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The Self Care Machine: A Critical Thought Piece on Self Care Consumerism in 2019

By: Leili Arai Tavallaei

Why is everyone so obsessed with Self Care? In 2019 it’s all about counterculture and Self Care presents itself as such, but is it really effective in countering the culture? In my social circles, Self Care rose out of a need to subvert capitalism and consumerism. Capitalism negatively affects individuals by commodifying every aspect of their lives, including the individuals themselves. Capitalism demands efficiency, and asks that individuals budget their time, strength, and effort for the good of a company. This slowly wears a person down, degrading mental and physical health. Capitalism relies heavily on consumerism, using media to encourage ‘single use’ mentality, seasonal products, and the purchasing power of the consumer. All of this seems to negatively affect people in their daily lives and so a counterculture arose: Self Care. Self Care presents itself as individuals taking back their agency, allowing themselves to relax and recharge. I argue that this is something that should be normal. It should be normal to sleep eight hours, eat three meals a day, and have down time to oneself.  It should be standard. The fact that it’s so unusual to care for oneself opens up an avenue for capitalism to take advantage of this growing trend. If people want to care for themselves, what products would benefit them? The rise of branded bath bombs, essential oils, face masks, etc is a sign of capitalism co-opting Self Care as a means to promote consumerism, starting the cycle all over again. What I want to see Self Care evolve into has less to do with products and more to do with self reflection. It shouldn’t be called Self Care to buy myself a pair of expensive boots. Self Care should be about reconnecting with friends and family, centering oneself in a fast paced environment, speaking to Allah, and / or working to attain or maintain a standard of happiness in life. I’ve challenged myself to normalize caring for myself because it shouldn’t be surprising that I can take care of myself. Self Care, for me, is about maintaining my quality of life and simply being happy with that.

Leili Arai Tavallaei is an interdisciplinary artist and advocate whose work expands dialogues between the intersections of her identity including race, religion, culture, and sexuality. She is currently based in Baltimore, MD pursuing a BFA in Animation and Printmaking at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and is expected to graduate in Spring of 2021. Tavallaei is the founder and 2018-2019 President of MICA’s Brown Asian Student Union which is dedicated to creating spaces and sparking dialogues for the marginalized minority in the Asian Diaspora with a focus on the South, Southeast, West Indies, and West Asian experience on her campus. She is also the West Asian advisor for Overachiever Magazine. Tavallaei identifies as a mixed race Persian-Japanese-American from Houston, TX. 

 
personal instagram: @hello.leili
art instagram: @leilihere

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