Self-Care is a Coping Mechanism, not a Solution

I’m calling bull on “self-care”. This corporate-speak for getting oneself through life without completely breaking down is just another personal responsibility trap. We don’t need to buy disposable face masks, we need sleep.

I’m not blasting the things we do for a little lift. I love getting my nails done, it’s fun and relaxing. But that occasional hour of pampering does not atone for the crushing levels of stress and anxiety we’re all laboring under. Like “mindfulness”, self-care is another way to shift the onus of unreasonable expectations onto the worker.

Feeling overwhelmed by the job, systemic racism, family, bills, laundry, the rise of fascism, climate destruction, the demonization of asylees and dirty dishes? Well, have you tried meditating? Maybe try buying that app and waking up half an hour earlier to sit and just IDENTIFY your rage, but you know, separate yourself from it? Try to get some distance and, like, just OBSERVE how your body FEELS.

Meditation* may help one cope, but it doesn’t seem to be impacting the root causes of the disintegration of modern life in America. Self-care is the same trap. Hair falling out in clumps from stress? Screaming at your kids? Maybe you need to practice some self-care? A long soak in hot water with expensive oils and a glass of wine? Perhaps a CBD bath bomb and a vape pen filled with pure THC? Add on the latest SSRI alternative, an ambien and trauma-informed therapy twice a week and you’re on to something!

It’s all the same, it’s all growth driven. The US economy must grow in order to sustain, and we are drowning in a human economy of scale. The buying power of the American middle class was destroyed by the idiocy of hereditary owners of the means of production, who forgot that a collective race to the lowest possible overhead costs would gut the buying power of the American middle class, the engine of our capitalist-based society. They’re wringing the last bit of energy from blue and white collar workers, refusing to hire where there is slightest possibility of getting one more joule from the few on the floor, yet denying benefits wherever they can. Thus creating extremely dangerous and damaging workplaces, while blaming the laborer for failing to thrive.

The myth of “self-care” is a coping mechanism that insidiously reinforces the internalized lie that it is your fault that you are flailing and white-knuckling through. The solution proffered is to buy the products to heal thyself because you can’t afford to set boundaries with your bosses, because you’re scared of failing at the job that’s killing you.

It is particularly vicious because it flips the narrative, instead of calling it “work-harm”, and practicing harm-reduction, we’re calling it “self-care”, and acting like it’s something you can opt to do, or *shrug* not, but long-term sustainability is all on you.

Bull. We can build a better society where we take meaningful care of our workforce and ourselves collectively. And we can toss these lame-ass bromides in the bin.


*I’m not dissing on Eastern religious practices and life-ways, I’m pointing to how mindfulness has been commodified and utilized as an HR tool in the US.

The Anti-Alienator

There are a lot of things to buy right now. Things are ON SALE. You can buy more shit right now than you know what to do with. All those things? Those decorative things? Those plastic things? That thing that your friend has that really ties the room together, you can buy that fucker. For 30% off.

Look, I’m a Loehman’s girl, don’t get me wrong. I love a deal. And, this may shock you, I’m a materialist. I love things, I get attached to things, getting rid of things is terribly hard for me. Why do you think my posts are so long? My high school American and European history teacher was helping me edit my college admissions essay, and angrily told me I was “the most anal-retentive student” he’d ever worked with (thanks for getting me into Kenyon, Brad, love you!).

My point is, I see it. I get it. Things are great, they’re cool, it’s fun to get new ones. But cheap things suck. They break, unravel, fade and eventually make you feel cheap, broke and bad. So you buy more, and soon you’re swimming in pointless, redundant shit that has become one mass of crap that saps your will to live happily and you sate with one more goddamn cute thing. And in the end, you’re alone, surrounded by shit that you only bought to compense for the shit you already had, that you didn’t connect with in the first place.

The only answer is to only get shit that you really really really connect with. Then you’ll love your shit. The best way to do this is to buy very few things made by people who are connected to it. This is science.

Marx, my fav sociologist, has a theory of alienation (you may have heard of it in a cafe from a dude with earlobe spacers and a nasal voice). In the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 Marx writes about 4 different alienations (caused by capitalist structures):

  1. Alienation of the worker from the product of her labor;
  2. Alienation of the worker from the work (the act of production);
  3. Alienation of worker from herself (as a producer); and
  4. Alienation of the worker from other workers.

There isn’t a switch we can flip to up-end capitalist structures. We’re well saddled, and it’s a long slow slog. Basically, the climate is going to force the issue of change, and we have to keep working for equality EVERY DAY, but how the fuck do we get through the holiday season? How to we all take those small steps toward change that come to be a flood?

Here’s my solution. Buy from craftspeople. Don’t buy a lot. Just buy one thing, and buy it from someone who is upending capitalist structures by rejecting alienation. Realize that they’re also rejecting power (aka money) within the current neoliberal framework, and if you also want to reject the structural violence inherent in this system, you must support them.

So, I’m using my minor FB and twitter presence to promote those I know who are doing it for the love of the make. For the connection to the product, for the connection to the rest of the world, for the sense of accomplishment, pride and joy that comes from sharing something you’ve made with someone else. Share the love, give gifts that are made with care and love. Maybe it means it’s a small gift. But look, if you have people in your life who judge gifts based on size, amount, electrical wattage or anything other than showing you care, just don’t get them anything, they suck and they don’t appreciate you. For real.

Send me your suggestions for craftspeople, artists, social enterprises and the like, and I’ll include them in my posts!