The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed a lot of us to the edge of sanity. In this episode, Jason Wrobel & Whitney Lauritsen discuss Demi Lovato‘s social media posts about a yogurt shop and the bigger theme of mental health triggers, especially in the service industry. Customer service is incredibly challenging; there’s a lot of entitlement and cruelty that can happen from customers that lack the awareness of what it’s like to work in those positions. We all need to work on having more inclusivity and compassion when dealing with one another. Jason and Whitney reflect on the impacts of diet culture and how it impacts people with eating disorders, plus how food can be marketed around guilt and shame. Join in the discussion to gain insights on the difference between cancel culture and accountability. We can encourage change without shame. Tune in to learn more!
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Teetering On The Edge Of Sanity: Mental Health Triggers In The Service Industry During The COVID-19 Pandemic
I’m going to start off this episode with a seemingly random question for you, Jason. Have you ever heard of and been to a place in Los Angeles. It might be in West LA. I’m not quite sure what this part of town is. It’s the border of West LA, Westwood and Culver City. It’s a vague area. There’s an ice cream shop that’s been there for a long time called The Bigg Chill. Have you heard of it and have you been there?
No and no, although that was a fantastic iconic movie from the early ’80s.
It’s a shame that you haven’t been there because I haven’t been in years. I was randomly thinking about it but didn’t feel compelled enough to go there. I went there often back in probably 2006 to 2008 timeline because they’re one of the few places I knew of that had non-dairy frozen yogurt. It was so exciting to go there for that reason. It was one of those things that most long-term vegans recall when you feel deprived of certain foods, and then you find out that a place in your town or a place that you’re going to visit has it. Back then, frozen yogurt that was dairy-free and vegan was rare. At the time, it technically wasn’t vegan. I didn’t find that out until later because back then it was that awkward phase where you would go into a restaurant and ask if something was dairy-free. They’d say yes but there might be some random ingredients in it like some lactose derivative or something that wasn’t fully vegan.Whenever we're holding each other accountable, it's important to be clear about what the suggestion is. Click To Tweet
You always had to make that choice of you would have it anyway if it wasn’t 100%. That was always interesting. I’m not 100% sure if it was vegan. I used to go there. I thought it was vegan at the time. It was an exciting thing to do with my friends. It was across the street from another Mexican fast-food place I loved. It was fond memories. It randomly came up in my head. I didn’t look into it. I was curious if that place still existed and then it showed up on TikTok in a fascinating way. This episode has nothing to do with frozen yogurt. It has little to do with being vegan. What it does have to do with is a controversy that The Bigg Chill ice cream shop in Los Angeles was involved with.
On TikTok, there was a video summarizing the fact that Demi Lovato went to The Bigg Chill and got triggered because of some of the marketing that they were using to describe their ice cream. Apparently, they use the term guilt-free. It triggered her because she has been working on her eating disorder and speaking out against that. She went in there to get ice cream and felt offended by some of their marketing. On her Instagram Stories, she posted that she’s finding it extremely hard to order FroYo from The Bigg Chill when you have to walk past tons of sugar-free cookies and other diet foods before you can get to the counter, do better.
She used the hashtag #DietCultureVultures. The Bigg Chill wrote back to her, “We are not diet vultures. We cater to all our customers’ needs for the past 36 years. We are sorry you found this offensive.” She replied and publicly posted this, calling out their terrible customer service and how the entire experience was triggering and awful. She said, “You can carry things for other people while also caring for another percentage of your customers who struggled daily to even step foot in your store. You can find a way to provide an inviting environment for all people with different needs including eating disorders, one of the deadliest mental illnesses, only second to opioid overdoses. Don’t make excuses, do better.”
She followed up by saying, “Maybe it would help if you made it clearer that the sugar-free options and vegan options are for that. Labeling the snacks for celiac, people with diabetes or vegans when it’s not super clear, the messaging gets confusing. Being in LA, it’s hard to distinguish diet culture versus health needs. Clear messaging would be more beneficial for everyone. You aren’t wrong for catering to many different needs but it’s about not excluding one demographic to cater to others.” Before I continue, Jason, I’m curious. How does this resonate with you? What are the thoughts that are coming up for you?
It’s a mixture of thoughts because, on the one hand, I feel like the desire and the push for inclusivity and inclusiveness, in general, is a compassionate, sensitive thing to do when we’re focused on inclusivity. Whether that is something like an establishment having a wheelchair-accessible ramp up to the front of their door. It’s a great example of inclusivity. In this case, this is an interesting, nuanced discussion because the one comment from Demi’s reply that stood out to me is the often confusing intersection or separation between diet culture and health needs. I thought that was wise and succinct. I agree with her.
For example, going out to eat and this happened an innumerable number of times where I would request a gluten-free pizza and the server or the person supporting me at the establishment would say, “Are you celiac? Do you have an actual allergy? Is it a preference for some other reason?” I would say, “I’m not celiac. I have a sensitivity. I don’t feel great when I eat it but it’s not something where I’m going to endanger my health by having it.” That’s an important thing though because some people will order gluten-free because it’s the trendy thing to do.
It’s not necessarily because there’s a life-threatening emergency if they eat gluten. First of all, I want to commend her on having that separation between health trends or diet culture and actual needs for your physiology. The thing that I would prefer when someone brings up the idea of inclusiveness and mindfulness around marketing or vulture-dom, as she labeled this, is getting more specific with your suggestion. In her reply, I didn’t glean enough specificity in what she’s asking for. Rather than using marketing phrases like, “This is guilt-free. Indulge all you want. No shame in the game,” there are a million versions of this. Is she saying to strip away all of that marketing language completely and use phrases like, “Suitable for celiacs. Made in a certified gluten-free kitchen. 100% vegan.” Is she suggesting that we strip away guilt, shame and these marketing tactics and be clearer with the labeling? Do I understand that correctly? We don’t know. We can’t talk to Demi.
Your guess is as good as mine.
That’s my concern especially now in the time of cancel culture or accountability, we talked about that in a previous episode. The difference between cancel culture and accountability is that when a person takes you to task publicly about your marketing, behavior and products. I think it’s important to offer clear concrete suggestions and not be acquiesce and amorphous when we call people out. If it’s like, “You need to do better. You’re a vulture. You guys need to step it up,” it’s like, “How? Could you be clear about what you’re suggesting?”
My concern in cancel culture/this higher level of accountability and requests for inclusivity is I’m all for holding people accountable and making suggestions but please be clear about exactly what you’re suggesting because it’s easy to misinterpret things. She does have a point in the sense that leveraging guilt or lack thereof around the purchase cycle of a product is a slippery slope. Guilt and shame or the tactic of “If you eat this or consume this or buy this, you won’t feel any guilt or shame” is a slippery slope when people have mental health issues. I agree with her on that aspect.
What I would like to see though is a clear set of suggestions of, “Are you saying let’s strip away all of that marketing language and substitute it with better labeling?” If I ever have the privilege of having a conversation with her, I will want to dig in and be like, “What exactly do you mean by this?” To her point, when we talk about conscious languaging and how we’re using language, it’s interesting she brings this up. I’m sure if I were to walk into that same ice cream shop, I would have probably not even paid attention to that marketing language. It would have gone right over my head. Why? It’s been used for decades, “Guilt-free. Shame-free. Eat all you want.” That marketing language has been around in the food industry for decades so it seems innocuous. Kudos to Demi for bringing this up. Secondly, whenever we’re holding each other accountable, it’s important to be clear about what the suggestion is. To me, this feels a little murky.
It feels like she got triggered and angry. She’s standing up for herself and trying to make a point. It’s similar to even something that we mentioned in an episode when I was talking about the woman on TikTok who got in trouble for posing in her bikini. I can understand that’s triggering. She felt like she was being targeted. She probably has been dealing with discrimination her whole life and doesn’t want to be shamed. A lot of times, when something happens that triggers us, our first reaction is to get revenge in some way or to try to get control. A lot of people use social media that way, which is amazing and powerful, but if we’re not careful, it can do another form of harm. It’s not helping us quite as much as we think.
For someone like Demi Lovato, nothing she posts is taken lightly. People are going to screenshot it and respond to it. You can’t be like, “I messed up. Let me apologize quietly and it’ll go away.” Even we have enough of a social media following that we have no idea who’s watching what we do and the consequences of our actions. If we have a bit of a knee–jerk reaction, which is what this looked like to me, she just got triggered and it is fully within her right to be triggered. I can understand to an extent having a history of disordered eating myself but not nearly as severe as she seems to experience it. She’s also relatively raw. I’m sure so many things that she experiences being such a well-known public figure, she probably gets triggered all the time and can’t tolerate it.
There’s only so long that we can hold ourselves together. It’s like that straw that breaks the camel’s back and we erupt. I imagine that was part of this but I also imagine that this was her standing up because maybe she felt like it’s her responsibility to be a voice for other people who are affected by this. Maybe it’s a wake-up call. To your point, Jason, I’m with you. I rarely notice words like guilt-free or at least not on a fully conscious level. Maybe they have impacted me and I’m just used to them impacting me. I’ve become more and more sensitive to it. I’m sensitive to certain words like ageism and pressure to lose weight. It’s interesting because food marketing rarely triggers me, but the way other people talk about bodies triggers me.
That’s where when I’ll hear certain things like, “You should do this or that,” that bothers me. People promoting certain ways of weight loss will bother me. I’m sure I say things that trigger other people. I’ve often thought about how people are impacted by my book about the ketogenic diet. Even the word diet can be so triggering but the word keto can trigger people. Even if you’re not talking about it in the context of weight loss, it is so associated with weight loss. I imagine some people have seen the title of my book and felt triggered and angry about it.
Likewise, someone can walk into a restaurant and assuming that they’re going to have a non-triggering experience, and then suddenly they see this marketing. Her big point there beyond her personal reaction is like, “This has to stop.” The Bigg Chill, I didn’t realize that it’s been open for 36 years but I imagine that they have not done too much to re–evaluate their marketing aside from going on social media. I looked up their Instagram. It feels very trendy. It’s full of a lot of young, cute girls. Your average youthful LA type that they’re taking pictures of. That triggers me because it’s like, “We’re going to use young girls to market our product.” It’s sickening because it doesn’t fully represent them. You’re only representing the fraction. Granted, The Bigg Chill is not that far from UCLA. It feels like a UCLA-type of place to go to.
I used to go there with a friend who was in college at the time. She lived fairly close by and we would meet up there. I always had that feeling to it. I imagine that they’re used to this youthful vibe. As a company, they are probably used to women going in there and wanting something called “guilt-free.” It’s tricky as a company when your clientele might literally be using those words. As you and I, Jason, know as people that have studied marketing, a lot of times you use the words that your customers use. You can’t point the finger at one singular company because it’s an issue with the entire culture. I also thought it was extreme to use the word vulture because that is a pretty intense word to use where maybe you can have a private conversation. Who knows what happened previous to posting this? Unless she discloses it, we have no idea.
I’ve posted things online on Yelp, for example. Sometimes I’ll post honest reviews of places. I think like, “Should I contact the company privately first? Should I post this publicly?” Sometimes it feels too exhausting to try to reach the manager or reach the owner of the company. It is easy to just post about a bad experience on social media, but it’s also on the petty side because it’s like, “I’m too lazy to approach this and try to solve it privately. I’m going to post it publicly because that is going to make more of a change.”
Observing what happened here, I don’t know if that’s making a change. I don’t know if The Bigg Chill reads that message from Demi and says, “We should change.” As soon as they saw the word vulture, they were like, “I got to defend myself.” Unless, to your point Jason, you give specific action skills. It feels more like canceling somebody versus holding them accountable or holding them accountable in a shaming way. Even when you step back at it, she probably felt body-shamed because she saw the word guilt-free. She then turned around and shamed them for their marketing. It’s like fighting fire with fire, fighting shame with shame. Where does that get you?
I don’t know if there’s a right or wrong here. I feel that that doesn’t get you that far. Maybe like that other woman I was talking about at the hotel in Vegas, those people are at a point where they don’t feel their voices are heard unless they talk about it loudly and publicly. Maybe people are trying to combat shame with shame thinking that they don’t have another option. One of the big points here too is inclusivity and kindness and compassion for all, which is a wonderful thing to strive for. Culturally, we have a long way to go. It’s not that easy especially in a world where many people are feeling excluded, triggered, targeted and hurt.We should strive for inclusivity, kindness, and compassion for all. Click To Tweet
We’ve got a lot of cleanups to do. We can only move so fast. It’s not an excuse. It’s the reality of where we’re at. I was thinking, I saw this post of someone trying to make light as a coping mechanism of the fact that we’re finally making progress with COVID. People are like, “I’m going to get the vaccine. We’re making all of these strides so that we can go back to normalcy. I don’t feel comfortable going outside even without COVID because mass shootings are happening almost every day.”
It caused me to think like, “That’s true.” I don’t know if I feel fully safe leaving the house because we’ve got another huge issue happening with insane violence. We’ve got things threatening our physical, mental and emotional health. There’s so much emotional weight that I can completely understand my mental health, in general, is such a huge issue. It feels like you can’t go anywhere without feeling triggered, scared or affected in some way. Everybody is experiencing that to one degree or another. Certain people are especially targeted and do not feel protected at all. That’s the bigger issue here.
It’s so important to take into account how a lot of people are teetering on the edge of sanity right now. I don’t say that lightly. It’s best to assume. That’s a word that I don’t like to use a lot because assumptions can get us into a lot of trouble. It’s best to assume that everyone we interact with is struggling with something on some scale. Someone’s fighting a silent battle, whether or not they’re posting it on social media or they’re keeping it private. We’ve talked about in previous episodes how COVID has biologically changed our brains by the isolation, the lack of variety, the lack of novelty that physiologically our brains are going to have to adapt back to community interactions.
You then take into account, Whitney, this increase in the frequency of mass shootings. Since we’re on a little bit of a tangent here but it’s related to mental health and triggers because that’s the core of what we’re talking about in this episode. A friend of mine informed me that she’s moving from the Pacific Northwest back to Las Vegas. I said, “Why?” She said, “Have you seen the fire reports for the year?” I said, “I didn’t even know they were released.” She sent me all of these screenshots and websites of the forecast. We hear that all the time with the weather but now with natural disasters including the fire season on the West Coast. They released the data of what they’re projecting for the summertime fire season. It’s grim.
California, parts of Mexico, Oregon and Washington State. It does not mean it’s going to manifest exactly as there because it’s the forecast, it’s a prediction but it was grim. She’s like, “I don’t want to be here for it. I don’t want to be constantly worried about what I’m inhaling when I take my dog outside for a walk, feeling like my physical safety and the safety of my home is being threatened.” I’m like, “I get it.” All of this is to say that there’s a shit ton of anxiety, fear and distrust. People are teetering. When I say let’s assume that people are 1 or 2 straws away from snapping, that’s reasonable to assume. Why do I say that? If we can be mindful of our own state and mindful of that’s probably the case for most people we interact with, it’s an opportunity to be kind and compassionate. Going back to this point about Demi, can we, even when we’re triggered, and I’m saying this to myself too. Even when I have the straw that breaks the back, be mindful of how I’m communicating and what my aim in communicating is.
I say this because there was an incident too that happened since we’re talking about businesses. Also tying back to Portland, there’s a pizza place in Portland called Boxcar Pizza. They do vegan Detroit-style, deep dish. That phrase alone, “Vegan, Detroit-style, deep dish,” I’m going to fly it up there to have this pizza. I’ve heard it’s incredible. I have not tried it yet because it opened right around the time of the pandemic starting. I hear this pizza place is incredible. They were posting on Instagram that they got a barrage of negative Yelp reviews. Why? There was a customer that walked in who didn’t want to wear their mask. Boxcar said, “If you want to be in here and be served, we have a mask policy.” Oregon still has a mask policy. They’re not in the same tier as Texas or Florida where the governor said, “No masks. You can do what you want.” This customer refused to wear one. They were refused service.
I want to say this, I don’t know this person’s mental state but there was an option where they didn’t have to set foot in the restaurant. They could have it brought outside or delivered to their home. Their choice to have this resolved was to have a legion of people detonate on this restaurant on Yelp. Boxcar said, “For any of our patrons, friends and family, could you please go on Yelp and leave us good reviews? Stand up for us on social media.” I forwarded it to my friends in Oregon and said, “Did you know this was going on?” They were like, “This is appalling. This is fucking crazy.” My point in saying this is what is the aim here? Is it vengeance? Is it retribution? Is it, “Fuck you, you won’t let me do what I want.” Is the aim to have some change in policy if possible?
For this person, I don’t know them. I don’t know their mental state. If they were offended or felt discriminated against for not wearing a mask even though it’s a policy to do so, why firebomb them on Yelp? They can’t change it because it’s a state order. What do you want this business to do? With all of these choices for people online to go to businesses, to try and make them change through shaming them, through firebombing them on Yelp, what is your aim here? Is it retribution and vengeance? Do you want them to change a policy? Why are you doing this? To me whether it’s Demi or whether it’s the situation of Boxcar, I always go back to what is your strategy here? What’s your actual aim? Do you want to vent? Do you want to get your anger out and throw it at someone? Do you want to create some substantive change? If so, is that the best way to do it? That’s my question.
That’s an amazing and definitely part of this, in my opinion, because we have major anger issues in this country. A lot of them are for a very good reason. People are very angry. You could say that taking to social media to vent is a lot better than the people that are violent as a form of venting. I would much prefer that. Also, to Demi’s point, she talks about mental health issues but shaming somebody can cause mental health issues in someone else. To your point, Jason, the business owner knows what it’s like to be criticized publicly. It sucks. I wish that she hadn’t used that term, vulture. I wish that she had communicated differently because she would be setting a good example for people and that’s part of this too.Oftentimes we have to wait until we cool down because it's hard to think straight when we're angry. Click To Tweet
As much as she is bringing awareness to diet culture and the messaging out there, which I support. Along with awareness, we have to have an action plan. Otherwise, people are just aware but don’t know what to do about it, which is also not a big deal because people can figure it out for themselves but to add in the shaming, that triggers me. Anything shame-related triggers me. Similar to what I was saying about the Las Vegas woman issue that we talked about in an episode, I see both sides. I have compassion for both sides. I’m not trying to defend The Bigg Chill. I have positive associations with them from many years ago, but more in defense of a small business or even a chain. The amount of criticism that they get and they feel like they can’t please everyone. What do you want them to do? Close? The amount of joy that they bring people.
Ultimately, Demi probably went in there to find joy and instead, she found shame. I have compassion for that. She probably thought, “An ice cream shop. This is a safe place. This is something that’s going to make me feel good.” Instead, she got the opposite. That sucks for her. I’m sorry that she went through that. If she had simply expressed those words to the business, they could relate to her on a compassionate level without triggering them to be defensive.
I also wonder, does she need to call them out by name? Could she have just posted a picture of her frozen yogurt? I’m not assuming she got something, maybe she didn’t. Let’s say she went somewhere else. There are plenty of frozen yogurt places to go to. She got her frozen yogurt. She posts a picture and she told the story of what happened. To me, that’s super powerful because her audience can relate. She’s got to prove her point. If she’d like, she could privately send that message to the company and say, “By the way, this is what happened when I was at your store. Look at all the comments to back up my experience.”
I don’t think people think that way, Jason. To your point, it’s that what I perceive to be. I don’t know the full story so I’m only commenting based on my limited knowledge of this situation. To me, it does look like someone got hurt and needed to vent angrily. As a result, she shamed people, triggered their defenses and got all of these news outlets to post about this like TMZ and Perez Hilton. They’re all publishing this story. This ice cream shop was now associated with this situation. I haven’t read up to it. I don’t know if they’ve responded further.
First of all, don’t we have better things to cover in the news? I’m not trying to trivialize eating disorders, body shame or any of that. That’s important but that should be the cover story. It’s like the Kardashian stuff we talked about. Instead of making it about the important stuff, we make it about the newsworthy drama that these celebrities are going through and pulling these small businesses in. If it creates a conversation, maybe it’s worth it after all. We have a lot of work to do to deal with our anger. People are angry about all sorts of issues. That’s the big challenge here. A lot of people are angry. A lot of people don’t know what to do with their anger. What they really want deep down is to not feel angry. They want their voices to be heard and they want things to change. That’s at the core of all this human behavior. People are frustrated, fed up and they are desperate. Desperate feelings can sometimes cause us to do things that don’t work in our favor.
Oftentimes, we have to wait until we cool down. As you know, Jason, it’s hard to think straight when you’re angry. I have compassion for that too. It’s so easy. Hindsight is 20/20. Maybe Demi regrets her behavior. Maybe she still stands behind it. I have no idea. I’m not trying to shame her or correct her. I’m just examining it and thinking about it in the context of my behavior and my reactions. That’s the state in which we’re in, Jason. There are a lot of human beings that have a lot of wounds. When their wounds get triggered, they do a lot of things that don’t help anyone. Sometimes they do more harm than good. Sometimes they do more good than harm.
I hope that Demi’s statement about all of this does get people to think. Maybe it does affect The Bigg Chill. Maybe The Bigg Chill closes or continues with business as usual. Other businesses, I’m sure, are watching the situation go down and they might be behind the scenes changing their marketing which gives them a leg up. They can position themselves as a non-triggering frozen yogurt shop that has options for everyone. Maybe there’s some secret formula that they’ll come up with that balances and makes everybody feel good. That’s what we can hope for.
That situation with that woman in Vegas and the pizza shop, maybe they can re–evaluate the way that they handle their customers. It’s tricky because anybody that’s worked in a customer service position knows how hard it is. Even for you and me, we have to manage with people’s commentary about the show. We have to manage what people commenting on our courses. Customer service is incredibly challenging. There’s a lot of entitlement and cruelty that can happen from customers that lack the awareness of what it’s like to work in those positions.
Considering that Demi has been a performer of some sort probably her entire life, as far as I’m aware, maybe she’s never worked one of those roles. She doesn’t realize what it’s like to be a small business getting a celebrity calling them out like that. I don’t know if she thinks that stuff through. Maybe that person in Portland is not thinking about how they’re affecting that business. They just want to be right. They just want to get justice is what I imagine. It makes me sad because it takes us further away from unity. All these stories as human beings are creating more wars against each other instead of trying to sit down and work it out, which is what I would rather see happen.
I know this is going to sound cliche especially in terms of social media and digital communication. I think it’s easy to forget that there’s a human being on the other side of that message. I’m going to message their account. It’s not a person, it’s their account. I’m going to send this to their inbox. It’s an inbox, not a human being with feelings. There’s a dehumanization that has occurred. The rhetoric we always hear, which is accurate to a point, is that all of the technology we have and the social platforms are bringing us closer. By all means, especially during the last several months of the pandemic-ish, I’m grateful for FaceTime and Zoom. What I’m reminded of in this conversation is how easy it is to dehumanize a person and remove the compassion and nuance of conversation when we send people messages.
We forget there’s a human being on the other side of that message. We think it’s account to account. That’s been said a million different ways that bear constant repeating though. If the aim is to have awareness be created, I want this business to be aware that the language and the marketing they’re using is potentially harmful not only to me but to people that are struggling in ways like I am. In the other case, I find your mask policy discriminatory. Is there a workaround given the parameters we have to operate in as a business in this state where I can make you feel accommodated?
If we have a conversation with a human being face to face, in my life experience, I find that it’s much easier to find understanding and resolution than it is to have this gang mentality or the tyranny of the majority where we’re going to firebomb someone on Yelp or we’re going to call them out on social media. These things are done from a place of pain. Why else would someone do it? Why else would someone take and say, “I’m going to get all my friends to firebomb this business on Yelp.” Why else would someone like Demi publicly call them out and label them as a vulture?
To me, it’s having a face-to-face conversation with the business owner or the CEO. If you make enough taps on the door, you can get up to that person and have a conversation. Resolution is easier achieved by a genuine human conversation than resulting in dehumanizing social media to get your way. That’s the first thing. Can we bring back intimate and compassionate human conversation so that everyone’s understood, hopefully? It doesn’t guarantee we’re understood, but that’s the first thing. It’s removing the dehumanization aspect of digital communication.
There was a situation, I remember, when I was in college where I was working valet jobs. You talked about customer service and how when one has worked in a customer service position, whether that’s being in a phone bank, being a server at a restaurant or a valet or you working at the Apple store for so many years. I have noticed that how people treat you is usually an indication of their life experience. I want to piggyback on what you said, Whitney. Interestingly, I worked valet for years before I went to Columbia. I wanted to save up enough money to move to Chicago and finish my degree. I’m working this valet job for years and I was at a couple of hospitals in Detroit. This is anecdotal because it’s only from my life experience. For years, I started to notice that people who drove economy cars or cars that appeared that they needed some work would vastly tip me more frequently.
I would run my ass off for these cars even in the middle of winter. I always wanted to make people feel taken care of. Thank them, open the door for them, run my ass off to get the car so they didn’t have to wait. Most of the time, people who came up in Bentleys, Dodge Vipers, Ferraris rarely tipped me. I could form a whole opinion on rich people suck, fuck them, they’re not generous. That’s how they got their money by being stingy. As a young person, I started to form those opinions, but rather than throwing people who have wealth under the bus like that, it goes back to the fact that in many positions, maybe they haven’t been in a valet capacity, a server capacity or scooped ice cream. There’s a lack of understanding and compassion when you’re not in the position. You just want what you want. You want to get in your car and get the fuck out. You want to get your food and not have a hassle. You want what you want and you want it now. There are some people in this life, that’s how they go through life. They don’t give a shit about you. They want what they want, give them what they want. You’re in a subservient role. I just want what I want.
The overall message in this episode is can we communicate with more compassion? Can we be clear about what our aim is? Is our aim to have people change and understand us? Is our aim to throw flames at people because we’re pissed off because we didn’t get what we wanted? I worry about humanity sometimes because of how rageful people are and how they don’t consider the impact of their actions. You then also understand why people are so rageful. We don’t claim to have answers on the show. It’s more of an analysis of human psychology, human emotions and how that affects us on a societal level. I want to say to the readers and say to all of us, whoever is tuning in, let’s try and calm down and communicate with more compassion because there’s a human being on the other side of your anger and your vitriol.
This situation with Demi is a delicate one because it’s rooted in her mental health. She has every right to speak out against it and let people know. It’s like setting a boundary. Her boundary is clearly that she cannot tolerate reading marketing messages that are geared towards diet culture. We have to remember that like racism, diet culture is a long process of undoing. I feel aware of that, given that it’d be easy for me as a white person to say I’m not racist but the truth is I’ve been living in a racist world. I might not even realize when I’m racist. I probably say things all the time that is technically racist without even recognizing it because that’s the culture that I’ve been in.
I’m not giving an excuse for myself. It’s so challenging to even identify when you are part of something damaging when you’ve been in it. That’s why I don’t think a lot of companies realized that there’s anything wrong with phrases like guilt-free. We use the word sugar-free. Some people are triggered by it, some people aren’t. I am not because I feel better when I eat sugar-free, but I’ve also been somebody that struggled with disordered eating. There are probably plenty of viewpoints that I have that are the results of me having disordered eating. I try to tread it lightly and recognize that this is a work in progress. It reminds me of a section of Glennon Doyle’s book, Untamed, that I was reading around racism. She articulated this so well.
She did use this quote from Maya Angelou who said, “Do the best you can until you know better than when you know better, you do better.” We’re all doing the best that we can. That’s part of your point too, Jason. It’s like can’t we assume that people are doing the best that they can? Simply saying, “I know that you think that your marketing is the best thing that you have right now because you don’t know better.” This is part of it too. We can’t see what’s going on because we’re so in it so we don’t even realize the opportunities. Another thing that Glennon says is that people are telling us the truth for the first time. That truth feels like an attack because we have been protected by comfortable lies for so long.Let us not expect people to be perfect or not to mess up. Click To Tweet
I’m sure that The Bigg Chill felt attacked because many people have agreed with their messaging up until now. That’s another element of this. I’m sure a lot of people are saying, “That’s great. People want guilt-free food. Put guilt-free on there. That’ll draw people in. That’ll get more people to buy our ice cream. People are happy.” I’m sure they’re there, part of that whole world is not even recognizing the diet culture is a huge issue. I’m sure that someone like Demi saying, “This is diet culture.” They probably feel attacked because it is the truth. Truly using those phrases like “guilt-free is diet culture,” for all I’m concerned, that’s the truth. Maybe no one else has said it before. That’s the part of it that is incredibly important.
Glennon also said that the truth could agitate our comfortable numbness, which I thought was such an amazing phrase. We have become so numb with the comfort of how we’re living so when somebody tells us the truth like, “You’re racist or you’re participating in diet culture,” it’s uncomfortable. That discomfort is important. That’s what I’m saying when I see both sides of it. We’re uncovering so much. We’re recognizing that we’ve been living in this culture. It’s incredibly uncomfortable for all sides. I suppose that’s the part of it too. There’s a lot of messed-up shit happening in our world. It’s very uncomfortable and unpleasant. There is a lot of anger, frustration and fear. That is all tied in. That’s the other part of this I want to address before we wrap, Jason. We have to commend somebody who’s been struggling with an eating disorder just to eat certain foods because I can relate to that.
That’s probably going to be a struggle I have for the rest of my life, to eat certain foods that I have been told over and over again that I shouldn’t eat because if I eat them then I’m going to gain weight. If I gain weight then I’m unaccepted. There’s a lot of fear and discomfort in that. Bravo to her for saying, “Fuck diet culture. I’m walking into this ice cream shop. I’m going to order whatever I want and I’m going to enjoy it.” That’s bravery. That’s a huge step. It breaks my heart that she took that big step and then immediately was faced with her fears. All of her fears were almost confirmed. I get it. I hope that that ice cream shop gets it too. I hope that they are reflecting on this from different angles but they might not be. They might not even realize that there’s a problem with their marketing and they might think that she’s ridiculous and this could continue. Who knows? That remains to be seen.
To your point too, if we can all try to look at things differently, raise our awareness and somehow get out of the bubble of life that we’ve been living in for way too long. It ties back to our ultimate message here on the show, which is this might get uncomfortable. It usually is uncomfortable. Doing things differently and recognizing parts in your life where you need to be held accountable is uncomfortable. That’s why a lot of people don’t want to change. The truth is unpleasant sometimes when you recognize that what you’ve been doing has been contributing to other people’s suffering. Hopefully, having these types of conversations as you and I are committed to doing, Jason, is raising our awareness and our reader’s awareness, and encouraging each of us to be more mindful and aware of our words, actions and what we’re contributing to.
From a peaceful perspective, maybe we can think before we react, but we’re not always going to be that strong and aware. That’s part of being human too. I’m not trying to take sides but to see the humanity in what Demi has posted and I also want to have some compassion for that business and how it affected them and recognize that they’re human beings too. There are probably a lot of people involved in that scenario. They’ve probably got a marketing team, social media managers, employees at the store, managers of the store, the owners of the store. I’m sure there are at least five people that were involved in that whole process.
Instead of looking at them as five individuals who have their own fears, frustrations, vulnerabilities and anger, it’s like, “Let’s lump them all together into this bad company that everybody can shit on and make feel awful.” Who knows what that ice cream server was going through that caused her to do something that Demi perceived as rude? Who the hell knows what was going on for any of them? I love that you brought that up, Jason. Everybody’s facing some struggle every single day. Let’s have a little bit more compassion when we remember to.
I want to bring up a point that jumped out that is important to address in the Maya Angelou quote. I’ve seen a portion of her quote parroted in wellness marketing a lot, which is when you know better, you do better. I’ve seen people extract that Maya Angelou quote and recycle it for all kinds of newsletters and marketing funnels. I disagree with that because it’s not taking into account that there are other factors in a human being’s lens and perception of life that they may not do better once they know better. Let’s bring up something like smoking as one example. Most human beings in the modern world would probably agree based on the data we’ve received that smoking cigarette by multinational corporations is not a great thing to do for one’s health, but we still have millions of people who smoke cigarettes.
Do they know better? We could probably say yes, they do know better but they continue to do what they do. The reason why is we need to take into account and have compassion for the fact that human beings are chemically addicted and that products like cigarettes are designed to be chemically addictive, that’s number one. Number two, maybe it’s the stress relief and the opportunity to leave work and have a fifteen-minute break in the ritual of having a cigarette, or the fact that it’s become an emotional crutch like alcohol, sugar and overeating. There are a lot of things that become emotional crutches for human beings.
Even though someone “knows better,” there are a lot of dimensions to the human psyche, emotional comfort, habituation, how we deal with stress and anxiety and fear that may override “doing better.” Just because something is not good for you or there’s a better way to act does not automatically mean someone’s going to do better. I take umbrage with that quote not because Maya Angelou is wrong, but how it’s been used, “If I inform you of this thing, if I educate you on this thing, take you through a course, take you through training, show you a better way, then that means automatically and hopefully, you’ll change your behavior and change the way you live your life.” As we know, human beings don’t do that.
To be fair, the quote is, “When you know better, do better.” It’s not when you know better you will do better. You’re correct in some of the misinterpretations of that. My point in bringing that up is sometimes you do not know better and you can only operate under your current operating system until you get that upgrade, until somebody informs you. We’re all leveling up all the time. Hopefully, when you have that knowledge, you will do something better with that knowledge. I don’t know if she meant you’re automatically going to because you have that knowledge.
It also shows you that there can be so many different ways of interpreting the same statement. My final thought here is in holding a person accountable/helping to create more awareness in their life, of their actions, beliefs, how the things they do affect others. Let us not expect perfection or immediate change. It’s important for ourselves and others, as painful as their grievances or their actions might be, whatever our strategy or tactics are of creating more awareness, firebombing someone on Yelp, taking to social media, in-person conversation, let us not expect them to be perfect and not expect people not to mess up. I’m not letting anyone off the hook for the incredibly damaging things that they do. It’s important to realize that when we are trying to correct or change our own state, behaviors and also encouraging others to do the same, that’s not probably going to happen overnight.
It’s going to take time for a person to internalize someone else’s viewpoint, how their actions have affected someone else to internalize their own emotions around it. As we’re in this process, it’s important to be patient, persistent and allow people to have their own experience of change. If they’ve been doing something for a long time, moving that needle can take some time to do that. That’s my final thought on things with this is let’s have patience and compassion as we’re encouraging ourselves and others.
With that being said, we always encourage you dear reader to weigh in with your perspectives on all of this, whether you found it more effective to have one-on-one conversations when you want someone to hear or see your point of view. If you’ve taken to social media or digital technology to share your points of view or your pain or your grievances. We’re curious to see what you found most effective, and what you feel is going to be the best long-term for how we interact as humans especially when we don’t see eye to eye on things. You can always email us at [email protected] is the best way to reach Whitney and me. You can also DM us on Instagram or any of the social media channels or leave us a comment on YouTube or whatever way that you feel is most appropriate.
We always love hearing from you and your perspectives. Whether you agree, disagree or feel neutral as hell, we don’t care. We just want to hear from you because we treat this show as an open dialogue and an exploration of these nuanced, complicated aspects of human life. We may not have answers but through conversation and discussing these things especially with differing viewpoints, perhaps we create more clarity together. We open each other up to different ways of seeing life. That is one of our big aims here.
Whether you want to dig into the resources we mentioned here or dig into any of our previous episodes, please visit us at our website for all of that psychic smorgasbord. It’s a psychic smorgasbord for you there on Wellevatr.com. Until next time. We have incredible human beings from all walks of life, many different industries. It is our aim to be as diverse and inclusive as possible here. We’ve got some fantastic guests coming up. With that, we appreciate you, your readership, your love, your perspectives. We’ll be back with another episode. Stay tuned!
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- Demi Lovato
- The Bigg Chill
- Untamed by Glennon Doyle
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