Meet Our Muse: Leisse
tHIS BRIGHT AND RADIANT HUMAN SHARES HER story about what happened when things dOn’t go ‘as planned’.
Leisse, you’re a professional human and one that wears a lot of hats (mother, writer, speaker, coach, and taco enthusiast) – but aside from your amazing bio, would you mind introducing yourself to those who are meeting you for the first time.
My Instagram bio introduces me as a Professional Human and Brand Therapist. Through speaking, writing, podcasting, and one on one coaching, my passion is guiding women to find clarity in what they want, confidence in who they are, and the courage to stay true to both. And it is a passion; I don’t delineate work from life, because for me THIS is the work I am meant to do, and it has become my life.
I am also a single mom of three magical little girls under eight; the work-life blend I’ve created allows me to focus on them, while I build my empire from my living room. Lots of gratitude for everything and everyone I have in my life.
My marriage ended in 2015, and was a highly traumatic event in my life. It is by far the most difficult challenge I have faced, because of how emotionally layered it is to call T.O.D on a 14 year relationship that had been the hub of what I knew as my family; it was also a springboard for massive change, the catalyst for epic growth, and the greatest paradox to inform the bulk of my coaching women through difficult transitions in their own life; change, setbacks, “failure,” and life not going “as planned” have the opportunity to become our greatest teachers, if we let them.
More recently, I came through a year of breast cancer, the treatment for which included 4 months of aggressive chemotherapy, the loss of my hair, and the decision to “go flat” after a double mastectomy. Cancer too became a year rife in life lessons of surrendering the need to control, and developing a deep, deep trust in things that are bigger than ourselves; it became a powerful teacher in learning to let go and believe - on a visceral level - that things work out, and that love will always, always win.
We’ve known you for awhile now – you’ve been our muse and an inspiration to us since. We’re truly honored to have you sharing your story with our community. What inspired you to take part in our Muse series?
A foundational element of my coaching practice and life philosophy is that of “Emotional Alchemy;” one of my greatest strengths is the ability to take something heavy, dark, and ugly, and turn it into something light, bright, and golden. See above attitude on navigating divorce and cancer in a 3 year window “lol.”
When I found out that a double mastectomy was the recommended and best course of preventative/ curative action, I knew I needed to make this experience my own. I had tasked a very good friend of mine to do the research that came with understanding implants: who would do the work, what would the surgeries be like, how would the aesthetics be…
We were sitting in her living room one day in the winter and said “Dude, you can’t get implants. It’s too risky, they lead to all kinds of other chronic illness, and we are only just starting to understand the dangers.” She is easily one of the smartest people I know, and her frankness on the subject got my attention right away. I knew energetically in that moment that “going flat” would become my reality, and it was a tough pill to swallow; I LOVED my boobs, and was crushed at the thought of losing them.
That was exacerbated by the silently screaming voice of “you couldn’t find a man when you had long blonde waves and double d tits; how the hell are you going to find a man when you’re bald and flat?”
This was a very dark, very old story that was triggered through cancer treatment - the fear of not being loved - and the emotional work it took to overcome that was a difficult but BEAUTIFUL experience. It was as if in losing some physical attributes that I thought made me ME, that I was forced to confront the reality that I alone am enough. I alone am loveable. I am loved for who I am, not what I look like.
I reached out to be a part of the MUSE series because I know for sure I am not the only one who has had fears of not being enough. Of not being loved. Of being loved only on condition. I knew that more women needed to hear abut my experience to inspire their OWN mindset shift in how they perceive and love themselves -- to invite the right people into their lives who love and cherish them for who they are, as they are.
Documenting this - and celebrating my new body - in lingerie that makes me feel like a queen is how I make this experience my own, too, in a beautiful, aesthetic way that shines a bright light on the reality that every BODY is different. there is no actual standard; we are all living our lives, and we experience emotional and physical scarring along the way.
No matter what that map looks like in your life, on your body - we are each worthy of LOVE, oh my gosh. We. Are worthy. Of love.
We can only imagine how it felt to have gone through two surgeries within nine months. It must have been such a process emotionally, mentally, and physically. How are you feeling now?
The hardest part for me was the emotional work leading up to it. I radically changed the conversation in my head and in my heart with respect to worth, value, and love-ability, and in doing so, the physical stuff like chemo and surgery actually became easy. No joke. Chemo made me very tired, and my girlies and I laid pretty low through treatment - and I learned to ask for and receive ALL KINDS of help from my aunts, uncles, and friends - but overall it was incredibly manageable. I credit a lot of that to my state of mind going in, and using words like “detox,” “curative medicine,” “treatment” to describe it to myself and others. it felt like a checklist: just get through this next thing, and you’re one step closer.
Surgery was the same thing. My state of mind was so good, and i was so supported by those around me (and my boundaries were set lovingly and firmly to allow in only those who did support me), that the physical healing was easy.
My big surgery was May 1st; I’m writing this in July and the entire thing feels like a distant memory now, truly. I had visualized - while in treatment - myself driving away from cancer and looking at it in the rearview mirror. That is exactly what it feels like now. Again, heaps and heaps of gratitude.
When you first learned that your body was going to change – what was going through your head?
Initially, it was all kinds of dark messaging from my subconscious, things like “aha! They were right! You will NEVER be loved.” and that SUCKED. It took me to some dark places, which I chose to navigate with an epic emotional flashlight, to clean out those dark and scary corners of my mind.
I took lots of action to not only accept that this was my reality, but to also let ago if the urge to fight it and wok against it, choosing instead to flow with it, and make every single part of it beautiful.
I advocated for myself right down the the last 3 minutes before surgery, when I livingly asked my (amazing) surgeon to ensure he got the scarring nice and flat and level...paying attention to hoisting my rib tattoo to an even place - basically I art directed every element I could to make it feel like it was truly MY OWN. And THAT was beyond empowering for me - and for me as a role model for my children, too.
We honestly couldn’t agree more! Self-love is quite a journey … going through this experience– has your idea of self-love changed?
This experience next-leveled how I define self-love; I had been through the process of learning to really like, love, have compassion for and forgive myself for every stage along the way, and experiencing indelible physical changes redefined TRUE self-love as self acceptance: to literally love, embrace, and accept myself for exactly who I am and how I look. It made me face some pretty dark shadows, which I’m grateful for. I don’t think I would have had the courage to do that otherwise.
You mentioned this before that self-love affects how we show up in relationships. Have you ever had moments where the lack of self-love affected your relationships?
Absolutely; I am a recovered people pleaser. I used to be drawn to men who who feed me crumbs of love, like scraps from the table. It felt to me like “hey, at least they’re giving me SOMEthing, right? RIGHT?” I look back on a few (cough, questionable) choices I made, and it’s clear to see in hindsight that as long as someone was paying a little bit of attention to me, I would fight to keep it. That’s a very insecure attachment style, the need to fight and prove your worth to someone - and usually attracts people who feed off of that as a power dynamic, and who will never be fully emotionally available or invested. Friendships included.
I am so much more secure in myself now, and so much more confident and aware of what I not only bring to a relationship, but what I want - and deserve - to receive from a relationship. That solid, mutually respectful, mature kind of love is worth the wait. I like to say if the love doesn't feel like 90’s r&b, I don’t want it.
When you found love for yourself how did your relationships change?
They got richer, and smaller. Something I don’t think people talk about is how the path to self love and let’s say, enlightenment, can be a little lonely. As you get clear on who you are, what you want, and what you’re about, you set better, healthier, more loving boundaries. And not everyone can meet you there. Not everyone is on the same path at the same time. And boldly - not everyone will want to be.
I think that when you decide to come home to yourself, it’s a bell you can’t unring, and although my relationships got so much stronger, I have far fewer of them. Quality over quantity.
When do you feel most empowered?
When I hear my own children talk about how they treat others, how they feel about themselves, when I hear them talk about normalizing how people are people no matter what gender, colour, orientation...it makes me feel like I’m having an impact. Like the messages and values I’m living in alignment with are the ones my kids are learning straight away, it makes me feel like a badass.
Also, at the very end of chemo I went to an influencer even downtown, and in a room full of women who looked like they just walked out of an Instagram feed, I showed up bald - and lead with my light. In that moment, surrounded by a whole lot of surface level beauty, I walked in and felt so raw-ly and authentically my stripped down self, I had a legit “I did it,” moment: I achieved comfort and security in being myself.
Which of your physical attributes do you love the most?
Mmmmm I love my decolletage, my legs, my lips, and especially my eyes. I don’t think I quite appreciated the beauty in my eyes, and the light they are, until now.
Photography by Mary Chen.