Having recently graduated from IFA Paris, Chanel Miyama is one of the new recruits in the pedagogical team. With such an atypical career, it's impossible not to submit questions that tease us ...

IFA Paris: Hello Chanel! First student at IFA Paris, you now teach in the Bachelor of Fashion Marketing program, but who are you really?

Chanel Miyama: I am your average Japanese-American, who grew up in the middle of two very different cultures. Due to certain circumstances when I was a child, I had to grow up fairly quickly while constantly feeling as though I was behind, maturity wise. Largely being raised and constantly compared to 3 older sisters who were much older than me, fuelled that insecurity.  

Thanks to my stepmother, I picked up a beneficial hobby in which I first learned about personal growth; Sean Covey’s ‘7 Habits of highly effective teenagers.  

I realized life wasn’t about growing up to be independent, but interdependent. It was about experiencing life for myself and being able to learn from every failure I came across, rather than let it define me. I don’t claim to know all the answers but I do have a knack for helping guide those who can’t seem to find the right path in this subject. Or even just offer a space to be able to visualize the person they want to be. 

It has truly been one of the most rewarding parts of my life so far, and I don’t plan on stopping there. 

IFA Paris: In what context did this transition occur?

Chanel Miyama: I feel that personal development is such a wide philosophical subject. It can be overwhelming and daunting if you lack motivation, guidance, and the tools to help you self reflect. As someone who is always looking at aspects to improve in my life, I realized other students were interested in doing the same. 

So, I created something I wish that I had when I was a student: A lesson plan to explore mindfulness, reconnect with who they are now compared to who they wish to be, and together figuring out the most comfortable way to get there. I am just thankful IFA Paris has the same ideas and values as mine in this sense. 

IFA Paris: IFA Paris wanted to restructure its' personal and professional development module. As part of the Mindfulness program, what were the changes and what are the main objectives of the innovations introduced?

Chanel Miyama: Before, the program was more about professional aspects which is great, however, I felt it lacked the personal aspect as well as newness.  

IFA Paris: The main objective now is to show students they have the ability to change any aspect in their life they are dissatisfied with and ultimately, become the person they want to be while giving them that space and support to do so. 

Chanel Miyama: As a (Gen-Y) millennial teaching this subject, I feel that I have an advantage over the past generation. 

Since I was raised in a ‘self’ help culture I understand what it’s like feeling lost and confused when it comes to finding your path, and not being able to have any guidance. Not to mention the anguish and insecurities that comes along with facing your flaws. I’d go to the local book store, stock up on books which promised me I’d find myself or become a better person and then experiment. I'd find things that worked and things that didn’t. I got pretty good at knowing if the material was authentic or produced for fame or money.

IFA Paris: Can you describe a typical session?

Chanel Miyama: A typical class consists of 5 - 10 minutes of meditation. Lecture to introduce the unit; each unit is a new subject which we try to get through one unit a day. Whether it’s on finding your new values, building self-awareness, getting to know our inner critic, understanding how the brain works when we are overcome with emotion, to re-learning how to communicate with others. With discussions in between to share experiences,  is something needed as the class also benefits from real-life stories for perspective. So, being able to create that space for them has been deeply gratifying.

IFA Paris: Do these training sessions allow theorizing or experimenting on a daily basis?

Chanel Miyama: I create worksheets that allow students to reflect by asking questions that will provoke them, questions that will require them to be as honest with themselves as possible. At the end of the sessions, I give them a couple of ‘baby steps’ they can experiment with and practice. If they are able to, I encourage them to incorporate it into their daily habits. 

Most of the time, the most important baby step is simply, awareness. Without awareness of the issues we want to improve on, we are blind to them.

IFA Paris: You work a lot on stress management with your students. How does this mastery of emotions allow individuals to gain relational flexibility?

Chanel Miyama: Most of stress management is about being able to spend our time focusing on the things that are IN OUR CONTROL, rather than the things that are out of our control. Of course, it will differ as everyone worries about different things but the first step is listing the stressors so we can see them all written out. Then being able to focus on the things that we can control. 

Another big component is about mindful check in’s, and understanding that stress is an emotion and all emotions are temporary. Then, learning to manage that stress rather than letting it dictate our life. 

By being mindful, I mean taking 10 - 20 minutes per day out of 24hrs, to reconnect with yourself, to check in emotionally, mentally, and physically in this present moment. Not thinking about past events, or planning future ones. 

IFA Paris: Is self-esteem more important to professional or personal success?

Chanel Miyama: Self-esteem creates the basis of who we are. I feel that Individuals who lack self-esteem will start to reflect that to a point where it’s noticeable to others. How can we expect other people to rely on & believe in us when it comes to our personal or professional life, if we don’t believe in ourselves? 

In both aspects; professionally and personally, without self-esteem, there is no motivation. Without motivation, there is no purpose. Without purpose, why get out of bed in the morning? It seems a bit extreme but it happens.

When it comes to the aspect of personal development vs professional, we cannot grow professionally, if we do not reflect on the personal aspect first. It’s a ripple effect. 

IFA Paris: Why does today's society force us to constantly exceed our own limits?

Chanel Miyama: Hmm, where to start? In my opinion, I feel that we are regularly re-setting the bar for the next generation and we have created certain expectations of what it means to be ‘happy’, or ‘successful’. 

Apparently, money, fame, and success = happiness. Which is forcing us to compete and become ‘more efficient’, ‘effective’, “better”. Putting on this pressure to become better than our neighbor, which is not what life is about.

I feel that it’s entirely too common to see others as competition, or selfishly look out for ourselves without keeping perspective and compassion in mind. In reality, life is about interdependence, coexisting and living with humanitarian morals. 

IFA Paris: Jacques Salomé says that "the door to change can only be opened from the inside and everyone has the key." Are you able to say today that you have found yours?

Chanel Miyama: Self-actualization is a never-ending adventure. The beauty is that we are never truly finished when it comes to personal growth. I do feel that teaching this subject fulfills a deep desire to contribute to something much larger than myself, yes. But, the lock is constantly changing. The key is: hard work. Not waiting for results to fall into our lap. 

I enjoy showing my students that regardless of what anyone has said or thought about them, they can truly be the person they want to, as long as they put in the work.  With that said, I do feel that I have found what motivates me to keep re-evaluating and working towards being the best version of myself, which is, setting a precedent for others.

IFA Paris: Finally, would you have a single piece of advice so that each student can identify more clearly his?

Chanel Miyama: No, not a single piece but more of a cluster. First and foremost understand that: We have the capacity to change. We can train our brain, with practice. Regardless of age. 

If you want to live a more fulfilled life - pull back on the things that give you instant gratification and put more effort into work that gives you delayed gratification. Learn about interdependence. Honestly reflect on who you are in this moment. Then, define your values and what you believe in. Examine those you surround yourself with. These ideas will change based on your growth and environment but when you define your values clearly: it acts like a manual to help guide you through the challenges and decision you are faced with. 

Making decisions based on what your values are, helps remind us about the person we want to be and keeps us on track towards that goal. Imagine trying to build an Ikea bed without the manual…