People 21 May 2018
Having a successful career and a happy home life can prove to be a difficult goal for a lot of working mothers to achieve, but Yale-educated and Columbia-trained plastic surgeon Dr. Lara Devgan proves that through determination, hard work, and a lot of organization, working moms too can really have the best of both worlds.
But it wasn't always an easy road for this award-winning surgeon, as becoming a successful female surgeon in a male-dominated field (statistics say 90 percent of board-certified plastic surgeons are men) definitely came with its fair share of roadblocks and challenges.
“I think that anytime a woman is entering a field that is dominated by men, there is set up for needing to work twice as hard and be twice as good in order to be taken seriously," says Devgan. “And so, in a way, this teaches you good work ethic and the drive to succeed."
Through her own motivation and personal work ethic, Dr. Devgan definitely achieved her goal in becoming a successful surgeon, as she currently has been ranked the "#1 female cosmetic surgeon" in New York by RateMDs, and has been featured as a "Super Doctors Rising Star" plastic surgeon in The New York Times Magazine. She also is an attending plastic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital, Greenwich Hospital, and Manhattan Eye, Ear & Throat Infirmary, where she teaches plastic surgery residents and fellows.
But in addition to her very successful (and not to mention very busy) career, Devgan also says her family is one of her biggest achievements in life, as she is currently a mother of five (with another baby on the way) living in the Upper East Side with her husband. However, she admits that balancing her time at home with her busy workload can be quite challenging at times. But, through planning and a lot of organization, she does her best to make sure she spends time on both her professional and home lives.
"Devgan has also tapped into her entrepreneurial side and has launched a new skincare line called Dr. Devgan Scientific Beauty, which has been sold at pop-up shops at Bergdorf Goodman and Blushington."
“In terms of balancing, I have a really supportive husband and we have a lot of help, but I also know my limits," she says. “For example, I am not someone who you are going to find cooking and cleaning around the house. And while there is a little part of me that likes the idea of baking cookies at home, to me, I feel that is just not something I am able to do at this time. However, I do think that my kids get something out of seeing me as someone who works hard and cares about other things outside of our living room."
"In addition to her very successful (and not to mention very busy) career, Devgan also says her family is one of her biggest achievements in life, as she is currently a mother of five."
Although work and family play a big part of Devgan's life, she also finds to time to indulge in her passion for beauty with a podcast called Beauty Bosses, which features industry leaders in fashion, wellness, art, and media. The podcast (which she finds time to record on Tuesday afternoons) is currently number five on the iTunes global top charts for beauty and fashion, and has featured guests such as interior designers, artists, writers, and actresses.
And of course, as beauty is her business, Devgan has also tapped into her entrepreneurial side and has launched a new skincare line called Dr. Devgan Scientific Beauty, which has been sold at pop-up shops at Bergdorf Goodman and Blushington. The new line, which she formulated (and tested on) herself, uses active ingredients that have been clinically validated in large-scale randomized control studies. Products inside the line include a lip plumpers, lash serums, and creams, which have already received a lot of buzz in the press and has proven to be quite popular among celebrity clientele. Devgan only hopes the line grows even more in the coming year, especially since she says each product in the line has demonstrated scientific efficacy.
But with so many successes already under her belt, it may seem impossible to become a multitasking triple-threat like Dr. Devgan. However, she says the best advice she can give working mothers is to not be afraid to get support (no woman, man, or family is an island!) whenever possible, and always appreciate the little things, even on those mundane or super challenging days. Most importantly, she stresses the importance of working mothers not beating themselves up about any limitations they may have in their lives, especially since most working parents won't always be apart of every single special moment of their child's life.
“Don't beat yourself up over the guilt of not being there for every little moment because your kids are getting something out of witnessing you having work ethic and being passionate and working towards a goal," she says.
And professionally, she advises that while there is always room for extremely talented people, there are certainly always going to be hurdles to overcome along the way. She should know, as she was an English major and exhibited artist before even going to medical school. However, she says, good things always take time, and while people may say you can't have it all, you really can, but maybe not altogether at once.
“One piece of advice I got when I was younger was that you can have it all, but not necessarily at the same time," she says. “There will be different times in your life when you'll focus on one thing more than another thing and that's OK. It's important to remember that it's a long game, not necessarily a short one."
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."