Search the term “self-care” on the Internet, and you’ll get over 3 billion results on Google. These vary from YouTube videos, blog posts, news articles all about how to “build a self-care routine” or “how to have a perfect self-care day”. If you look into and dissect these videos, you’ll start to see a pattern. It’ll probably feature something like a face mask, a warm bath, meditation, or reading a book.

Over the past few years since we started the discussion on “self-care”, we didn’t just see a rise of people talking about its importance, but also the creation of an industry. With skin care routines being touted as one of the ways to practice self-care, skincare companies have been raking in more money than ever. Influencers on social media are associating their sponsored skincare products as their must-haves for self-care. Not only that, we’ve seen the rise in things like meditation app subscriptions. With every other self-help guru on the Internet saying that meditation is a necessity, we’ve associated the image of a put-together person as someone who regularly exercises, meditates, is on a vegan diet, etc. As a result, we’ve created an industry of people creating this image of what “true rest and relaxation” is, and monetizing it.

Some people may ask, what’s so wrong about this? Well, one of the worst results of this “market of self-care” is that it now has been perceived as inaccessible. For you to “practice self-care”, you need to buy a meditation subscription, a fancy skincare routine, shop at the Farmer’s Market, or have the luxury of time.

For a lot of people, they can’t afford that. As a result, people believe that taking care of yourself is a luxury that only the rich can afford. Moreover, look at where the majority of the discussion of the importance of self-care happens: social media sites like YouTube, blogs, or online media that people without Internet can’t access. A majority of Filipinos’ access to the Internet is through free Facebook, which doesn’t show media like photos or videos. Another question to ask is, what language are we discussing self-care in? The infographs, articles, or even webinars are conducted in English. When we don’t localize the language of how we discuss these terms, we continue to make self-care an issue of privilege.

It’s now, more than ever that we have to rewrite the narrative of what self-care is, and we can do this by dissecting what the core of self-care is anyway. Self-care, at its core, is defined as a change of mindset to take care of ourselves emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. What this means is that there isn’t, and there shouldn’t be, a “routine” or a checklist of things to “accomplish self-care”, because it’s not a goal. Self-care should be seen as a continuous process to improve ourselves. The physical manifestations of self-care like skin care or meditation are just that – manifestations of what you think is the best way to take care of your specific “flaws” or your situation.

It also encompasses making intentional changes in your life that aren’t necessarily “feel good” self-care choices like reading a book or skin care. These are things like removing toxic people from your life, acknowledging an addiction, or forcing yourself to actively change things in your life. Hand-in-hand with rejecting the self-care “industry” is the shifting of narrative from how physical things can bring us joy or rest to what are necessary habits we need to develop to be better on the inside. When we acknowledge and work on the problems within, it will translate to how we live on the outside.

It’s good that we’re recognizing the importance of self-care in society. We’ve ignored taking care of our mental health for so long, and we should celebrate it becoming something that’s openly talked about. However, this is something that everyone in society should feel like they deserve. We can only do this if we start changing the narrative of what self-care should be.

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