How to not feel dirty all over after looking at the fake spirituality of the boho goddesses of Bali

How to not feel dirty all over after looking at the fake spirituality of the boho goddesses of Bali

Goddessism is big among our millennial ladies. This article isn’t about the fact that social media and real life are different. It is about the cheapening of real philosophy that happens on social media and goes unnoticed by too many people.

As you will know, I am not big into positive thinking, at least the inspirational Insta-motivation variety. I have yet another issue with Instagram. It is the one social network that makes me feel kind of icky, and for ages I couldn’t understand why. We all know that social media is a highlight reel, a filtered version of another’s life, etc – but Instagram accentuates this empty feeling. I think it’s because it lacks the option of having any depth.

You can link to a thoughtful article on most networks, but you deliberately need to judge everything by its cover on Instagram.

One could argue it is some kind of inferiority that I am feeling. And it is. It’s a fear that I could never be as perfect as the people in the pictures. Indeed, I couldn’t be. They couldn’t be either. In fact, the subspecies I will discuss below follows a very clear prescribed regimen specifying their clothes, food, wisdom, aspirations, art, fitness, other half and much more. But the point is the horrible fake “spirituality” of these accounts.

coping with fake mindfulness of instagram
Are the comments written by real people or bots? Fakeness traded between fakeness merchants

Instagram is so full of beautiful, minimalist, natural, spiritual, compassionate, eco-friendly yoga-practicing perfect people, women, to be specific.

They look out over the ocean and look so dreamy with the sunset backdrop. The pictures are full with gentle sunlight, smiles and smoothies made of the most righteous greens and the caption inevitably features love of the world, the followers or something trendy. Obviously, these “tropical feels” exist on other media, but Instagram seems to have thousands of accounts with virtually the same vibe. The content clearly has a lot of work dedicated to it, but I struggle to see why people enjoy it. Perhaps, some find that it is genuine?

Whenever I encountered these insta-perfect people in real life, they tend to be highly cynical and critical of others, curse like sailors, yell at their children in a way that makes me worry about the integrity of the windows, drink (not just the smoothies), are insecure about their appearance and just generally be far removed from the fairy tale vibe of their Instagram account.

Many of them go from one beautiful location to another; the further removed from the West, the better –  or at least create the impression that they do. More often than not, the photos are made over a few weeks (of what I assume is pretty hard work of shooting) and then released over the following months.

fake mindfulness of instagram positive thinking
Wisdom meets commerce

Their work is always something special, magical and sacred. There is much about happiness, love of simple things, spirituality, being natural, a wanderer, a wild child, a vagabond, giving hugs and so on.

By playing bingo with the above you can create a nice tagline for the top of the page: “Don’t let your dreams just be dreams” obtained Lisa Smith of @lisadanielle_ It seems that the expertise behind these statements is rather limited and largely repeated by/from other Instagram users in a nice Pacific ocean echo chamber. I doubt that the subscribers care very much. They look for pictures of a life

…from another place, tropical and blue,

We have never been to.

This is from Sylvia Plath’s “Finisterre”. I love the emotion behind these words: they got etched into my mind straight after the first reading. I doubt she would have liked Instagram very much.

fake mindfulness of instagram bali goddesses
Why wouldn’t you be wild and free?

These women tend to paint, create jewellery, produce their own make up lines or run seminars. The more competent ones paint and the really great ones photograph: weddings, editorials and so on. I shudder at their daily routine of waking up and knowing that they need to go out of their way to take shots of things that will appear good to thousands of people. Perhaps, they shudder at the thought of writing an essay, especially one that is clear to the point which can only be obtained by being honest. Not honest like an eco-friendly coffee brand is honest; honest like a best friend is honest. The high quality pictures make it into the Instagram feed; the less artsy are only dignified with a place in the Stories.

contrived mindfulness of instagram
“Be yourself, you’re beautiful”, but make sure you are young, actually beautiful and totally carefree

Their appearance is uniformly the sort that can only be obtained by strenuous HIIT and no carbs. Don’t forget the tan.

The goal is to look like the perfectly accepted idea of female beauty, but with a spiritual twist.

A half-naked woman in her late twenties with a body fat of about 18% with a dreamy smile will caption her photo with something like “Remember, everyone is beautiful. Accept your self fully. Love is everything.”

fake pretentious contrived instagram accounts
Soulful gratitude, it’s not for show

The more thorough Instagramers will have a story of how they used to hate their body/themselves/their failures, but came to be in a healthy relationship with themselves and now it is their life’s mission to bring this harmony into the world.

They frequently have a soul mate whom they tag in their Instagram and express their gratitude at least twice a week. Don’t be alarmed if some of these bits of wisdom have a tag like for some minimalist watch maker or a boho clothes vendor, usually with an eco-twist:

coping with the Instagram goddesses of Bali
Lost fishing nets with a purpose

The perpetual summer bodies don’t come easy, I am sure, but the Insta goddesses never bother to make a big deal out of it. However, a nice yoga pose with a “thoughtful” quote is a must. Mindfulness goes without saying. Are there still people who don’t practice mindfulness? Myself, I doubt that between reaching out to bikini manufacturers and running contests for a handmade fairtrade eco-friendly blanket and shooting non-contrived photos of their rigorous relaxation routines they have much “time” for real mindfulness.

Clothes-wise, less is more – because why should we hide? That’s just wouldn’t be that spiritual or close to nature. The boho-twise requires the addition of a hat and numerous bracelets to the bikini bottoms. The top is covered by the long beach-wave hair.

What do goddesses eat? It’s all vegan, raw, super-foody and green. Banish gluten, lactose and all other negativity. The tone of their remarks is so matter of fact, like they’ve never seen a BLT in their lives.

dealing with the fakeness of instagram
Apparently this is a smoothie. You learn something new everyday.

So for example, a goddess could start every morning with 20 sun salutations and a green smoothie. They charge her up with the sort of energy the no coffee could ever do (throw back to her life before she entered the true world of Bali). It is usually followed by the description of the unfolding life force of nature filling her within and she literally can’t imagine having it any other way.

how to stop feeling bad after instagram
Give and you shall receive

I have no reason to stick it to Lauren Bullen of @gypsea_lust in particular. They are legion. They come from all countries and write in all languages (though they all spend time in Bali). You know a few people like this. So alike, that you weren’t sure I wasn’t writing about them until you checked the username. They run Instagram-supported businesses, that’s fine, but it is the fact that they are selling something that isn’t real that bothers me.

It seems obvious that people would be able to tell that this is an account made for marketing. But because of this spiritual vibe, insidiously, this affects the moral compass for many otherwise bright people I know.

My millennial peers are often unable to see the difference between shallow marketing and deeper philosophy. Has it always been this way I wonder?

This kind of stuff makes me want to clear my head. So if, like me, you come across this phenomenon, don’t be down. Breath.

P.S. Sorry for the radio silence. I’m moving. It’s a journey. Many journeys back and forth between two houses, in fact. Lots of challenges of all sorts and remembering to breath has been my number one rule. I will write about the whole experience once the dust resettles on my suitcases.

Credit: inspired by Varvara Gorbash

29 thoughts on “How to not feel dirty all over after looking at the fake spirituality of the boho goddesses of Bali”

  1. I don’t know what’s more pathetic…

    1.) The narcissistic, attention-whoring of a liberal, Western woman that uses Eastern religion to garner social media “likes”…


    2.) The legion of thirsty, beta male Western men that line up to tell her how awesome she is, solely for the purpose of taking her to bed.

    I’m thinking it’s a tie, really.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. It’s big in the States, where I used to live. As you know, Eastern religions are complex (sometimes enlightening, other times restricting). There are monks in Thailand with 500 rules they must adhere to, for example.

        So to simplify this system for the purpose of attention-seeking and a momentary ego boost is intellectually shallow, and a poor representation of a complex world view.

        I also suspect that the advice of “do nothing” plays right into the hands of manipulative forces in the West: those that would be all-too-happy for us to shuffle through life in a zombie-like state of mindless consumerism.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. “The Human Condition…”

    Homo sapiens have socially evolved to gossip, it’s the way we’ve adapted to contrast and compare ourselves to others, while hoping beyond all hope to feel like we belong to something bigger than just our individual reality. SM is not a technical breakthrough, but rather the exploitation of this condition that’s existed from our early push to build communities. Overlay that with the effects of hormones over the rational thought process (primal behavior) and it’s just a continuation of our path lead by our Paleolithic emotional free fall….

    Just my take😎

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I abhor this worship of image without substance. It’s easier to package yourself than to actually do the hard work of growing yourself. Makes me want to post pictures of my four-babe, bate-bellied stretch marks while eating an entire package of Oreos and obsessively griping about my ex.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Ah… a refreshing insight, casting light onto the shadows of all the bollocks, and nonsense. So many of us are simply papering over the cracks, yet the cracks are becoming so wide now, that even the fantasy-reality of social media, can no longer keep the horrors at bay.

    Seeing the staged beautiful lives of the fortunate, is simply a message, that the rest of us are small and weak in comparison. If we haven’t visited these places, have the decor, or eat the food, we’re worthless. No more than worms grovelling in the dirt, feeding of each other, as zombies. None of it empowers the powerless it only adds to their pain.

    Not much of what we’re shown by the media is real it would seem, all staged and faked, so we may buy into the illusion that all is well. All is not well.

    I so crave an adult reality away from the kids. If we don’t find this true, grown-up reality, and stay grounded, a big bump is no doubt in the offing.

    Lovely read thank you Doc, hope your move goes smoothly, you’ve been missed!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My few observations in reply to this are…

    1) I read a quote recently by a well known Greek philosopher recently, something about the journey to such places as these people depict not changing the person. (sorry for not being able to recall it)

    2) Last year I started following some yoga sequences I found on Youtube, more for physical stretching than spirituality. I found some by presenters that really made me feel uneasy, I couldn’t put my finger on why, but this fakeness you depict here seems to be it.

    3) The whole raw food thing these people often subscribe to is, I have found, often very fake: overly processed stuff in plastic packaging. It also seems that many of the subscribers only stick at it for a few years, tops. I’m all for healthy eating though.

    None of this adds up to make our world any more of a better place; at least some of us see through the façade they present.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Very good article. I was kind of worried that it was me. I feel people sometimes brand themselves in a way that is not true. Too perfect and in reality nothing but an empty head. You can easily fall into the traps and it’s very hard to see who is telling the truth and who is telling a lie.
    Another thing is you can surely feel bad about yourself because you are not as good as those pictures (nothing near).
    Everyone is saying that they want to help but no real help I can see. Just empty stories and pics. Of course there are nice good real ones as well. But it’s very hard to tell.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh, honey – you missed the New Age movement of the 80’s then – it’s not just Milliennials. But I most definitely get your drift. Now you wonder if the comments were made by real people or bots – that is something that never occurred to me! And living in Hawaii, seeing some skinny naked young woman bedecked in gauzy garments and festooned with tattoos while strolling toward an Instagram sea is not at all uncommon, unfortunately. And while it has repeatedly occurred to me that most people might just be shallow, instead you suggest the comments might be mostly fake. Ah, so. Enlightenment comes in many forms 😉 Aloha, Martina

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have such mixed feeling about New Age philosophy. On the one hand, so many of the greats – from Aristotle to Caesar to Leonardo to Vonnegut said that you become whoever you believe you are, on the other hand there is something that feels so icky about it. I think it is the extent to which it is commercialised and aimed at the most vulnerable people.

      As for the bots, it’s not her fault, it is just something that happens on Instagram.

      If I was going down to the sea knowing that I have to produce photos, it would really take away from the experience, though I imagine others aren’t like this. However, I do think that you would have to be quite shallow to be genuinely excited by the prospect.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha, perhaps 😉 My eldest daughter is a brilliant DAOM who also models. So there’s always middle ground. And yes, of course there are parts of the New Age philosophies that make sense. And there’ s a huge contingent of fake gurus, often ‘good looking’ men, who end up ‘seducing’ their students. So there’s that. I always look at such things with jaded eyes. Helps that I’m not easily hoodwinked 😉


  8. Like belabrightideas I live in Hawaii, in Puna specifically, and we have plenty of new and older hippie / new-age types. There are lots of communes and alternative lifestyles. I have definitely seen some of my friends post pictures like you describe in your article. I get the sense, at least from them, that the pictures tend to express an inner yearning. Christianity as well as Eastern traditions have an abundance of “shallow” followers and practitioners. There is a lot of bad and simplistic theology or philosophy. If you look, you will find similar photos from a Christian perspective. (Though maybe with a few less semi-nude women.)
    The part I find most disheartening is that these pictures, which are a reflection of wealth and privilege, do not engage with the harsh realities of life for the majority of people on the planet. Yes India is beautiful and inspiring, but it is also filled with poverty and suffering. Puna Hawaii, which has many privileged individuals living alternative lifestyles also has a household poverty rate above 30% and 70% of the kids in our schools qualify for the free or reduced lunch program.
    How do we engage these spiritually inclined individuals to look around and begin the hard work of alleviating the suffering that is all around? How do we help them see the beauty and wonder found in the work of helping others?
    Peace, Paul

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh my! So right. So what I’ve been reacting badly to lately. I have a little job in media that puts me into contact with this sort of superficiality even though it’s nothing do with Bali goddesses. It irritates the bejesus out of me!
    Thanks for giving me a context for my reactions so I can try to suppress them when I must. And it’s good to meet you.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. So hilarious and so true! there is so much to Instagram and its glories/stories, we could start writing volumes on it. I like how your take on “goddesses” reveals a lot about the essence of Instagram presentation. It is true, you have to judge by the cover mostly.
    I remember, a year or two ago, following an account of @socalitybarbie, where a Barbie was doing that kind of things and quotes. It was hilarious, and too bad that the author chose to stop. It got also a massive following. It looks like we all get fed up and need some irony – and still we keep on following some stereotypical Insta profiles.


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