For the sake of my soul, I usually try to block out the contemporary jargon that I find most annoying—words like: "unpack" (when not referring to a suitcase), "lowkey" (everyone who uses this word seems like they're trying to get a VICELAND show), "trash" (as in referring to another human being as garbage), and "problematic" (we need to form splinter groups or subsets of this word, as pretty much all of existence is "problematic" but in vastly different ways). It's not the words so much that annoy me, but the way people use them to signify something about themselves: that they are cool or aware, creative or a tech CEO who attends the Disrupt conference. The use of trendy words to reflect something outré about the self is like buying alt shit from Urban Outfitters or Hot Topic. It's just a verbal costume.
Yet there is one hot word (or compound word) that annoys me more than all else, and that is "self-care." Why does "self-care" piss me off so much? Maybe, because it's been co-opted into something to be sold, like so much else that begins as a revolutionary act. Sorry, but it seems unnecessary to have to rebrand the action of taking a deep breath into a listicle. People have been breathing for centuries without a marketer telling them why and how they should do it. Or perhaps it's because I'm not good at doing things that nurture the self. Throughout my life, destructive things (like opiates) have always felt very nurturing to me. What's more, I can turn anything—even the most nurturing things, like eating healthily—into an addiction.
But it seems I have not given the commercial self-care "movement" a fair try. So I decided to research a variety of self-care tips found around the web at places like the Self-Compassion Project, Tiny Buddha, and Good Therapy to see if any of them could change my life.
1. Use a planner or a calendar to intentionally schedule "me time"
I'm a loner. Most of my life is "me time." If I get any more "me time," I will likely become feral and forget how to speak. On my to-do list, I actually have "talk to one real human being" as a daily goal that I don't always meet. So this is probably not the best idea.
2. Take a long, hot bath
I do this every day, but California is in a drought, so it's a dick move.
3. Get a manicure
OK, I definitely do this. But the idea of a manicure as self-care is kind of weird as it often means the person doing the manicure has to suffer toxic chemicals, shitty working conditions, and long hours. In other words, I'm practicing self-care at the expense of another human being.
4. Skip your morning coffee and donate the money to the charity of your choosing
Coffee gives me panic attacks, so I don't drink it.
5. Worry less about your bathroom scale or another appliance that makes you feel bad about yourself
I'm not allowed to own a bathroom scale, because it would destroy my life.
6. Do a soothing facemask
I have both sensitive skin and hypochondria. When I sit for 15 minutes with something on my face that is said to suck out impurities, purify or peel me, I begin to panic about a rash that will never go away.
7. Pet your dog
If you have to read a blog article to remember to pet your dog, you probably shouldn't have a dog.
8. Congratulate yourself for working hard and doing something difficult
Honestly, it's hard for me to not work hard. Work is such a perfect way to run from one's self, and to not have to feel feelings. If anything, I need to congratulate myself when I do absolutely nothing.
9. Drink lots and lots of water
Unless I'm really thirsty, water kind of depresses me. It makes me feel like I'm trying too hard to be good, or something.
10. Reflect on the struggles your ancestors endured so you could exist
When I think about what my ancestors went through in the shtetls of Russia so that I could tweet pithy aphorisms, it makes me feel like shit.
11. Run (or walk, depending on your current physical health)
I don't call myself a compulsive exerciser, but someone else probably would. I don't really exercise for my health. I exercise because I'm scared of what I will become without it. Like so many of my actions, my running practice is mostly compelled by fear. There is even a day once a week wherein I do the bulk of my running that I call "Body Dysmorphia Day." So for me, not running would probably be more of a "self-care" thing.
12. Take a quick nap
I take naps most days, but often they are, like, three hours.
13. Get dressed up and take some new profile pictures
This is probably the worst idea ever. Changing my profile picture means spending the rest of the day online, alternately waiting for likes and berating myself for letting people know that I care how I am perceived.
14. Listen to an album you loved when you were younger but haven't heard in a long time
When I listen to music that makes me nostalgic for a fantasy-version of the past, I am filled with insatiable longing and become convinced that the only way to relieve this longing is to contact an ex with whom I should not be in contact.
15. Do something you used to enjoy doing, whether or not you were good at it
The things I used to enjoy, like drugs, I can't do anymore or I will probably die.
16. Tell yourself something that resists self-criticism but feels encouraging
Whenever I try not to self-criticize, I end up beating myself up for how much I'm still shit-talking myself. It makes me dizzy.
17. Call your mom just to say hi
For me, self-care is about not calling my mom.
18. Make brownies and give them to a friend, family member, or neighbor
This is just reinforcing my weird, eating disorder-behavior of fetishizing foods I don't allow myself to eat, watching other people eat these foods and asking them if it's delicious in the hope that I can taste the food osmotically.
19. Get to know yourself intimately
If I go any further inward, I'll be in a coma.
20. Surround yourself with things that make you feel happy
Having sex with people I'm not supposed to be having sex with makes me feel happy.
21. For fun, dress your pet in a silly costume to make others smile
I did this on Halloween, and then I felt guilty about it, like people would think I was the kind of person who anthropomorphizes and tortures her pet for the sake of aesthetics and went into a shame spiral.
22. Remember that with just a little bit of self-care each day, the depression will lift
I think we've finally hit on what annoys me most about the commercialization of self-care: the idea that if we just take enough soothing actions then we won't be tormented by the horror of being alive. This is a fucked-up expectation to set up for any depressed person, not to mention a way to cause further shame when taking these actions doesn't work. Depression is an illness. No one would tell a person with cancer that if they just "inhale an upbeat smell" or "do a mini de-clutter" they are on the road to complete healing. So let's maybe let the depression sufferers, and our doctors, address the depression. And the self-care bloggers can stick to $75 cashmere socks.
If you are concerned about your mental health or that of someone you know, visit the Mental Health America website.