After years of deep breaths, bubble baths and green juices, you’d think our mental health would be in a better place. “Self-care” methods like these have been prescribed to us as the cure-all for our collective unease, but take a look around you. No amount of jade-rolling and YouTube yoga videos can combat the fact that our daily headlines center around police sitting idle as children are mass murdered and 10-year-old girls needing to travel across state lines to get an abortion after being raped. Things are still clearly unwell, and a bubble bath with CBD suds isn’t going to fix it.
So, fuck it — self-care is over. Let’s do something bad for ourselves, instead.
This sentiment — that we might as well just lean into self-destruction — has been proliferating online lately. One recent tweet vowed to “eat food that makes my tummy hurt on purpose.” Another stated, “I’m back to doing drugs.”
On TikTok, this line of messaging has been popular for years. Back in 2019, @annhayek made a TikTok that received more than 350,000 likes with the same sort of “do drugs” anti-self-care reference as the viral tweet above. It was a popular message at the time, but the pandemic cockblocked its destructive momentum. Unable to leave the house, we clung to the idea that staying home and doing skincare was good for us. It was all we had!
But in June, delightful little bouts of self-destruction surfaced again. “Self-care is officially over, it’s time to text your ex,” said @hailesthoughts in a recent TikTok. Not only is the sound from the original video circulating again, new renditions of it have appeared. Drinking and doing drugs are popular self-care resistance methods, but so are more vague evils like sabotaging your own life or “letting your demons win.”
Why exactly is self-care canceled, though? Probably because as many of us are realizing, it was really just a consumerist grift to begin with. Originating as a medical term in the middle of the 20th century, it once referred to how patients could improve their wellbeing through lifestyle habits like meditation and exercise. Soon after, it was used in women’s and civil rights movements to refer to the need for activists to care for themselves, both as a practical measure and a radical act of autonomy and self-preservation.
But for many of today’s practitioners, self-care has become little more than a packaged excuse to spend money on themselves. Moreover, rather than using it to actually improve our health and wellbeing, we label things like spending three hours playing Animal Crossing or getting Uber Eats delivered as “self-care,” too. And clearly, it hasn’t made us better.
It’d be just as easy to call getting blackout drunk “self-care,” but it’s better that the jig is up. At this point, maybe that’s what’s good for us, anyway. We deserve both the splendor of eating foods that we know will hurt us and the pain that will arrive afterward. Go ahead, drink three Four Lokos. Snort an Adderall. It won’t fix anything, but that’s the point.
If self-care doesn’t solve anything, we might as well have fun instead.