Is Self-Care Just an Instagram Trend?

I know I’m supposed to ease you into the topic and give you a good introduction but the truth is, I don’t feel like it.  Let me come out and say it: I am not 100% here for the self-care “movement” as we know it.

Anytime I read the words self and care on my social feeds or on some site like Buzzfeed, my eyes roll to the back of my head.

Self-care as we throw it and try to know has become something we do to floss for the gram and front for the feed.  It’s time someone called it out.

don’t forget to pin this!

 

Before we get deep into this post, let me make it clear – I believe in the power of a movie night in your pajamas, of getting your nails done, having a warm cup of cocoa or crisp glass of wine.  I mean, give me the wine any day.

I’m not against the pampering side of self-care, or even things like setting boundaries.  I hope you can read this post with an open mind.  I believe in self-love and self-care and I’m not trying to cut it out your life.

It’s more than face masks

What bugs me about this movement is we mainly celebrate the glam side of it.  We don’t focus on the people who have to put in work on a daily basis, we don’t highlight people with conditions, disabilities, and disorders who aren’t approaching self-care as an Instagram moment.

Type self-care in your search bar and you’ll be presented with highly stylized, perfectly curated images that view like a makeup, coffee, and beauty ad.

For many people, this shit is work.  For me, self-care is work.

Nine years ago a very scared, younger Olli was in therapy for the first time.  First of all, black folk don’t do therapy…we call on Jesus (sarcasm people, that’s sarcasm).  I was breaking all the rules by getting help, admitting I had a problem and not getting on my knees to pray said problems away.

My therapist provided the tools I needed to put myself first and even though she encouraged me to do things like drink tea, meditate and read books (the things we connect with this “movement”), with her help I learned how to not spend all day in bed, how to positively face my problems, and how to live my version of a healthy life.

Self-care was me learning to recognize when I am depressed.

 

Glorying basic shit…

Another thing I’ve noticed us doing in this movement is glorifying basic things that able-bodied humans do on a regular basis.  Um…Olli, what are you talking about?

I just went grocery shopping, I tied my shoe, I peed – self-care!

For a person with limited mobility, the everyday acts that are carelessly labeled as part of this trendy movement, hell that shit is work.  It irritates me when an able-bodied human being without any issues, conditions or disorders wants a glitter-fest for doing the dishes, for buying groceries or doing laundry and for a person with, say limited mobility, doing any of those is a task.

 

 

And I get it, for some people on a particular day, doing the dishes is a huge task.  But what about a person who can easily wash their dishes, who knows cleaning up is part of adulting/life, who isn’t facing ________ issue?  I just find it really weird that some people expect actual praise for doing things that they are fully capable of.  Some people are using the term self-care to gain recognition for living their able-bodied, average, don’t have any issues to face life.

It is marketing 101

I love working in marketing but man can marketing cheapen things quickly.  We’ve stripped a concept of its beauty and purpose and watered it down to the equivelent of…well, holidays.  Hey Valentine’s and Christmas, I see ya.

All movements have a pretty side, but darling I’m over everything being pretty all the time.

It feels wrong to me when I see “self-care kits” for something.99 in places like Urban Outfitters.  There is no love in that box, there’s no intention for you to actually get better; I bet the items included are things you already have in your bedroom.   But the marketing team has thrown a scrawly font and a pouch of glitter inside so…it works.

 

Those in the know are uber quiet

I guess what irks me are those who say they are advocates for mental health issues and yet they are not calling anything out.  Pointing out the issue might cause you to lose your sponsorship, your blog opportunity and your freebies but it might also allow you to partner with companies that actually care about the root of self-care.  Forget being gifted a free candle…

Now, I’m not picking on anyone in particular so if you feel a certain way we can chat but I do feel if a person has the platform to reach and educate others about the realities of self-care you should.

At the end of the day, if an “advocate” only glams up this movement and join team curated feed – that’s on them but I feel like there’s an opportunity to do more.

Maybe it’s not really even an issue.  Maybe I am just wasting time thinking about it.

 

So what do we do?

Well I can’t speak for everyone – this rant is my rant.  I know there’s a chance most people haven’t even made it this far into my post because sweet Olli became a monster and bashed their beloved self-care rituals.

While I drafted this, I had a mask on my face and a run through of the best video game of all time was playing in the background (Legend of Zelda, Ocarina of Time of course).  I have my own rituals that fall under loving myself.  I am not saying we can’t have our me time moments.  What I’m pointing out is self-care goes beyond those me-time moments as well. 

When I talk to people about self-care I push them beyond coffees and candles.  I encourage them to do actionable things because sometimes we need to work on our shit.

I also make it a habit not to glorify actions and activities I know are standard for an able-bodied person.  When I’m in my bad place, I praise myself but if I know I’m in a good place I don’t need a glitter-fest for doing things I do anyway.

Lastly, I refuse to feed the curated world of social media with hashtag self-care.  I have used the term online before but I have made an effort to not glamorize this movement.  I’m not taking away your right to hashtag all your photos of lattes, masks, etc. however for me and my busted iPhone, it’s simply not something I want to do.

I am making the effort to acknowledge as many sides of this movement as possible.  As someone who is aware and -3% woke (don’t get me started on being woke), it would be wrong of me to only highlight one view of self-care.   These are small things that I do but maybe this will help someone realize not every little thing is hashtag self-care.  

Just like maybe one day we’ll get to a place where people who are feeling nervous will stop saying they suffer from anxiety and depression….but that’s another post.


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18 Comments
  • Emily Evans
    October 8, 2018

    I love this post and totally agree. While i am guilty of advocating the more superficial forms of self-care, this is by no means the end of it. I do believe strongly in the power of taking time out to slow down and care for your physical body, and these face masks etc are often a part of that, but bloggers really do need to be focusing more on the benefits of therapy and various other methods that can help us work on and mature our mental health at the core. Great read!

    Emily Aagaard // https://www.emilyaagaard.com

    • Olli
      October 11, 2018

      Hi Emily!! I appreciate your comment, I’m glad the point I was trying to make actually came across in a somewhat decent way. I think people look up to bloggers in a certain light because we are sharing our experiences and in some instances, we’re educating people (like my fibroids posts). I think bringing some reality into the conversation helps, especially for those of us who are fighting the good fight on a daily basis or who call ourselves allies. I’m not upset if a mental health blogger decides to only show one side of things, but I taking the conversation further is a good opportunity to educate and reach more people. Thanks for sharing my post!!

  • Ashlee Stuart
    October 8, 2018

    Girl, preach! As much as I love the idea of self-care, and how valuable I think it can be to mental health, it is definitely being exploited. It isn’t all about having luxury products, but more about self reflection, and working on what is inside. Journaling is one of the best self-care techniques that I have ever done. Totally pinning this post!

    Ashlee | http://www.ashleestuart.com

    • Olli
      October 11, 2018

      Hello Ashlee, I’m so happy you connected with this post. I agree, mental health has become a great money-making scheme and while I’m not against the small person creating a “self-care kit” out of pure love, I detest large companies or individuals who create products just to milk the mental health wave. It encourages the idea that self-care and mental health issues are not to be taken seriously. Thanks for sharing my post!!

  • Alexx
    October 9, 2018

    I could not agree more with this! As someone who has mobility issues and struggles to walk most days, depression and anxiety are a given due to the physical issues. I practise self care to make my mobility issues better, and just to keep on top of day to day life. Think I may do a post on this same topic at some point if you’re alright with that? Xx

    angelwingsandpetticoats.com

    • Olli
      October 11, 2018

      Hi Alexx, thank you for using the term mobility issues! I was struggling to think of that the phrase I wanted to use in this post and that was it! Yes, I feel individuals with mobility issues lose the most when it comes to the topic of self-care. This was actually one of the main issues that inspired me to write this. I hope you write your post and take the conversation even further. Good luck!!

  • Alya | Brave Grey Cat
    October 11, 2018

    Could not agree more. When I see people suggesting stuff like “have a hot bath and do your skincare” as ways of getting over anxiety or depression I roll my eyes so hard.. and I absolutely love both baths and skincare!! I do agree they can be a good way to relax, but that’s it: you relax for a couple of hours. It doesn’t cure anything. Trying to recover from a mental disorder is in no way fancy or aesthetic.

    Great post, I loved reading this!

    Alya | bravegreycat.com

    • Olli
      October 11, 2018

      Thank you Alya, that’s one of the points I wanted to get across – you can enjoy your me time but that’s only one side of self-care. For a person not struggling with a condition, etc. that might be enough but I think it’s good to acknowledge it’s not always enough. I’m glad you enjoyed reading this post!

  • Bee
    October 11, 2018

    Thanks for posting Olliviette. It’s great to see a discussion on the topic as something which started as movement with good intentions has like you said become a marketing tactic. P.S. Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes should not be part of anyone’s self care ritual as they are far too sweet. Save you teeth and save your money 😂

    Bee | makeeatrepeat.co.uk

    • Olli
      October 11, 2018

      PSLs are extremely sweet and yet, they lack the flavor that everyone claims they have (in my opinion). I’m sticking with my water lol. I’m glad you enjoyed this post!

  • Hayley
    October 12, 2018

    Great post and I totally agree with you. Self care is becoming a fad, a quick way to market a product or get lots of likes online. Shame when it can be so valuable for our mental health x

  • Evy
    October 12, 2018

    This is one of the best posts I’ve read, this #blogtober. I am going to share it everywhere. Saved it to my Pinterest board already. ❤️

    I HATE the term self care. It seems that the world has taken the concept of “me time” and “treat yourself- you deserve it” (both famous marketing devices) and tried to apply it to the world of people with mental illness.

    Practicing self care was something I first discovered in Cognative Behavioural Therapy (CBT). It was ,for me, about using positive behaviours to reinforce a sense of self worth to encourage me to be able to function like a ‘normal’ person or take steps to improve the quality of my life.

    Seeing posts about bubble baths, showing off beauty products (a paid endorsement) then writing “#self care” shows they know nothing about it as a tool for illness… which pissed me right off. I had an OCD phase where I wouldn’t get clean because of intrusive thoughts. And it was destroying my life. As it meant I wouldn’t leave the house. Getting a basic (hot water and soap) bath is still a big deal to me and
    I have to check myself everyother day to make sure I’m looking after myself properly and not neglecting myself.

    Pics of coffee with the word self care, as a label or caption, only reminds me that it costs money to get coffee with friends and that leaving the house, and having time, money and friends is a luxury that a lot of people take for granted.

    It’s the people who post about their small steps in recovery we should be cheering on not every middle-class, white girl (probably ‘gramming from university- see the privilege?) who got a coffee with her friends (as she does daily) like it’s some kind of achievement.

    I’ve been drafting a post about self care vs. self sabotage for a while. Will try to get it finished in a day or 2.

    Really great to see someone else voice an opinion on this.

    Thank you.

    • Olli
      October 12, 2018

      No, thank you for this response! In the first draft of this post I had written about how there were days when I couldn’t get up and get ready, there were weeks where I never left the house. A lot of people don’t see the work in that. It is my hope that this post, on this tiny part of the internet, gets someone to rethink the various meanings of self-care. I try to be really careful how I used that word because I don’t want to promote Starbucks and spa days only. I appreciate you sharing this post and I 1,000%appreciate this comment. Thank you Evy

  • Mykk
    October 23, 2018

    Thank you, thank you, thank you – I feel there aren’t enough people calling out this ‘hashtag trend’ and the way it’s being misused. In the few instances I’ve written about self-care it has always been in the context of mental illness, trauma, or loss. Self care is surviving the bad stuff and using the tools you have at your disposal to do that surviving and then heal. A PSL is not gonna make me suddenly perky on a really bad depression day and a bubble bath won’t magically make my PTSD go away either, y’know?

    Do those things help? Sure, sometimes they do. If a person has the means to do all this glam stuff to distract themselves until they can really deal, I’m on board with that. But I don’t think it’s “self care”. Does that make sense?

    • Olli
      October 25, 2018

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic. Your points totally make sense. I hope as we move forward those of us who have the voice and the knowledge start raising awareness and bring “the work” that goes into self-care to the front.

  • Jheelam
    November 9, 2018

    This hits the nail-right-on-the-head. I was reading a post sometime ago that listed down “forest bathing” , “hiking” as the must-to-do means of self-care. I mean, sitting amidst a concrete jungle and having anxiety attacks make it hard enough to get out of the bed or look for a green patch nearby itself. This “Self-Care” industry has gone to ridiculous level.

  • SL Thomas
    December 13, 2018

    This is a great topic and I do like that it has become a hashtag trend because a lot of people do not put themselves first. If you think about it, a lot of people work and work consists of taking care of everyone except for themselves. Granted those self-care kits are now being sold everywhere but it is a reminder to put yourself first. The kit contains items that enables relaxation and mental calmness. The love may not be in the box but the love is definitely in your mind, heart, body and soul.

    • Olli
      December 24, 2018

      Hi!! I guess I can see your point a bit, having the kit is helpful and for someone it will do the job but I still feel it’s a bit soul-less, especially when it’s something sold by a huge corporation. If it’s something that a etsy seller is producing i sometimes hope there is meaning put into each of the kits but even then, you don’t know.

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