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Wellness

The Commodification of Self Care

 

What do you think of when you hear the phrase “self-care”? Maybe it means coming home at the end of a stressful day and throwing on a face mask, or maybe it means taking a break from studying late and treating yourself to one (or four) episodes of Bob’s Burgers. Anything little thing you do to pamper yourself when you’re stressed out. Caring for one’s self is always important, but frankly, there are a lot of reasons to be sad and angry right now.

 

According to the Washington Post, 25% of current college students could develop PTSD from the 2016 election(see sources below). It’s also been in the last two when the “self-care” trend really blew up. Maybe this “self-care” craze is like the shop-your-feelings moment associated with post 9/11. In 2012, the New York Times reflected on this period: “In a speech two weeks after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush urged Americans not to be cowed: “Get down to Disney World in Florida,” he declared. “Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed.” Personal consumption expenditures increased sharply in October 2001, and the recession that had begun in March of that year came to an abrupt end by November.”

 

Retail therapy became a happy drug of choice. Now we are in the middle of another reemergence. I’ve taken notice of CVS and Target’s new and improved beauty centres, now becoming focal points of the store. Businesses have identified our obsession with self-prescribed shopping for things like mini beauty products and those single-use face masks. Skincare became the big buzzword, and it was often linked to the idea of “self-care.” If this interests you, check out this New Yorker article that articulates the phenomenon from someone who bought into it too.

(See source below)

 

Netflix and other streaming services are also associated with the trend, and “treating yourself” with a bit of screen time can quickly turn to hours lost. This, of course, puts money in their pockets. They can then crank out more and more feel-good entertainment to unwind with.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with shopping and watching TV, hell, I do all the time, but maybe labeling lavish activities as “self-care” has been done too gratuitously. I’ll admit sometimes when I get overwhelmed I’ll take it as an excuse to buy myself a little present. It can be immediately soothing. But that never leaves a lasting positive effect on my mood. When I ditch my work for chill-time and justify it with “self-care,” I don’t find myself feeling any better or cared for than when I would just call it “procrastinating.” I need to start thinking about that kind of indulgent “self-care” as a band-aid, and it’s time I search for real solutions. Maybe it’s time to think about what makes us feel our best instead of relying on what is being marketed towards you. Our “self-care” should reflect more of ourselves. Keep track of those moments when you realize you’re especially happy.

 

What are you doing before then? This can help you become more aware of what serves as actual “self-care” for you personally. If putting on a face mask really does make you happy, then do it! But consider that maybe not everyone’s “self-care” looks the same, or like what they’re selling to you in the checkout aisle.

 

Sources:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2018/10/24/quarter-college-students-could-develop-ptsd-because-election-new-study-suggests/?utm_term=.eb36202e077d)

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/15/business/consumer-spending-as-an-American-virtue.html)

 

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/the-year-that-skin-ca…

Hi! I'm a junior Sociology major who likes writing, playing bass, and wasting time online!
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