Why ‘Mental Health’ is not a Get Out Of Jail Free Card

This week the internet did its best to annoy us. There are many things that I’ll let slide away into the abyss of the internet, but there are some things that I will not tolerate. Using ‘Mental Health’ as an excuse for shitty behaviour is one of these things.

Mental Health doesn’t simply exist to be used as a Get Out Of Jail Free Card. It is not something that is tucked away for you to unleash when you begin to get backlash for bad behaviour.

Mental health is a real thing that people struggle to maintain every single day. It is not your personal fall back to avoid taking responsibility for your actions.

Case in point: Influencers in Dubai got a load of grief this week for going on lovely little trips during a pandemic. When they were called out for this behaviour, they cited ‘Be Kind’ as some sort of loop hole to get out of taking responsibility.

The idea of ‘Be Kind’ was to stop bullying online. It was not designed to be a last minute attempt to avoid the consequences of your actions. There is a huge difference between justifiable criticism and unwarranted verbal assault. This is clear to anyone who is being reasonable.

‘Be Kind’ is now synonymous with being unkind. It’s now a way to bend the rules, and to make sure no one can reasonably criticize you for acting immorally. Generally, those of use who are kind don’t have to say we’re being kind, it’s just known.

The same influencers and their following went on to cite ‘self-care’ as justifiable reasons to completely ignore lockdown rules, risk the health of others, and fly in the face of so many people who have sacrificed so much. “I want X so I deserve X” mentality has become very rampant and it’s very harmful to society and the individual.

However, there is a massive misunderstanding regarding what self-care actually is. Self-care is not some excuse to leave yourself off scot-free without any responsibility, although that is how it’s framed online.

Real self-care is taking responsibility for yourself and for your actions. It’s doing all those things you avoid doing because they’re hard or uncomfortable.

Self-care is exercising. It’s eating well. It’s bringing yourself to the doctor. Self-care is maintaining yourself so that external factors don’t influence your internal state of being. What self-care isn’t, is acting selfishly. Self-care isn’t throwing a tantrum until you get your own way. Although your favourite influencers will suggest that it is.

The contemporary definition of self-care is a toxic one. It suggests that all behaviour is warranted as long as it makes the individual happy. And that, my friends, is a load of bollix. You can’t put your needs on top at the expense of others. You can’t justify that sort of selfishness. But social media is convincing you that you can and you should, and that’s a huge problem.

It’s important that we’re gentle with ourselves, that we forgive ourselves and that we accept who we are. But that doesn’t mean you get to avoid taking care of yourself and call it ‘self-love’. You can’t scream ‘Be Kind’ when you’re behaving poorly and don’t want the justifiable backlash to find your doorstep.

Self-care and mental health are not cards you can pull out to avoid taking responsibility for yourself. If you think they are, then you need to take stock of who you are and what your priorities are. If your holiday or your Instagram or whatever it is, is more important than ensuring the safety and lives of the people around you, then you don’t get to shout ‘Be Kind’ at the people who criticize you for your behaviour.

‘Be kind’ begins with not acting like a gowl.

Drink water,

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