Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, at age 28, chose a life less traveled by. Leaving her fledgling marriage and stepping away from her esteemed psychiatry residency at Stanford University School of Medicine, she sought spiritual solace in a San Francisco-based cult, which promoted healing via orgasmic meditation. Reflecting on her decision, she recalls feeling “powerless” in her medical profession, and the cult seemed to provide an avenue for exploring women’s health more deeply. However, after a nearly two-year stint with the group, she felt even more lost and sought refuge in her childhood home in Reading, Pa. Fast forward to a decade later, Dr. Lakshmin has transformed her life. She is now:
- A clinical psychiatrist in Austin, Texas, primarily treating women.
- An assistant professor at the George Washington University School of Medicine, focusing on women’s health.
- An entrepreneur.
- The author of “Real Self-Care: A Transformative Program for Redefining Wellness (Crystals, Cleanses, and Bubble Baths Not Included)”.
Debunking the Myths of Commercialized Self-Care
In her book, Dr. Lakshmin boldly confronts the commercialized self-care industry, equating it to her cult experience. She labels these mainstream self-care methods as “faux self-care”. These quick-fix approaches:
- Are unable to provide lasting solutions to personal and societal stressors.
- Prioritize consumerism over genuine well-being.
- Promote external validation rather than internal reflection.
True Self-Care: A Deeper Dive
“Real self-care” is a term that Dr. Lakshmin emphasizes. She believes that meaningful introspection is key. By genuinely understanding oneself and aligning actions with personal beliefs, individuals can not only enhance their own lives but also challenge societal norms that impede wellness.
Faux Self-Care: A Societal Mirror
In today’s Goop-inspired world, the allure of packaged solutions to stress, from scented candles to air purifiers, is omnipresent. Amelia Nagoski, the co-author of “Burnout: Solve Your Stress Cycle”, goes a step further by describing it as an anti-feminist trap. To her, advocating “self” care subtly implies women aren’t deserving of care from the community.
Dr. Lakshmin’s perspective is rooted in her clinical experiences. She recounts numerous patients, burdened with guilt, believing their despair was due to their flawed approach to self-care. But her contention is clear: the real issue isn’t the surface-level activities, but the underlying motives. Yoga or baths aren’t inherently problematic, but if they’re used as an escape, they’re mere Band-Aids on deeper wounds.
Approaching Authentic Self-Care
The essence of meaningful self-care lies in discerning one’s unique needs, not in mimicking influencers or trends. It involves:
- Understanding the root causes of stress.
- Establishing boundaries and advocating for personal needs.
- Challenging societal norms that contribute to stress.
The Larger Picture: A Societal Challenge
The push for superficial wellness solutions, according to Dr. Lakshmin, stems from societal structures that consistently challenge individual well-being. She cites examples:
- 30 million Americans lack health insurance.
- A quarter of the workforce is unable to take sick days.
- Lengthy NHS waiting times and limited mental health care access in the UK.
This superficial approach to wellness is often geared towards those already insulated from life’s harsher challenges. The wellness industry, in its current form, predominantly serves those with means, while the core concept of self-care, emerging in the 1980s, was a response to real-world hardships faced due to race, gender, or sexuality.
Reimagining Wellness in Today’s World
Challenging the Norms
To truly embrace holistic wellness, one must be willing to challenge established norms and confront the commercialization of self-care. For many, this means sifting through the noise of marketing campaigns and influencers to find genuine practices that resonate on a personal level. It is not about rejecting popular wellness products or activities but about discerning which ones align with one’s genuine needs and values.
Community over Individualism
While the current narrative on self-care places emphasis on individual actions and purchases, there is a growing need to focus on community and collective well-being. Holistic wellness recognizes the interconnectedness of individuals within their communities. Ensuring communal support, sharing resources, and fostering environments where everyone thrives can be just as impactful, if not more so, than individual practices.
Navigating the maze of self-care requires discernment. While the market is flooded with faux solutions, understanding one’s intrinsic needs and addressing underlying issues holds the key to genuine well-being. It is crucial for individuals to recognize the depth and complexity of genuine self-care, separating it from commercialized quick fixes. Only then can one truly embark on a transformative journey toward holistic wellness?