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  • Writer's pictureRachana Kadikar

The Difference Between Self-Care and Indulgence

Have you ever seen a social media post or an article that goes something along the lines of "20 self-care products you need to feel happy" or "If you don't already have these self-care products, what are you doing?!" What once began as a "radical" concept in the civil rights era has been turned into a marketing ploy and an excuse to indulge in products for a short lasting happiness boost.

History of self-care

The term, self-care, gained popularity in the civil rights era when groups like The Black Panther Party (a civil rights activist group who fought for racial justice in the United States) advocated for taking care of themselves even with the systemic barriers and fight against discrimination they were taking a part in. These activist groups engaged in caring for their communities through food distribution, creation of health clinics, education programs, and other methods to reduce the systemic barriers that prevented marginalized groups from getting access to important goods and services. Self-care during this time had to do with taking care of one another when the government and society wouldn't. Self-care was a human right that they fought for- the right to live your best life.

What does self-care look like in today's society?

In the time since the term first became popular, self-care has spread into mainstream culture and it's hardly a radical idea at this point. We still see the original idea of self-care demonstrated throughout modern culture with examples like the surge in social media communities for marginalized groups like women, BIPOC, and the LGBTQ community. However, the more prominent idea of self-care in modern society is significantly less meaningful and useful than the original movement half a decade ago. Self-care has become, more or less, a marketing ploy for businesses to encourage customers to buy a good or service to "take care of yourself". With the increased communication about mental health in modern society, businesses have been trying to capitalize on this new self-care trend.

Capitalizing on self-care

The media tells us that self-care is engaging in consumerism by impulsively spending money on goods that bring us short-lasting happiness like bath bombs or new clothes. Businesses advertise by telling us that we need their product for the treating ourselves as way of self-care. Many people fall victim to these marketing ploys and think that self-care is merely spending all your paycheck on expensive shoes or a new bag. Instead, self-care is a lifelong commitment to taking care of yourself and those around you. Self-care isn't an idea that is limited to those with the means to buy the products that the media tells us are so valuable, but rather an idea important for everyone to actively engage in. Unfortunately, in the capitalistic society we live in that values our productivity over our well-being, it is extremely difficult to truly engage in self-care. Instead we are dragged into the idea that our self-worth comes from working ourselves to death and prioritizing productivity over welfare.

Self-care can be a much more meaningful idea than what we are typically exposed to in modern mainstream society after you consider the history and original purpose behind the term.



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