Whether you namaste or “namaste in bed,” the concept of self-care means something different for everyone.
In recent years, from face masks to fancy meditation sessions, the practice of self-care has taken center stage in the name of investing time, energy and money into ourselves.
Though self-care has been around for centuries, the current generation of spin-class-obsessed young adults is spending more money than other cohorts on self-care rituals and activities like diet plans, exercise programs and mental well-being rituals.
According to the Pew Research Center, in 2015, more millennials reported making personal improvements and engaging in self-care than any other generation before them.
Why is that?
Well, the practice of self-care, like other social trends and behaviors, did not emerge in a vacuum. Many sociologists argue that even the most seemingly fleeting fads stem from societal, historical and cultural factors. A concept known as the sociological imagination explains how social forces influence individuals and groups of people to adopt certain behaviors.
This might explain why Google searches on the term self-care reached a five-year high after the 2016 presidential election.
The polarizing results of the election created a high-stress national landscape, and data from Google Trends shows a staggering number of people turned to the internet to dig deeper into self-care remedies during that time.
In times of tragedy, headlines and hashtags promote self-care to remind internet users to take a break from the news cycle to simply relax and self-reflect.
The origins of self-care also lie in the psychological concept known as the self-project. Self-projects are long-term journeys where individuals seek to find a greater sense of themselves or better themselves in a dramatic way.
Examples of self-projects people may experience in life are embarking on a major fitness journey, deciding to start a family or even starting a business they’ve been dreaming of for years.
These complex and oftentimes taxing and challenging projects can be rewarding. These experiences truly give an individual a greater sense of their identity, and, as sociologists say, a sense of self or purpose.
Like self-care, self-projects — though it may involve other people — are largely introspective and deal with the transformation of inner thoughts, emotions and attitudes.
In this day and age, the lines between self-care and downright procrastination are sometimes blurred. It seems like anything outside of the office or the classroom can be classified as self-care — even if it’s not necessarily beneficial or enriching to one’s life.
And though I can’t criticize anyone, including myself, for making time for calming, healthy, good-for-the-soul activities, I think my generation has taken some elements of self-care too far. Often, they perpetuate the “treat-yo’-self” mentality too much, and it's not always positive.
Self-care is a double-edged sword. While it’s certainly beneficial and important, it has also given us an excuse to put off projects and responsibilities that, in their own ways, are rewarding, enriching and meaningful.
So what’s the solution? We should remember that self-care goes beyond the surface of all-natural skin products, chia seed-filled teas and Netflix binge sessions. It’s about crafting a life filled with meaningful experiences and projects, which means working hard and doing the things we love.
Whether we finally start that novel we’ve always dreamt about writing, learn a new language or create an organization that’s meaningful to us, we should recognize what we love to do and embrace our ambitions as a form of self-care in its own right.
I think the practice of self-care means nothing unless it’s combined with a sense of self-awareness. If we truly care about ourselves, we should show ourselves love by investing in projects and passions that are important to us.
Darcy Schild is a UF journalism junior. Her column focuses on human behavior and sociology.