The self-care movement is not all it seems

While it has good intent, the movement misses the mark.

Christina Grattan, Freelance Writer

A new buzzword has entered the lives of college students: self-care. Essentially, self-care is prioritizing your own wellbeing, physically, mentally and emotionally. It means taking the time to care for yourself amid a busy schedule. 

From Instagram advertisements to TikToks, the self-care movement infiltrated itself into mainstream culture. With the increase in mental health issues, stress and anxiety produced by external factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, students are searching for ways to cope with challenges. Colleges have been cancelling class sessions with the intent of promoting student self-care. Which can look like anything from blowing bubbles, petting puppies to eating avocado toast, NPR reported.  

While taking care of yourself through necessary hygiene, sleep and physical activity is necessary, the self-care movement takes the idea of “wellbeing” to a whole new level. While self-care is not going away anytime soon—it is not as promising as it seems.

SELF CARE FUELS SHALLOW CONSUMERISM AND SPLURGING 

Some may interpret self-care as an opportunity to satisfy their endless desires through material things to subdue stress. For example, an editor from a product review site defines self-care as “part of the things I want, not the things I need.”

Businesses noticed this trend and capitalized on the opportunity to turn stressed-out individuals into consumers. Robert Johnson, founder of Sawinery, recommended that individuals dedicate 10-20% of their income to indulging themselves. On Etsy, an abundance of self-care kits filled with succulents, lavender satchels, soap, bath bombs and essential oils are packaged in pretty little gift boxes. There is even an option to build your own “self-care box.” 

Pew Research revealed that millennials spend twice as much as boomers on workout plans, dieting, special apps and life coaches. While these strategies are not inherently bad, the idea that a simple bath or pilates session can magically remove stress is shortsighted. These self-care habits can put one in a cycle of spending money on routines that will make them feel good on the surface rather than getting to the root of the problem. 

SELF CARE UNDERMINES COURAGE AND TENACITY 

Courage is a long-held virtue by which one suffers through adversity, desiring not to give up whether in war, hardship or famine. While college students are far removed from these situations, the most heroic acts of history, whether standing up to dictators during World War II or the willingness to die on the battlefield for one’s country, were all bouts of courage. 

However, the self-care movement seeks to create a therapeutic society that focuses on “the subjective feelings of oneself,” according to John McGinnis, contributing editor at Law and Liberty. The media and society praise figures such as American gold medal gymnast Simone Biles as a self-care champion for opting out from the competition due to mental health and physical reasons.

Rather than facing adversity head-on to overcome fear, society sacrifices duty and tenacity for personal self-fulfillment and comfort. Unfortunately, this movement can draw us away from surrendering our desires for the good of others—diminishing the values that strengthen individuals. While it is wise to know your limits, self-care, if left out of hand, can lead to weak and self-interested individuals. 

SELF-CARE NEGLECTS THE NEED FOR GOD 

The most neglected matter of the self-care movement is the need to trust in God during hard-pressed times. Rather than seeking God first in prayer, the self-care movement encourages individuals to seek happiness in things that promote mindfulness and wellbeing. However, Christians can never find true fulfillment in spending a little extra on a spa day or meditation and breathing exercises. 

Christians, including Biola students, should find their hope in Christ rather than becoming dependent on the things of this world for care and healing. As C.S. Lewis, a Christian theologian and author, famously writes, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” 

The self-care movement can only satisfy temporarily. Christians will never be content through material possessions— always lacking contentment if they do not find solace in the Creator. 

IS IT WORTH IT? 

With midterms coming up, it is important to take time to reflect on whether coping strategies through self-care are truly helpful. Of course, self-care can be good in certain respects, as it is necessary to take care of oneself and enjoy life. However, when mobilized by the media and society, self-care can be a catalyst for consumerism, weaken the need for courage and cause Christians to forget about God, the true sustainer of faith. 

While it is beneficial to find ways to counter stress and the trials that life carries, students should consider whether the self-care movement is the best way. 

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