I’ll admit it. I probably spend more money on coffee than I spend on literally anything else. Every day when I swipe my card at Starbucks and I hear, “that will be $3.65” I say to myself, “It’s okay girl, treat yo self.” While I think it’s perfectly okay for me to treat myself to a cappuccino in the morning, especially when I’m spending my own hard-earned money on said cappuccino, I know it’s not some magic elixir that will suddenly make me feel worthy of being treated well.
Urban Dictionary claims that a “treat yourself” mindset allows someone to enjoy themselves as much as possible even if the activities they’re performing are detrimental to their health. Made popular by Parks and Recreation, when two characters spent an entire day gorging themselves on life’s luxuries, the “treat yourself” mindset has come to be a form of medicine for any and all of life’s ailments. Trying to heal a broken heart? Treat yourself. Trying to get yourself out of a slump? Treat yourself. Forgot about a quiz and feel bad about your grade? Treat yourself. However, treating yourself isn’t a permanent solution to feeling bad about ourselves. Truly working on yourself takes time, hard work, and more than caffeine.
That little jolt of excitement that comes with the occasional treat can do wonders for your mood. Trust me — when I’m feeling low, you’ll find me at any ice cream shop with a large milkshake in my hand. But if I went running to Ben and Jerry’s after every uncomfortable interaction, I’d diminish the excitement of my favorite “treat” (because trust me, I have a lot of those.) Our generation, when faced with increasingly daunting prospects of adulthood in an increasingly unstable world, needs to recognize the importance of fortifying oneself, instead of always letting yourself off the hook.
I’m a major advocate for a mental health day. If you need to call out of work and put your homework aside for the evening for personal reasons, then by all means, be your own judge and allow yourself that break. Professors at an Ivy League institution where the pressures put on students is monumental should be sympathetic and periodically allow or understand these circumstances. We all deserve breaks sometimes. But, when treating yourself to a mental health day turns into letting your daily CIS homework slide to the backburner in favor of going out to dinner with some friends, we should evaluate whether that’s a needed treat or a lapse in priority.
You can only quiet your insecurities with online shopping for so long. Eventually the joy of treating yourself to that collagen face mask you just had to have will fade, and you’ll be left searching for something new to quiet your thoughts. True self-care runs deeper than this. Treat yourself to kindness, to positive affirmations, to an early night so you can wake up refreshed the next morning. Treat yourself to a cathartic cry and then get back on the studying grind because it will be worth it in the end. If we fall into cycles of pushing yourself too far, burning out, and then treating yourself to copious amounts of whatever it is that makes you feel temporarily better about yourself, the cycle will never end. Temporary relief is all you’ll ever feel.
The other day my roommate saw me crying for the first time ever. He didn’t know what to do and in a fit of nerves, he offered me some ice cream. This was incredibly kind and while I appreciated the gesture, I knew in my heart it was better for me to not accept the ice cream and instead take a shower and go to bed early. Looking out for my best interest was declining the treat I would normally want and choosing a less delicious, but healthier option.
Learning to love myself isn’t a journey I claim to have completed. It’s a journey peppered with different roadblocks for different people. I’m not going to stop buying lattes in the morning (mainly because of my caffeine addiction) but I am going to try and respond to smaller inconveniences with greater strength, instead of automatically reaching for my wallet.
Treating yourself is a great example of being kind to yourself, but truly learning to love and value yourself is more than being kind. It is being strong, making the difficult but necessary decisions, and finding the right balance between it all. Penn can sometimes hit us like an avalanche, hailing stress onto our shoulders. The “treat yourself” mindset can be a great catalyst for getting yourself out of bed in the morning, but it shouldn't be an excuse to skip classes and miss opportunities when the going gets tough. Treating yourself and pushing yourself to do your best aren’t mutually exclusive and, contrary to Urban Dictionary, we can treat ourselves to luxuries that aren’t detrimental.
You can have your ice cream while coding for CIS. I can have my morning coffee and study at the same time.
SOPHIA DUROSE is a College sophomore from Orlando, Fla. studying English. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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