By Natalie Berger (Grace’s assistant)
Sunday evening, I got a phone call. I had recently applied for a position as a personal assistant to rising social media star Grace Liang, known for her chic sense of fashion and lifestyle blogging. I met her for the first time several months ago while I was hosting a podcast and was instantly enamored with her confidence, self-awareness, and can-do attitude. So often people preach “you can do anything you want if you set your mind to it,” but most of the time, those people are just digging into a bag of stock quotes to tell their friends when they are feeling down about their life. It’s difficult to believe someone when they tell you that. But Grace, on the other hand, really emanates the meaning behind the saying and truly believes that once you unlock your fears and perceived downfalls, you can uncover the success that lies within yourself. Following that podcast recording, I went and followed her on social media and found myself absolutely inspired by how she looks at life with such unrestrained freedom. Needless to say, as soon as I saw that she was searching for a new assistant, I applied with crossed fingers immediately. So when that phone rang this past Sunday night, I really wasn’t quite sure what to expect after being offered the position.
Day two on the job, Grace was hosting her inaugural “Clearing Emotional Blocks Through Body Wisdom” workshop at the Troy Chamber of Commerce and asked for me to not just do my usual event filming and photography, but asked that I participate in the workshop as well. I had never been to any sort of self-empowerment workshop before. I will say this: I’ve always been a huge pessimist. Not necessarily a negative person, but I’ve always been skeptical of things working out how they’ve been promised. How could one three hour workshop clear my emotional blocks? As I told Grace earlier in the day, “I have enough trapped emotions to start a new prison with them”. I’ve struggled with maintaining positive relationships with friends, family, significant others, and myself for several years now, set in the idea that there likely wasn’t much I could do to really improve them despite the suggestions of others. So, going into the workshop, my mind was already determined that while I might enjoy it, it probably won’t have any lasting impression on my personal awareness.
Amongst an audience of 21, I tried to keep an open mind and an open heart. After an introduction to who Grace is, she asked us about our buttons. “What pushes your buttons?” she said. “When someone does something you don’t like, how does it make you feel?”
In the worksheet packet provided, there were six spaces with fill in the blank prompts:
“When ____, I am ______”
For example, “When someone doesn’t turn on their car blinker, I am mad.”
I looked at the page and asked myself. “Well… shoot. Where do I even begin?”
When someone tries to tell me how to do something I already know how to do, I am annoyed.
When a colleague doesn’t pay attention to important details, I am frustrated.
When I have to redo a project for someone who changes their mind, I am angry.
After writing these down she asks us how we can change from being annoyed, frustrated, angry, etc. into something positive rather than negative. For me, perhaps instead of being annoyed when someone tries to tell me how to do something, I can choose to let them finish explaining it or remind them of my skill and remember that they believe they are being helpful.
I think that having the opportunity to write them down in such a format, I was able to better identify the stressors in my life and learn how to change the stressors that are within my own control, and learn how to change my thinking of the things that are beyond my control. Even as that pessimist who is constantly frustrated and annoyed by everything, this simple action of writing down a list helped me to understand that even if something is beyond my control, I am 100% in control of how I respond to it. By just doing this much, I felt a bit of a burden lifting away from my shoulders because there is no need to feel like everything and everyone is my problem to deal with.
I have always had mixed responses to the idea of “there’s no such thing as a good excuse”– mainly because I’m most often hearing it from some financially well-off, white, male fitness trainer in regards to someone’s physical health. How can this person know anything about what a good excuse is when he isn’t exactly in another person’s shoes? But hearing it from Grace made me look at it a little bit differently.
Lest we dive into a battle of “pain olympics,” as I like to call the phenomenon in which you feel it is your duty to be happy with what you have simply because someone else has it worse than you, hearing Grace’s life story proved to me that she wasn’t just reciting some empowering words without ever having experienced extreme difficulties in life herself. Having only been on day two of my employment with her in addition to speaking with her for an hour on my podcast, I really didn’t know her backstory all that well.
She told us about growing up in rural China and how often she and her family had gone without food. She was eleven-years-old when she saw her first car and when she had her first photo taken. For most of us, our first photo in our lifetime is almost quite literally as it begins, our first car ride being the one from the hospital to our new home. So Grace certainly knows a thing or two about what it means to truly struggle in life, her workshop based on her own personal truth of growth and never taking no for an answer.
She asks us about our own painful personal experiences, giving us a space to write them down on the worksheet. For me, a few of the ones I chose were being rejected from several really excellent job opportunities, hearing that my romantic love for a friend was not reciprocated, and being unable to climb a volcano with the rest of my tour group because I was too tired and had to turn back.
After writing down a few painful experiences, Grace asked for us to think of some self-limiting beliefs we may have developed from these instances. For the job rejections, I wrote that maybe I didn’t go to the right school or that I made a bad career decision. For my unreciprocated love, I thought that it was perhaps because I’m too ugly or too boring. For my unsuccessful volcano hike, I believed that I could never be disciplined enough to get in better shape or that maybe I was just somehow not built right to be more athletic.
According to Grace, these are the top 10 self-limiting beliefs:
- I’m too old.
- I’m not smart enough.
- I’m not educated enough.
- I’m afraid of trying and failing.
- You have to have money to make money.
- I’ve already tried everything.
- It’s selfish of me to want more.
- I don’t feel that I really deserve it.
- I don’t have the willpower.
- All the good ones are taken.
I completely agree with that list, having experienced just about all of those feelings myself for so many different reasons– some that are totally in my control, others that are completely out of my hands. Great, so now that I’m staring at a list of all the times I felt like garbage, now what? How can I take that list and think about it differently?
How Will I…?
It’s easy to place blame on everything and everyone else except yourself. I get that. I am a huge offender. It is easy to say “welp… that’s that. Nothing I can do at this point” and decide that is the end of it. Saying that definitely makes it feel like you tried your best, but in the end your best wasn’t good enough and you can just pat yourself on the back and move onto the next problem. Unfortunately, conceding does not get you a job you want or the relationships you want or help you climb a mountain again in the future. So instead of saying “I can’t” Grace asks us “what can you say instead?”
The next prompt in the workbook says “I can’t ______. How will I _____?”
So I fill mine in as such:
“I can’t get a good job in my field. How will I continue to get experience and improve my skills so that I can?”
“I can’t find a boyfriend. How will I remind myself that I am good enough and the right person won’t feel like a chore?”
“I can’t climb this giant mountain. How will I train myself to get in better shape so that I can?”
Looking at it this way makes it seem so much more simple. Having a clear, direct goal written down in front of me forces me to remove all the self-limiting thoughts that would float around my head everytime I asked myself how I could accomplish something. It also encourages a sense of accountability in myself and that it is completely up to me to make those changes in order to accomplish what I want.
However, the challenge of finding the discipline in making those changes and sticking to them is still something I think I will continue to struggle with at times following this workshop, but I suppose learning to prioritize what changes are the most important to me and remembering to keep identifying my self-limiting beliefs as they arise so that I can shut them down and keep moving forward.
Removing Emotional Blocks
One thing that sets Grace’s workshop apart from other self-help workshops of this variety is her inclusion of something from within her own cultural background melded together with her more modern inspirational presentation for Western audiences. In traditional Chinese medicine, there is a belief that a person holds their memories and emotions within the different parts of their body and that by addressing those emotional blocks, your physical health will improve. One example she cited was that her previous assistant had some skin irritation and she didn’t know why. After figuring out what her emotional block was and confronting it, her skin troubles disappeared.
So how do you figure out what emotional blocks you have? This for me was the biggest wow moment of the workshop. Grace asked for a volunteer to come to the front of the room and had them stand with their non-dominant arm raised parallel to the ground with Grace standing beside them, putting some pressure on that arm and asking them to resist it. The idea is that everytime you tell the truth, you will successfully be able to resist the pressure on your arm, and if you don’t believe something to be true, your arm will be unable to handle the pressure.
You could ask me “is your name Natalie?” and I would definitely believe my name is Natalie. If you asked me “is your name Jeff?” my arm would fall because it is not the truth. Why they aren’t using this method in court already is beyond me. Have fun exploiting all of your friends and family now!
After playing with some fun questions, there is truly a great use for this that Grace demonstrated on another volunteer. She asked him at what age did a particular trauma occur, using his arm resistance to determine the year, followed by obscure questions that led her down a chart that would tell him what emotion he was blocking. If he could recall this traumatic event, she asked him to think about it and while he thought, Grace moved a simple refrigerator magnet down his spine three times, taking a break before doing it another three times. He claims to have felt some kind of tingling sensation after she had finished.
I know that I probably have a pile of emotional blocks within my body, so I look forward to seeing what ones I might be able to identify soon with the help of a muscle reading from Grace like her previous assistant.
My Take Away
For the most part, I believe that self-help workshops would only bring temporary relief to participants and that after walking away from a session, they would return to their usual habits without very much change, but with Grace’s “Clearing Emotional Blocks Through Body Wisdom” workshop, I feel that the goals and expectations a participant could set following the experience can be extremely realistic and achievable. I questioned the “create a 1% better daily routine” tagline at first, thinking that being only 1% better at something isn’t all that much, but realistically, there’s no way a person can achieve a complete lifestyle turn around in one three hour workshop. It just isn’t possible. However, by making small changes to your life, 1% continues to increase overtime and before long, you might find yourself achieving an 80, 90 or 100% better daily routine… but it all begins here by clearing those emotional blocks.
I think that a variety of people can find something within this workshop they can incorporate into their daily lives and I look forward to seeing how it continues to grow overtime after being exposed to more audiences. I also look forward to the release of Finding Grace, her debut autobiography about her path from tragedy to triumph so that I can continue to be inspired by this amazing woman.
Photo credit: lettherebelight
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