Gen Z and Millenials are notorious for their social media-set trends and obsessions –among them: self care.
In many ways, we are the generation of wellness and healing, of feelings and openness. I used to think self-care was a term coined by a celebrity in LA, trying to market her pilates class. But, after research, I’ve discovered it has origins in ancient Greece and political movements alike — self-care, while a recent buzzword, has been around long before our generation.
As stress culture increases and the political climate grows more turbulent, interest in self-care keeps growing. After the US presidential election in 2016, searches for the word ‘self-care’ were at an all time high — and its popularity hasn’t lessened since. But does the word really mean what it used to, at least to our generation? It’s definition is certainly fluid in and of itself, as it really does mean something different to everyone, and this is part of the point. However, could we be skewing its realm of meanings?
Self care, to me, means doing what I need to stay healthy and sane, but has modern marketing and uses of ‘self-care’ shaped it into perhaps too broad of a buzzword? I find myself guilty of creating excuses to not do things, or convincing myself I need certain things to take care of myself, all in the name of ‘self-care’. Skipping a class just because I’m not in the mood? Self-care. Spending too much money at Sephora? Self-care. I don’t say this to dump on the concept altogether; we all need breaks, and shopping sprees, in my opinion, are very therapeutic. Plus, the growing conversation surrounding mental health and wellbeing is a necessary one, dissolving stigmas and changing the narrative, for the better, in a way wholly unique to modern times.
The idea of self care in its pure form, as a lifestyle focused on taking care of ourselves physically and mentally and addressing our needs, is inarguably beneficial. But all too often, self-care is an overwrought, consumerized concept, telling us that we need that essential oil, or Rupi Kaur book to really connect with ourselves. A 2018 Vogue article suggests incorporating self-care into your 2019 lifestyle by marketing wellness resorts in the Maldives and Bali. Celebrities are constantly posting sponsored Instagrams of ‘life-changing’ face masks and beauty routines. We are bombarded at all times with expensive and possibly unattainable modes of ‘self-care’, skewing our perception of what the word really means.
In reality, self-care encompasses things like self-improvement or mental wellbeing, which stretches beyond just pampering yourself. You don’t need an Equinox membership and yoga retreat to be physically fit, or a 12-step skin-care routine and a room full of candles and incense to feel like you’re treating yourself. Although, by all means, if you enjoy these things, they certainly have their benefits. But for many, these are unrealistic expectations to set in striving for health and peace of mind. As finals season approaches, please remember that self-care doesn’t have to be cost prohibitive or overtly indulgent. It can be as simple as grabbing coffee with a friend and talking, going for a walk, or remembering to get your sleep and take showers.