November 1, 2023

Limitations of Pop Culture Self-care

By Sydney Kittrell
Anxiety & Depression
Mental Health & Wellbeing

We’ve all heard the calls for self-care. Marketing eats this up: Buy a treat! Book a vacation! Call in a mental health day and binge Netflix! But our self-care practices can often leave us lacking. This type of self-care can provide short-term relief in times of trouble and distress.

But when we don’t implement self-care into our daily routine and how we treat ourselves, the potential long-term benefits aren’t accessed. Some people have even learned to view the phrase “self-care” as selfish, a mindset that indicates the world revolves around me and my number one priority is always my own well-being.

This is an unfortunate misunderstanding of what self-care truly is. In reality, having a holistic and robust sense of self-care leads to flourishing on all levels: individual, familial, community, etc.

Self-care Myths

The misunderstandings and misuses of self-care are broad. Here are just a few examples.

  • Self-care is staying comfortable. Stay in your comfort zone. Basically, don’t do anything hard. If something scares you, avoid it.
  • Self-care is all about adding something, a workout routine, a fancy coffee, a weekend getaway. If you don’t have the time or money for these things, self-care must not be for you.
  • Self-care has to look a certain way. If you’re not doing self-care the way your friends and family do, you’re probably doing it wrong.

I want to emphasize again that these are myths!

Let’s Break It Down

Always staying in our comfort zone can lead to stagnation and increased fear. The fear-avoidance cycle is just as it sounds: the more you avoid something, the more you fear it. Taking care of yourself may mean trying things that feel a little scary at first, like learning a new hobby or making a new friend.

Self-care can not simply be adding pleasant things to your schedule. In reality, our lives are busy. You may be a single mom or a college student balancing work and school, and the idea of adding another thing to your schedule is the last thing from relaxing. Self-care for you may look more like a ton of patience and self-compassion instead of trying to squeeze in another thing to your already busy schedule.

Social media is full of self-care tips: wake up every day at 6 a.m. and drink this smoothie. Walk 2 miles during lunch. Journal every night. If you follow these steps, you’ll be happy. Unfortunately, there is no blueprint for happiness and mental well-being. Sure, some things have been proven to increase well-being, like a consistent sleep schedule and moving your body. But there is so much potential for variety here! Maybe you prefer to sleep in. Maybe journaling isn’t your jam. And that’s ok! Figure out what works for you and your unique experience.

Radical Acceptance and Rhythms and Routines

When we’re going through something hard, avoiding reality can lead to some immense difficulty. In some cases, accepting our current reality and facing it head-on may be exactly what we need. We allow ourselves to feel the big feelings and accept that what’s going on right now is really hard. During difficult seasons of life, self-care may look like stopping trying so desperately to fix our problems. Another important facet of your own self-care may be building healthy rhythms and routines. Self-care can’t merely be reduced to treating yourself once a week after a hard day. Self-care is baked into your day-to-day and how you view yourself with compassion and patience.

If pop culture advice on self-care has been falling short for you and you’d like to learn more about holistic self-care, don’t hesitate to contact us. Therapy is for everyone, and your therapist will empathically guide you through how to best care for yourself through any season. 



Written By

Sydney Kittrell

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