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Opinion: The problem of "self-care"

The beauty and wellness industries found a gold mine that is trending in networks.

Woman having breakfast lying on a bed

The beauty industries and influencers found a gold source under the term "self-care." / Photo: Unsplash

LatinAmerican Post | Vanesa López Romero

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Leer en español: Opinión: El problema del "self-care"

We see self-care everywhere: on social networks, in YouTube videos and in magazines. Celebrities are sharing their self-care routines with us, and for a moment we think that we can be a bit like them , that maybe if we buy that very expensive cream our life can be a little less common and ordinary. We think that if we get up at 5:00 in the morning every day and meditate for an hour and then have breakfast with a vegan diet, we may find our purpose .

That is the idea that has been sold to us, an idea that we have become obsessed with and we seldom stop to question: What really is “self-care” and where does it come from?

Self-care first emerged as a medical concept but later became a political one. In the first instance, during the second half of the 20th century, health professionals began to discuss the importance of personal habits to maintain good physical and mental health . Although at first these habits were thought for mentally unstable people or older adults, the discussion went to ordinary workers, thinking about the stress that they could have due to their long working hours . It was then thought about the importance of having routines or habits to improve the quality of life.

With the social movements of the 60's and 70's, such as the anti-racist movement, the second wave of feminism or the movement in favor of the rights of the LGBTQ + community , the concept of self-care began to have a political component . The idea that people belonging to these communities had maintained a poor quality of life for centuries due to the well-being of white people, heterosexuals and men, generated the need to think about their own well-being .

Corporality came to have a supremely important role in this scenario. Self-care was developed by activists such as Audre Lorde or Angela Davis, for them the importance of personal care came from the need to delegitimize social orders that were based on gender, race, class and sexual orientation , from that the people who were under those hierarchy lived a healthy life.

Taking into account that at that time the people belonging to these communities were the most affected, for example, by the HIV virus or that, due to the rejection of relatives and close people, they were more prominent to have mental illnesses , self-care took on radical importance.

Or, for example, in the case of women, there was great value here considering that women were naturally expected to take care of others in their work as wives or mothers . Thus, taking care of himself and demanding better health systems that took them into account was extremely important for the development of these movements and the results they brought with them.

However, and despite the positive consequences that this concept and its political activity had, large industries , as if it were rare, saw in it a source of gold. In self-care they saw the opportunity to reach new consumers and from advertising this concept changed its course, and with that its meaning was altered .

Today we find endless advertising that tells us what we should consume and how we should consume it in order for us to have well-being. It went from a medical concept and a social struggle, to, once again, legitimizing those social hierarchies , especially those of class.

With the arrival of youtubers and influencers, this concept not only came to imply a need for consumption, but also began to have a connotation that borders on the negative. As ironic as it may sound, self-care now creates more stress than ever .

This has to do with the expectation of the lifestyle. Those who propose statutes to live better are not experts or people with the necessary knowledge, but influencers who, literally, are paid to define those rules and the products that must be used to obtain that well-being .

Behind an innocent "do yoga" they may be selling courses, implements, trips, etc. Behind a "take care of your skin", they sell masks, creams or massagers . Behind a "eat healthy", they sell supplements, diets, brands.

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You cannot live so perfectly. But, apparently, that's the goal: to live well. Living well seems extremely unattainable because, apparently, to fulfill it you must have enough money to buy everything that is good to buy, and you must have a job that allows it, where they pay you well, where you are happy and have the time to socialize, exercise, do yoga, cook at home with freshly bought vegetables and read all that is good to read and see all that is good to see.

This is precisely where we must ask ourselves , how much well-being does self-care bring? Is there really self-care? How much do we get carried away by advertising and big brands?

It is not bad to take care of yourself, obviously it is necessary, but it is very different to take advice from an influencer who tells us that to stop feeling sad we must comply with a routine and eat in a certain way, to ask for professional help where it is more possible to find not only tools but also diagnostics that can help us understand ourselves a little better .

And it is precisely that is the danger of self-care that, in order to seek to meet certain expectations, we may be distancing ourselves more and more from genuine personal care , both physically, mentally, and emotionally.