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Learning Self-Care, One Bath Product at a Time

Have you ever been gifted a set of shower products? Those exquisitely wrapped body cream and shower gel duos from Bath & Body Works? Or maybe they’re from a small boutique that sells herbal and natural alternatives. You know, the gifts which come predominantly from people who don’t know you too well but are invited to your party and couldn’t turn up empty-handed. Or sometimes it’s from those distant family members who are visiting. I adored getting these kinds of packages because however impersonal the gift was, it had an air of specialty to it. I had a drawer in the back of my closet that I used for gifts like these. Even though I loved receiving them, I laid them there, unopened, complete with the packaging and a little note of who gifted it to me. The latter was so that when I eventually re-gifted it, they wouldn’t end up with the same person. [bf_image id="q7k4lp-5wr7hc-799xni"]

Now it’s not a secret that everyone has re-gifted at least one thing in their lives. Sometimes you don’t like the gift. Sometimes it’s one too many of something you already own. Sometimes you know "just the right person" who’d enjoy the gift a little bit more than you. Whatever the reason might be, we’ve all done it. I don’t know when I started doing it, but it first happened when I was very young, probably around 9 or 10 years old. I remember being mesmerized by the shiny packaging and the strong, almost sickly-sweet smell in the box as I stared at the swirling of the hand cream inside the bottle with the matching perfume spritz, excited at the prospect of using them. I remember the sound the package made because of all the crinkly gift-wrapping paper and the beautiful light pink bow it was tied with. I also remember my mother keeping it aside telling me that "We’ll open it up later.”

While she was in no way denying me of the products, this became somewhat of a "thing" in my life; putting away the fancy packaged gifts into a drawer which overflowed but somehow never actually got regifted. This resulted in body lotions and shower gels eventually being thrown out because as expected, they’d reach their expiration date without getting much use. Sometimes I would keep even the expired ones, just because they looked so pretty. Now in hindsight, even if I had been allowed to immediately tear into the packaging and start using these products, I don’t think I would have. I say that because now that I’m older and I can freely purchase whatever I want, or even open up whatever gifted set comes my way. I open it up, sure – but I still don’t use it.  [bf_image id="35sxkm3vx7wqfjmch52tqp9x"]

The reason is that the drawer of scented lotions and body washes always felt too “fancy” for me. I thought I didn’t deserve to use them in my daily life, not because I was unworthy, but because I couldn’t justify them or even understand what purpose they would fulfill. I can use a generic brand of generic body wash and achieve the same results. In my head, I always had to save fancy products. But what I never realized is that indulging in these products was a form of self-care. I often write about self-care as a concept, and I think it’s because it’s still something I feel like I’m learning about every day. It doesn’t only look like one thing; self-care manifests differently for every single individual. For me, it’s only now that I realize that smelling like lavender as I step out of the bathroom and opening up a bottle of something or the other that "soothes and hydrates" can actually make me feel better. The lingering scent that I carry with me becomes a reminder of something nice that I did for myself to start off my day.

In no way am I saying I'm a whole new person now; indulging in self-care is a strange process of learning and understanding. So yes, I might still have a drawer of unopened gift sets, but yesterday I opened up a "Nourishing Vanilla & Honey" shower gel and body butter set from 2 years ago, and for now, that’s my self-care. And I smell wonderful. 

Natasha is a fourth-year student at the University of California, Davis double majoring in Psychology and Communications with a minor in Economics. She has a variety of interests ranging from marketing and media to human rights and policy and continues to seek opportunities to explore them. Being an international student she brings with her a unique perspective which she hopes to share through her writing.
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