Self-care seems to be all anyone can talk about when something goes wrong. Face masks, bath bombs and fuzzy socks tend to be the items everyone sprints to the store to get when any minor inconvenience arises, but at what cost? Don’t get me wrong, I love a good face mask and candle any day of the week, but self-care is more than that.
Everyone has bad days, but how we handle those bad days is so important and the self-care industry has profited off of those bad days by confusing all of us on what self-care actually is. According to Oxford Dictionary, self-care is defined as “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one's own well-being and happiness.”
The most important part of that definition is to actively protect ourselves, and the self-care industry has made us believe that face masks are the answer to that question. Although taking care of our skin and having a routine is “self-care,” believing one face mask is going to save everything isn’t protecting our “well-being and happiness,” and it’s not our fault for thinking otherwise.
I’m by no means an expert on self-care and I’m also guilty of doing things that aren’t the best for my mental health, but I’ve begun to educate myself on these topics and I’ve found so many new outlets for genuine self-care. One of the books that’s truly inspired me lately is “The More or Less Definitive Guide to Self-Care” by Anna Borges.
Borges constructed her book as an alphabetized list of ways to practice true self-care and includes real testimonies of people all around the country and their experiences with self-care. Almost all of the testimonies mention how the self-care industry misled them and made their mental health worse because they didn’t understand why the little things they were doing weren’t working.
So, take a deep breath with me and throw away all of the things you’ve been told by an industry that is banking on you having a bad day and struggling.
Borges’ book is filled with constructive and effective ways on improving your mental health and fostering true self-care. Affirmations, boundaries, forgiveness, unfollowing toxic people on social media and finding new hobbies are all solid ways of practicing self-care.
Listening to our bodies and understanding hunger signals, tension building up in muscles and when we need to leave the room because we’re too anxious are far more important than candles and bath bombs. Although those small items from the store can help for a little while, there are other solutions that are far more effective and less exploitive.
The best advice Borges’ book gave me is that having patience with yourself is the first thing you need to prioritize, and then everything else will come a lot easier. Building off of that, everyone’s experiences are different and putting all of us into one category is another example of the mistakes made in the self-care industry.
I know how heavy and complex those bad days can get and while face masks, candy and a fuzzy blanket are short term fixes, building a safe space and unpacking your emotions is far more meaningful. So, start small and keep a journal to document your emotions and progress, and work everyday on listening to yourself and removing negative energies in your life.
I know it’s easier said than done and doesn’t happen overnight, but we need to stop fueling an industry that doesn’t genuinely care about us, and put the journey in our own hands and see where life takes us.