Imagine Yourself…

Close your eyes and imagine yourself facing you as a young child or baby. What would you tell yourself as a child/baby knowing all the life experiences you’ve been through thus far? Do your instincts tell you to tell that child you love them? Do you tell that child that there is a bright future ahead of them and that everything will be okay?

A few days ago, I was looking for a photo inspiration for #tbt (“Throwback Thursday) to use on Instagram and I found a picture of myself in my room as a baby:

Baby Anne

As I was looking at this picture, I thought to myself that if I had a chance to go back in time to hold this baby [me], what would I tell her based on everything I know that’s happened in my life? The first instinctive reaction was to tell her how much I love her and how beautiful she was. The second thought that came to mind was to ensure her that everything is going to be okay despite the challenges that life will bring. The third and final thought was to let her know to just continue to be happy because life is truly a joy.

From that exercise, I thought to myself as to whether I tell myself these things. After all, I am telling this child everything I feel right now, and in essence, that child is me. Since I regularly practice positive affirmations, I do believe in everything I would say to that child with integrity and honesty I would definitely say to myself as the 25-year-old adult that I am today. But if you asked me a year ago, I don’t think I could say the same and I would feel like I’ve disappointed this child to believe in something that were not true. How can anyone confront any child with a negative outlook on life? As human beings, we tell our children that they deserve the best in life filled with love, happiness, and success. But are you telling yourself the same?

Never forget that we were once all babies, and that everyone who held us as babies, saw us with so much love and hope. And you would had felt the same way if you could go back in time.

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Ego

Generally speaking, I find I’m only aware of interacting with the idea of the ego under the ideas of self-importance, self-esteem, and/or conceit. It wasn’t until acting class in LA that brought me back to my Grade 11 studies of psychology on the ego as defined in the dictionary:

the part of the psychic apparatus that experiences and reacts to the outside world and thus mediates between the primitive drives of the id and the demands of the social and physical environment”

Acting class truly allowed me to tap into that definition and become aware that the ego within ourselves is what keeps us to believe that we are “in control” of our lives and that we are safe. It was my Oprah “Ah-ha!” moment. If you don’t think you have that ego, well I’m here to tell you that you do.

Do you ever wonder why you can’t seem to quit your job, even though you know it’s making you unhappy, and to pursue your true passion? It’s because of your ego.

Do you ever wonder why you can never confront your best friend that they have hurt you? It’s your ego.

Do you ever wonder why you can’t break up with your boyfriend/girlfriend knowing the relationship is so toxic?  One word: EGO.

The ego is the voice that tries to rationalize so many different thoughts you have in your head to the point where you become out of control, unfulfilled, and confused. Every experience in life ends up becoming stagnant, tolerated, and safe because you don’t allow yourself to confront situations that are out of your comfort zone. Your ego responds by saying, respectively, to the above questions:

“My job is a highly reputable and recognized profession with a secure employment in any industry and a guaranteed 6-figure salary in the future. To be an actress, there is no guarantee I will be successful and prosper”;

“If I confront my best friend about how I feel, I may lose our friendship forever”; or

“I can’t break up with my boyfriend because they’re the only person I truly have and care about in my life right now. Without them, I’m lost”.

Your instincts will appear in a blink of these moments by considering how to confront these conflicting experiences in life that may seem so out of your element that you can’t imagine yourself doing it. But you can. Your ego is just holding you back so that you feel “in control” and rather just “play it safe”.

Since I was 6-7 years old, I always wanted to be an actress. But those thoughts only came for a split second because my ego would intervene and say “You’re not pretty enough, you’re not skinny enough, you’re Asian, etc”. And I accepted those as rational, reasonable responses. And since then, I’ve always played it safe. I asked myself questions like “What is the career that will be easy to get into?  Is this a career where I can make a reasonable amount of salary? Will I be respected among my social network?” I definitely pursued a safe choice in life but it’s left me unfulfilled in so many aspects of my life. So it wasn’t until last year I started to truly listen to myself and asked, “If I had no insecurities and no judgement upon myself, what is it that I would pursue?” And then my inner voice came again for that split moment and said “acting” as it has for many years. And from there, I allowed my instinct, and not my ego, to guide the life that I want, that I am worth, and that I love. And this has allowed me to be at a truly happy state of mind because I now feel I’m doing it for myself and not for the respect and acceptance of others.

I find meditating will help guide you to your inner voice because you free your mind of all the flaws, imperfections, and judgements you have on yourself. Spend some time to just act on your instincts because your mind is telling you something that is important. Don’t over-rationalize every single thought and place judgement on them, especially on yourself. Like I said, that’s your ego talking to you.

Thank you Anthony Meindl & studio staff for teaching me such a valuable lesson.

Yes

I read a quote by Eckhart Tolle the other day that resonated me:

“It is not true that the up cycle is good and the down cycle is bad, except in the mind’s judgment”.

That quote sums up pretty much the work I had to do on myself for over a year to be at the state of happiness that I am today. It’s crazy even just thinking that it took me more than 12 months but I made it and that’s what counts.

When I came into my professional field as an accountant, I really had high hopes that I would be great at what I do. Six months in, I think I was considered the worse of the new hires. I couldn’t learn fast enough like my peers, I constantly made mistakes, and I was just always lost. I also found myself in a state where I was not getting along with certain coworkers which made working a hostile environment. So the career that I thought was good for me, turned out to be the career I didn’t want.

At this point in my life, I played what I typically call “the victim”. I surrendered myself and said I suck at this job, no one likes me, and I should simply be fired (as there were points where I hoped to be fired because I wouldn’t be brave enough to quit on my own). My reaction was very much resistance and intolerance to accept the circumstances that I was in and make things better. As a result, it left me to isolated and stagnant thoughts of my limitations in life, which ultimately created my depression. In other words, I continually spent months of holding onto this burden that I did a terrible job in the past that I couldn’t even focus on the present to make things better. I kept allowing others to define me with past experiences that I couldn’t move myself forward to be better.

After spending months of healing myself, I discovered that to move forward, I have to allow acceptance and forgiveness as a way of actively responding and participating to my resistant and intolerant thoughts. In other words, just say yes to life when it seems like a complete, chaotic, crowded mess. And instead of asking “Why me?” – ask “Why NOT me?”

Things happen for a reason. I could look back and say it was a terrible experience at that point in my life once I discovered I hated my job — but I do not one bit. My lowest point in my life a year ago was actually the best thing that happened me. And I’m happy it happened to me because I learned so much about myself as a person. And with that, great things in life are happening.

In fact, my senior at work told me he felt I was the most improved staff in my year. I also regained my confidence back in my job such that my clients grew fond of me and my managers respected my request in my interest to transfer to a new industry group within the firm. Most of all, I actually like my job now and I love the people I work with. Things are now looking out for the better all because I said yes to life and its challenges.

Life has its ups and downs but your judgment dictates what those moments and experiences in life can become. You’ll be amazed that taking ownership of your life by simply saying “yes” can give you a whirlwind of new opportunities. 

Tough Love in Translation

“You’re so fat”

“You’re stupid”

“What’s WRONG with YOU!?”

After almost two years living on my own, I finally moved back home with my parents. Those were the words that spat at me the first 7 days of moving back. Did I cry? Of course. I didn’t even know what I did to encourage those words from my parents.

I knew moving back with my parents would not be easy but necessary given the many changes in my life. But I never anticipated it to be as hard as it was.

Since 18, I knew I had to run away. By that, I mean going to a university that required me to live away from home and near campus. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. At that point, I felt more loved by my parents than ever before. My lack of presence gave them excitement whenever I came home. They missed me and cherished the 48 hours of my weekend that I could offer to them.

Before university, it wasn’t pretty. It never was. I was never good enough, smart enough, skinny enough. You could say it was an “Asian” thing but I’m sure there are non-Asians who had parents alike.

But during university, and into my young career as a professional public accountant, I found my confidence to allow myself to acknowledge that I am good enough, smart enough, and healthy enough.

As a child, your natural instincts is to make your parents proud. That’s all I ever wanted. But somehow, they constantly remind me that I haven’t achieved that yet, despite what they may might say to their friends. And it breaks everything inside of me, from my confidence to my soul.

I spent probably 30 minutes on day 7 [of moving in] just crying my eyes out and wondering why this is happening to me. I didn’t want to talk to my friends because I didn’t think they could understand.

Somehow, through the lowest times in my life, Sara texts me at the most ironic yet perfect times to ask me “how I am”. We probably haven’t talked in months before then. From our conversation, I was reminded that “[my] self worth isn’t determined by what they think of [me] but what [I] think of [my]self”. As much as my parents can emotionally beat me down occasionally, I have to remind myself of where I am today, what my accomplishments have been in the recent years, and how I’ve grown to become successful in my life on my own. It was a relief to cry in the moment at that time, but now it’s time to just move on to keep going and doing what I do because I know I’m at a great place in my life right now and it will only get better from here.

My parents may not have the heart to say that they love me and are proud of me in person, but I know deep down they are. I think they probably have some belief that their negative reinforcement has contributed to the achievements and successes in my life and want to continue to be a part of that in their own way. But I can’t take everything they say to heart because I know myself better than anyone else.

Stay Strong

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.

Not Like Therapy

In acting class, a common constructive feedback in my performance was the fact that I tend to only touch the surface of choices I make in a character’s emotional journey. When I was sarcastic, I wasn’t sarcastic enough. When I was happy, I was still reserved. It was really frustrating for me to think I performed well and only to find I was short on emotions from watching my playback.

The great thing about the instructors I’ve worked with was the fact that they open up to me and ask me why I made such choices. As much as I was told that acting class should not be treated like therapy – I treat it so. I found out through self-discovery that working in the corporate world, I have a poker face. I can’t express too much as it’s considered a sign of weakness, unless I want to get fired of course. But I don’t. Who does!?

My instructors constantly reminded me that acting class was a safe haven to express emotions and carry that journey to places you’ve never been before. And I loved that. And I loved it even more when I saw the class react to my progression in a positive way.

Now that I’ve joined improv at Second City, my first class experience has really let me come out of my shell. To be spontaneous, proactive, and impulsive were things I never knew I could embrace.

There was one game called “Yes, Lets!” where someone would scream out “Let’s do this [fill in the blank]” and the group would scream “Yes, Lets!” and act out what the person screamed out. So when someone in the class screamed “Let’s audition for a reality show!!” and we responded “Yes, Lets!” my instinctive reaction was pretending I was on camera, taking off my shirt and flashing to everyone. Everyone who saw me started laughing hysterically. And to be honest, I was so taken aback, I flushed. I just couldn’t believe the response. But it made me feel good inside because it’s been quite awhile since I’ve made complete random strangers laugh (unless it’s me embarassing myself like falling off a curb while walking, which I’ve done before). And through that, it reminded how I love making people happy/feel good/laugh.

To say to treat acting/improv class not like therapy, how can I not!? I feel like I’m in a much better place than I was a year ago. And I can’t thank you all for sharing this journey with me.

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: