Friday, February 12, 2016

Non-Defensiveness - A Trait of a Highly Respected Woman

I was watching a re-run of Project Runway the other night, as a mode of relaxation (I find some comfort in watching re-runs of my favorite shows - haha) and something struck me as what I'll term as an characteristic of refinement. It is somewhat a sign of classy behavior.

It is about being non-defensive and being able to accept criticism with a cool head.

There was this designer who was criticized for his work and his work ethic. I was rather impressed at how he just stood calm and confident, yet humble to admit to some of things he was criticized for, and yet not throwing anyone else (the other contestants) under the bus. From the way he responded, you get the feeling that he was truly listening, and reflecting about the comments, before giving a thoughtful answer. He didn't respond with a wishy-washy way, over-doing the 'humility' and swallowing every criticism he got. He also didn't do any finger pointing or blaming, or give excuses or respond with, "I know. I know."

Now, you would think that all contestants would be grateful to receive feedback from these powerful people in fashion, because of the lack of experience etc. If you watched the show, you know that it is not really the case. However, on top of this, this guy was already famous. He had his own line and have been showcasing in top runway shows already. He was experienced and had many clients back in his home country. You would think he would be more arrogant because he DID know what he was doing. Art & fashion is subjective isn't it? Despite his success, he had a humble but confident attitude.

I was thinking to myself, that is a man with refined dignity.

Now, he wasn't all that gentlemanly looking, or particularly well-dressed and he even uses swear words on occasion, but this just emphasizes the fact that looks do play a part in commanding respect but it is more about the character that shows through behavior and how one treats others. These are the factors that make a person command respect and makes one look poised with grace.

On Being Non Defensive

I'll be first to admit that I am not, by nature, one of these people. I can get defensive.

I'm a passionate person, who dives into things and do them with energy and excitement. I'm also an ideas person and I have many opinion on things (though I don't usually share them unless on request). I tend to be unconventional so I guess I don't do things the regular way sometimes and that......brings in lots of criticism. PLUS, I have a voice online (writing here on and on another ballet site), and also in my line of work, which does bring in my fair share of "criticisms".

Thus, many times my first reaction is passion - which also translates into being emotional and stubbornness or even anger. I may make excuses or present arguments and on rare occasions - maybe once in 5 years, it even results in slamming stuff around the house. (Yikes! Sorry for bursting the bubble of what I'm like).

Almost like a contradiction to my passionate nature, I'm also non-confrontational, so when I get criticized, I tone down my reaction but inside of me - I'm struggling and being all defensive.

Over the years, I had to learn to toughen up. To use these criticisms to my advantage and reflect and improve. And grow. And improve. And become the woman I want to be. So I'll like to share some of my own thoughts on why we should lose this less-than-pleasant behavior.

What happens when you are defensive?

1. You're not listening

Sometimes, listening is more important than being defensive. We are being defensive because we are responding to the hurt we feel internally. Sometimes, the ego is hurt. Listening is key because, like that extremely talented designer on Project Runway, you can then take what is being said, do something about it and emerge so much better, and more powerful.

2. You're creating frustration & hindering communication

Most people who are your friends and family love you and love being around you, otherwise they won't be hanging out with you! They are generally not there to make you feel bad, or criticize you for the fun of it or to make themselves feel good (if the latter, please lose these toxic people quick.)

As hard as it is to believe, they are actually helping you. They want you to be better. Maybe it is true that they could have packaged what they are saying better, so that it won't hurt so much. But once you understand the motives, try to look beyond your hurt feelings and self-reflect if you could use any of their criticisms to be a better person and be true to yourself.

Instead of being defensive, which just results in escalating arguments, just pause and say, "Thank you, I will think about what you say (if you aren't ready to respond well yet)."

“You can't see clearly through defensiveness.” ― Bryant McGill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life 

 “Any defensiveness is a sign of failure. You can't move forward if you are defensive.” ― Bryant McGill, Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life Simple Reminders: Inspiration for Living Your Best Life

3. It doesn't reflect well on you

Not only you'll look bad, you'll look shabby.

As inspired by the very classy designer, I feel it just makes him look all so good, and my respect for him increases by ten-fold. It makes me want to listen more to what he has to say and makes me want to help him. Suddenly, he looks so much more dignified and admirable.

How Not to be Defensive

Not all criticism are 100 % applicable

Remember that not all criticisms are valid, so you have to keep a clear mind when you self-evaluate yourself against the critics.

Look for the gold

Big companies all listen to feedback good and bad, and especially the bad because the customers took time to communicate to them the problems of their products and services. They can use them to improve and beat their competitors.

Maintain the peace in your heart.

 It is natural to feel hurt and down for a while. But these things are good for you (I'm reminding myself too).

In life, especially if you want to live life large (i.e. be in a position with influence), you will get more criticism and you have to be able to deal with it (or get used to it or get used to ignoring it). For instance, more people will criticize Barack Obama or Donald Trump than any high school teacher. The high school teacher will probably get criticized more than the guy working in the Deli down the road. I'm not trying to compare the jobs and all of them are important, but what I'm saying is the larger your reach or sphere of influence, the more used you have to get to criticism and not be defensive about it.

Try to get over your "down" feeling quickly, keep your head up, and just be peaceful about it. I use my faith to rest in the Lord and say quick prayers to help me feel better.

Remember why you made that decision and reinforce those reasons in your heart.

Not many people will understand why you make certain decisions. You certainly do not owe them an explanation but you have to stand by yourself, even if that makes you all alone in this. You can't please every one. At the end of the day, everyone will mind their own business.

Have a classy response, especially when being non defensive is not yet a habit.

Smile, say thank you. Explain briefly or don't explain at all. Just remember there will always be nay-sayers and unbelievers. Evaluate what they say and take the gold, then throw it away. It takes a while to develop a tough mindset. It takes toughness to do what you believe in. Take all these criticisms as practice, and then you will emerge like gold, after being refined in the fire through hardships and criticisms.

Thanks for reading! Go for gold! Rooting for all of you. :)

Love, Eunice

P.s. Can't wait to move over to the new website! Sadly, the migration is not yet complete. Will be blogging here for now. Do follow on Facebook and Instagram so as not to miss out announcements.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Power of Practice

Have you ever had moments where you wished to be like someone, perhaps there are some things in your life you wish you could do?

Well, I've had plenty of those.

Let's take a minute here and do a little self-reflection. Take some mental notes. What are some of the things you wish you could do? (It doesn't matter if it sounds silly).

Here are some (perhaps far-fetched) ambitions of mine.

I wished I could read Japanese and French.
I wished I could play the piano proficiently.
I wished I had a more elegant style in personal presentation.
I wished I could dance ballet at semi-professional level.
I wished I could be a proficient writer!
I wished I could cook healthy meals every day under 20 minutes.
I wished I could sew and design my own clothes.
I wished I could braid my hair beautifully.
I wished I could learn to put make up like a pro.
I wished I had a toned body.
I wished I were more flexible.
I wished I had better handwriting.
I wished I could do my own professional looking manicure.

No matter how big or small the goal is, you can achieve it with certain degree of success if you would just put in some practice!

A small effort daily goes a long way

The powerful thing about this is that even the least amount of effort goes a really long way if it is applied consistently, even if it is for about 5 minutes a day.

You just have to keep at it, and it does get better and better. You have to be patient with yourself.

Of course, the amount of success you may have depends on how much you put into it. The more you put into it, the quicker you'll get there.

But hey, don't let that discourage you. If you enjoy it, just do it (or practice) clumsily and don't think about how long it takes to acquire the skill. In fact, there are some things that you can't rush...or rather, there might not make much of a difference. Consistency and to always persist is key.

For instance, I wasn't very good at memorizing long dance combinations in my ballet class. I struggled with it tremendously. However, I simply kept at it. I kept turning up for class, regardless of whether I could do it. Out of the blue, I suddenly realized it wasn't such a big deal anymore.

Practice again, and again, and again, like me in the ballet studio! :)

Do not give in to self-doubt

I believe we are all naturally resistant to change or difficulty, some more than others. So sometimes, our minds will make up excuses.

"What's the point? I'll never learn how to read musical notes."
"I'm too old."
"I'm too busy. I can't afford the time."

I'm not asking you to make a huge commitment either. If you can, find an easy way to put five minutes of practice time into your daily routine.

For instance, I've long admired beautiful french braids and I've always wanted to wear them in my hair. However, I can only do a very simple one. Or rather, I could barely do a simple braid. It was messy, loose, uneven and downright a disaster for my hair.

I've always resorted to getting them professionally done at the salon, especially for important events.

However, recently I decided that I should get better at doing them. I would make myself to do a braid everyday. It only takes a few minutes. I'm not there yet, but I feel with every braid that I do, I am in greater command of my skill. It might take months for me to be able to do complicated and gorgeous braids but I'm getting there. I'm closer to my dream of wearing beautiful braids in my hair!

Another instance is playing the piano. I take a 45 minutes piano lesson every week. I told the teacher that it was my personal me-time, and I'm there to enjoy myself, and not put myself under the pressure to achieve anything. I just wanted to commit time to enjoy learning music.

I have a rather full schedule, working, completing (yet another) a teaching certification course, plus family, dancing (working out) and all that. I told my piano teacher that I may not be like her regular piano students who may put in an hour practice daily.

So on less busy months, I manage to do a 5-10 minutes practice every day or every other day, and on busy seasons, I don't get to touch my piano at all. During that 5-10 minutes of practice, I will just run through quickly and play the new piece I'm working on at least three times. I won't beat up myself for making mistakes or not getting it perfect. As day 2, day 3, day 4 goes by until I meet my teacher, I'm surprised at how much progress I make within a week, just practicing a song for 3 times each day.

During those seasons when I'm too busy and not touch the piano at all, I'm even surprised myself, at how I'm still progressing. It may not be as much as when I put in that tiny amount of practice, but the amazing thing is that I'm still progressing. I would play each song with my teacher a few times each session and by the end of the month, I am able to play 3 or 4 new songs. And the best part is as time goes on, your skills are compounded. They sometimes go through a 'growth spurt'!

That applies to every little goal, that seemed big goals at that time... such as obtaining flexibility like doing splits (when I'm a stiff adult - seemed impossible!). I didn't push myself really hard but practiced them imperfectly for 30 seconds a few times a week. It took me a year to get them. It sounds long but I wasn't counting. That was because I kind of gave up and thought that I will never get there but did them anyway. But to my amazement, I did manage to do what I thought was impossible.

Another little unexpected goal...applying eye-liner evenly (though I still feel there is room for improvement). I'm still practicing that everyday!

Harness the power of practice

I find tremendous power in the simple act of practicing.

It doesn't matter if you don't have much time, just a little bit goes a long way!

And come to think about it, there are some things you can't rush. If I added all the little 2 minutes I took to practice my splits, maybe it will be equivalent to spending 12 hours to achieving them. (I calculated 2 minutes x 365 days in a year). Even if I took a day off work and spent 12 hours trying to achieve my splits, most probably I could not achieve them. Similarly, I believe it is the same with the piano. I could not achieve learning to sight-read well if I crashed-practiced it for 10 hours each day for a week.

There's something about consistent practice. It is as though your body needs some downtime, during sleep, and something processes in your body and brain.


knowing that there is tremendous power in practice just opens up the possibility of dreams, of what I may achieve.

I then ask myself, what do I want to get good at? I'll put in a few minutes a day doing just that, and maybe in a month, or a year or 5-10 years, I'll have that in the bag!

Now just imagine, that over a x period of time, you'll be able to have a polished accent, good posture, dress elegantly, walk gracefully, cook gourmet meals, be well-read, write in Spanish, understand Mandarin, become fit and toned, knit a sweater, do your own nails...what else would you like to be able to do?

So, what would you like to get good at?

Get started practicing it! Even if it is only for 1 minute. Do it once or twice daily...and report back! :)

Have a great week!

Love, Eunice xoxo

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Updating Your Grooming ... and How to Look Expensive

Currently reading: It's awesome!
Not many people know this but years ago, I worked in a fashion magazine, as an fashion and beauty's editorial assistant. 

I didn't know much about grooming and I hardly wore any make up. Imagine that! Going to work in a fashion magazine, not really knowing how to dress or put on make up! Anyway, it was during that period of time I had learned the most, not just about fashion and beauty but about presenting myself, socializing and working with people.

At the magazine house, I felt like I was a kid in a candy store. There were rows and rows of beauty products, designer clothes and shoes, home decor, art etc. I was constantly given samples to try and write about.  I learned so much about beauty and make up brands and types of product. There was so much to learn!

When I left overseas to go to college, my editor gave a big goodie bag of make up and wished me well. 

That goodie bag of make up served me well. I used it to go clubbing in those happening Sydney college days, shopping with the girlfriends, dinners and dates and everything! My make up skill level was basic but I had youth on my side! 

As I grew older, I began to care for my skin and put very little make up. Thus, you can say that my very little skills deteriorated even further. So for the past few years, I had been looking simple, fairly groomed - but it wasn't my best. My lack of skills became more prominent when suddenly I had a big event coming up... like my brother's wedding recently.  I wanted to save money by doing my own make up. Thus, I started studying Youtube make up tutorials and Korean make up tutorials on Pinterest (I'm Asian - and prefer the Asian style make up for my Asian features).

I had discovered, not only had I been outdated in the WAY I had been applying make up, my beauty and make up products are outdated.

There are so many new innovations! Even my expensive Bobbi Brown and Estee Lauder make up brushes bought years ago are not as great as the really inexpensive drugstore make up brushes! Way to go for advancement so all of us can enjoy great products at more affordable prices. 

Applying beauty products and make up requires a somewhat technical skill and that comes with practice. I was sorely out of it. It took me a long time to do my make up for my brother's wedding day but I had managed with a fair amount of difficulty. I had to also update and buy a few new products to help me. Being Asian, I don't have the big long eye lashes and so I had to use a natural looking false lash. It was extremely difficult to get it on properly! I marvel in awe at my friends who are used to wearing them and can just stick them on in 5 minutes. 

Since then, I've been updating my knowledge (really love and recommend this book How to Look Expensive: A Beauty Editor's Secrets to Getting Gorgeous without Breaking the Bank  P.s. it is really a beauty book without the clothes fashion element - and not as 'silly' as it sounds. ) and curating my beauty and make up products. I've also been trying to get in touch with current make up trends (a fresh way to the classic look - don't want to look like my make up is stuck in the 90s).

To my surprise, it is less of an effort than expected.

I usually browse on Instagram or Pinterest for a look I like and then I just read how to do it. It takes less than one minute! Then I try it on myself - in a watered down way.

I actually feel better! I feel fresher in my looks and it gives me a confidence boost! It is also fun trying to be creative.

I felt like I leveled up in skills (like in those cell phone games - haha!).

With my new eyeshadow and liner technique.
All in all, I'm not advocating the use of make up or beauty products, so if you don't feel the need to use them, I'm happy for you! I just feel the need of inspiration to look my best and not neglect my grooming. Everyone's busy these days and let's be honest here, it does take a focused effort to maintain your health and beauty and look your best.

And we really do need to update our looks. We cannot be doing the same thing as we did 10 years ago. You may look dated without even knowing it.

Grooming is a big part of being an elegant woman. It is good manners to look presentable always.

What are some of your favorite health and beauty inspiration? Do let me know what are your favorite books, make up artists, beauty products etc!

Hope you're have a great JULY.



P.s. Here is a small picture of myself with my new upgraded make up skills. Haha!