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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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.