Toward a Different Self-Care

in Bryn Mawr/Opinion by

By ALEX TUCKER, Guest Writer

The self-care movement is in vogue right now. YouTube vloggers (that’s video bloggers) share their personal self-care routines to thousands of subscribers, online publications extol its virtues, and on Bryn Mawr’s campus the words “self-care” are never far away, physically or mentally.

Taking care of oneself emotionally and psychologically is important, but the way self-care is understood currently is imperfect. It has a heavy class-based dimension to it. In our minds, if a middle class person spends $50 on lush bath bombs and takes a different bubble bath with each of them, there’s nothing wrong with it. They may perhaps accompany the experience with scented candles or specialty face masks. Regardless, it is self-care.

Someone living on minimum wage does not have the opportunity for such extravagance. If a working-class person were to do the above, they would be seen as “irresponsible” and spending what little money they have on “frivolous” things that are unnecessary.

Indeed, the self-care movement as a whole appears to be built around consumerism. There are exceptions, but many of the most prominent forms of self-care involve purchasing products: hair serum, face masks, perfume, scented lotion, bath products, hot cocoa, new clothing, and so on, ad nauseam.

Nothing is inherently wrong with any of these things. However, building a framework in which we protect our mental health with these purchased items excludes those unable to afford them. Additionally, it harms those of us who are opposed to companies turning necessary, beneficial actions into items for exploitation and profit.

Aside from the issues of consumerism, self-care as currently practiced seems incredibly reactive: we perform self-care when we already feel tired, run-down or upset. Certainly, having things to do that mitigate unpleasant feelings when they occur is a good idea. But on its own, this idea is incomplete.

Self-care should be more than an arsenal of techniques to feel less bad; it should also be a way of constantly connecting to yourself and your experiences. That way, we can make the most of the good times and the best of the bad. Self-care needs to be about how we approach the world around us, constantly, so that we are always mindful that our emotional states need to be cared for.

This can be seen as analogous to religion: a pious Christian does not stop practicing Christianity the moment they leave church grounds. Neither self-care nor religion is limited by time and place, but is instead a philosophical choice regarding our self-perception and perception of others.

We do not only need care when we are falling apart. Care is not about fixing what is broken but about maintaining what is good, constantly improving what can be, preventing the unpleasant and learning how to figure out what we really need.

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