It was about two weeks ago that my therapist said: “treat yourself to something nice, it’s a pandemic, you deserve it!” And to be honest, I did. It would be unfair to say that my therapist is the one who gave me the idea of online shopping, as I had intended on splurging regardless as an act of ‘self-care.’ So a few days later I found myself surrounded by my little splurge from ASOS and yet, my anxiety about the pandemic remained. The only difference was that I had two cute tops and £27 less in my bank account.
Recently, the founder of AO.com said that lockdown had accelerated the rate of online shopping by five years in just five weeks. It’s more popular than ever and it seems we simply can’t get enough of it. If my experience of lockdown has taught me anything, it’s that there are two things on hand for me: restlessness and an endless supply of online shopping that can be done.
There is no one explicit definition of self-care, and capitalism has, for the lack of a better word, capitalised on that. It seems like every company is now selling their products, some with hefty discounts due to the pandemic, under the guise of an ever-present ‘treat yourself, you deserve it!’ motto. The growing presence of this ‘treat yourself’ culture begs the question: how do we recognise the line between self-care and indulgence?
Self-care culture and capitalism have joined hands in commercialising taking care of yourself. But it is important to remember that self-care is ultimately about you taking care of yourself in whatever capacity you need. Capitalism has turned this language and belief on its head and equated taking care of yourself with spending money. Why shouldn’t you buy that expensive face mask? You’ve been stressed and you deserve some time off – with a face mask, of course.
This became apparent in the language of a Buzzfeed post I read recently. The article seemed almost seductive in its promise of comfort and reassurance in this time of unprecedented anxiety, encouraging me to do some ‘soothing’ activities. I couldn’t help but feel bewildered by the list of ‘must-have’ products – this soothing content just felt like a tool in a huge marketing plan.
There are now websites focused on self-care budgets which suggests self-care may only be available for those who can afford it. If you don’t want to spend money on an adult colouring book that apparently helps calm your anxiety, does that mean self-care is not for you? It is apparent that these websites seem to miss the point; self-care isn’t exclusively for those who can afford it and you don’t need to buy something in order to be kind to yourself.
It is okay to be indulgent in this time, however this does not need the guise of ‘self-care’ to make it valid. This disguise of self-indulgence has distorted the image of self-care and only seems to focus on how ‘instagrammable’ an activity can be. That ‘instagrammable’ cup of tea next to your aesthetically pretty journal. But, sometimes, self-care can be reminding yourself that you need that glass of water more than a glass of wine, or watching an entire Netflix series instead of doing some yoga, regardless of how that would look on social media. Importantly, self-care isn’t just taking care of yourself temporarily by impulsively buying something, it is about the long-term care and kindness that you give yourself and the coping mechanisms you find.
It seems that self-care marketers do have one key detail right: it is a good time to practice self-care. So whip out your face masks, bake a cake, call a friend, stay in pyjamas, or do something that will truly allow you to take care of yourself. Most things don’t need to come with a price tag.