How long have you associated self-care with a face mask? Or a manicure? Maybe a bubble bath paired with a scented candle? I think it was around middle school when I started to associate the beauty industry with self-care (maybe it was that scene with Chandler in the bathtub after he’s had “a long hard day”).
We’re fed a notion that slapping on a face mask and binging your favourite show is a great form of self-care and it can be, sure, if you’ve been running from place to place and need to take some time to relax. Coupling beauty and self-care can also be beneficial when your beauty routine helps you to take time for yourself each day. Self-care, however, shouldn’t boil down to just masks and serums. Believing that self-care isn’t more than just surface level products (or skin-deep, ha!) can cheat you of a self-care routine that isn’t just good for the skin but is good for your mental wellbeing.
There has been many-a-time where I’ve ordered in food and put on a mask with the intent of improving my mood and still sat in a lack of true self-care. I thought that because I was treating myself I was going to automatically feel better. In doing this I created a situation where I believed that buying things was going to lead to my happiness. While sometimes it may make me feel better, more rested, but most times I’m not really getting at the heart of why I’m self-caring in the first place. The problem is I’m still sad or angry or exhausted and haven’t really evaluated why I’m feeling the way I’m feeling. I’ve put the band-aid on the broken leg and wondered why I’m still not feeling well.
I was given the advice for when I’m feeling sad, frustrated, or discouraged, to ask myself what needs in my life aren’t being met, usually leading me to the action I need to do so that I see a healthy change in myself. A common one is if I’m feeling isolated from and misunderstood by those around me I probably haven’t been prioritizing being social outside of work and the half hour I spend talking to my housemates before bed. From there, I make plans to hang out with someone or watch a movie so that my social needs are also being met. There needs to be intent for change, a goal towards a better mental well being.
We can engage in meaningful self-care with a face mask on sure! But what beauty and self-care often promote is mindless self-care, a self-care that encourages buying things in order to fill a bigger void. I can’t feel better unless I know what needs to get better. It sounds obvious and makes perfect sense when thought of in terms of physical health but when the tables are turned towards mental health we often try to throw a bunch of different things at an emotional problem without really looking for the true solution. Maybe a face mask or a run or hanging out with friends or taking a nap will work but how will you know which one you need unless you sit down with yourself and find out?
I’m not coming for your masks or your bubble baths or even the entire beauty industry. I am coming for the belief that masking without meaning isn’t an act of self-love. And we all know that loving yourself is as much about loving the outside as loving the inside and taking good care of both.