How I failed to be a “Spiritual Woman” and why other white women are pissed about it
I spent more time than I would like to admit alongside other white women trying to “find myself.” We burned our endangered white sage, sat in a circle, stretched out our hamstrings, cut and pasted clippings from magazines, our dreams on bristol boards slapped on to the wall; not putting together that it has everything to do with privilege and nothing to do with the determination and resolution to create an epic life for ourselves. We manifested with laser focus. We bit our tongues in conflict because the goal is to be nice to everyone, spreading love and light to all. We gritted through coffee dates because that self-help book said “talk it out,” which turned into a passive-aggressive standoff to see who cracked first, begrudgingly leaving the conversation without getting anywhere, but forging full throttle towards forgiveness. All the while vigorously maintaining “high vibrations”; anger is low on the spectrum, treated like the plague.
It was a tall, exhaustive order full of nuanced expectations that kept me in constant forward motion and preoccupied with niceness. I am speaking from my white woman experience to other white women because they seem to be the most disgruntled at my failures, especially when I started speaking out about how flawed this pursuit really is.
My vibrations on the emotion scale were not “good vibes only,” but I sure did try my best to fake it in case I got found out.
I failed miserably at becoming this flavour of spiritual white woman, and I don’t feel bad about it at all. I don’t like meditating daily on an uncomfortable pillow, my hips wound like a top. I prefer to lounge around like a sloth on the floor, and I also hate kale. I am inconsistent. I eat Cheetos and chocolate for dinner sometimes, and I don’t send people I don’t like “good thoughts” anymore. All things I took on as shame, that I couldn’t quite get to the “next level”.
I went down different avenues that were put forth by the self-development, yoga, and spiritual worlds; draping mala beads around my neck (looking the part helps right?), I repeated mantras, and I meditated, I manifested the life I wanted, I wrote down desired feelings to harness in a notebook, only to look at them once, and never again. Is it “I am what I manifest?” or “what I think I become”? Blah blah, then something about calling in abundance. I attended multiple yoga classes per week, worked hard to find my “tribe,” and like-minded “sisterhood” friends. I say that jokingly because this is a term I have chosen to stop using out of respect for actual indigenous tribes. Also, true sisterhood is not a group of pasty white women having a get together to talk about the benefits of essential oils, secretly working out our wounds on each other, and listing off our rigorous self-care routines — sorry this does not deserve sisterhood status. Sisterhood is a deep commitment, we also co-opted and ruined that, too…anyway.
I went on yoga and self-discovery retreats and hosted a few, too. I attended a plethora of self-development workshops and online seminars, put on some of my own as well. I blazed through self-help books by the dozen, almost all written by white people. I attended a 10-day silent meditation retreat, probably so I could talk about how spiritual I was becoming, and use that as a status symbol of how well on my way I was to becoming a sage or some shit. I tried my hand at ”entrepreneur” life. I use that term lightly because I failed at that, too. I felt the pressures to become an expert, and that I had “arrived” into a more self-actualized version of myself, looking down upon those who, ”just haven’t quite got there yet.” Especially those “angry people.”
Something was always missing for me, which I took on as a personal failure for way too long. It kept me from my real work of setting boundaries with people who deeply suck. It kept me from speaking unwavering truth no matter what the outcome is, tapping into righteous anger; and using it wisely. I started reading books written from an unbiased un-whitewashed lens. Most importantly, following the lead of women of colour who know what it takes to change broken systems, and lives. I forced myself to look at my prejudices and biases, to admit how my white ignorance is affecting others. I continue to learn about my deeply embedded set of privileges, and how they are hindering rather than helping people, and how I can respectfully make an impact on the world by examining these truths.
I became more myself when I admitted this shit wasn’t working, realizing something was inherently flawed with the structure, and that it wasn’t for the betterment of ALL people. I was not okay with the way white spiritually bolstered willful ignorance about social justice issues. Capitalizing off of marginalized voices, culturally appropriating in the name of self-love and development without a care of who it is harming, co-opting Black, Indigenous and people of colour movements and language to use as empowerment tools, but discluding them, stealing their work, then whitewashing it down to make it more palatable in predominantly white spaces; making even more money. All things I am guilty of doing and being a part of. These industries encourage complicity, exclusively, entitlement, and egotistical self-regard.
Silencing Black, Indigenous, and people of colour with spiritual bypassing, and other violent white fragility tactics is NOT empowering, it is oppression dressed in spandex, holding a yoga mat, steeped in lavender oil, spouting off that love and light is the answer to everything. It is these whitewashed spiritual views that uphold systems of oppression, and all these pissed off spiritual white women refuse to see their place within it. I know, I thought the same as them, “who I am to do something about racism and inequality”; I am here to spread peace and love and “I am not racist,” “so this message does not apply to me,” the conversation ends there, but it does apply to me and it does to other white people, too.
I bet some of you who are reading this are the pissed off white women who I am referring to, who are rejoicing that I am openly admitting my failures. “See, she is just bitter and angry because she failed at it!”, “She must be low vibration, let’s send her love and light and hope she can stop with the divisiveness and angry rants that make me uncomfortable.” Maybe I need to attend one of Gabby Bernstein’s weekend courses for $550+, advice from a fellow white woman — a direct message to my Instagram.
Don’t feel sorry for me. I feel way more sorry for you. We drank the same kool-aid. Trust me when I say there is a big piece of the pie missing, and the division you think I create by waking up to the mess of “finding ourselves,” is more damaging when we don’t understand social justice issues, or have little to no interest in taking the time to educate ourselves on how our whiteness upholds and is still promoting white racial segregation/ignorance which in turn supports white supremacist values. I know, those words are scary and confusing, but if you put in half the dedication you do with your self-care routines (and believe me, I know what goes into them, again, I failed at most of them), I have no doubt that you could tune into an anti-racism webinar, maybe even get a little uncomfortable. But instead, you stay within the confines of white comfort.
When we lack an understanding of our history, and fail to see our place in collective whiteness as violent, that is what creates further division, not the people who are highlighting it. We have completely missed the point of doing any work on ourselves if we can’t grasp this concept.
I eventually came to realize that this is another way to preoccupy women, to keep the patriarchy intact, and we, spiritual white women, are falling into place and keeping white supremacy intact too. Trust me when I say, if you knew the truth, you would be enraged, yet you do not want to go there. Ask yourself, why? Again a hint, white comfort, the benefits of whiteness and privileges outweigh the moral compass.
These flawed industries make billions keeping us obsessive about perfection and individual achievement.
- They keep us buying more.
- They keep us self-centred because we want so badly to have a significant life.
- They keep us divided.
- They keep us separate from the lived experience of Black, Indigenous and people of colour because we feel too uncomfortable to hear the magnitude of the pain that has to be endured at the hands of we, white people.
- They keep us entitled to take whatever we want from cultures not our own because we don’t understand history, and that cultural appropriation can never turn into cultural appreciation without dismantling our white superiority.
Our delusions keep us disconnected from our anger, so we don’t revolt against the patriarchy, or reconcile our participation in white supremacy, and to do something about it. It keeps us preoccupied, and that is how the systems that uphold oppression work and sadly, that is how these industries work, too.
It keeps us thinking we are working towards something that will set us free, but we are clutching on to good feelings at the expense of others. So how spiritual do you feel now? We are tiny foot soldiers of whiteness, and marginalized groups of people take the brunt of our self-centered “spiritual” endeavours.
Why are the spiritual white women pissed that I failed?
Because I talk about all the above openly, it is that simple. It elicits reactionary feelings to stay comfortable which turns into white fragility aerobatics. I’ve had droves of white women friends, acquaintances, and strangers on the internet who follow me on Instagram in the last couple of years express their utter disdain for what I share. That is the price you pay for breaking up with white solidarity, and I am happy to pay that price.
When I started unravelling my failures publicly and speaking about my experiences with the self-help industry, the yoga community, my white privilege and other privileges I hold, fellow white women lost their shit. It was also not until a Black woman pointed out how we are part of the problem, a big problem “white spiritual women,” did I say out loud, “that’s me”, but instead of having a hissy fit, I started dismantling it within myself, and share that openly on my Instagram page, in my writing, and with friends and family, and that’s why they are pissed. They feel betrayed. They feel judged. Like I switched teams. I am now angry and divisive, and have “come undone”. To that, I say, thank you. Thank you for helping me fail at being the ultimate spiritual woman so that I can do the right thing, and encourage other white women to do the same.