The Truth Behind The Mask

Learning To Love Yourself, Re-framing Your Thinking





“To be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting.”


-E.E. Cummings



I absolutely hate it when someone tells you that everything happens for a reason. (And when someone tells you that you’ve chosen your parents, but that’s another story).


Yes, it’s true that the obstacles, the trauma you went through made you who you are. Yes, it’s true that those formative experiences may have made you stronger. But that doesn’t make them okay.


You were hurt. You have a right to be angry.


You have a right to be angry because we live in a modern society that’s pretty twisted.


We live in a world dominated by screens and unattainable “norms” of perfection where communication has reduced itself to the tapping of keys on a keyboard (or smartphone, whichever you prefer). It’s hard to be yourself amidst all that chaos.


Being yourself is hard. Society tells you one thing. At schools, the maze of cliques is a jungle in itself. And then there are the things you don’t see.


In my case, it was the tension caused by the contradictory East-West dichotomy. I conformed because it was the only way I knew how to survive. But rather than helping me survive, that conformity led to the one place I didn’t want to be.


I won’t go into the details here; you’ve heard me tell that story before.


We are all human. Words hurt. We can pretend that we’re fine when we’re really dying. We can project the image of being someone with no filter who doesn’t waste their brain or breath on something (or someone) at the edge of their peripheral vision.


But sometimes when the mask comes off we do care.


Some would say that the role play, the constant switching from role to role depending on who you’re with isn’t authentic.


My response is to read between the lines, because you may only know one side of a particular person.


Becoming yourself (and staying yourself) amid all those voices saying no, do this, do that is confusing. It’s painful. And it’s easier to conform than it is to stick out. Because going against the flow takes a lot of strength.


So the next time you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders, remember that you aren’t alone. Everyone has issues, even the people you consider “flawless.”


We’re all just trying to be ourselves in a big, confusing world.


And that’s hard enough.


Image Credit: Pinterest


2013: The Year of Mulan

Miscellaneous Musings




(Image credit: Pinterest)

If it’s not obvious, Mulan is one of my favorite Disney characters.

I remember at 8, bawling my eyes out while listening to Christina Aguilera’s song “Reflection” before even seeing the movie. At one point, I remember shoving the CD into my Walkman and giving my mom the headphones, demanding that she listen to the track. The song could explain to her feelings that I couldn’t clearly articulate at that age.

As painful as it is for me to admit, that song has been the theme song for my life.

One thing I’ve learned is that recovering from trauma, as I’ve started to do this year, is a daily battle. You aren’t “fixed” and then let off the rails to fend for yourself. Recovering is a journey, something that you face every day of your life. There is no quick fix. My life coach equated my journey to working out. She said, “If you do it a little every day, it will serve you, even if you don’t see results. But if you’ve just started working out 2 weeks ago and then not work out for 2 weeks, it’ll be like you never started.”

This year has been a journey of reflection. I’ve been given many opportunities this year to re-evaluate and one of my goals for 2014 is to use the tools and lessons I’ve learned to continue that growth. I hope to use this blog as a way to keep myself accountable, and hopefully help others along the way.

I started the year by declaring that my goal was to obtain my driver’s license. That didn’t happen. I’m going to own up to that right now. It’s because I was paralyzed by fear. When the year started, I fully believed that my journey defined who I was.

WDS2013Chase Jarvis

(These images are mine)

I went to the 2013 World Domination Summit with no expectations. Those 72 hours turned out to be one of the highlights of my life. People who, like me, did not want to fall into the trap of mediocrity surrounded me. Add to that the fact that I was back in the city of my alma mater, a place that I loved.

I was home.

As a result of the event, I was exposed to an entirely new network of people, many of whom I now call friends who also live in the same city. They were the first ones I turned to when I was let go from my first job shortly after returning. They were the ones who spurred me forward. They were the ones who encouraged me to see this as a blessing and turn a negative into a positive.

I worked with a coach who helped me get clarity on my passions and re-framed the concept of gratitude and why it’s the one of the best things in the world. Since then, I’ve volunteered my social media skills with the biggest TEDx event in UK and worked with incredible women who have allowed me to participate in transformational programs in exchange for social media content development. This transformational journey has taught me so much about how to hold myself accountable in the world beyond academics. I am not perfect, by any means, and I am still learning.

Through this journey, I have learned to see my own roadblocks. Which is more than I can say for the girl that I was 10 years ago. I had no sense of self-worth, and I thought that the only way to deal with the world was to numb myself and to shut it off by pushing my feelings down the filter because they weren’t “right.”

10 years later, I am finally taking steps to heal and build myself back up again. I am learning to express my emotions instead of pushing them down and stay present instead of numbing the world out. I am learning to keep track of the little things that I am grateful for. I am learning to tap into my power. I am taking steps to learn how to overcome my fears.

I’m now reading books that I initially dismissed as what one of my coaches would call “woo-woo.” I took a driving lesson for the first time in 5 years (when I was terrified of even taking the written test), and I’m trying my hardest to be open to new practices.

I don’t have everything together. I don’t know what’s going to happen next year.

But do know that I’m grateful for everything that happened this year thus far (and the year’s not even over yet).

This time next year, I want to be saying “Thanks for making me a fighter.” I think you can all guess what song I took that lyric from and who sang it.

Are there any songs that have a special meaning for you this year? What was most memorable?

Letting It Go: The Start of My Journey

Miscellaneous Musings

“Don’t let them in, don’t let them see. Be the good girl you always have to be. Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know”

Well now they know.

I am a sleepwalker.

Not in the traditional sense of the word; my parents don’t have stories of finding me riffling through their kitchen cabinets at 4 in the morning.

I’ve been sleepwalking through my life.

I’ve never been one to show emotion; it feels dangerous to me. Growing up in a bilingual household where one parent comes from a very collectivist culture where displaying emotion and putting individual needs first is frowned upon, I was raised in a household where I was constantly told (indirectly) that showing emotion was a bad thing. I experienced so much pain when I tried to express my emotions to my family that I came to the conclusion that they were right; showing emotion was dangerous, and the only way to survive was to numb myself.

In middle school, I was subject to severe bullying; the fact that I was one of the only Asian child in a private school populated by wealthy Caucasian children made me an easy target. This pain of this experience only served to emphasize my belief that showing emotion caused you pain, and was therefore, dangerous. What started as simple test anxiety became full-blown anxiety as the bullying escalated. I developed depression and a strong prejudice against Caucasian individuals and became suicidal.

Thus began my journey into the world of mental health. Thus began my journey of becoming an ice queen.

In an attempt to help me, my parents took me to various psychologists and psychiatrists. They even had a health professional come to my house to administer tests, which (and I quote from the report that my pediatrician later gave me a few years later), “may have helped to ease Alisa’s anxiety”


Every day I was driven to another professional where I poured out my heart in their tiny offices, where they scribbled madly on their notepads.

In retrospect, I think a part of me started to enjoy these sessions because I finally felt like someone understood me. I didn’t understand that these people were paid to say those things, paid to let my parents know what was going through my head. I began to see them as a friend who I could pour my heart out to without fear of my parents knowing what I was going through. The negative messages around the idea of showing emotion forced me to deal with it the only way I knew how: I turned my switch off, and suppressed every emotion that I felt.

I came home one day to hear my psychiatrist leaving a message for my mother on the answering machine. The only thing that registered with me was that she had been telling my parents what I had been telling her, things that she had repeatedly assured me would remain confidential.

My trust and sense of safety went out the window with that message on the answering machine. Up until that point, I had thought that my house was my safe place, my parents, my safety net. Knowing that my psychiatrist had breached our confidentiality agreement hurt; I had bared my soul to her on the one condition that nothing I told her would leave the room. That was the cherry on top of the cake; I lost all faith at that point. I knew my parents were keeping something from me.

Unbeknownst to me, my parents and psychiatrist had met with my pediatrician, who had agreed to give me anti-depressants. They broached the topic with me at the next appointment with my psychiatrist; one could safely say they carefully omitted key pieces of information. I asked what the medication would fix. They told me it would fix my slipping grades, an excuse they had used consistently. Despite my reservations, I agreed; they assured me that it was temporary, that they would keep me on the medication for no longer than a month.

My grades went up, but I started experiencing severe side effects almost immediately; I had intense migraines and my suicidal symptoms were exacerbated. I floated into the psychiatrist’s office when the month trial period was up, ecstatic that I would no longer be feeling like a winded rhino, only to be told that they wanted me to continue taking a different medication. As I proceeded to cry, scream the word “no” and rage, this doctor laughed at me. I decided in that instant, recalling every doctor I had ever seen, that all doctors were inconsiderate of their patients’ wants and needs.

They proceeded to give me two additional trials of different anti-depressants, which had little to no effect. With each downed pill, the severity of my symptoms increased. By the end of what turned out to be the last trial, my only mentor had moved away to pursue another job opportunity and the bullying had escalated to the point where the sound of the phone scared me and I was too afraid to answer the phone for fear that it would be a prank call from one of my so called “friends.” I ultimately ended up removing myself from that school.

I’ve been stuck on that incident, unflinching since the age of 11.

It’s time for me to wake up. It’s time to let it go.

This is my journey, and I hope you’ll join me.