Updated: Jul 9
The term ‘self care’ originated as a concept in the medical world. Doctors used it in consultation with patients to encourage better treatment of themselves by eating well, exercising and sleeping enough. It was then mirrored back to those doctors, advising health professionals working in physically and mentally demanding jobs centred around looking after others, to make sure they were taking time to look after themselves. The term then became prevalent amongst activists. Those doing hugely important but relentless work fighting for human rights during the Civil Rights Movement, and the fight for women’s rights. “Self care” was now becoming politicalised, and thus on the medias radar. The ‘self care’ doctors and activists were referring to was really about survival, but as these movements coincided with the upcoming “wellness” trend, the meaning of the term began morphing. What was originally an umbrella term to describe survival tools for keeping your head above water whilst initiating huge change, was now being used as a term to describe products and opportunities to glamorise day to day quality of life for anyone and everyone.
The expression of self care, at its fundamental route, meant self preservation. It’s now been capitalised on and sold back to us. “Self Care” comes in the form of a retreat, a monthly subscription to an expensive recipe box full of single use plastic or a face mask with gold shavings in it. Self care is a commodity, and it’s costing us a fortune.
It is a testament to our privilege that we even have the time and resources to consider expensive gym memberships, special tea brands, bath salts, etc all sold to us under the illusion that if we pay out, then we’ll really be looking after ourselves. What about all the people in the world who can’t afford these things? Are they not partaking in self care?
It begs the question; what really constitutes as caring for yourself? When have you felt mentally & physically nourished and cared for?
Writer Fariha Róisín describes “true self-care is figuring out what works for you, and honoring what your needs are, working within your limitations.”
I can’t stress this enough: the issue is not with self care. Of course we should all care for ourselves. The problem is we shouldn’t have to be told to do that by a company that then suggests we buy something from them. Carving out time to take a bath and re-energise is an act of filing up your cup. The bath bomb and candle, although they create a lovely ambience, don’t mean that you care for yourself more. Truly, caring for yourself should be a priority every single day. There should be no guilt or shame in sending yourself on a retreat, or having a long luxurious bubble bath. It’s only a problem when after the act, you promptly return back to self-flagellation and only sleeping 4 hours a night.
Examples of self care that don’t cost a fortune
-Getting enough sleep
-Spending time with loved ones
-Practicing mindfulness/ meditation
-Time In Nature
None of these things need to cost you much money and most of them are readily available at your fingertips. They are choices we make, not things we buy. They are acts that we can implement every day to keep our cup filled up. Or they are things we can completely ignore leaving us desperate for a spa break to revitalise.
Think back for a moment to the type of demographic right at the roots of ‘self care’ coming onto the scene. Acts of kindness to themselves were paramount to keep them ticking over, just as they are to us. It’s not that we should ever feel guilty about looking after no.1, more that we should be wary if it’s an irregular affair that comes with a price tag.
Maybe a better term is Self Preservation. And we should strive to preserve ourselves every single day without ever having to justify it.
I'd love to hear what you think about this post, whether you agree or not. Let me know in the comments, or you can drop me a message privately.