The Problem with the Self-Care Trend

Littered with baby pink thumbnails and artfully structured self-care tips and tricks posts, my Instagram feed serves as a testimony: the latest online fixation is self-care. It’s everywhere, it’s relentless, and it’s harmful. 

The problem with the Internet’s newfound obsession with spreading this sensationalized version of self-care is that it allows and even encourages us to delude ourselves into accepting this image, irrespective of the fact that it has no actual substance or impact. Taking a spa day and drawing a bubble bath might fit the mold that the pastel, flowery side of the internet argues is peak self-care, but these practices serve as placeholders for steps that we need to take to truly achieve the growth that we hope to accomplish with the help of a $25 Sephora face mask. 

If the ultimate goal of caring for ourselves is to better our physical and mental health, we need to begin by acknowledging that the road to self-improvement is far from as romantic as it’s being made to seem. 

While normalizing and encouraging self-care is an important first step, the way we do it online is ineffective. This propagated image of self-care is so popular because we want to believe that a mint green bottle of nail polish and coconut scented soap are all we need to cope with the real, pressing issues in our lives. It’s easier to watch a rom-com than it is to confront the social anxiety that is increasingly dampening your quality of life, just as it’s easier to bake cookies than it is to finally get around to reassessing your lifestyle that’s stressing you out so much that you feel the need to distract yourself in the first place. Practicing the beautified version of self-care that Tumblr and Instagram seem so fond of might be effective ways to momentarily relieve stress, but they won’t eliminate your stressors or help you deal with them any better. 

True self-care comes from curating a life for yourself that you don’t need to regularly escape from. 

It is learning to ask for help and going to therapy, or finally taking a shower after struggling with a depressive episode, going to sleep at appropriate hour, realizing when a class is too difficult to handle and taking the appropriate steps to relieve the resulting stress, whether it be dropping it or putting in the extra effort to form effective study habits. It’s the hard stuff, and it should be. Nothing worth doing was ever easy.