I first stumbled upon this phrase while watching the second season of Parks and Recreation. Ironically, I was treating myself to a study break while watching the show but, for the first time, I found myself craving the free-spirited and laid-back nature of the ‘treat yo self’ philosophy. In the show, Tom and Donna (played by Aziz Ansari and Retta), dedicate one day a year to treating themselves to luxurious goods and services without keeping tab of the money they spend. In the scene, we witness both characters purchasing fine leather goods, velvet clothing and expensive brooches. At the time, I laughed at their ridiculousness, but I have slowly come to realise how important it is to treat oneself from time to time.
Studying at one of the top universities in Australia can take its toll on the mental health of its students. There is a toxic culture at ANU where students continuously thirst for achievements to add to their CVs because the competition is so rife. Being a perfectionist myself, I was quickly drawn into this culture – resulting in several emotional breakdowns due to this environment as well as pressure I put on myself. I even felt compelled to do something productive during my winter and summer breaks as the people around me take on internships or travel overseas. I found myself slowly deteriorating into a shell of misery and not being able to enjoy the small milestones in my life. I had deprived myself of any happiness unless I thought I had wholeheartedly deserved it.
And I know I am not alone in this. For an icebreaker activity during my first tutorial this semester, our tutor put it to us to talk about our hobbies. It amazed me how very few of my classmates could come up with an answer. In the race to be better than our peers, we have somehow neglected to take care of ourselves.
Unlike the treat yo self experience showcased in Parks and Rec, you don’t have to be overly dramatic and materialistic about how you give yourself something nice. Treating yourself is often associated with procuring something tangible like retail therapy or a massage, but treating yourself can also mean doing the bare minimum. I recently took up playing the ukulele and found that it helps me with relieving my stress, even if just for a short while. Sometimes taking a short walk around the park or belting out my favourite Queen Bey tunes in the bathroom helps make me feel human again. In this day and age, where we are constantly on the run for the next line to our CV, it is so vital not to get caught up in the robotic cycle of work, eat and sleep.
I often felt conflicted as to when I should be treating myself. Do I wait to achieve my next milestone, is that when I deserve it? Adding to the insurmountable pressure already present within the university by only treating myself when I thought I earned it became counterproductive. Instead, I took to treating myself whenever I needed it. The treat yo self experience is almost like a one night stand – it keeps you happy in the moment even if it is instantly forgotten the next day. Treating yourself can be anything from buying yourself that expensive outfit you have been eyeing for a while, to slumping on your sofa to watch Netflix after a long day. It need not be productive at all, but if you feel relaxed and happy in the moment, you have treated yourself just right!