How Singer MILCK Learned to Stop People Pleasing—and Found Herself
Have you ever tried to fit the mold of what people want you to be?
You act a certain way to please someone. You say what they want to hear. You do things the way they’d like it to get done. You become so many versions of yourself for other people, that you don’t know who you are anymore or what makes you happy.
Singer-songwriter Connie Lim, better known as MILCK, knows all about trying to be someone else. You may recognize her name—or her voice—from a 2017 viral video. At the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., MILCK formed a choir of 25 women and sang her powerful ballad “Quiet” in flash mobs throughout the event.
The song is all about finding her voice, her power as a “one woman riot,” and owning her unique self. Today, 14 million people have seen the clip of her performing at the march, and it's been coined the anthem of the movement. Choirs from around the world have downloaded the sheet music and performed the song, too.
MILCK started a movement, inspiring people to stand in their own truth and speak out. But that journey wasn’t easy for her.
The Blank Check
The Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter tells Shine that until recently, she was really good at being what she calls a “blank check.” “It’s where you go into a situation, read the room, read the people, and think, ‘OK, I know what this person wants, and I can become exactly that for them,’” MILCK says.
It started at an early age. Growing up as a first generation Chinese-American, she started hiding her desire to become a musician from her parents. “I tried hard to convince myself that I would be happy becoming a Pre-Med student, right?”
And even when she followed her passion for music, she felt pressure from producers to be what they wanted. “They liked the song ‘Quiet,’ but overall they wanted me to change my artist name and to consider a different sound,” she says.
In 2016, her managers dropped her because she didn’t fit the mold they were looking for. “They couldn’t quite ‘place me,’” she says. “In fact, one manager even told me that I should go back to China, as he wasn’t sure how to market an Asian American artist in the States.”
Getting “fired,” as she calls it, was devastating for MILCK. But at her lowest low, she realized this: living as a blank check was exhausting.
“I was tired of seeking approval,” MILCK says. “Tired of sacrificing my own comfort in order to make others feel more comfortable. I was tired of not living my truth.”
Finding Her Voice
After MILCK got fired and after the 2016 election, she watched the current political and social unrest begin to unfold. She knew she had to release her song “Quiet” on her own, and right away. She wrote the song about her own survival through anorexia and abuse, but she felt the message of the song rang true for so many people trying to find their voice amidst the noise.
She reached out to the organizers of the 2017 Women’s March to see if she could sing “Quiet” on the main stage—but never heard back.
Relentless, she decided to recruit singers across the country, hold Skype practice sessions with them, and then gather in Washington, D.C. to sing the song flash mob-style on the streets. A filmmaker captured one of the performances and shared it on Twitter—and the rest is viral history.
“The song started as a journey to process what I have survived, and the need to live my truth,” Milck says. “But after the march, the lyrics of ‘Quiet’ become a global anthem and created a new community.”
On January 20, MILCK is performing “Quiet” at the 2018 Women’s March on NYC—this time, on the main stage. And since the march, she's found a new team—Atlantic Records. Her first EP is out now.
While exciting, this validation isn’t MILCK's goal anymore—she’s done being the blank check.
“It’s not about the validation,” she says. “It’s about believing that I’m good enough. If I waited for that major validation, I never would've done the scrappy crowdsourced version of my song. I never would've met the amazing women who took a leap of faith and practiced an unknown song for a stranger. I never would have found out just how strong I really am and how strong women can be when we come together.“
Her advice to anyone hoping to live their truth a little more: small actions add up.
"To be true to myself, I remember this: bravery is a muscle," MILCK says. "So each time I do one small thing to be true to myself, I know it’ll get easier over time. Whatever that thing may be for you, remember: each moment is an opportunity to live your truth."