I was about to dismiss writing on self-care because it is a competitive keyword. Because that’s what it has become now: a keyword on Google.
Have you ever come across brands forcing you to take care of yourself without selling their products? I know that a company needs the $$$ to work — but exactly where is the line if something as personal as self-care is also marketed to the point of exhaustion? Aren’t the products using vulnerable, tired, and stressed consumers to make a sale that won’t even benefit them?
Modern self-care is not intimate or subjective. It looks a certain way: fancy yoga mats, bubbly baths with ridiculously expensive bath salts, jasmine-scented candles, face masks that cost half of your rent, and “solitude” with Netflix. If I had a dollar for every time I saw a “self-care infographic” laden with these same items, I’d be able to actually afford that face mask.
Don’t take my limited word on it. Buzzfeed already has 27 (??!!) self-care products to help you relax.
A lot has already been said about the commercialization of self-care (can I get a self-care package for being exhausted by the self-care media?). The result is a failed attempt to “rest right” and relax in a way that is approved by social media.
It is fatigue and a responsibility to meet the “ideal standards” of meeting the stress of self-care. And I am here to tell you that the candles may make you feel better (Uhm, socially validated) for a few hours, but after that, you actually have to do the real work.
Because self-care was never about fixing your hair, your room, or your sensory organs. It is about taking a fucking break from the effort, from grinding, from social obligations, and from useless purchases.
Seeking solace in your own self is critical. I do not deny that some products and services may help in that space. But overcrowding that space can lead to a denial of what is actually valuable.
A relaxing bath can help you get a good night’s sleep, but it won’t cure insomnia triggered by constant stress. A face mask can help you feel better about yourself but it won’t do the work of examining your self-beliefs in therapy. A massage can help relax your body, but it won’t serve as a consistent workout replacement.
No one markets the “real” work (the habit-building, the therapy, the cumulative efforts) because that often looks boring. And boring doesn’t sell. It doesn’t drive engagement or look aesthetic or is shareable enough to go viral. So, memes are made out of band-aid methods of binging Grey’s Anatomy.
Consider this your reminder that self-care was never easy and never will be. It isn’t expensive or need you to buy a namaste yoga mat. It is an ability to introspect. It’s done in real solitude & loneliness (with no screens). It’s meeting your own physical, emotional, and mental needs without having to extend your budget. Adhering to capitalistic self-care isn’t doing right by yourself. Anything that can be advertised as an immediate-solution-to-all-your-problems-just-need-$$$$ is just that — a false advertisement.