With the rise of social awareness and conscious consumerism, people are more willing to spend money on products that align with their ideologies and beliefs. The idea of feeling better and doing good has affected many industries but the majority of them had one marketing word in common: self-care. There are thousands of posts online on how to take care of your mental and physical health which is good but when these are commercialised and advertised as detox tea, expensive boot camps , cute face masks, shiny manicures, are we still talking about self-care or something else?
I have been diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety since I was 17 and it took me years to understand that this isn’t just a random and persistent wave of sadness. In fact, I only started taking my medications and going to therapy when I started university. There are times when I fail to sleep and have a hard time getting off my bed, times when I hide in the office toilet before the panic attack hits me. I could never wish anyone even my worst enemy to go through the same constant battles that I have in my head on a daily basis.
I couldn’t let this take over my life and affect my work so I started reading self-help books, buying essential oils, pillow sprays, must-have skincare products, downloading meditation apps, making detox juices etc… The more I read the more I wanted to invest in myself, hoping to be the best version of myself and that makes sense because that’s ultimately the purpose of self-care: recharge and feel better.
I cringed so many times at my yoga teacher chanting god knows what faux Sanskrit crap she learnt on her enlighting trip to south India. I almost puked when tasting vegan cheese. I kept telling myself that good life comes from hardships and kept practising everything that these so-called health care specialist wrote on the internet. Over time, my anger and frustration grew more and more. I woke up even more stressed thinking that I needed to cross whatever unrealistic to do list I made up from the internet in order to get my shit together. Honestly, the only good thing that came out of this situation is that sometimes I was so exhausted that I would instantly fall asleep, instead of being wide awake and left alone with my own thoughts at 2 am. Unsurprisingly, my body collapsed and I was forced to take days off from work and that’s when I came back to my senses (well…a bit). You can be doing anything that these self-care aficionados rave about for temporary relief but the truth is that no amount of celery juice, slices of lemon in your water bottle, bubble bath or Himalaya salt lamp is going to fix your underlying issues. So what the hell is self-care?
My subtle interest in philosophy on Flipboard led me to this brief article which discussed that the OG idea of self-care came from Socrates (and gang) who, according to Foucault, claimed that the best way to take care of oneself is through self-knowledge and continuous practice of cognitive behaviours. Simply put, self-care was the main requirement for becoming a philosopher which strictly speaking, was only available to elite men who had the luxury to sit down and ponder. Why does this remind me of my yoga teacher who “found herself” on a backpacking trip to Kerala? Must be nice to use your privilege to go on colonial tourism and discover your life purposes (but hey, but that is the topic for another day). Coming back to the current world, self-care has now been democratised making it seemingly available to everyone, but not for free.
When you have 264 million people worldwide suffering depression, it makes more sense for the economy to invest money on cute makeup packagings with writings such as #GirlBoss or #IAmWorthIt instead of providing proper health care. After reading the news that Barbie has released its own self-care pack, I realised that we are truly slaves to capitalism. The advertising industry has made a fool of us with their “You deserve it!” marketing and we need to stop endowing excessively basic life necessities. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy my monthly tea subscription, gym membership and face masks but I surely do not need to spend £2k on meditation retreat, £120 on makeup palette or £5 on turmeric and ginger shots to feel good.
After months of constant struggles, I realised that what kept me sane was the very idea of getting something done and ticking it off from my to-do list. The satisfying feeling of accomplishment made me think that all I needed to feel better than my yesterday’s self was a healthy disciplined lifestyle that cannot be acquired by capitalism.