*Megan Thee Stallion voice* I’m on that self care shit, huh
Hey bestie! It’s your fave lifestyle influence and certified life coach checking in! Heard shit has hit the fan and the old mental health game has plummeted to a new rock bottom… but no fear! Your lazy ass will be out of that musty bed pronto with the launch of my upcoming mentorship programme… Feeling down in the dumps? This $10 lavender bath bomb will have those blues fizzling away in no time! Feeling like you’re spiralling into a black hole of anxiety? My latest manifestation eBook will banish those silly feelings away forever!
None of us are strangers to the insufferable marketing ploy that self-care has become. Now a buzzword thrown around in aesthetically pleasing bubble fonts through Instagram “boutique” shop feeds, it’s hard not to fall into the black hole of commercialised self-care. Products upon products are pushed down our throats, selling a “fix-all” fantasy cleverly engineered to prey on the very insecurities the same industry has helped to create. Mental health, like every other thing on the planet at this point, has become commodified.
Let’s get one thing straight. I am not here to shit on self-care. Physically taking care of yourself is undoubtedly crucial for our mental health and general wellbeing. We should never feel guilty for allowing ourselves to indulge, whether that’s in the form of buying yourself chocolate or lighting a nice candle. When times are not so great, anything that helps you out of that Dreaded State of Ick should be utilised.
However, through the commercialisation of self-care, we’ve increasingly replaced our coping mechanisms with material items. This new wave of “wellbeing” consumerism can numb us from addressing the underlying problems behind certain behaviours. Capitalism is so damn sneaky sometimes! It sure isn’t MY bestie. Confronting those deep-rooted issues is so much easier said than done, and honestly who isn’t guilty of wanting to run away from those difficult emotions? Sometimes all I want to do is band-aid a surfacing mental breakdown with a face mask instead of unpacking the core reasons behind my self-sabotaging beliefs on a Tuesday night. That shit is exhausting. Not to mention inconvenient. Face masks will have to do until strategic scheduling of melt-downs on Google Calendar becomes a thing.
While I’m no mental health guru, self-care is fucking hard. Even simple tasks like drinking water, showering or even replying to messages can seem like impossible tasks on a bad week. It’s also really boring. Forcing yourself to finally do your Leaning Tower of Pisa stack of laundry or just going outside for fresh air is hardly glamorous. Nor influencer morning routine worthy. But these terribly mundane things are so crucial for healthy human functioning — yet very rarely portrayed in media because they’re not profitable or “pretty” to look at. This lack of representation only works to stigmatise mental health, propagating feelings of shame especially when it comes to productivity and achievement. We’re all expected to be machines that are constantly turning out assignments, projects, social connections and new experiences. If your engine isn’t chronically being overworked, you’re wasting your life away. With all this mounting pressure it’s no wonder that sometimes things just stop working.
The over-saturation of sparkly marketing gimmicks has also made self-care almost an obsessive obligation. We’re expected to maintain nice skin, meditate daily or reach a certain number of steps on our Fitbit counter. But when you boil it all down, these self-care techniques only serve to provide the illusion of control in our lives, intensifying our preoccupations with failure and self-criticism. It’s a relentless rinse and repeat cycle. We rotate through feeling shit about ourselves to finding some product or method that temporarily tranquilises our emotions, then after its effects inevitably wear off, we’re left empty and numb.
What if we all just cut ourselves some slack? What if we just stopped for a moment to let ourselves process and breathe? It’s scary that even self-care has evolved into elaborate cash-grabbing techniques deployed by corporations to suck us further into our goal-oriented and numbers-focused lifestyles. As tempting and easy it is to rely on products and personal growth methods for stress relief, we can only create long-term positive impacts on our wellbeing by tackling those root issues. I wish I could insert some type of poignant advice on how to achieve this — but like many others, this is still a work in progress. What I will say is that learning to care for yourself can be a long and difficult process that looks different for everyone. However, removing that pressure to constantly do and achieve more is definitely a step in the right direction.