OPINION: Self-care is not the same as self-indulgence


On Oct. 13, 2011, the TV sitcom “Parks and Recreation” aired the episode “Pawnee Rangers” for the first time, in which the characters Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle uttered the timeless catchphrase: “Treat yo’ self.”

Six years after those three words were spoken, many people still use the “treat yo’ self” mindset to justify expensive or unnecessary purchases for themselves in the name of so-called self-care.

The one main factor of this concept that has been forgotten was how often Donna and Tom “treated themselves” — once a year. For the other 364 days of the year, they were financially responsible and (somewhat) healthy adults.

However, the trend of constantly “treating yo’ self” has been grafted onto the idea of self-care, which is slowly losing its original meaning.

Before dark chocolate, face masks, alcohol and other “treat yo’ self” items were tossed into the mix, self-care was simply the act of making decisions that offset the physical and emotional stressors of life.

Do you feel sad? Exercise to increase endorphins. Are you having difficulty staying awake throughout the day? Develop better sleep habits. Are you feeling sluggish? Eat carrots instead of Cheetos. Are you stressed by homework? Keep a calendar and develop time management skills.

Self-care is not being your own personal “fun aunt/uncle,” indulging in binge-watching shows, eating obscene amounts of junk food or habitually shirking your responsibilities to do other things you find enjoyable. Decisions like these are like using a water gun on the dumpster fire that is stress: you may feel like you’re accomplishing something, but in reality, the fire hasn’t shrunk at all.

On the flip side of that statement, self-care is also not necessarily about being your own parent. Scolding yourself for not getting things done on time or making yourself feel guilty for hanging out with friends instead studying could potentially snowball into a negative, potentially depressive mindset.

Self-care is not always pretty or cutesy, and it’s not always doing what gives you instant gratification. If self-care was a caretaker figure, it would be Nanny McPhee (for those of you who are unfamiliar with Nanny McPhee, she’s the less musical, more snaggle-toothed version of Mary Poppins).

Sometimes, self-care is forcing yourself to review your bank account and create a budget rather than going “therapy shopping.” It’s eating vegetables and fruit when all you want to do is shovel an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream into your mouth. The first step in successful self-care is realizing that the best way to take care of yourself may not always involve the idea of “treat yo’ self.”

The difference between self-care and self-indulgence hit me like a lightning bolt this summer. I had just finished counseling during a two-week camp session in Arizona when my friends and I decided to get pedicures instead of going to church.

Getting the pedicures was fun in the moment, but I later realized how much more fulfilling it would have been to go to church and be in fellowship with the other camp counselors.

Granted, this is a particularly specific example of self-care versus self-indulgence, as not everyone may regard spirituality and faith as part of their self-care. Regardless, one thing is certain: when you choose to self-indulge, you potentially give up the long-term benefits of actual self-care for short-term gratification.

That being said, Netflix is not inherently bad, nor is eating ice cream. What’s important to remember is that “treat yo’ self” should be a small part of responsible, healthy self-care, and not your main source of coping with stress when life gets difficult.

Bailey Current is a sophomore in mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.