Monday, January 24, 2011

Our Personal Growth Blocks

For those who are getting to know me or have known me for about the last year or so, it can be mind boggling to think that I was once an energy-sucking, negative and pessimistic person. Thank Buddha those days are gone!!!

Yes I have my moments. I am human. But my overall outlook on life has completely changed. Through life experiences, speaking to friends, acting classes, guidance from my mentors and just a better awareness of myself, I slowly fought my inner self that told me I couldn't do this or that. I overcame obstacles and continue to do so as I keep growing and changing.

I'd like to share with you an article I just read (quite literally, about 5 minutes ago) that clarified the top 5 barriers to personal growth. And if each and every inspiring visionary had dealt with their own personal barriers, you bet we have ours! The article is called "5 Barriers to Personal Growth-And How to Overcome Them". I suggest we each take a look and I garauntee it is like looking into a mirror. But no worries... there are solutions :)

I'm going to give my own breakdown of them and how I have personally dealt with them.

1) Negative Self Talk:
I grew up in a household where my parents constantly looked at our given physical circumstances and felt confined by them. "You want to do what? We have no money. I have no time. I'm too busy making money to pay the bills and the mortgage...". You get the point. I am a big dreamer. That's to say the least. I think huge, I dream huge and I always have since I was a child. I lived in my head and from my heart. But it is easy to let others affect the way you think, especially your parents, whom I find we are always trying to please and seek approval from. Because I am naturally stubborn and refuse to believe anything my parents said, I was determined to prove them wrong. I saw others I wanted to emulate, those who came from nothing and no money to being extremely succesful. They took a chance, took a risk, believed in their dreams and took actions towards it. I simply decided I was going to do the same. I began to replace any thoughts of "I can't" with "How can I?". And eventually, my habit of negative self talk faded. I also became a lot more compassionate towards my parents. I used to be resentful of them, wondering why they were unsupportive. But the more I understood their way of thinking and why they thought the way they thought, the more love I had for them. I forgave them, which lifted so much pressure from my shoulders, and offered thoughts of praise towards them for all that they have done. They left their home in Southeast Asia to give my brother and I a better opportunity in life and I can't ever thank them enough for that.

Just a side note, vision boards are awesome. If you don't have one, I suggest you start NOW! Take any blank board of any size (I like to make them big) and post and past images of the things you want. Put it in a place where you will pass by it very often or where you can see from your bed when you are open and relax. Take in the images and let it affect the way you feel. The key is to image you already have the things you want. The sense of gratitude will flow through you like a flood.

2) Lack of Support:
Again, I will refer back to my parents. I was actually quite fortunate that unlike a lot of Asian parents I know, they were quite supportive with my dreams in the arts because they are artists themselves. They no longer practise as they did back at "home" but they are true artists in the purest sense. My father paints and my mother is a performer (No wonder I went into theatre.) But for the longest time, I thought I didn't have their support until, to my surprise, they said to me "We will support whatever you choose to do but you have to commit to it and do it all the way." Now, if you find yourself without this kind of support, find a community or group of people who are like minded and you will all support eachother! It's that simple. Seek them out and along with your courage beside you, introduce yourself.

3) No Clear Goals:
How can you get what you want when you don't know what you want? Make sense? Yes, everyone wants happiness, an ideal relationship, money and so on but what does that mean EXACTLY to YOU? I spoke to a friend recently right before the new year and she said "I just hope the next year will be better". Ummmm.... can you be any more vague??? Better how? And don't just hope for it. Be specific, declare it and take action towards it. But it must begin with what you really want. Not what your parents want you to do or your partner wants from you but what you, your spirit and essence, wants to feel fulfilled. And if you don't know, then I suggest spending some quality time with yourself in a safe space where you can reflect and allow that inner voice, your true voice to speak.

4) Playing the "Blame Game": I recognize this one. I always had the perfect reason why things weren't going my way. "It's because my parents are immigrants", "I'm not getting any acting roles because I'm Asian", "No one respects me because I'm short", "I can't do that because I don't have any money", "I don't have money because all the rich greedy people have them"... and the list goes on.

I was fortunate that I was dating someone that openned my eyes that I was capable of reaching my goals and that it was all in my own hands to make it happen. The blame game satisfies us momentarily and puts the light on someone or something else but it eventually always comes back to ourselves. I understand it pains to think that we are the agents of our own destinies and circumstances but it also empowering. CHOOSE to see it as an empowerment and everything changes.

5) "I am my Ego":
We all know the ego can be a bitch. It's like a tantruming child and that's how we should treat it. Be aware if it, observe it from a distance, let the thoughts flow out of you and stay grounded.

I used to be very defensive. Anything anyone said hurt my ego because I grew up with a lot of high expectations and criticism. I seeked acceptance outside of myself instead of from within. So when I felt attacked (or I should say, my ego) I went on the defensive. Through learning how to breathe properly and ground myself in my acting classes, I've learned to respond and not react. Responding requires thinking and reflection as opposed to reacting, which is based in a more habitual animalistic way of behaving.

I'm not sure if we ever stop dealing with these obstacles. But I do believe it becomes easier the more we become aware of ourselves and our behaviours. It won't happen overnight because it does require a rewiring in the way we have thought our whole lives. We'll  be fighting with ourselves for awhile before a new habit replaces the old.

But remember.... YOU CAN DO IT. I have no doubt in my mind. Again, check out the link for ideas on how to overcome these obstacles.

And those are my thoughts this early afternoon. Have good one :)


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Competition vs Creativity

The idea of competition has been on my mind lately. I think on some level, competition can be healthy if the spirit of it is kept on growth. But I would say that competition itself isn't healthy because it can create a lot of negative qualities such as aggressiveness, greediness, selfishness, anxiety... I think you get the point.

And I know a little bit about competition. I am first and foremost an actor. Always wanted to be one since I was a little girl. There was something inside of me that knew I needed to perform. I was really shy growing up and began to come out of my shell during high school when I became a typical drama geek. My other drama geek friends and I would read plays, put them up during the school year, took every drama class available, went to the Stratford and Shaw festivals and even attempted at writing a play. After realizing what a terrible and purposeless script it was, we dropped it and never finished it. We produced another show, though, in the summer in Cabbagetown, Toronto.

Needless to say, acting is one of the most competitive businesses out there. Everyone seems to want to be a star without any prior training. Mind you, there are the rare few who have done it, like my man Johnny Depp. But I think it is because those few are the real deal, the true actors. Anyhow, when it was time for me to choose my major in University, I auditioned for several acting programs and some design programs (something I was also good at but not passionate about). I wasn't accepted to any of the acting programs and I was CRUSHED! There I was, thinking I could be an actor and I couldn't even get into an acting program. Another friend of mine, who auditioned as well, got into several. I was happy for her but that was definitely the beginning, or I should say  the continuation of my complex with competing against other people.

There was another moment in University where I had auditioned for a part for the year's production. I, again, did not get in but another girl did. I remember thinking that it was ridiculous and unfair that she got in because I was so much better than her. I just didn't get it. I was angry and frustrated with the world and became really bitter and broken for awhile. It did me no good. And it was no one's fault but my own. I forgive myself for that. I was childish and insecure.

I think this began to change when I woke one day and decided, I made the CHOICE, not to let that determine my behavior and how I looked at the world. I was still sure in my heart and gut I not only wanted, but needed to do this work. And that for me changed everything. I decided to change my major from Design for the Theatre to Major in Theatre and take as many acting classes as possible. I was determined to learn as much as I could about acting from as many teachers and friends who would help me. I started focusing on my work and not on the work of others. It was then I began to see what I could offer, what I was capable of. I remember during a one-on-one feedback session with an acting teacher, someone I deeply respected and seeked approval from. He sat me down and said "Chantria, everything you are doing is great. The intentions are there and you are engaging to watch. I just can't hear you." So that told me two things. 1) I did it! I was on my way to becoming the actor I always dreamed of being. And 2) I needed to work on my voice. Do you think I went away and cried about it? No! I thought, great! Now who can teach me how to use my voice properly?

I was also frustrated at the fact that there were no decent Asian female roles in film and television, let alone theatre. Again, I blamed the outside world. It was the industry's fault, it was the directors faults, it was the so-and-so's fault. Eventually I got tired and got creative. I thought, "Well, if the roles and the project aren't going to come to me, then I will just create it!" So I did. I started writing and turned it into a one-woman show, Someone Between. With an amazing team of people who also believed in the project, we self-produced it in 2008 in Montreal and have been presenting it ever since. I am now in the middle of grants to remount it in Toronto. And I have met some incredible people since I started this journey; artists, educators, audience members from all sorts of communities and it continues to grow.

There comes a point when we have to stop blaming our present given circumstances and take some sort of responsibility for where we are, doing what we are doing. And then, let go of it and think creativity! Think what can be and go out make it happen. Most of us are too busy looking to the right and to the left, at our "competitors", to look ahead at our own goals. That is detrimental to our learning, growing and happiness. As an actor there are so many factors that are out of my hand. So I know there is only one competitor in my mind and that is myself. I know what I need to work on and I will seek to get it. Now when I go on auditions and sit in the waiting room, I smile at my fellow actors and wish them to "break a leg". And it's actually sincere.

I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes, passed down to me from my acting coach and mentor. I read it once in awhile, but especially when I'm not feeling so hot. And it lifts me  back up. I hope it does the same for you.

"There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action and there is only one of you in all of time. This expression is unique and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium, and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how it compares to other expression. It is  your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open."

                                                                                                                                 *Martha Graham

Let the world see your expression.
And those are my thoughts tonight.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

My New Year Confession

So, I have a few confessions to make on the first day of 2011.

I did not spend my New Year's Eve in an overpriced club, where the champagne glass is a joke and the "cheap" drinks are almost impossible to get through the mounds of people trying to get the bartender's attention. I was not dressed in the outfit that I was planning to wear yesterday. I did not get drunk with friends and say things I may have regretted. I did not countdown with a crowd of people downtown in the cold.

I had plans to go to Niagara Falls and enjoy New Year's there but that fell through. After feeling disappointed for about five minutes, I blasted music that made me feel great, danced around in my undies like nobody's business, played dress up and enjoyed my Bailey's on the rocks! And you know what? I had a blast with myself!!! (And get your mind out of the gutter, if you're thinking of other things.)

With all this studying I have been doing about personal growth, self improvement, the law of attraction and other laws of the Universe, I am a true believe that things happen for a reason, whether we may like it or not. And that it is mainly what we are attracting to us by our own vibrations that places us in whatever circumstances we are in.  So I found it fitting that I spent bringing in 2011 alone. Not LONELY, just alone, at least physically. There is a huge difference between feeling lonely and being alone. I was alone, but I was filled with so much joy from within. I danced in front of my huge mirror and realized that I had everything I needed; my health, my family, my friends, my confidence, my creativity, my mind, my thoughts, my free will! And as I was dancing in my room, I simply focused on those great things and in bringing more of what I wanted into my life. I became really excited about it. And if I am not able to bring that excitement to and for myself, who will? No one.

If we are depending on someone else to bring us happiness and love, we are embarking on an impossible journey. Sure, we may get the immediate satisfaction of another's affections and appraisals, but when that person is done, do we still feel complete or are we empty again? If we are empty again, we were there for the wrong reasons. It is more of a selfish addiction, like any other drug, leaving our system. But, if we can still stand strong and walk upon the Earth with a confidence and inner peace with ourselves, then that is a whole other story.

Going back to my New Year's Eve, after getting my dance on and letting that energy run through and out of me, it was time for a shift. I tidied up my room a little (always great and simple way to cleanse yourself), got anther glass of Bailey's, got my mother one as well, turned down the lights and searched for inspiration. I go to for that. And I'd like to share with you what I watched last night that put things into perspective for me.

The man's name is Sean Stephenson. This series of videos is called "The #1 Killer and Attractor of Love- How to create a deep attraction". The amazing thing about him is that he has a physical condition in which by the time he was 13 years old, had already fractured 200 bones!!! His mother was told her would not make it at birth and he is now in his 30's, thriving and spreading messages of love and empowerment. Please take the time to watch this. I promise it will change the way you see things. It certainly has done that for me. It was the perfect ending to my 2010 and the even more perfect beginning to my 2011.

I wish you all a joyous, loving and prosperous 2011 and beyond! Find your inner peace and inner strength and you can conquer the world.

And those are my thoughts this early afternoon, on the first day of a new beginning.