The Business of Self-Love & Self-Care
I was fifteen, I believe, when I first acknowledged how disconnected I had become from myself. My ideas of self-love and acceptance were disguised by the expectations of my peers, my relationship at the time, and my experiences with school and our current culture’s infatuation with self-care.
An epidemic of self-care has flooded social media in the past several years, developing a far-from-reality idea of what that means for me. The presumption that mental health problems and insecurities can be remedied with the help of a Lush bath bomb or facemask has started to undermine the true meaning of caring for oneself. I found myself spending hours scouring my Instagram explore page, looking at threads of “self-care”, thinking, why didn’t any of it work for me? How come I still struggled to find acceptance in myself mentally and physically?
The truth lies in our culture’s “one-size-fits-all” approach to self-care. If it works for one person, one group, it must work for everyone. As stated by Jenna Worthham and Wesley Morris on their Podcast Still Processing, “Self-care has become synonymous with self-indulgence or self-investment,” rather than the genuine process of coming to accept and love yourself in a climate of hate and discouragement. The idea that coming to terms with your identity and appreciating it for what it is can be found solely in works of indulgence undermines the process as a whole.
It occurred to me that where the disconnect lies between the picture perfect routines of self-care and authentic self-love is in the act of acceptance. The fictional world that beauty blogs and twitter threads had painted to me of self-care had prevented me from seeing the second key piece of self-love. Self-awareness. NPR explored this divide with the assertion that “today, self-care, as it's defined by Gracy Obuchowicz, a facilitator and self-care mentor and coach in Washington, D.C., “assumes that we're OK as we are and we just need to take care of ourselves ... self-care alone is not enough. You need to have self-awareness too. Self-care plus self-awareness equals self-love.” Becoming aware of what your body needs is just as important as going through the motions of wellness.
In fact, self-care has become an ever-profiting industry, basking in the insecurities and lack of self-love in the overwhelming public. From Gwenyth Paltrow advertising her $55 vaginal insertion rose-quartz and jade eggs that are guaranteed to improve sexual health to the KarJenner’s FitTea promotions, our celebrity obsessions have manifested themselves in a new era of insecurity. These acts, called in the name of self-care, have done nothing to promote the movement of self-love. Fictional interpretations of what is needed to be a happy, internally accepted person have convoluted the reality of coming into yourself. When a singular approach to this process is displayed to the public by influential figures and corporations, it is impossible to tailor a routine of self-care to yourself in order to contribute to your sense of self-love.
I have found, through my years striving to fully accept myself, that self-care lies in decisions to take breaks from work and stressful duties for some people, while for others it lies in the act of going to a doctor or therapist to manage mental health obstacles, and many others find their requirements somewhere in the middle or to either extreme. Though these would both be essential steps in the task of developing self-love for each person, they are vastly different methods, and both require a sense of consciousness to develop. Rather than encouraging the act of becoming aware of your personal needs and difficulties, we are encouraging the act of covering up this awareness with pseudo-care items. The self-care industry is worth $400 million dollars and climbing, in the face of increased mental health concerns in the populace.
In my years of working past my individual obstacles with loving myself, I have acknowledged a severe detachment between the fantasy of self-care and the reality of what would improve my mental health. Although investing in expensive skin care products sounds lovely and may work for some people to improve their health, it simply fails to work for me. Instead, I must look deeper into myself and become aware of what I require to be the optimal version of myself. Rather than feeding into a growing industry, it is essential that I take the time to examine what can genuinely improve my routines of self-care, adding the concluding ingredient to my bubbling potion of self-love and personal approval.