Therapeutic; not therapy: How the self care movement has changed

It started off as a method to prevent or care for different illnesses without having to go to a medical professional directly, with the sole purpose of the well-being of oneself, but the meaning of self-care has, over time, morphed into something completely different because of social media platforms.

In this day and age, self-care can mean almost anything: painting your nails, taking a bubble bath or even simply listening to calming music.

Sure, these tasks can relieve stress and negativity. The problem arrives when people, now more than ever, are so heavily swayed by what they see on social media. People who are in need of clinical treatment often dismiss that fact for the glorified self-care that they see on social media apps. Moreover, for others, self-care has shifted as they begin comparing what they do to what others do on these apps.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, approximately one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness. That number is growing, especially for young adults, who just so happen to be the largest group of social media users-- almost 75% of them, according to marketing charts.

These apps, especially Instagram and VSCO, advertise stellar images of fizzing bath bombs and scented candles in the name of self-care, oftentimes implying that all worries will disappear if such products are used. Companies capitalize on peoples’ mental health issues.

Numerous young adults therefore have gained unrealistic expectations of what self-care is, and how far it will better them. They are not getting the help they truly need.

While it is understandable that therapy and mental health care can oftentimes be extremely costly, the same can be said about self-care products, which now, according to the Los Angeles Times, is a $10 billion industry still on the rise. Rather than spending money on frivolous products that will not likely help in the long-term, people with serious illness should be looking into the proper treatment required.

Speaking of the self-care industry being a billion dollar one, according to The Strand magazine, searching for “#selfcare” on Instagram produces over four million results, most of which showcase a certain lifestyle: teas, healing crystals, yoga poses, going to brunch and green smoothies. It’s easier for society to talk about self-care and therapeutic acts when it’s in the form of a trendy photo or video than about real medication and help that some need.

On another note, even for people who don’t necessarily need professional health, self-care has become sort of universal or “one-size-fits-all”, when it is really anything but. According to Sarah Knight, author of many advice books, people shouldn’t let a billion dollar industry define what self-care is to oneself. Social media, again, makes people buy into others’ definition of what self-care is or what it should be, when really, everyone is different. Certain things that work for some may not work for others.

From all of this information, it is vital to understand that bettering one’s mental health doesn’t always require material, trendy products. If that is what genuinely works for one person, by all means, I urge them to continue. However, recognizing that it doesn’t work for yourself instead of comparing your methods to others is just as important. Self-care doesn’t have to be cute and “instagrammable”, it can also be getting the help you need, privately. After all, a truly healthy mental state should come from within.


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