Something that’s thrown around a lot nowadays is the notion of ‘self-care’. I’m sure you’ve seen the Twitter threads, the magazine articles and the Instagram stories of other people practising ‘self-care’, however this ritual is becoming more and more based on purchasing products under the illusion that they’re going to make you a better person, instead of actually building ourselves a better tomorrow.
What we now consider to be self-care is actually a superficial, romanticised version of looking after ourselves, perpetuated by internet culture and the pressure to be constantly improving. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be working to change who we are, but realistically which is more likely to build a better future for yourself, buying some clothes online after having a shitty day or completing a quick workout?
Writing this down, I do feel as though I’m somewhat attacking myself, as I’m all too guilty of buying a face mask and some new shoes when I’m having a down day, but maybe what we all need is something to draw attention to the fact that this need to fill a perceived gap in our lives by buying stuff isn’t actually beneficial for our mental health or our bank accounts.
I can’t count how many times I’ve been convinced that buying an item of clothing will change who I am as a person, convinced this piece of fabric will alter how others perceive me and therefore how I feel about myself… a feeling that lasts until about half an hour after I leave the shop. The need to ‘treat yourself’ is an immensely successful marketing technique, as brands make you feel as though you can’t really be happy without constantly shopping, and this undoubtedly has me reaching for my purse after a long week because we’ve been told the easiest way to get a burst of serotonin is to buy, buy, buy.
Self-care in a materialistic society depends on what you buy and how we’ve been told this item will make you feel. We’re far more likely to want to buy a new pair of shoes after a crappy day if we see a photo on Instagram of an influencer clearly having a great time whilst wearing those shoes, it subconsciously suggests that we would be far better off mentally after buying that item.
True self-care isn’t slapping on a face mask or reaching for your debit card when you’re feeling down, it’s booking yourself back into therapy, getting in touch with an old friend, grabbing some fruit before you head out for the day or switching off your phone a little earlier to get a better night’s sleep.
We as a society need to un-train ourselves to think that in order to be happy we must be constantly spending our money on products that will change our lives, when in reality the only thing that will impact your mental health for the better long term is to listen to what your body and mind truly needs.
Take a couple of minutes today to identify any bad ‘self-care’ habits you have, and alternative actions you could implement instead. Take care!