Real Self-Care Book Summary - Real Self-Care Book explained in key points
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Real Self-Care summary

Pooja Lakshmin

A Transformative Program for Redefining Wellness (Crystals, Cleanses, and Bubble Baths Not Included)

4.2 (296 ratings)
17 mins
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    Real Self-Care
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    It’s the system that’s broken, not you.

    If you’ve ever been drawn to a self-care program to help manage your stress, or burnout, or fatigue, you’re not alone. For many faced with overwhelming tasks like managing home and family life while working or attending school, quick fixes that promise more energy, or to end your messy home, are incredibly seductive. If you can just follow the plan, you could wake up refreshed, have that summer-ready body, get ahead at your jobs, or be a better parent. Whatever the goal, if you could just get it right, life would fall into place. Right?

    But more often than not, it fails. Even if you follow it perfectly, you may feel just as burnt out and stressed as before. That’s because you have good reason to feel this way, especially if you aren’t one of the privileged few with access to great schools, high-paying jobs, low cost health and child care. Or perhaps all that self-care hasn’t addressed the real aftermath of an abusive childhood, or the ways you learned to survive in the past that are no longer serving you.

    To be actually effective, self-care has to fit your individual needs. It has to account for what you’ve been through and what you’re going through right now. It must adapt to what you are able to accomplish despite the difficult circumstances that confront you. 

    Even more, it must start at your innermost core: the way you think and speak to yourself. For too many, particularly marginalized or traumatized individuals, the inner critical voice is overpowering. It may be the loudest inner voice there is, and dominate thinking to the point that they feel worthless, inadequate, or unlovable. 

    True self-care must also admit its own limits. It is not a substitute for medical or mental health intervention, so knowing when to seek professional help is key. We’ll explore this more in the last section.

    To be transformative, real self-care is based on four core principles. The first is setting boundaries and confronting guilty feelings to help you feel less stress and more ease. Next, it’s about treating yourself with kindness and compassion. Life is too short to be bullied from within. The third is that it must connect you with your core values and bring you closer to your goals. Finally, to be real, self-care is an assertion of power. The power to take control of your life and your time, and take up space as someone whose needs, health and wellbeing matter. 

    For some, accepting that they deserve to take up space, time, and consideration might be a revolutionary notion. But when they embrace it, this notion has the power to change the world.

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    What is Real Self-Care about?

    Real Self-Care (2023) exposes the dark side of the global self-care industry by connecting the systemic inequality faced by marginalized groups like women and people of color, and the stress, burnout and chronic illness faced by so many. It offers a science-based alternative and cognitive strategies for living with ease and purpose. 

    Who should read Real Self-Care?

    • Frustrated self-carers who feel they’re somehow doing it wrong
    • Tired life-optimizers who wonder why they still feel behind
    • Those looking for kinder, gentler transformation from the inside-out

    About the Author

    Dr. Pooja Lakshmin is a board certified psychiatrist with both a clinical and private practice. She is a contributor to The New York Times and speaker on topics of gender and mental health, as well as the founder of Gemma, an education platform for women’s mental health focusing on equity.

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