a very sensitive person emotionally and physically so getting through my work takes a lot of factors. I feel like every day is a bit of a battle for me.
When I realized that I am neurodivergent, it was a bit comforting but it also gave me a perspective for all the people that have pre-existing conditions and are immune-compromised. I’m not, to my knowledge, in either of those categories but I have more awareness and compassion because what those people go through is a daily battle to feel well. I feel that mentally. Every day, I have to manage my anxiety somewhat that it makes me want to cry. Every day, I have to manage my focus, overwhelm and energy. Every day, I have to adjust my schedule. It’s a lot. Every day, I also have to manage the emotional elements of life that I’m sure you can relate to no matter what spectrum you fall on to whether that’s feeling sad, depressed, lonely, confused, all of those things are very common for human beings. Burnout and stress are common things.
I think those are universal things that we experience. All of us are on a spectrum of it. A friend of mine was saying that she believes that many people have symptoms of ADHD and autism. I don’t know if that’s correct but in her opinion, she thinks that everyone’s somewhere on the spectrum. If that’s the case, I don’t understand why so many people are comfortable going about their lives in a time when we are still in a pandemic and there are still cases of COVID.
Let’s say you don’t believe in COVID because there are some people that don’t. Let’s say that you think it’s a hoax or perhaps you do believe in COVID and you think it was planned and it was used against us. There are so many different perspectives on COVID. Wherever you are in there, if you put COVID aside, most people believe in colds and flu. Although at this point, it’s possible that some people don’t even believe that those are real but the majority of people do because the majority or if not every human being, has been sick at one point in their lives.
Think about the time that you have been sick. The average symptom is being tired. That’s one of the number one symptoms of being sick. I want to ask at this moment wherever you are, do you enjoy being tired or fatigued? For me, I don’t. That is quickly becoming one of the most frustrating elements of my life because being tired means I don’t have the mental energy to get important things done, that I don’t have the energy to see my friends if I have plans with them or that I don’t have the energy to speak on the phone to my friends. I feel tired so frequently and not just physically tired but mentally tired that getting sick of any type of sickness is very scary to me.When you become more aware, you have more compassion because you know that what people go through is a daily battle to feel well. Click To Tweet
When I went to this event with my mask on, I was trying to protect myself from getting sick. Now, I feel something in my throat that may or may not be a sign that I am getting sick or that I did get sick. I took every measure I could. I had the masks, plus I took colloidal silver, elderberry, vitamin C and vitamin D. I slept a ton. I took a magnesium salt bath. I drank a ton of water. I ate a lot of nourishing food. I balanced my stress levels. I also brought aromatherapy or essential oils with me. If you don’t know this about me already, I’m somebody that has been very involved in the health world for a long time and I have a lot of tools and knowledge around this.
COVID has been very humbling because I feel like a lot of those things that I thought protected me have been debated as to whether or not they are effective. My point in bringing that all up is I felt misled. I was really hoping that we could come together as a community in the natural products industry to wear masks indoors. It’s a total of eight hours inside, which is a lot of time but if you can wear your mask on a plane for six hours, you can wear your mask in an indoor space around tens of thousands of people in my opinion. Is it uncomfortable for some? I’m sure it is. Was it uncomfortable for me? No. I feel more comfortable wearing a mask than not in that scenario.
I’m walking around this event and a lot of emotions are coming up. I felt that violation type of emotion, that misled feeling and that disappointed feeling but then, I also was struck with another layer of feeling. I felt like an outcast. I felt that since I was in the minority of people wearing masks, I stood out. I did not want to stand out. Maybe that was part of the struggle for me. I want to disappear in the crowd sometimes because of my anxiety especially my social anxiety.
I wanted to go to this event and not talk to a ton of people. I wanted to go to this event to try some products and see what trends were coming up. I wanted to collect information for the most part. I wanted to ease myself back into the trade show that is very familiar but has changed due to not being there for all this time. Instead, I stood out naturally because I was one of the few people wearing a mask.
That was part of the violation that I went into an environment where I did not want to stand out but because I ended up doing something that was in the minority of things that people were doing, I stood out against my will. That’s where the violating feeling came from. There were two options. One was to not wear my mask, which to me is not an option because I did not want to get sick, COVID or not.
This event, by the way is known for making people sick, ironically. Every year that I have been to this event somebody in my friend group gets sick. You are around tens of thousands of people and indoors in a convention center with fluorescent lights and no windows so who knows what the ventilation is like? You are trying foods with your fingers, picking things up, touching all these surface areas and breathing in from other people. It is like a petri dish. People from all around the world are there. It is almost guaranteed that you are going to get sick there.
I generally don’t get sick. I have been blessed with a strong immune system, I suppose or I have lucked out and not gotten sick very often. I was sanitizing and washing my hands constantly, wear a mask and not pick up food and eat it with my finger. I did whatever it took but all around me were people doing the opposite so I had that choice. Do I do what everybody else is doing so I can fit in or do I do what everybody else is doing so I can disappear into the crowd and not stand out? That did not feel comfortable for me.
The other option was to not go. After the first day of the event, I felt incredibly sad because I was faced with those technically three decisions to either change my plans and no longer go, to take off my mask so that I would not stand out anymore or to wear my mask, continue to go to the event but stand out like a sore thumb. It was a moment of the lesser of three evils situation for me and that made me feel sad because it was not what I expected.
It made me sad that we have come to this point and it made me sad that so many people were choosing to do something that went against the rules. I’m one of those people that I like to follow the rules when I feel like it’s in my best interest and in the best interest of others. I am a rule breaker when the rules don’t make sense to me so I can relate to people who chose not to wear their masks because they did not make sense. That’s what I assume happened.
Let’s say there were 100,000 people there. If it were approximately 90% of people not wearing masks, 90,000 people let’s say went to this event without masks on. Ninety percent of people believe that the rules did not make sense to them but I also think a fraction of those people went into the event with their masks and took them off because they saw so many other people without their masks on. Maybe the rules did make sense to them but they felt pressured by the majority and that’s part of where the sadness was too. It’s a representation of humanity at large whereas when we see a lot of people doing something, even if it goes against what we think is right, a percentage of us will still do it because other people are doing it.
I am strongly generally not that person. It’s very rare that I’m trying to think of a case where societal pressure causes me to do something that goes against my ethics, my morals, my choices or what I believe is right. I’m not saying I never do it. I’m just saying that if I’m going to do something that the rest of the group is doing, it’s because I also agree with it. I have broken rules. I could share so many examples of things I’m not supposed to do but that’s usually because I feel compelled.
In this case, I felt like I was breaking a rule by wearing a mask. I was going against the majority’s rule. I was faced with a few times where I felt there was some pressure to not wear my mask. One is that one of my friends I was there with walking around the show was not wearing her masks. Nobody I knew personally was wearing a mask. That was interesting too. That also contributed to my sadness because I felt so alone and isolated in my decision.
I spent some time with a few people at this event and none of them were wearing masks. I felt a bit embarrassed even though I felt compelled to wear my mask. I even feel it talking to you and sharing this with you. I am afraid that you are anti-mask or you are done with wearing your mask and you are going to judge me for choosing to wear my mask. Is that not sad? That’s one of the hardest things about COVID for me.
If an individual chooses to protect their health in the way that makes sense to them and if that choice goes against what other people are doing, they are judged for that. I don’t think that’s right. I believe that I’m okay with the choice not to wear a mask because I also believe that people should be able to make their own choices for their own health but the difference is in an environment like that, given that it is common COVID or not for people to get sick in that environment, morally, I feel uncomfortable with a group decision to do something that’s making part of the group feel incredibly uncomfortable and unsafe because statistically, it is safer for everybody to wear a mask.
When I wear a mask and I believe with my understanding of how masks work, it is generally preventing my particles from reaching other people. It’s stopping it. It also does some work to filter incoming particles but from my understanding, they can still get in through any gaps. The mask I was wearing is not completely sealed to my face. There was still a little gap up top or from the sides. It’s possible that the particles could get in. That’s why I enjoy wearing masks and feel more comfortable around other people wearing masks because it’s stopping the chances of any sickness.
On some level, I still respect the people that are choosing not to wear it but it was frustrating because I felt a lot less safe around them and that included my friends. There was one friend who was questioning my choice to wear a mask, which made me a little uncomfortable because I’m close friends with this person. I felt like we could have a dialogue around it and it was not going to interfere with our friendship.People should be able to make their own choices for their own health. Click To Tweet
There was also one person on the last day of the event who was working at a supplement booth and I won’t say which one but this person rudely asked why I was wearing a mask. I did not feel like I had to explain myself but it felt like it would have been rude for me to ignore the question so I concisely explained why I was wearing my mask. This person made faces at me when I was giving my answer and that felt heartbreaking. It’s a very disappointing experience to have because it felt so judgmental and disrespectful.
I could have asked this woman back why she felt comfortable not wearing a mask and if I disagreed with her choice, I would do my best not to show it on my face but this woman did not hold back her facial response. It does not feel good. It put me in a place of feeling like an outcast and feeling embarrassed, ashamed and rejected.
In an environment like that, my hope is that it would feel like a safe space but it’s not and that’s why in that episode I referenced previously that over the time of COVID, I have become more self-aware, more in touch with my feelings and more sensitive to other people. This time away from a lot of in-person interaction has given me a chance to reflect on how I feel around strangers. I don’t like transactional relationships. I avoid them. That’s why I considered not going to this event because I don’t want to be in a place of feeling used. I don’t want people to validate who I am and my value as a person based on what I can do for them.
I prefer to be in environments where it’s mutually beneficial. I prefer to be around people who respect me as a human being even if I am different from them and I make different choices from them. I prefer in a professional environment not to debate things. That event had nothing to do with COVID. I didn’t want to discuss it with people. I wanted to go to that event and be a professional. I wanted to go to that event and talk about products. I did not want to talk about COVID.
I did not want it to be a debate about whether or not we should still be wearing masks. I did not want to have to defend my choice and luckily, I didn’t really have to but sadly, I did feel judged. Maybe it was my imagination but I felt like some people looked at me differently because I was wearing a mask. Some people even ignored the things that I was saying because they could not hear me very well. There were a few moments where I could tell that they did not hear me and they were not going to make the effort to ask me to repeat so they moved on to the next person.
Luckily, for the most part, people could understand me through my mask, which has always amazed me. I guess it’s because people can’t read lips but I also noticed and felt even more compelled to wear a mask because of the loudness of the event, you would have to shout and when you shout, you are projecting more so more spit is coming out. Frankly, I would prefer someone not to spit on me. Sickness or not, I don’t want spit on me. When I lean forward to yell at somebody or project what I’m saying through the crowd, the masks prevent any of the fluids from getting on one another. That feels a little nicer in my opinion. If anything, this event made me feel like I’m going to be one of those people who will wear my mask well beyond others.
As I said at the very beginning of this episode, “Everything I feel, think, say and do is a necessary part of my awakening,” maybe my awakening is that I don’t want to feel transactional. I don’t want to feel used. I don’t want to feel like I’m only beneficial if there’s a transaction. I don’t want to feel misled, disrespected and misunderstood. There are a lot of things there. What I do want to feel is valued as a human being. I don’t want to feel like I have to prove myself. I want to feel like I belong. I want to feel respected and understood. Those are some of the base things there. I already shared my thoughts here so that’s clear but everything I do is a necessary part of my awakening.
The awakening here is that I feel like I have built more confidence in being different. I have built confidence in being clear about what’s right for me and doing it. Maybe that’s one of the greatest lessons. What’s always interesting is when you do something that goes against the grain, when you are a minority, whatever that means and that means a lot of things, it can feel very vulnerable and scary because as human beings, we feel safer in groups. We feel safer when we are the same. We don’t want to feel ostracized. We don’t want to feel judged as a whole.
If we find ourselves in those positions, if we can’t help but be in it because of who we are as human beings, if we are minorities, if we feel like we are different or if we know that we are different then that can also bring us a big source of strength and awakening. That can teach us what’s important to us, that can show us where we want to spend our time and where we don’t and that can help us understand what type of people we want to be around and what type of people we want to avoid because we don’t feel safe with them or don’t trust them.
I also think my choice to put myself in that environment despite feeling unsafe was helpful for me because I wonder if I will get sick. If I don’t get sick from that event, maybe that will make me feel more trusting about COVID. Being in uncomfortable environments is important for our awakening and for our evolution so I don’t regret it. Was it pleasant for me at times? No but at other times, it was very pleasant and it felt worth it. I got to try a lot of great things so I’m glad I went.
I’m afraid of long-term consequences. I did not feel like I was my full self there. I felt like I was trying to protect and shelter myself so was I getting the full extent of that event? No but I was protecting myself and that’s part of the key too. When we make decisions that feel best and right for us at the moment, it is okay to miss out on things. It is okay to feel limited because protection is so important for us.
Sometimes, we also have to go through unpleasant experiences because of all of these lessons. It brings up sadness. I’m glad I processed it out loud. Thank you for reading. I hope there are lessons for you here too. Processing out loud helps me move through my sadness. If you want to move through your sadness, I hope that you have someone in your life that you can process with. If you don’t, here are two suggestions for you.
Podcasting As An Outlet
One sometimes I process things out loud to nobody but myself. I like to record videos. Pressing the record and saying things out loud is helpful for my brain. You can delete those videos. It could be an audio recording or you could say it out loud and not record yourself. You can also journal. There are so many outlets that can be very private. I encourage you to do that too if you need to process, move through sadness organize your thoughts and find your way.
Maybe you can start a podcast too. If you ever need help with starting a podcast, ask me. I could talk about podcasting all day long. One thing I did not touch upon was because of my mask and because of the badge I was wearing that said podcaster on it. I had some nice little conversations with people about podcasts and some people did ask me about my podcast but not as many people as I thought might. It seems like podcasting is still on the outskirts of the natural products industry, which is interesting but I want you to know if you ever want to talk about it, talk about my show, other shows or start your own show, please email me.
Lastly, I would say that if you need a safe place where you feel accepted and not judged and where you feel like you can talk about struggles and hardships with other human beings, I hope that you check out Beyond Measure. Beyond Measure is a community I started in 2020. It is a passion project for me because it is rooted in acceptance, love, unity, support and like-minded people. I have worked hard to create what I believe to be a very safe space where everyone is invited. The only thing that is not a lot in Beyond Measure is judgment and this all falls into the umbrella so it’s still considered one thing.
Respect is the key and disrespect is not allowed in there. Fighting healthy debates are allowed there but hurtful, mean and committed to misunderstanding debates are not there. They have never happened in Beyond Measure and I’m very grateful for it. It is a private community and is free. There may be a small rate at some point because there are costs involved that I would love to cover. I have been thinking about how I can set up a financial structure that is not a barrier to entry because now, there is a limited barrier to entry.
If you want to check it out, it is there for you. I’m there and other amazing people are there. In fact, during this trade show, one of the other members led the weekly discussion that we have because I could not be there. It was amazing. There are incredible people in there that are showing up for each other every day and every week live. I would love to have you there. If you read this whole episode, you are a good fit for Beyond Measure. Trust me.
Maybe I hesitated to say that because some people read things so that they can sit in the fact that they disagree. That’s a weird way to say it. It’s like hate-watching something. You don’t like it and you don’t like the person but you look at what they are doing just so you can find more ways to dislike them. I suppose that’s possible but I also think most people are not going to spend an hour of their time reading something they don’t like. That’s why I feel like if you are still reading, you are probably a very good fit for Beyond Measure because you are an open-minded and heart-centered person who is looking for value and looking to support others. I imagine that you are an ideal person to join.
It’s on my website, WhitneyLauritsen.com. You press a button and it brings you into the community, which is on a separate platform called Circle. You can come and check it out and see if it feels good for you. We invite you to show up and share the fullness of the person you are. We will hold space for you and help you explore all of that. I would love to get to know you. That’s my big game. It would bring me deep joy to know more about who you are because you spend so much time learning about me and because this is not meant to be transactional, my hope is that I can give back to you what you have given to me by reading much.
That concludes this episode. Thank you for being here and for being on other episodes. You mean the world to me even if I don’t know who you are yet. I will be back with another episode with a special guest. I have not even recorded with this guest so we are both in for a surprise. I will be with another episode that I do not know what direction it will go in but it’ll be something I’m thinking about or have learned. Until that, I’m wishing you all the very best wherever you are in your head and in your heart. Bye for now.
- Natural Products Expo
- The Ick Factor
- Eco-Vegan Gal – YouTube
- Playlist – Natural Products Expo West & East
- The Insider’s Guide to the Natural Products Expo
- Beyond Measure
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