Self-care has been a major topic of discussion in 2018, and is only gaining speed in 2019. The modern obsession with self-care has evolved into a $10 billion industry. The people of the Internet and mainstream media have latched onto a multitude of ideas around what self-care is or should be. The magnitude of information floating around only serves to distract from the true simplicity of self-care — self-care is simply caring for the self.
However, the self, as defined by parties who stand to profit from our desperate attempts at physical and mental stability, is often fragmented when we begin to care for it. Our physical, mental and spiritual bodies are separated into compartments, none receiving any lasting levels of care. By design, many self-care practices leave some part of the self starving for true nourishment and another satisfied with only temporary relief.
Despite what the self-care industry is peddling, this is what self-care is not.
The self often needs some tough love. There is a time and a place for physical and mental self-care that relaxes the muscles and transports the mind. However, encouraging growth in the self may require a little bit of pain — healing pain from finally ending a toxic relationship and beginning to renew your own self-image. Or growing pain from physical exercise not in vain pursuit, but in pursuit of strength and the ability to protect your own body. This short-term pain brings long-term growth, and that is self-care.
Five-dollar lattes every morning is not self-care. I have nothing against a good barista coffee (well, except that I don’t like coffee) but how is justifying a physical dependency caring for the body or the mind? But I digress. You don’t need to spend any money to change your mindset, grow a skill or heal a relationship. Anyone who says differently is (quite literally) trying to sell you something. Before you buy something in the name of self-care, ask yourself, “How will this encourage growth in my life? Am I using this as a crutch or short-cut in the place of lasting care?”
Self-care often turns into selfish indulgence right under our noses. As an avid Parks & Rec fan, I love a good treat yo’self moment. But let’s call it what it is — a treat, an indulgence. This is where intentions matter. Let’s say one woman takes an hour to herself to take a bubble bath and reflect on her day. Her intentions for this alone time leads to valuable self-reflection and mental clarity, therefore she feels refreshed and armed to handle her emotions. Another woman also takes a bubble bath. She tries out a new bath bomb, flips through a magazine and even paints her toenails. Her mind is sufficiently distracted for an hour and her body is squeaky. Although she’s pampering the physical self (which is fine), this is a temporary indulgence with no lasting benefit on the physical, mental or spiritual self.
Self-care, even in its purest form is not a cure for the emotions and circumstances we have to face everyday. Heartbreak will not go away because you jog every morning. Depression will not cease because you keep a list of gratitude. These practices only help to fortify the mind, body and spirit for whatever life has in store.
True self-care should not only comfort and soothe your body and mind, but also grow and challenge you. The purpose of self-care isn’t to numb the mind and body to stress or sadness, but to arm them with tools to deal with those feelings in a healthy way. However, all of this has been lost in the industry of self-care, who is peddling a temporary relief to keep you coming back for more. As long as industries like beauty and fitness continue to define how we care for the self, we’ll never be truly cared for.