The Commercialization of Self-Care Culture

The Commercialization of Self-Care Culture

How “treat yo self” is fast becoming yet another ploy to justify consumerism



What initially emerged as a good solution to our fast-paced lives is quickly becoming a toxic idea that’s purpose is becoming vastly misconstrued by companies — I’m referring to the practice of self-care.

Even if you have not heard of this concept, its propagation on social media links itself to images of Lush bath bombs and luxurious face masks. With the culture of consumerism latching onto this association, the significance of the term has become devoid of meaning. What remains is something that is hollow and superficial.

The problem with the link between consumerism and self-care is that the associations we attach to these images are inadvertently class-located. In the sense that not everyone can define and apply self-care to their lives in this way. If anything, people with different kinds of income levels will probably not have the same perceptions of self-care as this mass image perpetuates. The point of contention here is that self-care is supposed to make you fulfilled, while consumerism operates on feelings of emptiness and need for fulfillment in order to persuade you to purchase these material goods that promise to make one feel whole. If anything, the commercialization of self-care is the perfect formula for capitalist bodies because it directly feeds into feelings of vulnerability and inferiority and therefore, ­for lack of a better term, capitalizes on them.

What is self-care all about then? How do you avoid falling into the consumerist trap? I believe that the root of it is in making decisions for yourself that are sometimes tough but that will ultimately benefit you. Putting yourself out of your comfort zone because you are tired of your social anxiety, and the isolation that it causes, would be an example of this. Or perhaps booking that therapy appointment. In another sense, it’s making sure you divide your time up effectively so that you don’t get stressed later on and then overload yourself with tasks. This is also being self-aware of your needs and not neglecting them. For example, certain phones recently came out with a function that alerts you of the amount of time you spend on social media. It also regulates how much time you spend on apps by setting reminders of how much longer you have before your daily limit (that you set yourself) is reached. In addition, you can choose which apps are paused during the night time so that your phone doesn’t intervene with your rest. While it doesn’t seem as lavish as a bath bomb, this self-care process is more in line with what the goals of this concept aims at. Ultimately, it’s about self-perseveration in this fast-paced world we all live in.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone should enjoy a luxurious and decadent treat every once in a while. However, my main point lies in asking people to uncouple the image of self-care from its materiality. It’s about finding out what self-care means specifically to you and how it fits in your life. When linking an internal emotional process as something that is dependent on external objects, a dangerous game emerges.