Is the Self-Care Trend Just Another Way to Make Us Feel Bad About Ourselves?

Photo by Kimberly Nanney

Photo by Kimberly Nanney

From the Keto diet, meditation apps to faux lashes, is the self-care trend serving you, or is it yet another way for corporations and influencers to sell you things you don’t need? Things that if you don’t buy into, will make you feel like you’re missing out on something that everyone else is a part of. Or perhaps if you can’t keep up with the trend, you feel like you’re failing at yet another part of life.

I’m a life coach so technically I am part of the self-care industry. I’d be a hypocrite to say it wasn’t important. But, I’m also a mom, wife, entrepreneur, friend, volunteer, etc. So, when I think of self-care, I’m looking at it from both an individual and systems perspective within the context of the patriarchal society we live in.

I worry about younger millennials getting the wrong messages about self-care. We’re fed images and stories of the top 1%, or even regular folk who spend more time worrying about what other people think about how their self-care looks on the outside, rather than actually feeling it on the inside.  

And as a generation of women wanting to advance our careers while making a meaningful impact, we wonder why it doesn’t look or feel as rewarding as we thought it would.

Then we become moms, and the expectations become even more unrealistic. Self-care becomes more of an after-thought. When the goal is surviving rather than thriving, seeing the trending media around self-care isn’t necessarily helping when, for some, a shower might feel like a spa day.

With all the options, products, services and trends it can be overwhelming. When we are overly consumed with being part of a trend, is our attention really aligned to our original intention — of feeling good about ourselves?

I believe we do need to focus on self-care. Not as a trend, but more as a mindset we create. If we see self-care as the fuel to all the demands in life, things begin to shift.

Photo by  Max van den Oetelaar

Photo by Max van den Oetelaar

My Story Around Self-Care

There were significant life events that forced me to focus on my self-care.

The first was when I was working as a human resources business partner/ analyst in the oil & gas industry. My commute was 1 hour each way; I was working long hours, not prioritizing sleep, not eating healthy, and not consistently working out. There were significant personal stressors affecting my relationships and mental wellness.

I was experiencing severe anxiety, panic attacks, I developed carpal tunnel syndrome, I was infertile for over a year, and then all came to a head when I developed a case of shingles on my face. It was the most excruciating case of shingles and since it bordered my eye, it was also threatening my long-term sight.

Shortly after, I resigned from my job with a few months notice. 2 weeks later I became pregnant with twins. I was lucky to be able to rescind my resignation and start building our new home and preparing for the babies’ arrival.

Then, before reaching my third trimester I became very ill with a rare pregnancy complication that caused me to go into liver failure. Following an emergency C-section under general anaesthetic, I woke up in the ICU lucky to be alive.

My bruised arm as a result of the blood-work required 3 times per day as my body healed.

My bruised arm as a result of the blood-work required 3 times per day as my body healed.

There is much more to the story, but it was an eye-opener around self-care. Since then, health is at the top of my priority list. And it’s not simply about a spa day every month, or getting my nails done. It’s about being the person who doesn’t go a single day taking her health for granted.

Now, as a mom of 5-year-old twins, I am in the best shape of my life – both on the inside and out.

Striking a pose (ok I’ll be honest— this one was less for me and more for the gram…)

Striking a pose (ok I’ll be honest— this one was less for me and more for the gram…)

Meditating with my boys (lasted about 2 mins…)

Meditating with my boys (lasted about 2 mins…)

How My Experience Shaped My Own Definition of Self-Care

The 80/20 rule, or the pareto principle states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

So for example, let’s say I lose 10 lbs. 80% of that result came from 20% of my effort. 20% of my effort was spent on eating a nutritious, balanced diet. 80% of the outcome, 8lbs, was lost because of diet alone. Now consider that 80% of my effort was spent working out at the gym, drinking lots of water, reading online about how to lose weight, tracking my goals, etc. All of these things are important, but not nearly as important as diet in the context of weight loss alone.

This principle helps me to let go of perfectionism. Looking back, I didn’t need to spend as much time or stress on the things that had less of an impact. Of course working out is still important. I want to gain strength, and it helps me manage stress, so I still focus on that, but I don’t need to waste time following every health trend when I’m confident on what I need to focus on.

So my own definition centers around the activities, behaviours, and mindset that will have the biggest impact. It’s about focus and aligning it with my intention and values.

Photo by Brooke Lark

Photo by Brooke Lark


How to Filter what is Trendy vs. True Self-Care

As I mentioned before, having to make choices about self-care can be difficult with all the options we are presented with. Below are my tips to ensure that your self-care routine is really for you, not simply following a trend:

1.  Create your own definition around self-care. First be clear on the outcome(s) you want to see. Examples could include inner peace, more energy, and/or mental resiliency. Then, think about how you will know that what you are choosing will have the biggest impact — think 80/20 rule.

2. When making choices around self-care ask yourself:

  • Does this fit with my definition and desired outcomes?

  • Will this be sustainable? You know your habits, lifestyle, and strengths best so make decisions aligned to these critical factors.

  • Are these choices the most aligned to my personal values and beliefs around self-care?

3. Let go of any guilt or shame: don’t try to “fit in” or please others all the time. As women (especially moms!) we are always feeling guilty about something. As long as the guilt is there, we will never really be caring for ourselves on a deeper level. Be kind to yourself. Life will never be perfect, but we learn to ride the waves and enjoy the moments that are just for us.

4. Disconnect: chances are if you’re spending more time posting about the self-care, it’s robbing you of many of the benefits. Make sure to disconnect and fully be present during the activities you choose. If you suddenly lose interest in the activity, you know you were falling into the trap of following a trend.

Photo by  Rune Enstad

Photo by Rune Enstad


Conclusion

So, yes the self-care trend was in part created so we feel bad about ourselves and spend money on a quick fix. But, it doesn't mean that you shouldn’t be focused on self-care and making those choices for yourself.

Now that you have the basics of how to define self-care for yourself, what is your definition? Who do you need to be or what kind of mindset do you need to adopt to sustain it? What might you stop doing so you don’t fall into the trap of self-care trend FOMO?

Let’s start a dialogue in the comments!


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