Transforming unrealistic expectations with radical self-compassion

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In times of chaos and stress, it’s easy for our empathetic nature to lead us right into the woods of self-doubt.

These doubts are interwoven with a pattern of holding ourselves up to unrealistic expectations and standards that are impossible to achieve.

I was raised with a high level of chaos and uncertainty, but without anything to compare it to, I had no idea there was anything abnormal about my experience. 

I was a high-functioning people-pleaser with a desire to be so perfect, that I could never achieve my imagined goals, no matter how hard I tried.

Years later, as I unraveled my experience with postpartum anxiety, everything was finally illuminated. My baseline tolerance for dysfunction was at the root of my self-doubt, quick withdrawals from intimate relationships, avoidance of confrontation, and chameleon-like ability to suppress my opinions in order to appease others in professional and social settings.

When I became a mother, these patterns were stretched to a breaking point and I started the work and process of unraveling the tangled knots of stress, anxiety, and resentment I’d been carrying.

With the wise counsel of a trained therapist, I was able to question much of what I thought was ‘normal.’

A few years after my postpartum wake-up call, I found the work of Abby Seixas and was trained by her as a Deep River Facilitator. Among the many practical tools she integrates in her women’s circles, I immediately resonated with a powerful shift in perspective she presented.

When it seems like we’re falling short, can’t keep up, and life feels like a struggle, our first thought tends to be “what’s wrong with me?”

But what if we asked ourselves instead, “what’s wrong with this picture?”

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Maybe there’s nothing wrong with us at all. Maybe the issue is rooted in our culture and the unrealistic expectations we mistakenly believe are the measure of what it means to be enough, worthy, accepted, and loved.

Let’s start asking the question “what’s wrong with this picture?” more often.

Let’s begin these conversations in wider and wider circles, inviting ourselves to bring the light of conscious awareness on the overall landscape that’s leading so very many of us to feel that somehow we are the ones who are failing or can’t keep up.

When I find myself wondering why I have no energy or feel tired and anxious, I turn to a few practices that bring me spaciousness and relief. They help me slow down, connect with a bigger perspective, and reconnect with the energy of self-compassion and self-love

These are a few of the tools I’ve gathered over the years and practice regularly…

++ reminding myself repeatedly that the problem isn’t me, it’s the deeply flawed culture and water we swim in.

++ nurturing my friendships, making the effort to reach out when I feel disconnected, and taking the initiative to create group gatherings with the women in my life.

++ filtering my environment, especially limiting the time I spend consuming news and social media 

++ slowing down and making time for human-scale activities (writing by hand, knitting, drawing in my sketchbook)

These practices are deliberately small and simple, which makes them feel more achievable and sustainable.

I believe these small yet potent shifts in our lives can help reduce anxiety, overwhelm, stress, and even loneliness. All of these practices connect me to feelings of pleasure, connection, and deep presence.

These practices have also helped me create the emotional, physical, and energetic space to take action on my biggest dreams in life.

This is what I’d love to see spread across our communities: a generation of women who choose to love and accept themselves for the magnificent, brilliant, and radiant beings that they truly are.

I imagine a world filled with women who value relationships, service to others, and the joy of stepping into greater levels of leadership that help us all cultivate a much needed feeling of balance and sanity in our daily lives.

If you take away one thing from this, may it be this:

Nothing is broken about you, and nothing needs fixing. You’re a radiant face of the divine and your only responsibility is to express your love and radiance with the world around you.

Do you have questions about cultivating more self-compassion in your own life? You can leave a comment below this post or send me an email, I read every one.

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I'm Leah Kent, a writer, intuitive brand consultant, and women’s circle facilitator.

My purpose in this lifetime is to help creative, visionary women just like you to bring their biggest dreams to life.

To step fully into your abilities as a multi-facted luminary and find the tools and practices that will enable you to align your life and your work with the qualities of ease, joy, and delight.

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