More Than…

When your friends, family, or loved ones compliment you, do you shy away from them or do you thank them? Or both? Believe it or not, shying away from compliments is the worst thing you can do for your overall self-esteem and self-recognition. I’m definitely no stranger to this fact.

I was always the person who did not acknowledge compliments at all. It’s almost like a fight or flight situation when I was given compliments. When someone said I was “pretty”, I would get all awkward and nervous, and throw back a generic response, “No! YOU’RE PRETTY!” Or when someone said I was “smart”, I would give a fake smile and just say “Ohh, okay” and walk away. Because at the end of the day, I didn’t believe what they said.
It didn’t take long for me to realize why I was that way.

Growing up, my parents were very strict with high expectations of my sisters and I. Being Asian, this isn’t breaking news.

In Grade 2, our class had to sing Christmas carols in front of the entire school. It was an evening performance and my mom dressed me up to the nines. I did feel pretty and I felt confident and ready to sing my heart out. I got on stage with all my classmates, and as the red curtains unveiled, our class sang. I gave it my all. I was so proud of myself. As soon as I came to meet my mom, she said to me, “You looked so boring up there – like you didn’t sing at all” and started mocking me showing me how bored I looked on stage. I almost broke into tears. But I didn’t know any better. She was my mom. I never spoke out of line at that age – not like kids in this generation at least.

It was a cycle that never seemed to have ended since then. And it didn’t just impact me, but also my sisters.

My older sister was, and still is, very conservative in values and taste in clothes. When she got ready for prom, that was the first day I noticed how pretty she really was. So I told her: “Wow! You look so pretty!” She looked at me with these glaring eyes and said “Shut up” as if she was somewhat embarrassed by that fact. And that was that.

I can’t blame my parents for how they raised me because they were only victims of their own parents. And I realize that my self-esteem is a battle of my own and no one else.
I was inspired to write this post because I had so many limiting thoughts of myself this past week that I had enough – I was really sick of myself.

Things come into my life the funniest ways when I stop saying I’m not good enough and this week proved that:
• I used to always tell my roommate, an avid (amazing) runner, that I can’t run. Just yesterday, I ran 3K for the first time in over 10 months. Well, now I know I can. Next goal: 5K!
• I thought I performed poorly on the last two client projects I had. I didn’t think I would get recognized because of that. Turns out, my managers were satisfied with my performance and I was rewarded for my efforts. I couldn’t be any happier.
• I kept thinking I wasn’t as funny as my classmates in my improv class. Seems like, every class I enter, they think I’m hysterical. It feels so good to be able to entertain people. I just need to trust my instincts and go with it!

I am more than who I think I am. And I need to embrace who I really am. I am smart. I am funny. I am more capable of achieving anything as long as I put my heart into it.

No doubt that I am getting better in accepting compliments because it helps me reflect who I am and what I am.

And I don’t think anyone else should shy away from compliments for that same reason.

Advertisements

Game Changer

The best of friends are truly the ones that inspire you to be a better person than you already are. So I dedicate this to few of my best friends who inspired me this year to come up with an action plan, which I am so excited to share to everyone. But first, I want to acknowledge the few friends who have inspired me at this point:

Sara: I still remember the  random call I gave her back in March, after several months of disconnect, breaking down about the career path I was in. She inspired me through her own personal story as she shifted gears from the professional marketing guru that she was to now becoming a naturopath. Follow her blog here. Her fearlessness made me realize you can make changes happen at any time and no one can stop you but yourself.

Allen: To be honest, when Allen told me he wanted to start a food truck, I giggled. He graduated from university studying economics. So from there, you would think the typical path would be somewhere in the corporate world. But not for Allen. He’s on a mission to start a food truck in Toronto, by traveling to L.A. and Asia for food inspiration. He knew the corporate, white collar job was not for him. And he’s not afraid to talk about his mission to start a food truck on his website, twitter, or tumblr. Alllen’s drive and passion for food made me realize you need to love what you do – and people will love you for it too.

Bryan: Bryan is probably one of the smartest friends I know from university. He could be anything he wanted to be without even trying! After a short stint doing the office job, he just had the bug to do what he always wanted to do: teach snowboarding in Vancouver. I couldn’t be happier for him. And with that said, I wanted to try something I always wanted to do too: acting!

So what’s my game plan???

I’ve decided to accumulate all my vacation days (and some additional leave of absence days) at work to take two months off next summer to travel to LA to learn acting and find opportunities for some acting gigs. It’s always been on my mind to go back to the City of Angels since my last visit in June! To do what I love to do in the city I love would only be a dream come true. As they say:

Absence

The last two weeks of August have been crazy, yet exhilerating, and its effects are still wearing off on me.

I was on hiatus because I just wrapping up my acting classes. I can honestly say I gave it my all in my last performance on Wednesday. It took a toll on me to be honest, because my character in the script is so emotional.  I had a hard time getting into character and learning to cry, especially since I didn’t relate at all to the story. But once I connected to the character and cried my heart out, I felt like I overcame a challenge that I didn’t think I could do. It was definitely an adrenaline rush and I loved every bit of it! My overall evaluation for my performance was supposed to be released yesterday but I haven’t heard anything back yet. I am so anxious because,  if I don’t get a passing mark, I won’t get to move into the next level in acting class and will be required to do intro all over again.

My initial reaction of receiving no response was the fact that the acting studio didn’t want me to return. But it turns out, a few of my classmates already received a call last night saying that they didn’t get to advance to the next level. So is my lack of response a good sign?? Knowing that I am a very impatient person, the curiosity is killing me inside.

But having such supportive network of good friends has made this “wait” easier than I expected it to be. My friend, Pat, said to me “I’m still excited for you, either way sounds like this has been a huge find for you. Regardless of the outcome, I think if you looked at your expectations 8 weeks ago or whenever it was you started you’d be blown away. From nothing to talk of getting an agent in that time is huge”.

And that made me smile. I have had made huge strives and I finally can share the story to someone that I finally did something that I always wanted to do, and not give some hopeless pathetic speech about how I am so afraid to do something that I would love. If I didn’t try out acting, I wouldn’t realize how much I am in love with every bit of it!

Going back to reality, I have a national professional accounting exam in two weeks. So I will likely be hiatus for another two weeks. Accountant by day, actress-to-be by night. HA! Having this dual identity thing is going to catch up to me one day but for now, I’d like to think of myself as invincable.

Becoming An Actress

As you perhaps already know, I rarely hide my true emotions from my readers. And to say that I never thought that I wanted to become an actress at various points in my life would be a complete and utter lie.

At the age of 7, I thought I could make an awesome Sailor Venus actress if they ever made a live version of the movie.

By the age of 13, I went on a tangent and thought it would be fun to be a model. So I attempted to do some auditions but only failed as I was unable to get a single booking. (I wish I had my portfolio with me so you would laugh at my headshots as I proudly smiled with my brace face.)

And by 17, I auditioned and landed a (un-paid) role in a commercial that was dubbed in Cantonese, to which I never even actually seen on TV.

Since then, I never thought once to ever go back into acting.

Until now.

I truly thought that the idea of doing acting was a dare to try something that is so out of my own comfort zone. But I still didn’t get the concept of WHY I was doing it – especially out of all things that I could dare myself to do.

I finally found the answer on the first day of my acting class.

I had my first session this past Monday at Armstrong Acting Studios. My instructor, Laura, gave me my monologue, from the movie, The Social Network. I was playing Erica Albright, the “ex-girlfriend” of Mark Zuckerberg. It was the scene where she bluntly tells Mark that he’s an asshole for insulting her family’s name, her bra size and rating women based on their hotness. I memorized my lines off by heart, recorded my voice, and watched myself act in the mirror for two hours. I was confident. I was ready.

I walked into class and met a bunch of beautiful, and quite lovely, people from different walks of life: models, economist, stay-at-home mom, etc. All of us shared one thing in common: we were always curious about pursuing a career in acting. And as Laura put it “we’re crazy enough to do it now”.

Right off the bat, she made us perform, one-by-one, our monologues on camera in front of EVERYONE. I was nervous. I was petrified. As soon as it was my turn, I lost all my lines. I completely blanked out. I was so dissappointed in myself, that I did not hide my frustration while the camera was still recording.

Everyone around me was so supportive and encouraging me that it’s okay and that they screwed up too. But I felt like I did the worse out of the entire group. I let myself down so hard.

As the monologue performances were done, Laura gave us general pointers about how to improve but told us we need to study our performances (as they were individually recorded each on a separate dvd) and ask ourselves the following question:

  • What did you do well?
  • What did you need to improve on?
  • Would you hire yourself?
  • Did you tell a story?
  • Etc.

Throughout the rest of the class, I was absolutely bitter about my performance. I never felt so low about myself in a long time. I really felt like giving up.

But then Laura gave us one pointer that stuck to me to this day. She actually explained the WHY that I needed to hear.

She said, “In acting, the power is in the NOW. Being in the present has so much power”.

And that was my “AH-HA!” moment. I was meant to be on this path in taking acting classes because I have struggled, and still do, in living in the present moment. And if there was one thing that I learned from Louise L. Hay’s book, it was that the power of the present moment can make you absolutely unstoppable in achieving the best in life that you deserve.

I just find it so amazing that even in my acting class, itself, is teaching me about personal life lessons that ring true to me. I’m actually still in awe about it in this very moment.

So after reviewing my embarassing video of myself, I realized, I can only improve from here. It was my first day, and as long as I stay committed, I can improve.

I am truly so grateful to have such loving friends who support me through this crazy adventure. It’s insane but I love every bit of it.

The Truth

I have a confession.  I truly believe my breakdown this year was caused by my unfulfilled life since high school – and not the events in my life that happened just recently. As I was reading Louise L. Hay’s “You Can Heal Your Life”, she stated in the very beginning that our thoughts in the past has brought us to where we are now. It took me awhile to really define where in my past led me to this path. But I eventually realized that it had really nothing to do with my job, family, or personal issues at this moment.

The Truth. My parents came into Canada as refugees: no money, no stable job, and a lot of hardship. As I was growing up, I played only with dolls and my piano because my parents could not afford to have me partake in any extra-curricular activities. All my other friends had ballet, swimming, soccer, basketball, dance, and so on and so forth. By the time I hit my preteens, I really felt like a Plain Jane: average, untalented, and most of all, boring.

Compensation. Because I didn’t feel like I had anything going for me, I consumed myself in thoughts of another me, who was talented, beautiful, smart, and sophisticated. Some days I pictured myself as a dancer, some days I pictured myself as a hero,  or some days I even pictured myself as an actress. It’s one thing to daydream about a silly crush or who we will be in the next 10 years, but it’s another to completely imagine another self beyond reality and believing I will never be that person because it’s only just a dream.

Reality check. Since reading Hay’s book, that “other self” is ceasing to exist because I am now on that path of living a fulfilled life just by changing my thoughts. I can be who I want to be now, if I wanted too. I may have not had the opportunity to take dance classes or even acting classes as a child, but it’s not too late now. Afterall, I’m only 24!

Action plan. I find myself enjoying new ways of expressing myself and I think taking on acting and dance classes will enhance that skillset. I think it’s time that I break that invisible shell and open up to new experiences and new faces. To my young female professionals, it’s time to break free. Follow with me on this path.

New Hope, New Me

I thought I was beginning to lose faith in this World. I felt like everyone and everything in my life was turning against me, and it was never going to end. At the end of February, I had my breaking point. I said to myself, “You know what, World, just keep making everything miserable for me.  As a matter of fact, if you want my life, just take it. I give up.”

By March, I told my manager I wanted a one week leave of absence. I just needed vacation to rethink things in my life, even if I had to fly solo on this vacation. I left to South Beach and felt liberated. My best friends came on the third day of my stay. Upon my return,  things were falling back into place in my life – or so I thought.

Work became an unhappy place for me again and I was involved in a relationship that constantly made me feel unwanted and unworthy.

Fortunately, I just snapped one day. I spent a Saturday morning in class writing a 5-hour accounting practice exam and I could not focus. I just watched time eat itself while I stared blankly at my paper asking why am I here, why am I doing this, and how I wish I could be somewhere else right now. Then I started writing things on my paper on what I can look forward to after my exam to keep me motivated to continue to just stay focus. I wrote:

  1. Stay Focus
  2. Look forward to hot yoga
  3. Look forward to self-help books

I don’t know where in the world the third point came from, but it just came to me that day. Then I recalled talking to my friend Sara months back about how she read this self-help book that really made changes in her life. To be honest, I was really resistant to reading any self-help book. How can a book change my life? I have read, watched, and listened to many inspirational stories but they only really hold onto me for that time that I have acknowledged it. Beyond that, I’m back to where I am.

After giving the practice exam my “best” effort, I was finally free and I charged straight into the book store to search for that book. The sales associate at the store assisted me in search of this book and told me how popular it was. Once I found the book, I felt like I struck gold:

"You Can Heal Your Life" by Louise L. Hay

The difference between hearing others talk about their inspirational stories versus a self help book like Louise L. Hay’s “You Can Heal Your Life”, is that she’s talking to you to change. And the power to change is and has always been within you. When I first read the book, I was really resistant to her theories and ideologies. And soon enough, about a few chapters in, Hay responds to me as if she is talking to me saying that resistance is the first step to acknowledging the fact that you are “willing to change”. So, I practiced like she said in her book and looked into the mirror and said to myself “I am willing to change”. You may be thinking – that’s so easy – anyone can do that. But really, it was so hard for me. I came into this thinking everything around me needed to change – not me. Why am I the problem?

As soon as I was able to finally accept that I was (and still am) willing to change, I worked on documenting how I felt with certain aspects with my life as follows from Hay’s exercise:

  1. Work: “I’m not good enough”
  2. Relationships: “I’m not lovable enough”
  3. Family: “I’m not cared for enough”
  4. Friends: “I’m not important enough”
  5. Body/face: “I’m not skinny/pretty enough”

Instinctively, I have always responded to the above as to how I’m going to fix these negative things in my life. But according to Hay, “fighting the negative is a total waste of time if you really want to make changes in your life. The more you dwell on what you don’t want, the more of it you create”. And that was the turning point in everything I ever thought of myself in the past. I always fought against the negative, but I never ran and embraced with the positive things in life.

So everyday, every moment, I think of something in the past that is holding me from willing to change, I tell myself things that are positive to create the place where I do want to be now and into the future:

  • I now create a wonderful new job
  • I experience love whereever I go
  • I am self-worthy of good things in life
  • I approve of myself and all aspects of who I am
  • I have a happy and healthy body
  • Most importantly, “all is well in my world”

These are just small snippets of what I really practice each day. But since I’ve started, I’ve been seeing little changes in my life slowly progress to things I didn’t imagine that could happen to me [good things]. As much as I used to say it’s all coincidence, it’s really not. I’m taking the time to finally recognize my self-worth and my self-approval in this world.

I can sense that great things will come into my life eventually and I plan to share that with you all as they come.

I can’t thank enough Sara for recommending this book to me and Louise L. Hay for giving me a new outlook on life.