Grace Kitayama is a journalism sophomore and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
Stressed? Buy a bath bomb. Depressed? Buy a face mask. Tired? Buy a Yerba Mate. Can’t sleep? Buy a pair of blue light glasses. Worried about your physical health? Buy a Hydroflask and refill it three times a day.
Self care is any activity we do in order to take care of our physical, mental and emotional health. The buzzword has evolved past an idea, morphing into a trend and occasionally popping up as a meme.
I, for one, really support self care, and I think it is important that everyone should work to improve themselves. However, what I think is a common misconception of self care is that it should always be enjoyable.
When I see “self care” threads on Instagram spewing out vague, unsolicited advice and advertising makeup products, I can’t help but feel like these are all distractions from actual self care. The self care promoted on social media by these accounts is pushing a consumer care that is more of a coping mechanism than actual self care.
This is not to say that buying products to make one feel good about themselves is a bad thing. Consumer care encourages people to take time for themselves and de-stress without feeling like they are being selfish. It’s hard to schedule a time to take care of yourself between all the other aspects of life, but self care looks different to everyone and this promotion of consumer care perpetuates the idea that there is only one way to take care of yourself and that is by spending money.
As a student, I never have time to do what I need to do and do what I want. I am also a serial procrastinator and I am very lazy. Of course, I will buy something that’s marketed as a “quick fix” to any part of my life. But that is why self care products themselves can be harmful for the same reason they are appealing: they are portrayed a quick fix to a problem in your life.
Students have to deal with issues such as debt, mental health problems, sleep deprivation, malnourishment and procrastination just as a part of their everyday lives. Those issues can weigh on a person every day and none of them have a clear or easy solution. As a result, we try to focus on the more tangible manageable tasks at hand, like taking care of your skin, or drinking more water (which is good for your skin) because no one can argue that you are not taking care of yourself, you are just taking care of the less glaring parts of your life.
But that’s what a coping mechanism is. It is a distraction, an instant gratification, an easy fix that actually does nothing to solve the problem at hand. It’s procrastination at its finest and sneakiest. It is focusing on a smaller problem rather than addressing the larger one at hand. It is easier to do the laundry and take out the garbage than to write that final paper that you have been dreading for weeks. It’s easier (and significantly cheaper) to drink or smoke when you are feeling anxious than to talk to a therapist about what’s causing your anxiety. It’s easier to put off making plans with toxic friends than to actively cut them out of your life. And it’s easier to say you’re participating in self care than to actually do it.
There are definite perks to consumer care, but at a certain point the product being used to treat whatever solution you are seeking may only further exacerbate it.