Self-care culture has a simple narrative that beckons us to take a pause from the chaotic garbage fire consuming our day-to-day lives and invites us to care for what is left of our tattered soul.
While the words speak of “taking care of oneself,” this can envoke different things from one person to the next. It becomes a deeply personal ritual that attempts to soothe our battered, anxiety-ridden selves.
And while the idea of self-care is a positive one, the practice isn’t always healthy. Take a bath. Do a facemask. Get a good night’s sleep. Treat yo’ self. Whether we want to admit it or not, self-care is a mega brand totted by influencers, fueled by consumers and can have negative impacts on our mental and physical health — the very opposite of what we are trying to achieve.
Spending a moment to focus on taking care of your body and your mind is a great mental health strategy. But if our so called self-care activities are more about escapism and denial of our larger stresses and anxieties, then we are setting ourselves up for failure. Our coping mechanisms need to be backed up with active strategies for recognizing when we need help.
There is also a risk that our self-care routines are more reminiscent of poor health habits. We need to admit that not all self-care indulgences are created equal.
While taking a break in the bathtub for an hour may do wonders for your mental health, treating yourself to that bottle of wine every night might be doing more harm than good. If we aren’t careful, our preoccupation with self-care can turn into a spiral of self-destruction.
Summed up so eloquently in twitter user @Alecrl’s viral tweet from last February:
“Today I had 800 mg of caffeine, exercise for 2 hours, ate literally 80 pizza rolls and did a facemask. The line between self-care and self-destruction is a fine one but god do I walk it hard brother.”
And it’s a been a running joke since the beginning of our collective obsession with self-care. Buzzfeed’s article “24 Self-care jokes that you really, really need after 2017” has a great variety of self-deprecating, self-care critiques that have been immortalized on the internet like this gem from Tumblr user amazingmars:
“Self care is breaking into nasa and launching yourself directly into the Fucking void”.
I don’t know about you, but I feel seen.
Making fun of our attempts to mask our self-loathing and crippling depression with bath bombs and naps is the running gag. It’s how we get by without completely falling apart. It’s the very essence of self-care.
But we need to make sure that we are not using these comfort measures as Band-Aid fixes for bigger problems that need more long term solutions. It’s important to really, truly check-in with ourselves — assess our stress and our coping mechanisms.
We need to measure if this facemask and a glass of wine is going to cut it or if we need to address what is really at the core of our stress.
Erin Matthews/ Opinions Editor
Graphic: Shawna Langer/ Graphics Editor