This is not a self-help post.
This is not a post about how to achieve the best version of you. Nor is it about how to achieve all your dreams by setting #lifegoals or meditating your way to millions. By reading this post, you are not going to learn how to get the body of your dreams in just 12 weeks, and sadly I do not hold the secret to melting away your belly fat.
On the contrary: this is an anti self-help post. If you want to know what I think, it’s that we’ve hit peak-‘wellness’. If you are wondering why I think this, I encourage you to turn on your TV or scroll through your social media feeds. If you find yourself confronted with brands aggressively reinforcing the joys of ‘wellness’, consider this a clue. Another clue is when their messages imply that you are broken and probably need fixing.
What is ‘wellness?’ Historically speaking, I assume its definition was pretty unambiguous: To Be In Good Health.
Fast forward to now and today’s definition has become far more loaded. It’s come to mean something entirely different, something far more extreme and perhaps even something a little bit sinister: It’s no longer wellness, but ‘hyper-wellness’.
The other day, while scrolling through my Facebook feed, I was presented with a video about a wellness conference, targeted to me via algorithms and targeting metrics. There was something about my gender, my age, my interests and location that indicated to this company that I might need to watch their video. As I watched, it began to represent all the reasons why this new breed of wellness irritates me.Let me paint you a picture. Frame upon frame of over-styled idyllic visuals, coupled with walls of drinking-coconuts. Fronted by underweight women in active wear, who looked anything but ‘well’. In it, they proliferated the newest version of eating disorders: entitled chatter on ‘spiritual and emotional enlightenment’ used as a thinly veiled attempt to disguise the real matters on their minds: the elusive search for thigh gaps and ab cracks.
I’ll be honest: the reason I am targeted with videos like this is probably the outcome of my own doing. I am a human after all, and a woman in my twenties in a metropolitan city. It would be hypocritical to pretend I don’t get swept up in the search for ‘perfect health’ and ‘perfect body’. I have fasted, detoxed and dieted. More often than not, these practices have left me feeling not well, but anxious, exhausted and totally boring. That said, I still follow more wellness bloggers, vegan-chefs and #fitspo accounts than I care to admit. They have a small, but meaningful place in my life by motivating me to experiment with new recipes, and sometimes they inspire me out of bed in the morning for yoga.
I also enjoy things like green smoothies and the versatility of zucchini pasta. I regularly eat food of the ‘super’ variety. Why? Well, because I like to take care of myself, and these are the things that make me feel good. But taking care of myself also includes a roster of other activities, like eating pizza in bed with red wine and Netflix. Or going out dancing and drinking with friends, or hugging dogs. It also includes choosing not to work out when it doesn’t feel right.
This is why I’d like to suggest we ditch this culture of ‘hyper-wellness’ and replace it with something more realistic, more inclusive, and more real: self-care. What is self-care, and how does it differ from wellness? Self-care is about doing what you want to do for yourself, the things that genuinely make you FEEL good. I can’t really define what it means to everyone, because self-care is personal. The best bit is that it’s dictated by you, for you, not by some geo-targeted Facebook video telling you how to be.
If you know me, you’ll know that I’m an introvert who needs lots of solitude in order to function as a normal person. So self care to me often means staying in bed reading things online, moving only to make more coffee. Sometimes it’s a cup of tea and a cigarette with a friend in the afternoon sun. Others, it’s listening to Justin Bieber and not giving a damn that my taste in music is becoming increasingly questionable. Even better is skinny dipping at night or walking around my apartment naked, if only to remind myself that I’m alive and I am free. Also, how good does it feel to buy some takeaway for your local homeless person? I reckon most of us would get more out of that than any exxy wellness retreat.
I believe (one of) the reasons depression and anxiety is rampant is because we’re striving towards an unrealistic notion of perfection. The discourse reinforces the destructive idea that we’re never ‘well’ enough, never good enough. And it’s making us unhappy, because it’s unachievable.
Like I said, this is not a self-help post. Instead, this is a call to action to take care of yourself but also to cut yourself some goddamn slack. So go on. Hug a dog. Eat a pizza. Dance around. Forget the rules of wellness and make your own ones instead.
How To Practice Self Care
A comprehensive guided-tutorial by Rachel:
- Ask yourself one question: What makes me feel alive and happy? Write a list of all these things.
- Keep the list close at hand as a reminder. Do the things on your list regularly, and most importantly, do them without apology.
How do you put Self Care into practice?