The problem with ‘self-care’


Have you ever gotten down on yourself because you felt that you weren’t engaging in ‘self-care’ enough? For the past year, we’ve been bombarded with emails about self-care workshops, and frankly, it’s exhausting.

There are many issues with the notion of self-care, but first, let’s go over the most obvious: self-care is a non-sustainable form of care in the long-term. No amount of self-care, even over a lifetime, can suffice for institutional and systemic care. It places the responsibility on the individual instead of the systems that should be doing more to support their communities.

Second, terms like ‘self-care’ and ‘mental health days’ are meaningless, especially when it comes to neurodivergent and mentally ill people. Do people really think we can mental-health-days-ourselves out of chronic depression or severe anxiety? Despite the intent of the message, the real care we should be talking about is not the one that has been overtaken by face masks and lighting good-smelling candles.

In fact, we don’t need meditation, self-care days, or mental health days, at least not as the sole response to being amazingly energy depleted and overworked. We need to seriously rethink the notion of ‘care.’ That would lead us to the inevitable conclusion that we need to abolish performative and ultimately unhelpful notions of care. We need to invest in community care.