What is self-care? A Google search for the term reached a five-year high this year, and turns up results that include everything from meditation, to therapy, to skincare. Harvard Business Review defines self-care as not only physical, but care of the mind, emotions, relationships, environment, time, and resources.
So, basically, self-care is anything you ever do in your entire life. The phrase has resurfaced as a kitschy catch phrase over the last few years and continues to grow in 2017. For a relatively meaningless term, #selfcare gets a lot of love.
1. Grounded in History
- Ancient Greece coined the idea that you can’t care for others before you care for yourself. Acts of self-care were believed to encourage citizens to be understanding and caring of others.
- Socrates made it his mission to remind people to “concern themselves not with their riches, not with their honor, but with themselves and with their souls.”
- American individualism, personified by people like Walt Whitman, portrayed ideal society to be centered around the self-cultivating individual.
- Author Audre Lorde described the concept in her 1988 book, A Burst of Light:”Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.” Self-care has historically been a way for marginalized groups to insist upon society that they mattered and thus worthy of self-care.
2. A Millennial’s Game
- More millennials than any other previous generation have reported making personal improvement commitments.
- Millennials spend twice as much as boomers on self-care–based purchases like diet plans, therapy, and apps that promise to improve their personal well-being.
- Everything millennials do is portrayed as an obsession, the self-care craze included.
- It’s a relatively new idea in our culture that paying attention to how we feel is a type of personal intelligence.
3. Educating Through Internet Access
- Increased internet access allows people to become more sensitive to others, and to openly admit to needing time for mental and emotional health.
- Students have reported using the internet to identify self-care strategies, alternative therapies, and other information related to nutrition and fitness.
- They also feel the internet empowers their health care decision making, though they are often skeptical about the validity of health-related information and credibility of internet health resources.
- Having affordable access to information increases awareness in areas that often aren’t taught by schooling or from families.
4. A Social Movement
- On Instagram #selfcare has over 2 million posts. Similarly, popular self-care slogan #treatyoself, a mantra used to take away the negative stigma of splurging on something seen as an indulgence, has over 2 million posts. #selflove has over 8 million uses, and #loveyourself has over 13 million.
- Social media has even dedicated a day to the act of self-care (whatever the actual act may be), known as #selfcaresunday.
- On Twitter, a @selfcare_bot tweets hourly affirmations like “No matter what, you need to do what’s best for you.”
- Social media has increased the understanding of mental illnesses and decreased their stigma.
5. Marketing & Media
- There are full Etsy shops dedicated to “Self-Care Kits” filled with things as random and varied as bath bombs, journals, and toothpaste.
- Beyonce’s younger (and hipper) sister Solange released a song titled Borderline (An Ode To Self Care) in late 2016 as a reminder to take some time for yourself.
- There are companies creating self-care marketed products as unique as planners that outline when you should take time for yourself, and temporary tattoos with reassuring sayings like “This too shall pass.”
- Gamers and programmers have participated in an online “Self-Care Jam,” where they spread positivity across the web in a video game intended to teach people to take care of themselves.
The self-care craze has a history dating back to ancient times, and is reaching a new peak with the internet and millennial consumers. Labeling everything and anything centered around self as “self-care” portrays self-focus as a radical act or something out of the ordinary, when really, caring for ourselves should be something we do unapologetically every day.
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