The basic concept of self-care sounds like something no one could ever oppose. “Be better to yourself” is a good message. I endorse it. But we don’t live in concepts, we live in the expression of concepts, and the expression of self-care seems to me to be just another way for modern society to make women miserable.
Have you seen self-care memes? I have become somewhat obsessed by them. And I don’t mean to be uncharitable here, but I think even many people who are generally deeply committed to self-care would join me in calling self-care memes fucking unhinged. They are sociopath instructions. They are commands to feel all the time the way you feel after injecting heroin. They are an insistence that if you don’t walk around in a constant cloud of knowing self-worth, you are not doing it right.
Are you the storm? I have a confession: I am not the storm. I am not anything like the storm. And I hate to say it but I don’t think it’s possible, grammatically or meteorologically, for so many of you to be “the storm.” It makes me think of Billy Collins.
Here’s what I think: I think the dictate “be good to yourself” is just that, yet another social command that is imposed on you, no matter how good of an idea, and thus another thing you can be bad at. I think that’s a thing. I think people are bad at feeling good and their awareness of being bad at it makes them feel worse. The dictate to love oneself becomes just another way that you’ve let yourself and others down. It’s perverse, obscene. And it is so indicative of this rot in contemporary society, the plague of over-analysis. How can you feel good about yourself if you are constantly thinking about how you need to feel good about yourself? How can you just experience self-acceptance if self-acceptance has to be a thing you do instead of a thing you just are? What if your mind never feels insanely cool?
I have never been enough, and I am sure I will never be enough. How about you?
I have written many times: there are far more ways to be losers, in our culture, than there are to be winners. And this afflicts all sorts of people. But women, in particular. Modern society is a machine for producing things for women to feel like they’ve failed at. I suspect self-care has become one more thing. Of course you should love yourself. But if you experience self-worth through a set of instructions, you’ve already lost. The voice that says “I am great and deserve it all” sounds, to me, suspiciously like the one that tells me I am worthless and always will be.
We are desperate creatures, flawed, grasping, lonely. We do not experience life as a series of challenges that we rise inevitably to meet, nor has anyone alive experienced true self-acceptance. All of our dreams do not come true even if we have – especially when we have – the courage to pursue them. What you believe you often cannot achieve. That’s life, that’s this grubby human life. I want better for all of you than you know. And what I believe is that the only way to increase human happiness is to accept it as transitory, unknowable, and undeserved. To live, as the man said, in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.