Do you ever feel worse when you leave a wellness festival/event? Yeah, same.
2017 saw the launch of Balance festival, a 3 day “celebration of wellness” I attended on the Friday, and overall had an enjoyable day- took part in some great classes, caught up with some friends, listened to great talks, and I was lucky enough to meet some incredible women I’ve been chatting to on-line for a while now. But, this isn’t a review of Balance Festival itself- this post is more to discuss something that I’ve chatted about many women for a while now, on and off line.
Every time I attend an event like this, I always leave wondering where “my women” are. I am a 31 year old PT, and mum to a toddler, and I regularly feel like I do not “belong”. I feel anxious, unconfident and very much an outsider.
To clarify, it’s absolutely not just Balance Festival that I’m referring to- the same applied for me following Be:fit, and applies to me at most fitness/wellness events that I attend (and sometimes can extend to some Central London fitness studios) These events continue to feature the same faces on their panels discussing similar topics, which are of course interesting and relevant for many, and what these women have achieved at a relatively young age is nothing short of incredible, and is absolutely to be admired and applauded. However if you are slightly older, not that body confident, have a family and/or a busy work life, listening to talks about how to achieve “balance” can be a little frustrating when the speaker has not had the same life experiences. Whilst this statement may seem incredibly unfair and “bitter”, I am purely reciting a rhetoric that I have been hearing continually for many months- both during these events and via social media afterward.
I had a mini-rant on my Instagram feed recently about this exact topic, and the response rate I had was quite overwhelming. A common theme within the responses was how many women felt “intimated” by attending large wellness/fitness events, and how, as one respondent put it “they seem to be less about health and fitness and more turning into catwalk shows, with lots of girls in crop tops taking selfies” Now- important disclaimer- there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING wrong with this. Body confidence is a wonderful, wonderful thing and should never be discouraged. But, on the flip side, if you are a woman who is highly self-conscious, and wanting to attend an event like this, this kind of thing certainly going to cause some feelings of anxiety. I’m not for a second suggestion that people are told to cover up- it’s a fitness event after all (and I for one like to wear zero when I work out as I am the world’s biggest sweaty mess) but I think there needs to be more consideration by organisers for ensuring ALL potential attendees have an enjoyable time- not just a very particular demographic that they perceive as more desirable. Women do not cease to exist when they turn 30, or have a family, yet rarely if ever (and I would LOVE to be corrected on this please!) do I see a wellness/fitness brand using a range of women to advertise products, nor do I see much diversity on speaker panels.
But what is the solution? I fully understand that these events cost a fortune to put on and of course a large portion of that comes from brands paying to exhibit, as well as ticket sales. Of course, one is going to attract the other, and brands will understandably be nervous about moving away from successful marketing campaigns to attract a different audience. I certainly don’t have all the answers- the aim of this post is shine some light on women who feel that they don’t fit the “wellness stereotype” but are still interested in wellness and fitness, and being the best version of themselves. They are still relevant, important and deserve to feel welcomed into wellness.