Welcome to our new series, “The ways of words.” In this series, we examine a popular word or phrase you may want to use…or avoid…when creating novels, poems, songs, or other written art.
Everyone has a word or phrase, or several, that get on their nerves. Adding “And go!” to the end of online requests for information or ideas puts a lot of people off of trying to provide the information. The word “moist” is widely hated. Beginning sentences with “So” can be irritating and distracting to some. I’ve always found “boundaries” and “shaming” annoying, but I loathe “positive/positivity” and “negative/negativity” to the point that I have tuned out conversations, speeches, and sermons that contained them and refused to support a business because I saw them in their advertising.
The term “self-care” is quickly becoming a hated one for many people. This does not mean you can’t use it in your work or promotional materials, but it is beginning to have an effect on the audience that may be the opposite of what you would hope for. There are a few reasons this may be happening.
Everything is “self-care” these days.
When the phrase “self-care” first seemed to be everywhere, it was a less snobbish sounding synonym for “pampering.” “Self-care” meant “relaxing beauty rituals,” like scented bubble baths, beauty masks that cooled or warmed your skin while improving it in some way, and special hair treatments you only did once a week. Then people began to use it in place of any form of “relaxing” or “taking a break.” Having a drink, having a cigar, eating a candy bar, taking a nap, or ordering takeout because you lacked the energy to cook were all “self-care.” Next, some social media influencers decided “self-care” was anything you did that in any way benefited you, even if it was something unpleasant, so making yourself scrub your toilet and pay your bills and go outside and shovel the driveway in winter were all “self-care” too. Many people who recoil from it are simply tired of hearing it.
“Self-care” appears to be a way to demand praise for doing ordinary things.
Our culture encourages us to demand praise and admiration for some pretty awful things these days. One popular social media meme proudly proclaims that going forward, the poster will be doing what is right for them and nobody else. The comments are always full of praise and encouragement, even though the person basically just announced they no longer care what impact their actions have on other people.
Announcing you are “practicing self-care” is another behavior deemed worthy of praise today, and since everything can be self-care, it demands praise for everything. People announce they’re doing “self-care” by giving themselves a clean home to live in, proceed to tell their social media contacts about vacuuming, dusting, and sanitizing their kitchen and bathroom, and we’re supposed to congratulate them. Never mind that these are nothing more than ordinary household chores most people do every week. “Practicing self-care today…no work…just relaxing and spending time with my family” receives a round of “you deserve it!” and “put yourself first!” from friends who forget we used to just call that “taking a day off.”
People get worn out jumping up and down over others’ every move just because they labeled it “self-care” before announcing it, and in many cases, bragging about it.
Multilevel marketing companies have latched on to the term.
Even when the term itself does not bother someone, it can put people off of your product, business, website, or anything else you are working to promote because of its growing association with mlms. Companies selling useless, sometimes even dangerous, diet powders, bars, and pills promote the products as “self-care” as another term for “tending to your physical health.” It can even be a bit of a shield from liability for these corporations. They can’t promote their energy or weight loss or mood boosting shakes with specific health claims, but they can call it all “self-care” and send the message customers are doing something for their health in a more roundabout way.
Others try to recapture one of the earlier meanings, the face masks and bubble baths definition, by selling cosmetics customers could easily purchase for half the price, insisting theirs are an investment in “self-care.” Of course, those same customers could purchase similar products at a much lower price point and call it anything they wanted, but the mlm counts on customers associating their products with a noble devotion to our own well-being. Those trying to avoid mlms are keeping an eye out for this particular hook to help them weed out the products and services that come with an “opportunity” to ruin your finances and alienate your family, friends, and business associates.
As with most words that work our nerves, whether or not to use “self-care” depends on the effect you want to have on your audience. If you’re writing a piece about a multilevel marketing company, “self-care” is a buzzword among them these days. A character who feels entitled to praise for everything will probably label many behaviors “self-care.” But it may not generate warm feelings in a reader….or draw people to the business you run as a second career…much longer.