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We Need to Redefine Self-Care. Here’s Why.

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Iowa chapter.

If you’re thinking to yourself, Ugh, another self-care article? Really?  I feel you. Self-care articles are a dime a dozen in women-oriented publications these days. From Cosmo to your best friend’s blog and everywhere in-between, self-care content is inescapable. And it’s trendy for a reason – people eat that sh*t up. After all, who doesn’t love being told they deserve some me-time?

But I’m not here to tell you to sleep more, eat better, or to hit the gym on a regular basis. I’m here with an unpopular opinion: I don’t like the word “self-care.”

Of course, I like the idea behind self-care. I believe it’s important to make yourself a priority and to take time out of your overwhelming life to focus on and invest in yourself. It’s more than important – it’s essential for happiness and a fulfilling existence.

But the term “self-care” is grossly overused. It’s become an all-inclusive phrase that means anything from “relaxing” to “treat yourself.” Who among us hasn’t used self-care as a way to justify that coffee/manicure/trip we know we don’t need or have the money for? Who hasn’t opted for a night out on the town instead of focusing on that assignment due tomorrow in the name of “self-care?” Don’t get me wrong. Taking breaks to do what you love is absolutely necessary, not only for your mental well-being, but to give life a purpose, a reason for pushing forward. After all, if you can’t have fun in life, then what’s the point?

But in some cases, I think self-care goes too far. It’s become used as a way to justify avoiding our problems or responsibilities. It’s become a way to escape the real world, instead of to help us deal with it.

The beauty industry only perpetuates this problem. They now use the term “self-care” the way the health industry use the term “wellness” – as a buzzword to help sell things. Face masks, skin care products, diffusers, multivitamins, exercise classes, aromatherapy candles, fuzzy socks, spa kits and other relaxation products –you name it, and the beauty industry has probably labeled it “self-care.”  Jumping on such a trendy topic is a smart business move, for sure. But it’s also warped our idea of what self-care should be.

True self-care is not about products or excuses. It isn’t always about plopping a bath bomb into the tub, grabbing a bottle of wine, and soaking in the hot water until your worries disappear. Sometimes it’s about dragging your butt to the gym when you aren’t feeling it because you know you could use those post-exercise endorphins right now. It’s about staying home on a Thursday night and dealing with the FOMO because you have to be a functioning human by 8 AM the next day for work. It’s about sitting down and making a budget for yourself instead of checking your bank account in the Starbucks line to see if you have enough to cover the iced coffee you’re about to buy (and then stressing come the first of the month when you can’t make rent). It’s giving up on friendships that aren’t good for you, or putting yourself out there for that job/internship even though it scares the hell out of you.

Self-care doesn’t always mean stepping back and taking a break. Sometimes it means stepping forward and facing your problems head-on like the strong, confident woman you are (or aspire to be). Self-care shouldn’t be something we resort to because we’ve exhausted ourselves trying to “do it all” or because we simply don’t want to face our responsibilities/problems at the moment. Sometimes, self-care is doing the thing you least want to do. I stumbled across an article the other day that summarizes it perfectly: “Actual self-care has very little to do with ‘treating yourself’ and a lot do with parenting yourself and making choices for your long-term well-being.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.


Paige Schlichte is a senior at the University of Iowa studying Journalism and Psychology. In her free time, you can find her drinking coffee, binge-watching Friends, or rereading Harry Potter for the umpteenth time.
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