Avoiding The Self-Love Trap

Adult ISH hosts Nyge Turner and Dominique French sort through self-care and wellness culture to figure out what’s actually helpful – and what’s nothing more than a trap.

Avoiding The Self-Love Trap

In this episode of YR’s Adult ISH podcast, Dom and Nyge talk about how big business is taking over the concept of self-care, with help from on-call therapist Keanu M. Jackson and Ronald Young Jr., host of the upcoming podcast “Weight for It,” a Tribeca Film Festival Official Audio Selection. 

Adult ISH is produced by YR Media and brought to you by PRX’s Radiotopia. Be sure to follow all our socials @yrAdultISH!

Episode Transcript

Nyge: Welcome to Adult ISH, produced by YR Media and brought to you by Radiotopia from PRX. I’m Nyge Turner. 

Dom: And, I’m Dominique French. And, in this episode, we’re going to talk a little bit about self-care. 

Nyge: But, not the kind that you see marketed on Instagram ads, though. Here at Adult ISH, we believe that you shouldn’t have to buy something to care for, or love yourself. So instead, we’re asking: what does self-care even mean when you take away the rapidly growing industry around it? 

Dom: Exactly. The self-care slash wellness industrial complex is booming. Companies are making endless amounts of money off of people who just want to improve their mental health or find a little bit of peace in this world. 

Nyge: So, we want to find a way to redefine the phrase. What is self-care, actually? And, how can we achieve it? 

Dom: To kick things off, we brought back a friend of the pod, the amazing therapist, Keanu Jackson, to shed some light on this topic. 

Nyge: Let’s dig in.

What are some healthy ways people can practice self-care? 

Keanu: You know, I really just feel like capitalism strikes again. And really just…

Nyge: Yeah.

Keanu: She done came through here and just… [laughter] I talk about this all the time with people, but I mean, it is a privilege to be able to find yourself in a position of being, like, “Oh, I can slow down just enough to really take stock of how I’m doing. And then, I can go out and get that need taken care of.” Like, that’s a privilege that not everybody has access to. However, what I will say as far as, like, really tuning into self-care, it really is about trying your best to understand your current circumstances and seeing – what are those things that can help to support me in this moment? And, sometimes that does look like a bubble bath, or getting your nails done, getting your hair did… 

However, I think that what capitalism has done, it has ingrained in people that self care has to cost money – which is not true. Or, you have to work yourself into the ground so that you can prove to yourself and others that you “deserve it” – which is not true. You get to take self-care whenever you feel like you want to. End of discussion. It doesn’t have to cost anything, either. And so, as far as, like, short term, sort of like, preventative things – going outside when you can. So is switching up your diet – if that’s, like, your vibe – like, eating something that feels, like very, like, nostalgic for you. Picking up the phone and calling a friend. All of those are really great things that you can add to your tool belt. But I really do think for that more sustained, more radical sense of self-care, I mean, it really just boils down to you being willing and able to put yourself first. Period. 

Nyge: What would you say are some common traps that are marketed to people who are in need of self-care?

Keanu: So first and foremost, I think, the beauty industry. Period. [laughter] You know, I think that there is this huge push for people to really go and, like, spend lots of money on these products that will make them, you know, feel good. “Uh. If you just, like, change your hair. If you did this, you did that, like you’ll feel so much better.” And yeah, you might feel better in that moment. You might feel better for the next few days. But, that also isn’t getting at the root of the problem that – “like, my job doesn’t pay me e-fucking-nuff [laughter] to sustain my life, or that I work 80 hours a week with no breaks.” You know? Another thing that, that I see – speaking of work, just like the idea of like, mental health days has, in my opinion, shifted from their intended purpose. Because of course, like, we don’t need to be working this much, by any means. But, even with this, like, idea of, like, mental health days. People, “Yeah, just go take a mental health day. It’ll be great.” First off, not everybody gets that. And second of all, you take a mental health day. You come back to the same shit that’s been messing you up. And not only that, you’re also now dealing with the judgment of a toxic, like, work environment that now is going to look down on you because you have to take a mental health day in the first place. You know? And so, that’s another way where I feel like it’s just… it just really feels like a double edged sword. And then, the “treat yourself” mentality… Child… Like, yes, we love to treat ourselves, and also, people love to hold that against us too. And it’s like, “how am I supposed to just enjoy these simple pleasures that I get to enjoy just because I’m a person who’s living here, when I have these people who are crawling down my neck, really trying to shame me, about what I did to try to help me feel good. 

Nyge: How do you, as a mental health care professional, spot a self-care scam? 

Keanu: One, if I see like a subscription attached to it, I’m just like, if it really feels more like a marketing ploy – I’m like, I’m not interested. If I witnessed, like, what seems to be an emphasis on individualism, I’m like, this seems fishy to me. And I say that in particular, because the United States, like we, we are a very individualistic society. Everyone loves to say that, “Oh, this is your responsibility. You need to do this, and do that – blah, blah, blah, blah.” But, not necessarily talking about the larger impacts of things. And so, whenever I see anything that seems like it’s marketing, anything that seems like it’s putting, like, a burden or pressure on you. So, take what you will with that. [laughter]

Nyge: Thank you so much. Like in our Slack message, I was like, “Can I add a question? Can you be my therapist at the end of this?” Because you’ve been knocking all of these questions out of, out of the park. 

Keanu: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I am full currently, and I have a little bit of a wait list. [laughter] But, you know, if you want to circle back in, like a couple months or so, then maybe… Booked and busy! [laughter] 

Nyge:  If you want to see more of Keanu’s work, you can follow him on Instagram @TheBlackQueerTherapist or visit his website at KeanuMJackson.com

Dom: To get even deeper into the weeds of self-care, we sat down with someone Vulture magazine called a “Podcaster to Watch in 2023,” who hosts an upcoming podcast called “Weight for It” – already a Tribeca Festival Official Selection in Audio Storytelling. 

Ronald: My name is Ronald Young Jr. I’m an audio producer, storyteller and host.

Dom: How would you define self-care and your relationship with self-care over the years?

Ronald: I mean, self-care is one of those words that doesn’t, it doesn’t really mean anything anymore. You know? It felt like at one point I knew what they were talking about. And, I think “self-care” has become this catchall, for ways in which we should be treating ourselves already, but outlining it as some sort of a treat or some sort of guilty pleasure, in a lot of ways. Like, taking care of your skin, having a nice meal or a treat, or something like that. In some cases, taking a nap. #SelfCare. It’s like, “No, just take a nap!” Like, you know what I mean? [laughter] You don’t need to brand your naps. Like, if you’re tired, you need to rest. 

Nyge: Yeah. 

Dom: It’s very much that experience of when you say a word over and over again, it has lost all of its meaning. There’s like the social level of that, that self-care has definitely reached. But, there’s also the individual microscopic version of that, where you can say, like, “tuna fish” 15 times, and then it will sound like, literally, nothing. 

Ronald: Correct. 

Dom: And, I think self-care is edging toward that level. 

Ronald: Yeah, the cognitive dissonance, I think they say, or aphasia – where the word just, it doesn’t, it doesn’t mean anything anymore. But, that happens with most therapy words these days. You know what I mean? When we talk about, like, stuff like “triggered” or “gaslighting” or any of those, like, “setting boundaries.” They’re just, they’re, they’re words that used to mean something and were effective in their use. But then at some point, they became so generic. Like, Kleenex® – you know what I mean? They just became so generic that the origin of their meaning doesn’t have the same… it doesn’t hit like it used to. 

Nyge:  In that same vein, like, how have you re-imagined what self-care looks like to you? How does your relationship with self-care impact your relationship with self-love?

Ronald: I started therapy in 2019, and I remember talking with my therapist about ways in which – what I could be doing to take care of myself, essentially. And, she was always like, “Have a proper meal. You say that you, you feel better when you’re praying every day, so make sure you take time to pray. Make sure you take the time to move your body.” All of that stuff. And, these are all lessons that I’ve known my entire life that always mentally make me feel better. And, when I’m in that routine of taking care of myself, I definitely feel, like, it’s easier to love myself. It’s easier to, to do simple tasks. It’s easier for me to be present and intentional with everything else that I’m doing. But, what I found is another aspect of self-care that we don’t talk about enough is self-forgiveness. You know? And I feel like, when you’re not on that routine, when you’re not doing – air quotes, “the right things” – when you’re not actually doing things to take care of yourself – I think there has to be another aspect of self-forgiveness saying, “I’m not doing such a good job taking care of myself right now, and that’s okay for this moment. But, tomorrow’s a new day. This next hour is a new hour. I could, I could fix it later. And for me, the self-forgiveness has been the bigger aspect of what helps me to love myself more than anything that possibly belongs in my routine of intentionally taking care of myself. 

Dom: And self-forgiveness is not something that can necessarily be monetized, or something that can be commodified and sold back to you, but we’ll get into that a little bit later. 

Ronald: Well, they would try.

Dom: They would. 


Ronald: Yes. 

Dom: They would. 

Nyge: Here’s a book of I’m sorrys. [laughter] 

Dom: Yeah. 

Ronald: Yeah, be kind to yourself. Here’s how! 30 ways to be kind to yourself. 


Dom: That’s so true. 

Nyge: Here’s a “Just be kind to yourself” journal. 

Dom: Write down, in it, with your “Be Kind to Yourself” pen. 

Nyge: Yeah. 

Dom: You have a show coming out called “Weight for It.” Spelled W-E-I-G-H-T. “Weight For It.”

Ronald: Yes.

Dom: Which is not only a Tribeca Festival official selection, it’s something that I am very excited about personally, as a fat person. Tell us about what the process of creating “Weight For It” was like. 

Ronald: I saw that there was a need for more of these types of discussions that weren’t just geared towards fat people. And, I feel like a lot of the conversations about weight are all geared towards people who are fat. And, I think the truth is, “Weight For It” is a show about people who think about their weight all the time. So what should be resonating with a show like “Weight For It” is that it shouldn’t just be how much, what the actual number on the scale is, but it should start to bring to people’s minds how often we are thinking about what our own number on the scale is. I start off with stories about myself and my relationship with my weight, my relationship with others, my romantic life, how it’s impacted all of that. Even, like, the first episode talks a lot about me as an object of desire. Like what does that actually even look like, in a world filled with Michael B. Jordans? And, Michael B. Jordan, if you listen to the podcast, you’re gonna be like, “Why do I keep catching strays?” Because his name comes up… 


I talk about Michael B. Jordan a lot, generally. It’s probably because I like the guy, but I feel like he comes up a lot in my discussions. Well yeah, no, I – that was like, kind of, the whole idea was to kind of have those discussions that we’re not having, you know what I mean? And that, to be honest with you, even with the trailer coming out and people listening to it, I’ve already started having conversations with people that I’ve never had before – about my weight, about their weight, about the way we think about weight, you know, women versus men, all of it – in ways that I think we need to really start having. I don’t have a solution for weight-stigma, fatphobia, any of that. But, I do know that the path to a solution is through discussion. And, as to coming up, we’ve already seen, you know, there’s a lot of size discrimination bills coming to the floor and all that in a way that we have not seen in years past. But that started because somebody started a discussion. And so “Weight For It” is really just about having those discussions. 

Nyge: How does “Weight For It” approach the topic of self care? 

Ronald: For me, producing the podcast has been an act of self-care. Being able to be this vulnerable and say stuff out loud… – it doesn’t approach self-care from the, from the standpoint of “you need to do this, you need to do that.” But, it’s really bringing to the surface the types of nuanced discussions – for instance, at one episode we’re talking about bariatric surgery. And, in that episode people have to make a decision. Are you going to have bariatric surgery or are you not going to have bariatric surgery? Are you going to go to the gym and do diet and exercise, or you’re not going to go to the gym and do diet and exercise? If you choose not to do either one of those, how are you going to live your life in a way that you still engage with weight-stigma? What is your path forward? And, we’re really listening to people who are all choosing what that looks like for them, which I think is a radical act of self-care. And, they all have to make a decision for themselves, for their own comfort and what works for them. 

Dom: What are your thoughts on self-care as an industry? 

Ronald: Oh, I think it’s absolute… I think self-care is not an industry. It is not. It is another symptom of late stage capitalism. 

Dom: Here, here. 

Ronald: It’s the idea that they’ve commodified something that we need and they’ve turned it into, “Oh, y’all want this?” Basically in capitalism, they could turn anything that is a necessity and turn it into an asset for them. You know what I mean? “Oh, y’all want this? Oh, yeah. Time with your kids? You got to pay for that.” You know what I mean? Maybe, like, “Want to visit your parents? You got to pay for that.” You know what I mean? “You want to, you want to stay alive? You got to pay for that. You got to pay for this subscription health care service.” You know what I mean? Like, anything that is required for us to live fruitful, happy lives, they have found a way to turn it into some sort of, like, commodified entity, which is wild. Self-care is not for sale. It is an individual act that we do on our own to ourselves. It should not be something that should even be categorized as anything that you have to jump through hoops to get to. I just feel like the act or the category of – the categorization of it – should not be something that you, you are required to give up anything, including your well-earned money, in order to take care of yourself. 

Dom: I think that’s absolutely beautiful. And I think while I was listening to you, was one of the first times while discussing self-care that, I like, flipped the script and I really looked at self care. I have the script here in front of us and I was like, “It’s caring for the self.” And when you say it that way, it sounds like a whole different thing. Like the time, the people, the resources you put into caring for the self. When you think about the fact, like you said, that people are charging an arm and a leg for people to care for themselves. That to me sounds so much different than charging people exorbitant amounts for “self-care.”

Ronald: Yeah it’s, I mean, if you think about it – like the whole idea of, like, a massage. You know what I mean? Like, they’ve actually turned ways ,in which, like, you know the, even the idea of touch or massage, they turn that into an entire industry is going to a spa. Any of that. Like and there are ways in which, you know back in the days when there were like Roman baths and all that, like a lot of that stuff wasn’t terribly expensive, you know what I mean? But, I think now, where it’s gone is to this place of luxury where like it’s now the uber-rich have kind of turned self-care into this one-upmanship, to this “keeping up with the Joneses.” Where it’s like, okay, you got Roman baths? I got a hyperbaric chamber. You got a hyperbaric chamber? Well, I sleep upside down. You sleep upside down…? You know what I mean? 

Dom: [laughter] I am Batman, so… 

Ronald: Yeah. [laughter] 

Dom: Exactly

Ronald: And then, it turns into something else, which is like – which isn’t even self-care anymore. It just becomes this arms race for luxury, and this also allows room for snake oil salesmen to creep in and start selling stuff that’s not even going to take care of you. You know what I mean? This isn’t even something that’s actually going to help you. You just needed a nap, and now they got you, like, wrapped in a burrito blanket on top of some charcoal. You know what I mean? Talking about the – breathe in, the smoke, you know? [laughter]

Dom: Yeah.

Nyge: Yeah, no, and it’s, it’s wild because it’s like – you do those things and they’re so expensive and there’s so much pressure attached to it that you don’t even get the self-care that you wanted, like, when you originally came up with the idea. Like, there’s so many times where I’ve been getting a massage or I’ve been in, you know, like – just been doing something where I’ve been telling everybody all week “I’m about to do this, I’m about to be… for self-care. I’m about to do this. I’m about to be… I’m so excited for this. It’s about to be… everything.” Like, I’m at work all day, like, “Oh, I can’t wait till I’m doing this. It’s going to be my self care.” And then you get to and there’s so much pressure on it that is actually not self-care. Like, I feel like my anxiety is like through the roof. 

Dom: Oh, yeah. You’re like, “Okay, I have 59 minutes left to start enjoying this. Okay? If I started doing this right now, I have 55 minutes to start relaxing.” Like it’s, it’s terrible. It’s horrible, the amount of pressure that’s put on things that have to do with self-care because they have a monetary aspect to them. And, when you invest in something that way, you want a return. 

Ronald: Well, on top of that, if it’s monetary, then it’s also finite. And, I think that one of the biggest problems with self-care is that… Well, well say you’re going to go to the massage, get a massage. And the thing is, you set aside a massage for like once a quarter or for special occasions, and then it becomes that thing that you do, you know, once upon – once in a while, and then it’s gone. For instance, I just recently went on vacation, and while I was on vacation, it rained. And I remember saying, “I’m not really worried about getting to the beach because the beach is not finite. I know I will be back and if I’m not, then that’s all the beach I needed.” You know what I mean? And I feel like that’s kind of how I’ve started treating acts, and things that I like. I’ve started to just stop treating them like I’m never going to see them again – even though, I think in a way, we should value our time with each other as something that we might not get back, but sometimes don’t treat, like, any of these acts of self-care as it’s something that you can’t go back and do it again, if you enjoy it. You know what I mean? Which is why we should be trying to schedule whatever it is you need to take care of yourself. You should be trying to schedule some of that in each and every day, because it’s not finite and it might change from day to day. But also, you don’t know if, every… if it’s the massage that you need to feel better about yourself or did you just need to lay on the floor in front of your couch for 10 minutes and that’s all you needed? [laughter] Or, if you just needed to cuddle your dog for like, you know, 2 minutes. Go for a longer walk. You know? I mean, you don’t know what that self-care is unless you’re listening to your body and understanding, you know, what I want to do right now? I need to do this. Do I have enough time? Yes, I’m going to go do this thing rather than putting pressure to, you know, go do the one thing and building up the anxiety to do that one thing, because it’s going to run out. And, if it’s not as fun as it was supposed to be, then I failed at self-care. Now, I failed at self-care! You know what I mean? 

Nyge: Exactly. What… So, while you’re on that point – what advice would you have for people who are actually trying to find that love for themselves, or just focus more on their – and, another one of those, like, trigger words – wellness. But like, real wellness. People who are actually trying to focus on those things. Where does that start? 

Ronald: I think the most basic is – listen to your body. Because the body will always tell you what it wants. It always tells you when you’re hungry. It tells you when you have to use the restroom. It tells you when you need sleep. It tells you when you’re bored. You know what I mean? It tells you when you’re happy. All of that. And, I think, at times we’re so – we’re moving all the time and not in so positive a way – that we don’t ever, you know, sit down and say, “What is it that I need? Why do I feel so overwhelmed right now? Why do I feel depressed? Do I need to talk to someone?” And, if beyond that, do I need to seek medication? Whatever? What do I need to actually take care of myself in this moment? And once you, once you’ve answered that question, then the next question is, if you can’t solve it yourself, then get help. Talk to your family, talk to your friends. You know, like, talk to your plants. [laughter] You know? Like, go seek whatever assistance you need to get the help that you need in order to achieve the bit of self-care that you, that you want or that your body, your body desires. So I think listening to your body is key and then finding more help once you know what that answer is. 

Nyge: If you want to see more from Ron, follow him on social media @OhItsBigRon. That’s O-H I-T-S B-I-G R-O-N.

After today’s conversations, honestly, I’m ready to ditch the word self-care. I’m done with it. Like we talked about with Ron. It’s really lost all this meaning. Buying something isn’t the only way to take care of yourself. Put less pressure on yourself. Forgive yourself. And, start with the little things. Like Ron said, “self-forgiveness is the real self-care.”

Dom: That’s so true. And I know for me, self-care doesn’t always feel so good. It’s not a bubble bath for me. It’s not a long, luxurious walk. It can be leaning into uncomfortable emotions during therapy that I have been putting off all week or lugging myself out of bed to hang out with a friend, even though I really, really don’t want to. And I can’t stress enough, how proud I am of myself when I’m able to do these things, and how kind I have to be to myself when I can’t. My therapist talks about this thing that’s called “caring for your inner child.” And for me, that sometimes looks like buying myself ice cream or going to an amusement park. But other times, it’s saying, “No,” to unhealthy patterns or just showing up each and every day with love, to do the hard work as best as I can. 

Nyge: Adult ISH is produced by YR Media, a national network of young artists and journalists creating content for this generation. Our show is produced by Georgia Wright, Dominique French, and by me – ya’ boy Nyge Turner.

Dom: Our engineer is, James Riley. 

Nyge: YR’s director of podcasting is Sam Choo. 

Dom: YR’s, senior director of podcasting and partnerships, is Rebecca Martin. 

Nyge: Our intern’s name is Quinn Castro.

Dom: Original music created for this show by these young musicians at YR: Christian Romo, Anders Knutstad, Noah Holt, Jacob Armenta, Chaz Whitley, Michael Diaz, Sean Luciano Galarza, and David Lawrence.

Music direction by Oliver “Kuya” Rodriguez and Maya Drexler. 

Nyge: Art direction from Brigido Bautista and Marjerrie Masicat. Creative direction by Pedro Vega, Jr.

Dom: Special thanks to Eli Arbreton

Nyge: We are also proud to be members of Radiotopia by PRX, an independent, listener-supported collective of some of the most amazing shows in all of podcasting. Find them at Radiotopia.fm. And, if you haven’t reviewed our show on Apple Podcasts, please be sure to do so. Five stars is much appreciated.

Dom: You can follow us on all the socials @YRAdultISH. And on that note, hug a friend. It feels great. [laughter]

Nyge: Later.

Support the Next Generation of Content Creators
Invest in the diverse voices that will shape and lead the future of journalism and art.
donate now
Support the Next Generation of Content Creators
Invest in the diverse voices that will shape and lead the future of journalism and art.
donate now