The Problem with Putting a Price Tag on Self-care

Is it okay for brands to sell the idea of self-care? Well, let’s take a look at how self-care marketing can be problematic. Carla Marie Manly, PhD, clinical psychologist, and author of Joy From Fear describes how "the popularity of self-care items meant to elicit peace, happiness, and an increased sense of self-worth can subconsciously lead people to believe that in order to experience those positive states of being, they need to invest."


Manly also states that "when self-care is commodified, the psyche learns to equate caring for the self with needing to spend money on the self. This relegates self-care into the realm of those who have money can have self-care and those who don’t have money can’t.”

So, should we equate glamor with self-care? By definition, glamor means an attractive or exciting quality that makes someone seem attractive and exciting. Likewise, when the luxury industry associates itself with self-care, self-care can become something performative, especially in this visual age of social media. But in reality, self-care is deeply personal and specific to your needs. Your self-care doesn't have to be for anyone but you, and it is the one thing that shouldn't have to be validated by others or impress an audience.

Whatever self-care means to you is valid, and to be clear, there's nothing wrong with luxury. It's just that there shouldn't be one definition of it. For some people, luxury might be eating a dessert and having time to themselves. It might even be standing in the ocean. Luxury is relative, and self-care is always something that affirms your worth and fills you up mentally and emotionally. 

These types of feelings aren't required to be bought, and we can experience self-care from moment to moment. Maybe you allow yourself to laugh out loud in public or maybe you decide to dress comfortably for a dinner party just because you want to. Self-care can happen in small moments that we don't even realize. Taking care of yourself may not always happen through grand gestures and purchases, but it's the attention, love, and intention that counts. 

It’s important to have these conversations because phrases like “health is the new wealth,” and concepts like glamorous self-care can make people feel excluded from something that is so important and worth affirming. Yes, resources can better help us attend to our needs, but it’s important to incorporate other day-to-day images and ideas around self-care, especially on social media ,  because it’s for everyone. No matter the situation, everyone should be able to access soft, comfortable, and joyful moments because these experiences are part of what makes us human.