Phoebe Robinson Is On a Mission to Radicalize Self-Care: 'It's About Connecting With People'

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The term self-care has been widely used to describe the act of prioritizing your mental, physical, and emotional well-being (which in hindsight is something we should all be doing). Businesses have been taking advantage of this, turning “self-care” into a marketable opportunity with the purchase of bath bombs, skin care products, and of course, the ubiquitous candle.

But there’s so. much. more that goes into self-care, argues Phoebe Robinson, the bestselling author and co-creator and co-star of the hit podcast-turned-HBO-series 2 Dope Queens. During the SHE Media Co-Lab’s Future of Health event at SXSW, Robinson sat down with us to discuss how she’s radicalizing self-care by working less (we all need breaks, right?) and building connections with people.

“You can very much get in the cycle of buying candles, notebooks, and taking bubble baths, but nothing is being addressed or changed,” the comedian said. “It can feel very surface level. A lot of times when we think about self-care, we forget about protecting ourselves, bettering ourselves, taking that time to rest, and not worrying about being productive or optimizing it in a way where I’m clocking how long I’m relaxing. It’s not about the stats of it all.”

It’s a topic Robinson further explores in her most recent book — the collection of essays, Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outside Clothes.

“With iEverythings around us at all times, we expect our steps to be enumerated, our REM cycles to be recorded, and our breathing patterns to be measured,” she said in an excerpt. “It’s not enough to just feel better — we need our devices to affirm that we are doing the work. This raises the question: Are we genuinely interested in feeling healthier and happier?”

Robinson wrote that essay during the height of COVID-19, but also during a time when she was doing the work on herself. “I’m a reformed workaholic and I started going to therapy and doing things where I was able to get back to myself and go deeper instead of being so focused on being productive and checking things off my to-do list,” she told the Future of Health crowd.

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She added, “Self-care is about bettering yourself in the hopes that it will help better your community as well. That piece is often forgotten a lot of times, and I’m trying to work on that too…it’s about connecting with people.”

Robinson hopes that people will stop falling into the trap of “self-care equals spending money on things.” Because when that happens, we run the risk of self-care becoming classist, which should not be the case.

“If we’re not accumulating data, we’re spending money, which means that self-care is no longer accessible to everyone, but to the privileged,” Robinson continues in her essay. “Furthermore, it’s that being able to afford self-care is sometimes, in and of itself, also self-care…to be clear, I’m not saying this as a finger-wagging, omniscient narrator who’s pointing out all the ways everyone else is wrong. I’m right there with you, stuck in pursuit of the instant-gratification trappings of shiny new things that, ultimately, end up having increasingly diminished returns.”

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