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The misconception of self-care

Our social media platforms aren’t shy of people posting their ‘self-care routines’, consisting of luxurious skin-and-hair products, their shopping hauls, and elaborate spreads of fancy food. We follow their pursuit, wanting to experience the ultimate glow-up. We indulge in luxury and occasional pampering: we set a new skin-care regime, change our hair, change our wardrobe, yet, we seldom feel truly satisfied.

We’ve been blinded by the materialistic nature of ‘self-care’. We’re made to believe that expensive skin-products, shopping hauls, pedicures, and manicures are the ways to approach self-care. However, this band only applies to a small demographic of people – mostly wealthy, white women – who have often advertised the superficial benefits of their flawed self-care regime. Self-care has been grossly commercialised, and the concept of ‘self-care’ has been ridiculously misunderstood, and often mistaken for self-maintenance.

According to WHO, self-care is “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider”. Quite simply, self-care involves holistic care of one’s physical, mental, and emotional state, to promote and to cope with existing issues.

Moreover, self-care also consists of personal hygiene, maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet, leading an active and healthy lifestyle, and having a peace of mind. Self-care isn’t always supposed to make you instantly feel great, it’s not always easy nor is it completed by spending money. Self-care can be difficult, it’s a discipline, it can be boring and can also be tedious! Most importantly, self-care is not limited to a specific gender or socio-economic status.

Self-maintenance is sustenance, and not necessarily healthy. It certainly differs from self-care because it’s not an act of love or care for one’s existence, but mere steps are taken to ensure one’s survival – eating just any food because you haven’t eaten anything all day, working till the point of passing out, taking a shower only because you feel gross, changing sheets because they’ve begun to smell.

There is another aspect of self-maintenance that is ‘sold’ to individuals in the guise of self-care. It is, sometimes, indulgent and materialistic – it’s the ‘quick-fix’ to feeling superficially better about oneself. We don’t need to splurge on fancy restaurants and expensive clothes to survive, we do so because it’s socially more acceptable and because it feeds our brain with the dopamine (the happiness hormone) that it needs.

We approach self-maintenance often under the guise of pseudo-self-care: we binge the weekend away because work has been stressful, or eating our favourite ice-cream because it reminds us of the happy times, or partying away with strangers because we feel lonely- are just some of the ways we express our internal state of being. Of course, expressing our emotions is healthy, but finding a better way to do it is essential. This is where practising healthy self-care habits come in hand. With a healthy and efficient self-care practice, you may not feel the need to indulge in materialistic things.

Photo by Nick Fewings from Unsplash

As mentioned above, self-care is not occasional, it’s a discipline, a regime that one must follow to see results. Self-care can be practising healthy and holistic ways of living: stretching for a few minutes every hour when you have a busy day, consciously eating healthy and nutritious food, itching the hourly scroll on the phone and sleeping early. Self-care extends to emotional and intellectual health: practising skills like active listening, learning something new, reading a book, positive affirmations, journaling, practising gratitude and learning to accept things, are just a few ways of self-care!


– by Bhumi Gowda.

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