Prevent the Self-Care Slippery Slope
In the iconic comedy show Parks and Recreation, two characters have the ritual they call “Treat Yo’ Self,” a day once a year where they treat themselves to the extremes of everything they love:
“Once a year, Donna and I spend a day treating ourselves. What do we treat ourselves to? Clothes. Treat yourself. Fragrances. Treat yourself. Massages. Treat yourself. Mimosas. Treat yourself. Fine leather goods. Treat yourself! It's the best day of the year.” -Parks and Recreation S04E04, ‘Pawnee Rangers’
We see it in marketing messages all the time — businesses are aiming to cash in on our desire for a reprieve from the monotony and everyday life problems. “You deserve it!” “Don’t you deserve the best?” “Treat yourself today!”
Self-care is extremely important, and we all need to take a moment for that from time to time (regardless of what Suze Orman says about coffee).
But the over-marketing of self-care has made it susceptible to starting a spiral of overspending, oversaturating, and insatiability. This type of reckless indulgence can actually create the opposite effect of what self-care is supposed to invoke.
My step dad once told me that when you take a walk break once in a marathon or running race, it’s twice as easier to start walking again later. That’s because your body knows how good and relaxing it feels, so it will be tempted to do it again when fatigue hits. So while it’s fine to walk, it’s something to be conscious of if your goal is to run at your best pace.
Treating yourself is the same way — the goal is to use it as a special occasion reward instead of a consistent coping mechanism.
Example: You’re at your coffee place, and you see a delicious donut that looks amazing. You figure: “I’ve had a tough week,” and you get one. And damn, it was good.
One time? Absolutely, live your glazed truth. But you may find it becomes easier to get one next time, and the time after that. By rewarding yourself often with this one thing, you’ve inadvertently established a pattern that reinforces itself every time you go.
Or, let’s say you’re out shopping. You overspend on your budget a little more than you thought, or there’s an item you really love that you have to have. You justify the decision with nothing more than a shrug and a “treat yo’ self.”
But if you keep this up regularly, you may be living a truth that is no longer rooted in reality. Your bills slowly creep up, and your seemingly harmless indulgence leads to an unfortunately real credit score dip.
I know — you’re thinking, “come on, life can be really tough, let me just have this!” Trust me, that ridiculous coffee advice made me roll my eyes too.
In the complicated world we live in today, please; by all means, treat yo’ self.
Just try not to be tempted to use it as a way to make yourself feel better due to a temporary setback. The best way to use it is to reward yourself for working hard, or for special occasions.
Remember — “Treat Yo’ Self” in Parks and Rec was just once a year (♫ “the best day of the ye-earrr”♫).