( ENSPIRE She Did That ) Sahar Paz Talks Being A Motivational Speaker and Breaking Free of Those Who Wanted to Silence Her
ENSPIRE Contributor: Sophia Kang
Sahar Paz realized the power of her voice at a young age after she and her family fled the Iranian Revolution. “I witnessed firsthand the effects of my community losing its voice—and although I was only a child, that stayed with me,” Paz said. She hoped that Denver, her new home, would be different. But she became discouraged when her family taught her to wear a veil so her presence wouldn’t “bother others” and speak English in public instead of Farsi, her native language. She struggled to fit in with the kids at her new school, and her first year in the U.S., she remembers, was one of silence and solitude.
In her memoir, Find Your Voice: The Life You Crave is a Conversation Away, Paz writes that her breakthrough came from understanding her “inner voices—the ones that hold you back or give you courage.” Now she’s helping others do the same. Paz is a motivational speaker and the CEO of Own Your Voice Strategy Firm, a personal branding agency focused on cultivating emotionally intelligent thought leaders. Paz’s journey to owning her voice has garnered attention among organizations like HBO, Facebook, and Whole Foods, delivering keynote presentations.
ENSPIRE spoke with Paz about founding Own Your Voice Strategy Firm and how she’s helping others own their voices:
You came to the U.S. during the Iranian Revolution. What was that like for a seven-year-old?
I had two glorious months before the reality of my new life set in. A talk from an American in-law solidified the messages of my past life: your voice and your life are not of value. I was forced to wear a veil out in public and my home. Regardless of how I tried to blend in or become invisible, the truth [about where I’m from] was revealed during the first week of school, and my third-grade year was full of bullying and isolation. That year traumatized me more than the seven years I lived in Iran. Your strength and weakness are born from the same wound, and today, I attribute my emotional intelligence and expertise in writing and speaking to the hell I was put through as a girl.
Your work is all about helping others find their voices. So how did you find yours?
I never gave up on myself. I could always distinguish the traumatized me holding back my most powerful self. I didn’t have the answers, and I wasn’t willing to give up on myself. Finding my voice has been a process, and I’ve successfully understood how to motivate myself and how to hold myself accountable. I am inspired by joy. If I know it will be a fun experience; you can count me in. Getting myself out of my comfort zone in a fun way, like salsa dancing and performing, helped me gain my confidence. This confidence bred clarity, and I found and owned my voice in this space.
What have you learned about yourself through your work?
That integrity is truly my core value. The longer I am in business, the more I see how many people don’t root their work in their values. [My integrity has] built a strong and loyal clientele that isn’t just good for my bottom line; it’s good for the efficacy of my work.
Since partnering with Own Your Voice Strategy Firm, how are your clients better off?
They embrace emotional intelligence as the secret to showing up for their workforce and their customers. They understand what voice to use in which times to enhance the employee experience and have that effort positively reflected in the momentum gained by external communication and sales. Everybody wants to know “What’s in it for me?” We help organizations answer that question for all their stakeholders.
One of the pro-tips I share (straight from my online course) is to understand how others perceive you. This usually provides my clients with clarity and confidence. Ask 10 to 20 people to share three adjectives that come to mind when they think about you. Make sure to blend personal and professional contacts, then notice if there is a difference between how you show up in your personal life versus your professional life. Are there any attributes from your personal connections that would benefit you in your professional life?
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