Buyer Beware

I am the first to admit that I can be easily persuaded to purchase goods that promise to change my life…apps, coloring books, candles, makeup, and gadgets, galore! Who else can relate? The $15 bath bomb that can bring joy and happiness or the latest app that can send reminders to de-stress with an annual subscription. The truth is, to take care of ourselves and practice self-care…and I mean good self-care…costs ZERO dollars. All you need is YOU. No equipment, nothing.

Sadly, self-care has become big business. The term “self-care” is trending on corporate social media accounts with over 20 million hashtags sometimes promoting products and lifestyles that are harmful and unhealthy. Someone is making money off our susceptibilities and if we are not careful, we can fall into the trap with high hopes under false pretenses.

We run around so crazy and zoned out half of the time that spending money seems like a better, quicker, and more efficient option as opposed to…sitting down for 5 minutes and meditating or taking a moment to practice a deep breathing exercise. The latter options have far more benefits, but yet, we don’t do it. We would rather keep going at our breakneck pace and buy a gizmo along the way that claims it can help us. We always want the quick-fix, and you know what? That item you bought likely won’t live up to its hype, resulting in one more thing cluttering your home.

The commodification of self-care takes the practices away from their roots and their essence and ignores many of the ethical foundations that self-care practices such as meditation, mindfulness, yoga, etc., were built upon. Jon Kabat-Zinn calls this phenomenon “McMindfulness.”

That is not to say that there are not resources and experts (myself included) that you should look to in order to help guide you in developing your routine, but you don’t need to get bamboozled into spending lots of money on products to practice self-care.

Since the trend of self-care has grown, I have noticed many businesses using it as a marketing ploy to increase sales with no real interest in our well-being. They send email blasts with the following subject lines, for example…a home goods company advertising a sale, Saturday Self-Care Sale, save 17%, (first off, 17% off is nothing to get excited about) or how about this one from a high-end designer selling dishes with the tagline “for cereal and self-care.” You may have even noticed a recent Instagram advertisement claiming that ordering fast-food from a popular food delivery service somehow meets the definition of self-care. Now, don’t get me wrong…shopping a sale, using nice dishes and even ordering take-out after a long day at work can all be part of a self-care routine, but a big corporation should not be dictating that to us and playing on our vulnerabilities. In the end, those things alone won’t promote a strong self-care routine and they won’t make you feel better about yourself. If you are not taking care of your core being, a sale or new dish is not going to help.

I have a bad habit (and I know I am not alone in this) of overdoing it when it comes to retail therapy. The words “treat yourself” ring in my ears when clicking “checkout now.” Technology makes it so easy! I have legit placed orders in the middle of the night from my phone. But in reality, if I am feeling down or stressed, buying something won’t solve the problem and it won’t make me feel better beyond those fleeting few seconds it takes to complete the purchase. Trust me, I have tried and tried again to make overspending a worthwhile part of my self-care routine when the stress hits. See my credit card bills during the Ph.D. program for proof and no, it did not yield the results I had hoped for.

Fiscal responsibility and money management is an often-neglected component of self-care, but it is an important one. Think about what happens to us when we neglect our well-being? The stress skyrockets, right? Now think about what happens when we spend recklessly and accumulate debt? We begin to feel isolated, guilty and ashamed of our behavior…which increases our stress and anxiety. Not exactly a recipe for self-care. I am working on this aspect of myself. Luckily my husband and I have a system that works for our finances to ensure our bills are always paid, but addressing the underlying causes of my excessive spending will ultimately lead to a more balanced and stress-free lifestyle. We can do that with self-care and being mindful where we spend our money and not looking for an object to cure our stress. Taking a little time for meditation, a few yoga poses, joyful movement, or some deep breathing can have a dramatic impact on our well-being and the best part is that it is free to practice!

Do you have a financial self-care tip to share?

Have you purchased something that promised to help you in some way that was a waste of money? Or have you purchased something that helped you practice better self-care?

Comment below and let me know!


Dr. MC

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