The original message of self-care has gotten mistranslated

by Aaliyah Alexander, Staff Writer

The self-care movement has evolved so much over the past few years alongside the self-love movement. 

Self-care and self-love are two phrases that are used interchangeably, but I think there is a difference between the two that we need to acknowledge. 

According to, self-love is “the act of putting your own happiness and well-being first” and the definition of self-care is, “the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness.” 

I believe self-love can be a by-product of self-care. However, social media has boiled the self-care movement down to an overindulgence of cinnamon-scented candles and bubble baths. Instead of having wholesome practices in place to take an active role in protecting our personal wellbeing, we unknowingly disguised laziness as an act of self-care. 

Don’t get me wrong, taking a night to light some candles, do your nails and treat yourself to your favorite show on Netflix is a way to care for your wellbeing. The problem is when we use these activities as an excuse to stay aloof and not partake in practical self-care rituals such as exercising, eating a balanced diet, taking breaks from social media and intentionally resting. 

People often neglect these activities that are scientifically proven to boost our overall well-being because they often require planning and an active approach. Instead, we inherently do the things that are pleasurable such as eating junk food, watching hours of television and remaining idle.  

Of course, self-care looks different from person to person, but using self-care as an excuse instead of a tool is the issue. 

Oftentimes I encounter people who complain of fatigue, anxiety, and dissatisfaction with their overall health and as I take a look at how they spend their time, it becomes obvious what the problem is. What they were led to believe was self-care is actually doing them a disservice. 

So what do I propose? Balance is key and tough love is essential. 

If you truly love yourself, you want what’s best for you. Therefore, making the effort to put healthy habits in place to routinely and actively take care of yourself is a no-brainer. Do your bubble baths and light your candles, but make sure to engage in meaningful activities and eat healthy too. 

The self-care movement was created to highlight the importance of taking a pause in this busy society to tend to our basic needs with the categories being our mental, physical and spiritual wellness. If you’re not deliberately pursuing that, then what are you really doing? 

From now on, let’s not get distracted by self-care aesthetics on Instagram. Let’s dig deeper and actually take care of ourselves all the way. 

Aaliyah Alexander is a sophomore studying journalism and international studies. Follow her on Twitter @aaliyahdanyell.