Welcome to the House of Heavy-Duty Self-Care
My sister is a part-time shopaholic, part-time fashionista, and a full-time surgeon. She’s in the penultimate year of her residency, which means it’s her 600th year in medicine. And since she works in a public hospital, that means she practically lives there, rarely goes anywhere, and barely has time to do anything else.
Well, except check out, and then check out from all those online stores.
My sister’s self-care drug? Shopping.
The thing is, I’m generally wary of considering shopping — or purchasing things in the name of self-care — as real self-care. And yet, as I look at her, slightly envious of that new off-shoulder floral top, I see why shopping is key to her self-care – that it’s not merely about the temporary thrill of new clothes (I’ll expound on this later).
We’ve all heard the famous battle cry: “Treat yo self!”
Back then, on a good day, I’d “treat myself” for a job well done. On a bad day, well, the more it felt necessary: “Let me just buy this cute dress because I’m having such a shitty time/drowning in work/surrounded by toxic people/being mistreated/feeling stuck, overwhelmed, and unhappy with where I am.”
But, really, all I was doing was tolerating my status quo. Maybe I was imploding, but at least I looked cute?
So I’m saying this from a been-there-done-that place: it’s not easy to draw the line between looking after yourself and compensating for or evading whatever it is that’s making you anxious.
This isn’t entirely our fault given how self-care has been thoroughly commoditized and trendified, with every product, brand, and ad laying its claim on it (Recently, I saw photos of a product launch that had signages plastered all around saying “Skincare is self-care”).
“The term has been hijacked by capitalism”, author Maya Shanbhag Lang pointed out in an interview. “We’re told that we can buy a brownie (or a lifestyle) and feel better. Really showing up for ourselves and caring for ourselves is altogether different. It’s a decision.”