The dark side of the self-care hype

Have you seen it too on social media, the #selfcare? Pictures that literally bathe in rose petals and essential oils, fancy cups of curcuma latte and breakfast bowls filled to the brim with powerfoods, to just give a few examples. A positive thing taking care of yourself? Right? 

Self-care guilt 
Self-care is important there’s no doubt about that. But the pressure to care for yourself also has a ‘dark side’: you are responsible for your own balance. You’re constantly tired? Than you shouldn’t have crossed your boundaries and should’ve treated yourself better. A burn-out? Should have listened to your body better… or should have taken that hot bath more. The more pictures we see about self-care, the less are circumstances are being taken into account. And that leaves a whole lot of people with a new kind of guilt: self-care guilt. But everyone who tries to take care of themselves, knows that it’s not really always that simple. Treating yourself to a spa day, probably won’t fix all your problems.

 Self-care ≠ mental health care
Self-care is sometimes just a plaster on the wound. It temporarily fixes your problem, but it doesn’t take away the underlying cause when you’re feeling bad. The biggest problem happens when self-care takes the place of mental healthcare. Numbers from a study done in 2013 from Itinera show us the situation in Belgium. 1 in 3 Belgians will be confronted with a mental illness in their life, 26% regularly feels down, 46% of the people with a mental health problem eventually ends up at a doctor but receives neither medication nor therapy. 25% receives only medication and just 3,8% only therapy. The rest might look for salvation in #selfcare.

So what is it? 
One of my favorite bloggers wrote this piece a while ago: “This Is What ‘Self-Care’ REALLY Means, Because It’s Not All Salt Baths And Chocolate Cake”. In this post she accuses selfcare of being a hype that is solely focused on consuming (oils for your bath, organic candles, chocolate cake). Buying things under the guise of being “nice to yourself”. She posits that real self-care has little to do with ‘treating yourself’ but everything with making choices that are good for your long-term (physical as well as mental) health. And those decisions are sometimes the opposite of pretty and ‘instagramable’. In my case self-care means: working part-time, regularly going to therapy, taking antidepressants and budgeting every cent that goes into and out of my bankaccount. There’s nothing sexy about those things, but they are things that make my life a whole lot nicer. I still love taking hot baths and you won’t often see me turn down a piece of chocolate cake. But I do these things to enjoy my life, not to escape it.

Only you can decide what self-care means to you. Maybe it simply means doing less, and not more. Doing less, having to do less, even is it’s about going to the sauna or taking a walk. Sometimes our body just needs to rest and the solution might be hidden somewhere deeper than on the surface. I wanted to share this with you, because I’m not the only one who feels the pressure of responsibility. So enjoy that hot both, those essential oils, treating yourself to something that makes you happy. And if you need something more, please go see a qualified professional. You are not alone. 

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