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The Student Media Site of Georgia College & State University

Bobcat Multimedia

The Student Media Site of Georgia College & State University

Bobcat Multimedia

The problem with “treat yourself” culture

Nearly every time I get on social media, my feeds are flooded with topics about the importance of “self-care.” Oftentimes, this is portrayed through restful activities, like a bath or meditation, or even delighting in a desert after a long day. 

However, it seems as though the lines between self-care and self-indulgence have been blurred by a consumer-driven, chronically doom-scrolling world. More likely than not, you did not need that six-dollar latte or have a valid reason to frequently miss class, but we as a society have justified these consistent actions by labeling them as “self-care.”

This is not to say that humans do not deserve a break. Everybody deserves time to themselves, and being willing to verbalize and communicate their needs is admirable. 

Dr. Stephanie Jett, an assistant professor of psychology at GC, describes the interaction as a balance of external factors and intrinsic motivation, or between happy and healthy.

Dopamine, the hormone responsible for pleasure, plays a large part in the impulse and ill-informed decision-making that comes with treating one’s self.

“Dopamine is released in anticipation of good things but also as a consequence of those good things,” Jett said. “When we’ve got that kind of dopamine cascade, we end up chasing that dopamine high. We’ve got that little boost that makes us feel better neurologically and physiologically, so we wanna do the thing that gave us that or find something that will give us that same feeling again.” 

This idea of a “treat yourself” culture existed long before social media but was catalyzed after the COVID-19 pandemic. After 2020, mental health concerns, as a result of lockdown, became significant and could not remain untreated. A direct consequence of this was many feeling as though they deserved a little treat at all times to counteract the imbalance, largely brought on by social media influencers.

Now, I am no stranger to this phenomenon. I, too, enjoy an indulgence after completing a difficult task without guilt or shame. But when one can only complete the task because of the indulgence or external reinforcers, that is where the problem lies. 

For some, this can consequently lead to financial hardships or all-around butterfly-effect poor choices.

“If we can’t find any intrinsic motivation, that is a mental health crisis,” Jett said. “It could be burnout, depression or a lot of things, but it’s probably a time to reevaluate.”

What concerns me the most is that many college students suffering from these things are most likely finding temporary solutions in small treats throughout their days. In reality, there is a deeper underlying issue that has yet to be resolved. 

Dr. Jett points out that the pushback on “treat yourself” culture mostly concerns marginalized groups: women and the LGBTQ+ community.

“It’s not silly girls doing silly girl things,” Jett said. “It’s the fact that women and people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals have higher degrees of mental health issues.”

Treating yourself and finding little bits of happiness throughout our days is healthy and should absolutely be done, but also take care of yourself, your friends and learn to recognize the signs of overindulgence.

“As long as we’re able to be mindful about the systems we put in place, that can help with that push towards self-indulgence versus self-care,” Jett said.

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