I think my story echoes the story of many: it’s one of self-doubt, censorship, awakening, and later emancipation. I grew up the daughter of conservative religious leaders – my father was a pastor for most of my life and my mother a Sunday school teacher. Being the daughter of spiritual leaders created a myriad of self-imposed expectations that were near impossible to satisfy. I equated holiness with perfection and perfection with worthiness. As you can imagine, that was a standard impossible to reach, so I became very hard on myself. Growing up in the experience of first-generation immigrants also fostered conversations of shame and scarcity, which later created an undercurrent of internal pressure and anxiety. I thought I was too much and that in order to be valued, I had to earn it and exchange who I was for who I was expected to be. I experienced a great deal of loneliness and isolation because of these limiting beliefs.
So I leaned into unhealthy behaviors and relationships, always keeping busy so as to avoid being with my own self. My thoughts had become an unsafe space to be in, I was versed in self-criticism and fear. It took years to begin shifting that conversation. It dawned on me that the meaning I gave my experiences determined how I felt. Rather than resisting or shaming who I was, I began to nurture compassion and forgiveness. I learned how to get out of my own way. Pema Chodron defined compassion not as the “relationship between the healer and the wounded” but rather, a relationship between equals.