Recognizing the privilege behind self-care

It’s not at all uncommon to be scrolling through your Instagram feed and see videos of glittery Lush bath bombs hitting the water, “feelin myself” photos in lingerie or aesthetically pleasing bowls of oatmeal and fruit hashtagged #selfcare.There’s no doubt that self-care is important. Few people could argue that it’s a bad idea to prioritize taking care of yourself and this idea has been increasingly popularized on social media. However, it’s important to look at self-care in a nuanced way and remember that not everyone can practice the Instagram version of #selfcare.

First of all, there are the obvious barriers based on the varied lifestyles people live. Not everyone has the socioeconomic privilege to order a $9 bubble bar and take some time out of their day to take a few hour long pamper session. Sometimes the only food you can afford to buy are the meal swipes you already have to pay for and Sadler oatmeal isn’t nearly glamorous enough to count as #selfcare.

Secondly, what someone needs for self-care isn’t necessarily a part of #selfcare. Sometimes self-care means actually taking a shower and getting to class and there’s no Instagram-worthy way of advertising that. It’s important to remember the significance of the small acts of self-care that are actually even more important that the more aesthetically pleasing ones. Taking a lap around the outside of your dorm building to get some fresh air for the first time in days certainly isn’t glamorous, but it’s more likely to dramatically improve your mental health than the artfully arranged fruit you eat every morning. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the bubble baths and oatmeal brand of #selfcare but it’s also important to make a concerted effort to recognize the less glamorous side of self-care as equally legitimate. Everyone’s needs are different and so it follows that their self-care practices would be different as well.

Lastly, it’s all too easy to forget that everything we do also affects someone else. We certainly shouldn’t let others discourage us from practicing self-care as we need to, but if my interpretation of practicing self-care means that I bail on a group project to take a bath or stop answering work emails because I need to unplug, that creates a severe negative impact on other people in my life.

Now that the concept of self-care has largely been popularized, it’s crucial to start addressing the nuances. We need to go beyond promoting #selfcare and recognize that every individual has different needs and abilities. Most importantly, when we’re navigating our own relationship with what kind of self-care practice is right for our own individual needs, it’s important to strike a balance between caring for ourselves and becoming selfish.

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