The growth of modern self-care culture comes as no surprise given the competitive and overwhelming lives which university students are thrown into once they hit adulthood. The concept is far from new, however; the French philosopher Michel Foucault highlighted that ancient Greeks viewed caring for oneself as integral to building a more honest and active citizen in a democracy. More recently, in 1988, Audre Lorde wrote that “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”, pointing to a larger political significance of self-care in a world that constantly undermines your sense of self-worth.
Being of the generation we are, it’s inevitable that this movement is marketed on social media platforms, usually with perfect lighting, a filter colour-scheme, and an appropriate caption to follow. Despite the benefits of using online platforms to spread such positive messages, self-care is increasingly being presented in distorted ways: as a luxury of sorts (bubble baths, scented candles, dim yellow lighting, the likes), as overindulgence in TV shows or junk food, or as a mentality of self-rewarding hedonism.
On a larger scale, self-care has become a significant marketing tool as it becomes less associated with introspection and reflection and more with impulsive buying. Tom Haverford’s “treat yo self!” (as legendary as it is) points towards a growing consumer attitude utilised in advertisements all around us: taglines such as ‘you deserve it’ or ‘take a break’ tell you that restricting yourself is depriving yourself of the care you need. As such, it seems that self-care has evolved into contradictory, haphazard and somewhat escapist practice.
It should be remembered that self-care is about striking a balance. It’s not about being that fun aunt whose arrival marks the promise of sweets and fun times, as that usually aggravates what you’re trying to address. On the other hand, you don’t want to be your own uptight boarding school headmistress, scolding yourself for indulgence of any kind.
The #BoringSelfCare created by Hannah Daisy depicts a simple and relatable idea of self-care. She aims to celebrate the small victories of accomplishing daily tasks of that are easy to neglect or find motivation for, especially during stressful exam seasons, through small illustrations. This includes seemingly minor things such as eating a healthy meal or making your bed. Such movements pose a powerful and much-needed challenge to the widespread misconceptions about self-care today.
This does not go to say that binge-watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine whilst consuming an entire large stuffed crust Domino’s pizza in a matter of seconds is strictly prohibited for those days you’re in dire need of some self-care (imagine a world like that). There is just a fine line between self-care and self-indulgence that is becoming harder to recognise. The point of self-care is to encourage mental, physical and social growth by creating an environment that fosters feelings of peace and security. It should be achievable and accessible, without a trip to the nearest Ikea. Self-care is not a privilege or a commodity: it’s a lifestyle.