Allow me to make a 2016 prediction: There will be a self-care backlash. And, if you will, let me be the first to sign up for the revolt. If no one joins me, I’ll proudly ride the Self-Care Backlash Bandwagon alone. Because if I hear the term one more time, then I might strangle the nearest vegan who’s also a yogi who’s also a life coach who also runs marathons who also blends homemade Shea butter creams and eats kale for dessert.
And by that I mean f–k what you think is self-care that may or may not be self-care for me. There is a self-care spectrum and it’s wider than any of us can know.
As a person with clinical depression, I know the refrain “Take care of yourself” all too well. I know how discouraging it can feel though it’s meant for expressing love and care. There are two types of people who say, “Take care of yourself.”
1) Actual doctors who know actual facts about your wellbeing. 2) Random people who aren’t doctors but think they know what’s best for you.
To those random people (who, yes, include loved ones and friends—IRL and otherwise), some of us have the balls to exclaim, “Stop telling me to take care of myself!” I don’t typically go that far, but I do often want to ask, “What the hell do you think I’m doing over here? This might look like self-destructive Netflix binging to you, but right now, these episodes of Frasier that I’ve already seen 20 times are saving my sanity and my life.”
See, for some of us, self-care is the barest of bare minimums. Like letting our homes be messy for a longer period than someone else thinks we should.
But if I’m honest, based on the explanation, I barely understand what self-care means.
The International Self-Care Foundation (who knew this existed, right?) defines it as such:
“Self-Care is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness. It is a broad concept encompassing hygiene (general and personal), nutrition (type and quality of food eaten), lifestyle (sporting activities, leisure etc), environmental factors (living conditions, social habits, etc.) socio-economic factors (income level, cultural beliefs, etc.) and self-medication.”
Okay, so pretty much anything qualifies as self-care then? Weed smokers who self-medicate daily with marijuana are practicing self-care. Impulse shoppers who apply for a Macy’s credit card and max it out the same day on new living room furniture are practicing self-care.
See, this is why I’m adding the term to The List of Words I Hate. (If you’ve read “Penny for Your Thoughts” before, you may already know about my disdain for the words “diversity” and “errands,” two terms that, in a matter of seconds, take me from zero to 100 on the frustration scale.)
Like the other words I loathe, self-care is a term with a meaning that eludes me. Most times, I think self-care masquerades as a stand-in for something else. For the person who posts daily sweaty selfies of themselves post-workout, self-care is a stand-in for “discipline.” For the person who showcases the 12 new shades of lipstick she bought at nearly $20 a tube from MAC, self-care is a stand-in for “indulgence.” Sometimes self-care is a synonym for “obsession” for the person who always seems to be on a liquid juice cleanse. For the person who brags about the “toxic people” she’s cutting off in 2016, self-care could mean “stubbornness.”
I can’t think of “self-care” without also thinking of the word “deserve,” which is a self-congratulatory slippery slope. We are not always the best judge of what we deserve. We go into debt from shoe shopping because we “deserve” to look good. We cut ourselves off from every loved one who challenges us because we “deserve” to be supported. We “deserve” a good man who’s handsome and smart, so we reject the guy who misuses “your” and “you’re” in his emails.
Self-care is a guesstimate at best. How do we know that the self-care we’re prescribing and celebrating is the self-care that’s truly needed—for ourselves or anyone else? Who can say what’s bad self-care and what’s good self-care?
Well, at least, I think we can agree that brushing our teeth is a universal self-care ritual. So when some camera un-shy 18-year-old figures out how to take a sexy, foamy-mouth-with-toothpaste selfie, then we can all prepare for #ColgateSelfCare to become a thing.