National Bestseller featured by Good Morning America, NPR's Code Switch, The New York Times, and The Guardian
NPR's "Books We Love for 2023"
"Realistic and trustworthy" -- InStyle
"This isn’t just another self-help book. It gives us a clear-eyed look at the way social systems drain our energy, and a concrete set of principles to rely on as we declare independence from these systems." —Martha Beck, New York Times bestselling author of The Way of Integrity "This book is for anyone who’s ever removed a 'relaxing' sheet mask only to realize it hasn’t transformed you so much as your trash can.” —Jessica DeFino, The Unpublishable
From women’s mental health specialist and New York Times contributor Pooja Lakshmin, MD, comes a long-overdue reckoning with the contradictions of the wellness industry and a paradigm-shifting program for practicing real self-care that will empower, uplift, and maybe even start a revolution.
You may have noticed that it’s nearly impossible to go even a couple days without coming across the term self-care. A word that encompasses any number of lifestyle choices and products—from juice cleanses to yoga workshops to luxury bamboo sheets—self-care has exploded in our collective consciousness as a panacea for practically all of women’s problems.
Board-certified psychiatrist Dr. Pooja Lakshmin finds this cultural embrace of self-care incomplete at best and manipulative at worst. Fixing your troubles isn’t simple as buying a new day planner or signing up for a meditation class. These faux self-care practices keep us looking outward—comparing ourselves with others or striving for a certain type of perfection. Even worse, they exonerate an oppressive social system that has betrayed women and minorities.
Real self-care, in contrast, is an internal, self-reflective process that involves making difficult decisions in line with our values, and when we practice it, we shift our relationships, our workplaces, and even our broken systems.
In Real Self-Care, Lakshmin helps readers understand what a real practice of caring for yourself could—and does—look like. Using case studies from her practice, clinical research, and the down-to-earth style that she's become known for, Lakshmin provides a step-by-step program for real and sustainable change and solace. Packed with actionable strategies to deal with common problems, Real Self-Care is a complete roadmap for women to set boundaries and move past guilt, treat themselves with compassion, get closer to themselves, and assert their power. The result—having ownership over one’s own life— is nothing less than a personal and social revolution.
About the Author
Pooja Lakshmin MD is a board-certified psychiatrist, New York Times contributor, and a leading voice at the intersection of mental health and gender, focused on helping women and people from marginalized communities escape the tyranny of self-care. In 2020, Lakshmin founded Gemma — a physician led women’s mental health education platform centering impact and equity. She maintains an active private practice, where she treats women struggling with burnout, perfectionism, and disillusionment, as well as clinical conditions like depression and anxiety. Having gone down the rabbit hole of extreme wellness herself, Real Self-Care is Lakshmin's answer to the juice cleanses, the gratitude lists, and the bubble baths -- not only to care for ourselves for real but, in turn, to transform our broken culture.
"Instead of pushing us to strive – or suggesting a cleanse – Lakshmin provides tools for boundary setting and treating yourself with compassion." -- NPR’s Books We Love for 2023
"In her practical guide to self-care, psychiatrist Pooja Lakshmin points out that so many elements of life are out of our control — which makes her arguments so much more realistic and trustworthy. Regular massages and manicures are incredible, but if you’re wondering why you still feel so stressed and rushed despite indulging in soothing activities, Lakshmin has the answer." -- InStyle
"Lakshmin’s Real Self-Care is a self-help book that aims to offer self-care tips that go beyond telling individual people to buy more expensive face creams, and instead help readers both live within the systemic outrages of capitalism and find ways of changing the system." -- Vox
“This book is for anyone who’s ever removed a 'relaxing' sheet mask only to realize it hasn’t transformed you so much as your trash can.” --Jessica DeFino, The Unpublishable
“I see parents—moms in particular—struggling with the weight of expectations, feelings of failure, and the sense of never measuring up. In Real Self-Care Pooja explores what it really means to take care of ourselves and provides a revolutionary self-care framework that is honest, compassionate, and completely actionable.” --Dr. Becky Kennedy, clinical psychologist, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Good Inside, and CEO and founder of Good Inside
“Real Self Care is a revelation! Pooja takes us through a journey of unlearning and rediscovery to tackle burnout, make ourselves whole again, and step into our power in a world that is often stacked against us.“ --Eve Rodsky, New York Times bestselling author of Fair Play
“Pooja's Real Self-Care is a gentle yet direct invitation for us to consider the things that will really help us to be well. She does a masterful job of exposing the life hacks and shortcuts that may seem helpful in the short term while encouraging us to interrogate and change the systems and beliefs that actually contribute to us feeling burned out and overwhelmed. This is a practical and helpful guide for anyone who has done all the things the listicles have outlined and is still feeling overrun and worn out. Pooja provides a real path forward paved with compassion and encouragement.” --Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, Licensed Psychologist & Founder of Therapy for Black Girls
"This isn’t just another self-help book. It gives us a clear-eyed look at the way social systems drain our energy, and a concrete set of principles to rely on as we declare independence from these systems. Pooja is just the kind of wise, compassionate, experienced advisor who can help us claim health and happiness for the long term, despite the near-impossible demands that face us all. Real Self-Care is a much-needed sanctuary for the minds and hearts of its readers." --Martha Beck, New York Times bestselling author of The Way of Integrity
"I always say that the first step of any negotiation is to convince yourself. Real Self Care *is* that first step in indelible book form. Through her lucid, wise, hilariously honest advice, Pooja Lakshmin will transform your thinking about what it means to feel worthy, precious, and powerful. To protect your time, to burn bright, not burn out. I know she'll do that for you because she's done it for me." --Lauren Smith Brody, author and founder of The Fifth Trimester, co-founder Chamber of Mothers
"A thought-provoking and essential addition to health and wellness literature, Real Self-Care is an inspirational guide to self-love and healing.” --She Reads
"In her heartfelt and empathetic REAL SELF-CARE, she shares how she moved beyond shame and regret to a happier, more true-to-herself life, something she believes readers can do, too." --BookPage
"Pooja is the voice of an entire generation of people who have been left out and even harmed by the superficial "wellness" game." --Kaz J. Nelson, MD, DFAPA, Associate Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, University of Minnesota Medical School
"With Real Self-Care Pooja Lakshmin invites readers to engage in the deep inner work that is the foundation for a stable and fulfilling life. She shows that, without this work, surface-level 'faux self-care' practices will only ever be a BandAid fix, while our lives continue to become increasingly unmanageable—making this a comforting and necessary book in times of individual and collective upheaval." - Ruby Warrington, author of Sober Curious and Women Without Kids
“A bracingly honest, galvanizing and necessarily provocative look at what ‘self-care’ looks at – through a political and feminist lens. Expect to fold down every other page.” --Pandora Sykes “Invaluable. For anyone mothering, working, simply trying to be their ‘best self’, this book will offer clarity and a new way forward.” --Katherine Ormerod, author ofWhy Social Media is Ruining Your Life