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.

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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:

Playing the Victim

I am back! And I didn’t want to come back without having been inspired by something to write and share to my readers.

Once again, I am fixated by a recurring theme in my acting class that resonates so much in my own twenty-something life.

I was given a monologue where my character goes on about a fun, light-hearted memory of her and her brother, as kids, playing a prank on their mother. My character jokingly tells her mother that her brother died from a bad car accident while her brother hid in the backyard. When the prank was done, her mother cried not knowing it was just a joke. My character’s innocence at the young age didn’t understand her mother’s cry until years later, when her brother ultimately passed away and was never coming back.

My initial performance of this monologue was what my instructor deemed as “playing the victim”: feeling guilt, remorse, sad, and nothing more. He said that playing the victim makes the scene “boring” because the character has given up and that there is no sense of hope. Whether the character should use her loss as a fight of frustration or hope that things get better, makes it all the more entertaining than just to “give up”.

Take Gladiator for example. In the very last fight scene, Russell Crowe’s character was stabbed right before he entered the Colliseum. Did he show a sign of loss hope in his last battle? No, he fought until he won before he fell upon his death.

Sadly, I do “play the victim” in my life on my lowest days, whether it be at work, relationships, etc. I let things get to me, and hold on to it with no sense that things will get better or accept that it’s for my own good. It’s not that I’m pesstimistic about life, I just surrender and accept that things are the way they are, and I have no control over it.

But that’s not at all true. I do have control of my life!

I know this sounds like my typical inspirational blurb, maybe moreso to reassure myself more than anything. But the truth is, two random strangers confronted me at two separate clubbing events about this in the past three months. The first person (female), intoxicated as ever can be, walked up to me and held her hands on the sides of my cheeks and said, “You are so beautiful, you should not be sad”. I didn’t even realize I had a frown on my face before she came up to me. I do admit, though that I was not having as much fun as I should because I ended up submerging myself into thoughts of loneliness even though I was accompanied by a group of friends.

The second person (male) that confronted me actually walked by me twice and stared at me. I couldn’t tell if he was drunk, but I think he was fed up with my sad face that as we passed by each other again, he said to me “You need to smile”.

And that’s when I had it – not with these people – but with myself.

I’m playing the victim where I have found myself to not think I’m worthy enough of being in a relationship, that no one would ever want to date me, and that I should give up and accept the fact that I’m going to be single for awhile.

And because of that, I think I actually push away guys from approaching me.

Playing the victim is not only boring, but it’s unattractive.

I know I am more worthy than I come off to be, but I’m still in search of defining who I am. That’s all it really comes down too.

Mirror, Mirror

I had a fear with mirrors and I didn’t even know it. And that fear wasn’t because of the physical, tangible object. It was the fear of looking at myself.

 

 

I actually didn’t realize this fear for quite some time. But it was kind of funny when I would go to the washroom, do  my business, and walk out without having a glance at myself in the mirror. And the next thing you know, my friend at work is telling me there is something stuck in my teeth. And I think to myself, “Well that’s strange. Why didn’t I catch it before I left the washroom? Oh, I guess I didn’t even look at the mirror when I was there.” Casually enough, I just brushed the idea off of any sort of fear.

By the time I read “You Can Heal Your Life” by L. Hay, I finally not only recognized that fear, but I also faced it – head on. And somehow, through my newfound hobbies of acting and dance, I have to face mirrors all the time!

For example, at dance class, I wouldn’t look at myself – I just looked at the instructor and hoped that every step I was making looked somewhat right. And when I faced myself for just a split second, I was taken aback, thinking “So that’s what I look like when I dance? That’s hilarious!” For the first two weeks, I wasn’t improving in dance class at all because I kept looking at the instructor and not at what I was doing. By the time I realized I wasn’t looking at myself, I knew I had to change that. And when I did, I improved (with definite struggles of endurance) and I now dance in the first or second row right next to the instructor. It’s pretty awesome I’d have to say!

And don’t get me started with acting. Every student in the class has their own DVD of their monologue and partnered scenes recorded. I did so terrible in my first monologue that I was so afraid to look back at my DVD to see how “bad” I did. But I knew if I could do it for dance, I could do it for acting. So once I played my DVD, I noted every single critique my acting instructor noted of me. By the time I got my partnered script, I looked into the mirror and just rehearsed over and over again. Just yesterday, I performed my partnered scene in front of the entire class, and my instructor loved it so much, she basically told me if it was an audition, I would have aced it. And I felt so gratified, relieved, happy, and just wanted to jump for joy! She even said “I think we’ve found your hit, you could definitely do comedy!” And Now, more than ever, I realize that I do love acting – with a passion.

I can truly say, if you don’t see yourself in the mirror now, you’re not realizing how amazing you are and can be once you face it. I highly recommend to take the time to look into the mirror and to remind yourself to love who you are, what you are, and who you’ll become. I know I do.

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.

Metamorphosis

A few weeks ago, I confessed to my friend, Sara, about how I’ve hit a plateau with the positive affirmation exercises founded in Louise L. Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life (see: “New Hope, New Me” post). I felt like I was back at ground zero: fighting against the negative.

As I was telling Sara my situation, I reminisced the last time I felt truly happy in my life, which so happened to me the day of my convocation:

  

McMaster University, 2011

I told Sara, “I wish I could go back and be that person again.”

Sara responded, “You know, you never really go back to ever being that person again.” And that’s when it hit me.

Whether I like it or not, I’m constantly changing based on whatever new knowledge or experiences are presented before me. And how I absorb that knowledge and experiences will determine my perspective and outlook in life.

Luckily, I stumbled upon this article on Forbes called “How To Be More Interesting (In 10 Simple Steps)” . This article really caught my eye because it incorporated cute visuals to convey the simple message of just being more interesting. I thought the article was a great complement to my positive affirmation exercises because it made me dare to do something creative and bring in more fun in my life without having to try too hard.  

With the new inspiration, I took my very first (absolute beginner) hip hop dance class today and loved every minute of it! It was great knowing that everyone was learning at the same level as me, and that it was totally okay to embarrass myself. I can’t wait for the next dance class. I hope I improve through each class so I can hopefully move to the intermediate level by the end of the year!

I’ve even taken the time to try new recipes. My first attempt at spanikopita was great! They make look a little challenged, but they smelled and tasted amazing:

  

Delicious and healthy!

 

I also had the chance to make waffles from scratch too:

  

You can’t go wrong with topping it with strawwberries!

 

I have found ways to entertain myself and yet, I never realized how much I can accomplish on my own. I am now loving and embracing change more than ever.

Did I also mention I’m taking acting classes? I still cannot believe I got myself to register, but I did. With the costly fee, there is no turning back! That will be something worth blogging for next week (as classes start on Monday). Stay tuned!