When I was 9 years old, I had a tutor who told me she was an actress. She explained to me that she performed in plays. She told me all about how she had an agent and even gave me a signed headshot. I was engrossed. I couldn’t believe there were actual steps to take to get into acting. She wrote down what I needed: headshots, an agent, and to take classes to perfect my craft.
I immediately went to the phone book to look for talent agencies in Austin and started mailing out my school picture. One of the agents called back and told me to get professional headshots done. My parents, knowing that I could get tunnel vision, reluctantly agreed. From that point on, my heart was set on becoming a working actress. I took acting classes from fifth grade through senior year of high school. I auditioned for gigs around Austin (booked some too), and I made it a point to only apply to colleges in Los Angeles, where I could pursue acting further.
I can be extremely focused. Looking back through my life, I see that this unwavering focus started in childhood. I would set my sights on something and never rest until I had it. I had no understanding of how this impacted me or anyone else around me.
Distractions came up in high school and college, but I’d always found a way back to the end goal of being an actress. So much so that I wasn’t recognizing my own thoughts, nor was I aware of how my actions were affecting the people in my life. I had friends—ones who I thought cared for me unconditionally—tell me how selfish I was. This was my first lesson in self-awareness. It forced me to look at my actions and see them from another perspective. While I knew my intentions were never to hurt anyone, I could see how my one-track mind might make everyone else feel as if I didn’t care.
So, I started to be more intentional with my relationships, but I still didn’t have a true sense of myself. I wasn’t in a place where I could recognize my thoughts and feelings and articulate them to myself or others. I would let my ego or emotions dictate my actions. My father had always taught me to “control my emotions,” but when things tug at your ego, the challenge is on. It’s like I had no control over my actions because my emotions were in the driver’s seat.
I spent one summer listening to the audiobook The Power of Now and everything changed. I started identifying when my ego was taking over. I started practicing mindfulness and making it a point to be as present as possible, wherever I was and with whatever I was doing. I started recognizing my own thoughts and how they made me feel.
I spent years working to become a more enlightened individual with a higher sense of self. I sought teachers who specialized in mindset. I saw a therapist to help me connect the dots between my actions and what I was really fighting against. I was blown away when I learned that grief isn’t just something that comes from death. Grief comes from any form of loss—like the loss of a dream. Realizing that acting wouldn’t be in my cards was a form of grief I hadn’t acknowledged or dealt with.
As I continue peeling back the layers of my true self, a sense of calm has taken over. When something makes me uncomfortable, I feel it instantly and talk my emotions down. I no longer shout back at someone who’s shouting at me. I think before I speak. I’m aware of negative self-talk and counter it with something positive. All these experiences have led me to believe that the pursuit of happiness is not in the material. Happiness is something that can only come from the internal. Loving yourself. Recognizing yourself. Respecting yourself. All these things contribute to happiness.
I’m not perfect, and I know the journey isn’t over, but welcoming a true sense of who I am as a unique individual has opened the doors for more than I ever thought possible.
The power to be happy is deep within me—within all of us. We just have to peel back the layers and get to know ourselves on levels we didn’t know existed.
How are you working towards a deeper self-awareness?Leave a Comment
Josie Sanabia says
Good Morning Raya,
Thank you so much for your post today.
and the sentence below:
I was blown away when I learned that grief isn’t just something that comes from death. Grief comes from any form of loss—like the loss of a dream.
Wow, This is exactly how I feel we have not been able to come together and sing in our choir because of the pandemic…
it has be devastating.
Raya Reaves (she/her) says
Yes, that was a big realization for me too – grief isn’t just from death, but any loss. I hope you can get back to singing!