This is a bit of a rogue topic and I’m not sure how long this post will end up being, but it’s something I’ve noticed quite a bit on Instagram and I wanted to touch upon it in this week’s post. Please take everything with a pinch of salt and know that this will probably be more of a brain dump than a particularly cohesive post!
First of all, a not on performativity. What is it and why does it matter? Well, performativity is basically (in lay terms) the act of doing something so others can see it. The purpose of the action isn’t purely for yourself, but for others (friends/ family/ followers) to see you doing it and (typically) praise you for it. Some notable cases were the performative black square shared on Instagram during the Black Lives Matter movement in lockdown 1.0, or people sharing infographics to their stories of matters they haven’t actually educated themselves on to seem as though they are educating themselves on it.
So how does self-care come into performativity? Since the pandemic, our use of social media has only increased – and so too has the range of what we share on it. More and more posts championing self-care are being shared, more “real talk” style posts, and of course we love that. But I guess I find it problematic when someone posts a photo of something (them, their food, their work) which completely goes against their caption. Because the message rings completely hollow and it really makes you wonder whether anyone is actually taking care of themselves, or they’re only telling you to do so but are treating themselves much harsher.
Why does this matter?
Bear with me on this one. Yes, performative self-care is better than no self-care. But I really don’t think it’s healthy to encourage this culture of (essentially) lying about taking care of ourselves. And I also don’t agree with people profiting off the self-care movement by posting about it just for the follows, for the likes and comments on their “relatable” content. Or people creating ads for “self-care” brands they would never actually use, whose ethos doesn’t align with theirs and only encourages us to buy products to “fix” our issues.
Obviously this could just be me being super sceptical on the internet, but I do know for a fact that a certain proportion of self-care online is performative – because otherwise it would just be done in private, without being documented and shared online.
you don’t have to share everything
What the subtitle says: you don’t have to share everything. So, by all means take care of yourself. And if you want, share this to inspire others to do the same in case it helps them. But please don’t just do it to hop on the trend and gain likes/ comments/ followers. And also please be authentic and don’t write a whole caption about self-care (“enjoying this yummy bowl of nourishing goodness and a whole tub of ice cream later because #selfcare”) but share a photo of two pieces of pasta. It just rings so inauthentic and can be really detrimental because it implies that harmful behaviours (under-eating, over-exercising, to name but two) are forms of self-care. They’re not. If anything, they’re forms of self harm.
Anyway, I hope some of that made sense! I just needed to get it off my chest and hopefully some of you will see where I’m coming from rather than thinking I’m being sceptical for no reason. I think I can also say what I’ve said because I know I’m guilty of doing it too, so I have both perspectives.