Leading from a place of power isn’t about your position or title in life—it’s about embracing three essential Power-Points: Knowing Your Value, Authenticity, and Confidence. These points reflect the core of who you are and provide a solid foundation for you to approach life with confidence.
Knowing your value means recognizing your worth and what you bring to the table. It allows you to be genuine and true to yourself, which equates to authenticity. When you embrace your true self, it becomes easier to show up confidently in the world because you’re not afraid of being discovered or judged. These three elements—knowing your value, being authentic, and showing up with confidence—work together to create a sense of personal power.
The beauty of these Power-Points is that they reinforce each other. When you understand your value, it naturally strengthens your ability to be authentic because you appreciate your true self and expect others to appreciate, or at least respect, it as well. When you are authentic, confidence comes more easily because you’ve already revealed your genuine identity. You can be confident in yourself and how you show up because you know the value your true self provides. By integrating these three elements, you unlock the true potential of power.
For me, discovering this transformative equation was a game-changer. It allowed me to venture into the world and share my experiences confidently because I learned to value them and stayed true to myself. It’s why I’m here today, eager to talk about my journey and inspire others.
Let me share a personal experience with you. I come from an Indian background where academics and family hold immense importance. Being the youngest of four children, I often felt the pressure to compare myself to my older brother, who is a successful physician and a renowned speaker in his field. It’s hard not to feel overshadowed by his confidence and achievements. At times, I found myself shrinking in his presence, feeling inadequate and insignificant. And as time progressed and I graduated high school, I was even more determined to prove myself. It was hard at first because I was a Pre-Med major. That was expected of me. And all the professors I had recognized my last name and immediately compared me to my brother. You know what was so cool? During this time, my brother would encourage me and tell me to find my own success and remind me that I was my own person. But, it still took some time for me to accept that I would not be what my culture expected of me.
Before my senior year of college, I decided to break the mold and opted not to pursue medical school, instead I leaned into becoming a teacher and focused on introducing kids in high school to the wonders of science.
Within months, I had graduate schools offering me placement in their programs and high schools were reaching out to me regarding positions with their institutions that included tuition coverage for my graduate studies! After graduating from college, I opted to use academics to buy me my freedom. Incidentally, it also allowed me to avoid the arranged marriage my parents were planning for me, as is the norm in my culture. Making this decision meant that I needed to move away from home for the first time, leaving my family business. I also needed to find pride in being a teacher instead of a doctor.
This started the 1st of my 4 career changes. Since it was the early 1990’s and I was really challenging my culture’s perception of what success looked like, I was a ‘rebel’. And that felt scary.
And maybe I would have realized that I had symptoms of Imposter Syndrome, even when the concept wasn’t even popular yet.
Imposter syndrome is the internal psychological experience of feeling like a phony in some area of your life, despite any success that you have achieved in that area.You might have imposter syndrome if you find yourself consistently experiencing self-doubt, even in areas where you typically excel.
“It is estimated that 70% of people will experience at least one episode of this phenomenon [imposter syndrome] at some point in their lives.”
Curious on how can you determine whether who have Imposter syndrome? Here are some tips
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you agonize over even the smallest mistakes or flaws in your work?
- Do you attribute your success to luck or outside factors?
- Are you sensitive to even constructive criticism?
- Do you feel like you will inevitably be found out as a phony?
- Do you downplay your own expertise, even in areas where you are genuinely more skilled than others?
Feel like you may have some of these symptoms? If so, seek support and give yourself grace.Walking through life is not always easy, so the more you can implement self-love and grace, the increased chance for your personal success.
You know those individuals who have larger-than-life personalities and exude unwavering confidence in what they know and do? Standing next to them, whether figuratively or literally, can make you feel small, as if your contributions to the world pale in comparison. I want you to know that you’re not alone in experiencing these feelings, and more importantly, you are not insignificant.
And I wasn’t insignificant. I spent the next 8 years teaching high school science full time, taking masters classes in the evening and traveling home 2 hours to take care of the family business. And, I managed to learn about what it meant to be independent, have a social life, date just to date and not to have to get married and how to handle my own money. And the entire time I was learning these valuable lessons, I was working with a team of individuals that couldn’t accept or understand why I drove back to support my family on the weekends, why I didn’t date the way people in America dated, and why I just couldn’t be more ‘American’ or more like them. I was perplexed, sad, confused. So, I let that drive me to do more, to get more involved, to found and start a diversity club at the high school (even when they didn’t support me) and still push through and represent the school by being their multicultural diversity chair for the district. I knew all along it was a show. But, I knew I had to play a role in it in order to move forward and keep my job, my career, what I was passionate about,and my students. I had a great relationship with my students, one in which they learned, they liked me and they were ‘scared’ of me because I was the hardest teacher in the school. But, it worked. I showed up in my authentic self. I SHOWED my students what we need to show up, every single day, to follow our dreams and to create a path for success. They didn’t know what I was experiencing with the staff, there was no need, but they were able to witness my passion for science and my commitment for them to be successful students. And so, I lead from where I was. I tapped into my resources, stepped into my value and made sure that I was able to get my masters degree and tenured so that I can build the future that I wanted. Sometimes we just need to do that.
For me, reaching this point of confidence was a journey. I had to understand that I have my own unique value. I realized that my path and achievements may differ from my brother’s, as we are distinct individuals and while I admire and love him dearly, I needed to recognize my own strengths and be true to myself. This transformation enabled us to have conversations as equals. It allowed me to be open to the person I was meant to be and the person who was about to embark on her 2nd career choice, to become adjunct faculty at a community college.
Imagine being in a room with someone who is confident and knows their own value, while you also understand your own worth. Instead of being overshadowed, both of you radiate light and positivity, complementing each other’s strengths. This shift allows you to attract like-minded individuals who want to shine brightly with you. It’s about recognizing and embracing your personal power.
Let’s explore some steps to help you claim your confidence. I want to emphasize that this journey is not easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight. My journey in my first career is testimony to that. Even my brother, who exudes strength and confidence, experiences moments of doubt, just like any other human being. We all do.
Steps to Claim Your Confidence:
It’s crucial to understand where your feelings of inadequacy stem from.
- Reflect on your past experiences and the challenges you’ve overcome. Remind yourself that you are here today because you conquered those obstacles.
- Take stock of the opportunities you currently have and the people you surround yourself with. If you find it difficult to progress on your own, reach out to a trusted friend—a person who knows you well and will provide honest feedback.
- Share your struggles with them, and ask them to remind you of your strengths and why you matter.
So, I encourage you to look at what affects your confidence levels. And once you discover what does, then I encourage you to address it. Seek support. Connect with those that can help you work through the negative self-talk. Whether it’s a professional or one of those individuals that we had mentioned earlier that you can be authentic with. Invite them into your self-talk conversations and ask them to help you. I know that for me, conversations that I have with myself, and I, usually need someone else to come in and intervene with gentle reminders and evidence of my positive attributes. When we choose to embrace it and work through it as a journey and not as an expected overnight success story, we give ourselves grace and permission to be human.
POWER-POINT: KNOWING YOUR VALUE
Knowing your value is another vital aspect. Consider who you aspire to be. Do you want to excel academically, cultivate authentic friendships, or build a fulfilling career? Reflect on what truly matters to you. Personally, I strive to inspire others and have a positive impact on the world. I leverage my strengths, such as my gift of communication and occasional humor, to achieve this. Overcoming challenges like feeling insignificant and standing in my siblings’ shadows has empowered me to shine brightly in my own right.
And to shine brightly I had to overcome imposter syndrome, get back on track and then relapse and question my value again, only to overcome it and relapse for the next 20 years. Look, it’s a struggle and we don’t all have to get it perfect all at once. I know I didn’t. After I was tenured and started to teach college, with life’s tough lessons and circumstances and losses, I discovered and embraced and followed 2 more awesome careers where I worked for others both in the academic and corporate world. And each of those careers led me to difficult circumstances with feelings of not belonging and being challenged to blend in with my colleagues and not be my vibrant and authentic self. So, I used those negative experiences to fuel me rather than to stall me. To help me to pursue learning my value and how I get to show up for others. Afterall, if I allowed these lessons to consume me and stop me from being my best version, I wouldn’t be fulfilling my parents’ dreams of why they came to America in the first place, to build a life full of possibility and opportunity. And I did this by committing to becoming a life coach, studying personal development and being someone who can help others lift out of difficult moments in their lives and support their journey to success. Staying true to myself was now more important than ever and I knew I had to build and create authentic relationships with people that I could be myself with.
Authenticity is key. It’s tempting to please others or conform to fit into certain situations, but being authentic means embracing who you truly are. It involves staying true to your beliefs and values, avoiding actions or words that don’t align with your genuine self.
It serves as a daily reminder that you are an incredible and valuable individual, fostering confidence.
I spent many years confused on when I could be my vibrant and dynamic self and when I needed to hold back or when being my true self would make others around me feel like I was deliberately trying to overshadow them. And that was NEVER the case. My parents have always taught me to show up with excellence in everything that I do. And that’s what I did, in every job, and task that I adopted. I was an overachiever to the core. You know the type! But, being someone who wanted to be the best version of myself and still stay in my lane, somehow threatened those around me which made it more difficult to be authentic, lean in and help others and do it from a lens of sharing vs competition. I was always socially aware and empathetic enough to communicate to those around me that I was simply interested in delivering great work and that it is never my intent to overshadow anyone. But, unfortunately lack of trust and poor communication is not uncommon when you have very different personality types working together, with very little training. And for this very reason, I started to create my own message and training around the power of Emotional Intelligence, Inclusion and creating the feeling of belonging. When we learn how to step into our awareness and management, we can work on removing those disconnected conversations and people can be more connected to the true intentions of others and operate from a more authentic space.
Here are some practices I follow to nurture authenticity:
1. Regularly review a gratitude list to remind yourself of the positives in your life.
2. Reflect on the lessons learned from past failures and how they have shaped you. (Failing forward)
3. Share your story with others. Not only does it encourage others to do the same, but it also reinforces your authenticity.
4. Embrace your current situation and take that important first step toward your goals, understanding that life is ever-changing.
Recognize that each of us possesses internal power. Our experiences, no matter the nature of our stories, teach us valuable lessons. Acknowledge the strength you have gained from overcoming challenges. Remember, nobody is perfect, and we all have room to grow and improve. By stepping into your power, you enhance your personal and professional relationships, becoming a better friend, partner, team member, employer, or employee.
YOU CAN START TODAY
I want you to consider your first next step. Write it down and give it the attention it deserves. Setting aside time on your calendar to work on it and even finding an accountability partner can be extremely helpful. Let’s make progress together and celebrate the growth we achieve.
I know I did. Career #4 entered my life 6 years ago in 2017 when I was laid off from one of my corporate jobs, soon after my husband and I moved into our new home. You can imagine the anxiety and stress that followed. However, due to my history of difficult experiences, I decided to tap into what I previously learned about myself, stay clear of toxic energy, negative comments, fear and anxiety and step into hope and possibility. That meant I needed to get my hustle on. That meant I needed to step into my creativity and figure out what next needed to look like. Not next year, but my first next step. And so, I tapped into that network of friends I told you about and I asked them to authentically share with me what my strengths were and how they experienced me. And one of them told me to follow my dreams of doing a TED talk and to be the speaker and trainer I wanted to be. Now, don’t get me wrong, I had A LOT of fear and doubt. But, this time was different, I could feel it. And so, I stepped into my authentic self, shared my story and journey with a good friend and she advised me to share my story at a Leadership Conference. With doubt and push back, I told her I would think about it. But, in the meantime, she shared my story with the head of this conference and they invited me to speak. I was honored and surprised. My friend told me that this was my strength, and I didn’t believe it. I owe her the world.
I decided to start my own business, network, take all the classes I could get my hands on, volunteer, share my vision and teach others how to step into their power.
How to develop and share my passion for Emotional Intelligence and Diversity and Belonging and six years later, through a lot of hard work, ups and downs and living the true life of an entrepreneur, mom, wife, daughter, sister and friend, I did just that. And in addition to writing a book, I also designed a deck of cards that teaches others to value each other, a deck that is available to all to use to celebrate those they work with. To let them know how they are valued. Because when people feel valued, they show up on purpose and with productivity.
You are not alone on this journey, and your voice matters. Embrace your power and know that you have the ability to make a positive impact on the world. I am reminding myself of that, everyday, and if you are an entrepreneur or you know one in your life, then you know that every single day is a new day and that this journey is 24/7 and comes with a lot of wins and losses. But, that’s the job. And so, I want to share with each of you how to build it for yourself. How to lead from where you are, from the hand that you were dealt and how to be resilient and relentless. How to be Confident, Valued and Authentic. How will you step out of your comfort zone and discover your own greatness?
Sonal Sheth Zawahri
Sonal Sheth Zawahri is an award-winning Author, Strategist Trainer, and Emotional Intelligence (EI) Coach. She holds a B.S. degree from Miami University and an M.S. degree from Ohio State University and has recently been awarded the Diversity and Inclusion Champion Award through Women & Hi Tech.