“Is Self Care Real?”

Alexandra Gray //

Two months ago I came across an Instagram post of a tweet thread talking about self care. The tweets by Devon Price, linked below, state that “self care” is not real, and is actually a falsity created by capitalism and corporations to turn survival into luxury. Price argues that this transformation has commodified survival: basic human maintenance is now accompanied by bath salts, face masks, overpriced candles, expensive teas, and the like. He says “bathing yourself isn’t ‘self care’. Eating nutritious food isn’t ‘self care’”, and goes on to name a few other basic maintenance activities, saying they aren’t self care. 

I agree with Price that self care does not just have to be buying overpriced bath bombs or taking a week off of work to fly to Majorca, like the influencers of Instagram promote. But I also think that it is also not only what these tweets suggest. Self care is survival, yes, but it is also about thriving. Think of it this way: taking care of a child is making sure they survive in the world, of course, but it’s also making them feel loved, happy, safe, and content. Now swap out the child for yourself. You’re taking care of yourself (the literal definition of “self care”) by giving yourself the means of survival, but also going the extra step to try and make life better for yourself. The tweets suggest that this extra step does not exist, and when it does, it’s a capitalist falsehood meant to distract the masses from the injustices being perpetuated by large corporations. But the extra step of self care wasn’t invented by Henry Ford or Richard Nixon. It isn’t a myth meant to placate a population, it’s a choice every individual makes every day to try and live a better life. It’s drinking water instead of a third iced coffee, it’s playing with your dog, it’s sitting outside in the sun for fifteen minutes. 

As someone who has struggled to get out of bed before, I got really upset with this thread. It felt belittling, like I wasn’t allowed to celebrate my small accomplishments because self care is just “gaslighting employees into believing that finding time to stay alive is a nice bonus luxury they should feel proud about getting to do”. I was not an employee or even an adult when I preached self care just to convince myself to do laundry for the first time in a month. Many people struggle with simple tasks daily, for a multitude of reasons, and erasing those struggles to promote a certain view of the world can be incredibly damaging. Yes, self care has turned into a major marketing promotion for big brands, but it is still something the common person can and should do without having to spend money. It’s very real and very literal; having a nice little name for it doesn’t diminish all that it helps us do. 

These tweets suggest bathing, cleaning, sleeping, and many other things are not actual self care – but people with depression, anxiety, or other neurodivergent people may disagree. Commenter @abbierosefish2169 said that “for neurodivergent people self care is 100% all of this and needed. Sometimes I don’t have the motivation and basic capacity as those who are [neurotypical] to do some of these things…I get some of the points that capitalism has made it seem like a luxury rather than necessity. But self care is extremely important for those of us that are not [neurotypical].”

While I acknowledge that the tweet thread is saying that self care as corporations advertise it is not always genuine care for the self, I feel that his tweet thread is a bit convoluted and polarizing. Many people felt that he completely missed the mark, some going so far as to say he was shaming neurodivergent and mentally ill people who struggle with those basic tasks. I don’t think that was Price’s intention at all, and that he was actually trying to offer a commentary on late stage capitalism, but I think it’s important to remember that self care is different for everybody, and what is easy and basic for some is not easy and basic for all. 

The end of the post, though, included a screenshot of an article with a quote from Audre Lorde. The quote reads “‘caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare’”. Lorde, as a black woman fighting for civil rights, argues that staying alive, and even trying to thrive, in a world that wants you dead really is the ultimate act of political warfare. She was a pillar for the intersectional feminist movement, and because of this, was extremely polarizing. But she still kept herself alive and provided herself the love and care she needed to keep fighting. And while I’m not trying to spearhead a movement, and my struggles are profoundly different than Lorde’s, I believe that taking steps to make yourself feel good in a world that constantly belittles achievements and pushes for more, more, more, is the ultimate act of love and devotion. Self care is very much real and it happens every single moment any of us choose to keep going.

Link to Instagram post: https://www.instagram.com/p/CWRgKZhPrDn/

Link to original Twitter thread: https://twitter.com/drdevonprice/status/1458865653822242819 

One thought on ““Is Self Care Real?”

  1. So true bestie
    i’m sure price intended his tweet to be a simple addition onto the way people view self care but posting it without context is super polarizing. even within the capitalistic view, having a bath with bath bombs and epsom salts feel nice and can de-stress. even for nuerotypicals and people who are usually extremely functional, taking that little extra time for “self care” is super important, even if self care has also become a sales tactic. it’s all about nuance


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