Columnist Chelsea Kline: The fallacy of self-care being accessible to all

Published: 1/5/2020 10:00:40 PM
Modified: 1/5/2020 10:00:11 PM

You may feel like you’re barely getting by every day, with all the stressors that come with being a functional adult. You may feel like you can barely make it to the next month, even though you’re working as hard and fast as you can. You may feel like you’re a little fish trying to swim upstream, while the bigger fish cruise right by you with ease. Well, now with the self-care movement, you can feel like you’re failing at yet another thing.

Supposedly, wellness and self-care should be open to everyone, but keep in mind that unless you’re eating charcoal acai avocado toast, healing with crystals, and wearing only the finest organic cotton, then you’re doing it all wrong.

I’m sorry to share that you’re just going to have to work harder at properly taking care of yourself, and if you can’t get to that island retreat with silent purebred puppy shamans and fermented gold leaf massages with bone broth facial infusion treatments, then, well, you only have yourself to blame. Sad.

That exclusive retreat promises lifelong and perfect mental clarity, laser-sharp and unwavering self-awareness, guaranteed full body well-being and deep permanent self-love, but since no one else can make the commitment to taking care of you, the inner light in me is judging the inner light in you. My daily celery juice aromatherapy meditations taught me how to do that, so you’re welcome.

Because self-care is so powerful and utterly essential, I’ve developed these baby steps for beginners to adopt before they’re ready to make a full commitment to taking the burden off society and start healing themselves. This worked for me because I dedicated myself to practicing radical abundance thinking with ceaseless and aggressive positivity. Properly caring for yourself means you must try harder and buy the right things. Oh, never mind that you need free time and disposable income to access this level of wellness, those things will come if you just stay positive no matter what!

With constant positive thoughts and in preparation for the more advanced work, you can begin these wellness practices today:

·<sbull value="sbull"><text xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"></text></sbull>In between tasks at work; stare at the wall and try not to think about how frustrated and trapped you feel, repeat “It’s all good” to yourself.

■ During your commute between your multiple jobs, allow yourself a discreet yet silent cry.

■ While grocery shopping with your dwindling food stamp benefits, take a moment to be grateful that our government still has any protections left for low income people at all! Namaste.

■ If you’re not quite where you want to be in your career, stop to take a deep breath and remember that if you’d only tried harder in school, been able to afford a top tier SAT coach, and had the ‘right connections’, then you’d be better off now.

I write the above in jest to highlight how ludicrous much of the gospel is about self-care, and how blindly offensive it is to proselytize about ‘life changing’ practices without being aware of the blaring privilege that’s woven throughout such claims.

Certainly, at the core of self-care is the message that each of us are worthy of the time, space, and healing that we need to be functional and healthy. Yet, the realities of our current systems make even basic wellness unattainable for so many among us. Far too many individuals experience pain in the form of institutionalized racism, systemic violence, entrenched and long standing cultural erasure, bias, and hatred, and deep economic disadvantage and trauma. Most of those very individuals are the ones who are excluded from being able to access the life-enhancing and life-saving benefits of having the time and money that’s required to actually be well, let alone practice self-care in the way that’s touted in mainstream culture.

So while the concept of wellness in and of itself isn’t the problem of course, the lack of acknowledgement of the inherent inequality that is baked into who can access the time and space to truly be well is profoundly troubling. The wellness industry has many aspects to it that are actually insidious tentacles of capitalism finding a fresh nuanced way to blame the little fish for not being able to swim faster, when the currents are relentlessly pushing against them.

Being well is actually about resisting the cunning messages that bombard us and insist that we are solely responsible for our own health and well-being, when in reality so much of our society is truly toxic for the majority of our friends and neighbors. The self-care industry comes dangerously close to placing blame on the most vulnerable amongst us while simultaneously ignoring that our systems are deeply flawed and unfair. The mainstream definition of self-care is a new way of trying to convince us that our individual circumstances are entirely under our control, that the American dream is real, and we only need to just keep working harder and faster.

True self care is about rejecting the incessant siren song that lulls us into believing that acquiring more and more products will supposedly help us feel whole and good. It’s the same old trick that’s duped us before, just dressed up in expensive new clothing. The things that we absolutely need to be fully healthy are precisely the things that are out of reach for many Americans, such as access to healthy affordable, unprocessed foods, affordable healthcare, and jobs that pay living wages.

While it may be enjoyable to distract ourselves with ceaseless quests to amass the right material objects or elite experiences, yet in the long run, we’ll end up feeling emptier than before because we are failing to look out for one another. True self-care is bigger than any one individual, and takes our friends, neighbors, and planet into account, as well as our impact on each other. When our systems harm others and perpetuate deep inequalities, then we are all unwell, and no amount of crystals will bring us back into balance.

Chelsea Kline is a women’s leadership-focused life coach and writer who lives to find the funny in almost any situation. A graduate of both Smith College and Harvard Divinity School, Chelsea’s career is fueled by an unshakable belief in the strength of women, and utilizes compassion and humor to coach women towards being their most ferocious and fabulous selves.

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