Cats and Theories
a blog by coticheque
a blog by coticheque

The origins of self-love and self-care rhetoric

If you’re also found accountable for a guilty pleasure of conducting anthropological research through social media, you must have noticed that the narrative of self-love and self-care has become extremely widespread all over the social media platforms in recent years.

Learning to say no, defending personal boundaries, allowing yourself to spend money on pleasurable stuff, not feeling guilt for it. Questionable pop-psychology practices like treatment of self-depreciation or ‘work with toxic convictions’ (like the idea that you’re ‘undeserving of earning money’) and other BS currently popular on Instagram and Twitter.

I was wondering why this resonates with so many people and doesn’t resonate with me, before a surprising realization has come: most people advocating and promoting this narrative come from extremely marginal* backgrounds.

Poverty, life with alcoholic parents, marginal social circles. Of course, it must seem relevant to learn how to say no, and defend your borders, when your friends are high-school drop-outs and abusive drug-addicts, and your parents are jobless alcoholics. It must be an enlightening insight that it’s normal to take breaks from work, when you’re used to working 12-hour shifts in a small town supporting a dysfunctional family. Allowing yourself to buy a cup of coffee is apparently a big decision if your paycheck has been limited by $300 per month for a substantial part of life. **

People from extremely poor backgrounds have never had much representation in media in the past, before the Internet has triggered a democratic revolution in the sphere of information, and has given a platform to everyone. Is this the vertical invasion of the new barbarians that José Ortega y Gasset was writing about?

So don’t worry if the narrative of self-love and self-care doesn’t resonate with you either. Maybe you’re just coming from a ‘normal’ background, meaning: your family has surpassed a middle class borderline. Or maybe you’re simply not from the country where 53% of citizens subsist below the poverty line.

PS: the best piece of literature ever written on the topic of self-love is Yuri Mamleev’s ‘Shatuny’ (here’s a good article about it). In particular, Chapters 16 and 17 that tell the story of Izvitsky – a man so in love with himself that he kisses the mirror in the act of self-love, wanting to be sealed in himself, isolated from the external world. That’s what the content of current-day social media reminds me of.

* Sadly, English language lacks a few fundamental and crucial terms and concepts, so I’m using the word marginal in the Russian meaning of it – that implies being both poor, uncivilized and uncultured. In other words, marginal as an adjective referring to social marginalization, not mathematical one.

** And I’m not even privileged myself in any way. From the standpoint of finance, I come from an average background – for instance, my university scholarship was based half on merit, half on financial considerations.

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