Here's a fascinating trend: according to a Pew Research study in 2015, more millennials reported making personal improvement commitments than any generation before them. NPR reported a few days ago that "millennials spend twice as much as boomers on self-care essentials such as workout regimens, diet plans, life coaching, therapy and apps to improve their personal well-being." Working in a multi-generational environment, it is hard not to see the differences between the millennials and the baby-boomers with self-care the most evident. For example, most of the millennial women I know workout at one of the local exercise trends including Soulcycle, Orangetheory Fitness, Pure Barre or the plethora of spinoffs of the aforementioned places. They take these expensive classes several times a week and supplement these workouts with additional gym memberships/personal training sessions at places like Equinox, Healthworks or Boston Sports Club. And that's just fitness.
In addition, millennial women I know spend inordinate amounts on upkeep from manicured nails to perfectly sculpted hair including the frequent blow-outs that run at least $45 a pop at popular places like DryBar or Blo Blow Dry Bar (yes you read that right). We haven't even broached relaxation (i.e. massages), skincare, nutrition, self-tanners, laser technology and botox (again, you read that right). As a member of Generation X (or Y), I look at the millennials with interest, slight skepticism and of course, a little loathing. With two kids, a full-time job, and a husband, it is exhausting to not only worry about providing the basic necessities in life (i.e. putting food on the table both literally and figuratively) but also keeping up with the millennials.
In the NPR article, one reason for the focus on self-care within the millennial generation is the advent of the internet. Access to free information has enabled this generation to become more aware of self-care strategies. Once one is aware, the new tools and apps that have emerged make self-care more accessible and easier to achieve. Another explanation is that self-awareness has created a generation of self-absorption. "We might find ourselves comparing our lives to the perfection we see on the Internet, which leads us to utilizing online tools for self-care — and the cycle continues, " says Hyepin Im, as quoted by NPR, who is the president and CEO of Korean Churches for Community Development. While this self-absorption can be seen as a negative, it does have some positive aspects including the acceptance of more of the "gray" that occurs in one's life rather than everything being seen as black and white. For example, increased self-awareness has the added benefits of increasing knowledge and education, destigmatizing mental illnesses, and increasing acceptance of differences found among this generation. The concept of self-care is not in and of itself unique but it's the broad acceptance among an entire generation that is what makes it different.
While I am not denying the importance of self-care, my issue with this notion of self-care is when it becomes a burden on other women in other generations. It is wonderful that millennials have more disposable income, time and energy to spend on such self-care activities. However, the advent of technology and dependence on social media have now created increased expectations on women of all generations to incorporate self-care into their lives. These expectations can sometimes be overwhelming and crushing- I am not only supposed to be a mother, wife, lawyer and homeowner, but also have beautiful hair and skin like a model with a balanced physique of a ballerina and the strength and endurance of a marathoner? I am exaggerating but you get my point. If you are not able to meet this ridiculous standard, then you are made to feel like a failure by the constant feedback mechanisms built into this said technology and social media. What I take umbrage at is that these expectations, if not met, not only can create unhappiness, anxiety and depression (which are antithetical to the concept of self-care) but also may have professional implications in multi-generational work environments. While I would like to dispense with these expectations altogether, it's certainly easier said than done.
How do you try and keep up with the millennials?