March 9, 2020
Issue 02 2020

The Self-Care Scam

With a bath full of bubbles and a bottle full of bubbly, it’s easy to feel like you are the epitome of self-care. Even if you haven’t handed in an assignment all year, or eaten a vegetable since 2019 – you’re wearing a Lush face mask so you are a self-care queen!

This is the self-care façade we are being fed by social media. Instagram sponsorships promoted by Victoria Secret models are convincing followers that a juice cleanse will wash away the emotional trauma that they’ve been suppressing since 2013.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Self-care is often a lot less glamourous than Instagram would have you believe. Real self-care means eating breakfast instead of just grabbing a coffee and exercising regularly instead of scrolling through your feed. Real self-care can also mean reaching out for professional advice when everything feels like too much. 

Learning to maintain your own well-being and perform real self-care is a critical skill in a university student’s life as second-year psychology student, Claudia Christensen, explains.

“Self-care is an extremely important practice to learn, especially at university because nobody is going to do it for you,” she said. 

“Getting exercise, enough sleep, eating right and looking after your mental well-being means that you will maintain a healthy relationship with yourself and increase your self-esteem.

“So when Mum told you when you were young to go sit in the sun and eat fruit, she was onto something.” 

Jasmine Rae, a Residential Assistant for Massey University’s Albany campus, frequently sees University students getting overworked and overwhelmed so she chimed in to Claudia’s sentiments.

“Self-care is one of those things that a lot of people think they are doing already,” Jasmine explained, “But suddenly, you are so worked up from academic and personal stress that you take a look at yourself and realise that you haven’t been putting your own well-being first.”

Both Jasmine and Claudia identified that social media’s inclination towards idealistic self-care images may be doing more damage than good.

“In the world we live in today, it is all about Instagram,” Claudia said. 

“Instagram has given us all of these ideologies about how to take care of ourselves. These ideas involve slapping on that $80 face mask that’s only 15% off with your first purchase.”

“Self-care is deeper than your skin. It’s about taking care of your mind, body and soul. It’s about opening up and letting people in,” she continued.

“All of these things are what keeps you going at university, especially when times get tough and exams get stressful.”

Jasmine also pointed out the importance of seeking professional advice when everything is too much for you to handle by yourself.  

“Seeing a counsellor or a psychologist never, ever means you have problems or that there is something wrong with you,” she said. 

“It means that you have so much pent up that you want to talk to someone who can empathise with your situation.”

Massey University’s counselling services are free and a lot of GPs, outside of the University, will be able to recommend cost-effective therapy services for students. Even if you don’t feel like you need therapy, just looking at self-care through the lens of making a daily decision to put yourself first may be a step on the road to real self-care.

Self-care, along with many other things, is not what is seen on Instagram. Unfortunately, real self-care is a lot less glossy – but nobody would double tap a picture of me crying in the therapy chair. So while a bottle of wine and a Noah Centineo movie every once in a while is an excellent idea, it’s important to make sure that you’re mixing this in with a healthy fistful of regulated, realistic self-care practice.

And please eat some vegetables.