From the Desk of Dr. MC: Dear Chronicle…

For this week’s blog, I want to talk to you about a recent episode of Chronicle, which was dedicated to the topic of self-care. When I first learned of this episode, thanks to several friends texting me, I was excited. I had my mom poised to record it, and I researched options for streaming it online. I even shared it with my Dr. MC Self-Care Cabaret Facebook community.

I was quite disappointed in this broadcast and felt compelled to share my thoughts. Below is an excerpt from the letter that was sent to the Chronicle team over the weekend. While I realize that not everyone is a self-care expert, I cannot sit quietly and allow a high profile and respected television program to share potentially damaging messages. Self-care is so much more than what the episode portrayed. The commercialization of self-care is a dangerous practice when misused to sell overpriced products and attributes to why many people misunderstand self-care.

I truly hope this message sent to Chronicle is taken for the constructive criticism offered. Should they respond with anything pertinent to you readers, I will keep you posted.

Dear Chronicle, 

After watching your most recent episode on the subject of self-care, I felt compelled to reach out. First, I want to thank you for highlighting such a vital topic, and I believe this episode was produced with the best of intentions. That being said, many aspects of this episode perpetuated gross stereotypes that many mistakenly consider to be self-care. This is not to say the entire episode was without merit, but the overall messaging did not promote the critical importance of self-care or provide viewers with any tangible takeaways for optimal health and wellness.

The episode started strong. Using Dr. Pierre as an expert and emphasizing that people of color are accessing more mental health services due to Telehealth was terrific. However, there is more to self-care than therapy, and people of color need more self-care, not just therapy. It also concerns me that immediately following this segment, I saw no other representation of people of color anywhere in the broadcast. Next, you talked about meditation, which was a nice piece to include and a valuable aspect of self-care for those who wish to engage in that practice. From there, the parts that followed did not provide any helpful information regarding the necessity of self-care for all.

Many people believe that self-care is a luxury and that it is something only white, affluent women enjoy. Picture it; the plush bathrobe and cucumbers over her eyes. This is far from the origins of self-care and certainly not the message we want to spread. People need to realize how critical self-care is and how you can take great care of yourself at low or no cost. The Miriam Webster definition you provided is simple, but self-care is more than that. Self-care is the “daily process of being aware of and attending to one’s basic physiological and emotional needs, including the shaping of one’s daily routine, relationships, and environment as needed to promote self-care. Self-care is seen as the foundational work required for physical and emotional well-being” (Cook-Cottone, 2017). The health consequences of neglecting self-care are dramatic and severe.

Back to the broadcast. The two women highlighted with their boutique fitness studios missed the mark completely. First off, boutique fitness classes are not accessible to everyone for a variety of reasons. They tend to be breeding grounds for unhealthy exercise habits, disordered eating, and cost-prohibitive for the masses. Exercise is a critical component of self-care, and I would have loved you to explore more cost-accessible options, virtual workouts, and overall benefits. When we do not move our bodies, we may fall victim to many different illnesses, potentially resulting in early death. I do not mean to suggest you should have highlighted traditional gyms either, but instead, stress the importance of moving our bodies in ways that feel good and engaging in activities that bring us joy. I know of several businesses in Massachusetts that view exercise from this perspective. Also, the visuals provided during this segment were mainly white women in societally acceptable bodies. There was no diversity in body shape or mobility that I saw during this portion. Many people are self-conscious about beginning or re-starting an exercise regimen, so highlighting options for them and representing all shapes and sizes would have been helpful. You may not have intended to promote a lack of diversity in your exercise segment, but by choosing only to feature boutique fitness studios when discussing exercise, you did just that.

Following exercise, you moved to skin-care by showing and only talking about a posh Beacon Hill establishment, which I am sure is costly. Again, furthering the stereotype that practicing self-care costs a lot of money. Are there other ways we can care for our skin? Some additional messaging could have been beneficial here, as well.

Lastly, and quite possibly, the most discouraging piece of your segment referenced healthy eating. It was quick for such a hugely important aspect of self-care that provided no information about what healthy eating is according to the latest research. Then you ended with a visit to a cocktail station. Do not get me wrong; indulging in an occasional cocktail can be part of a balanced self-care routine, but concluding a broadcast dedicated to self-care with alcohol consumption was not supportive to the many Americans struggling to care for themselves during this ongoing pandemic. 

Again, I was compelled to reach out as a self-care expert, a recent Ph.D. graduate, and a public school administrator. As the founder of Dr. MC’s Self-Care Cabaret, I welcome any opportunity to help people and share my expertise. I am well aware of the challenges people are facing today and the need for self-care. Actual self-care, not the commodification of self-care. I am sure part of your emphasis was to highlight local businesses. Yet, for a program with a broad reach, you only promoted business accessible to those living in affluent sections of Downtown Boston. I am very passionate about self-care, and I hope that you recognize its importance as well. Ripping self-care from its roots and placing it on a pricy pedestal keeps it out of reach for most of your viewers. Now more than ever, we must take the reins of our well-being and practice authentic self-care; the future of society depends on it.

I would strongly recommend Chronicle do a follow-up episode that addresses the many domains of self-care that were missed and provide more cost-accessible self-care techniques for viewers throughout the Greater Boston area. I would be happy to help you shape the broadcast from a more inclusive perspective encompassing additional domains such as rest, relationships, self-compassion, environment, self-soothing techniques, mindfulness, etc.  Especially in these challenging times, people need to take care of themselves; together, we can better promote the true aspects of self-care.

Self-Care is not optional. 

Best,

Dr. MC

Did you watch this episode of Chronicle? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Published by Theresa Melito-Conners, PhD (Dr. MC)

I am self-care expert and a recent Ph.D. graduate in the greater Boston area. I look forward to helping you on your journey to wellness.

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