“Don’t let my shero cape become my veil.”
“Don’t let my shero cape become my veil,” was the mantra war survivor Sahar Paz repeated over and over again as she learned how to speak out in a world that asked her to be silent.
Paz grew up in Iran, where females were to be neither seen nor heard. Women were covered burkhas on the outside, and forced to keep their opinions and beliefs on the inside – or face the consequences that could involve retribution or even death. Sahar found the silencing akin to being sucked into a, “vast black hole…rendering you mute and miserable.”
Sahar and her family left the bombing and oppression of Iran when she was nine years old and moved to Colorado. But the American dream did not take hold. The prejudice and shame continued in their new home in the U.S., where “freedom of speech” included the right for her neighbors and peers to call her “bomb keeper” and “terrorist.” Life held other challenges as well. Her father returned to Iran, and her mother refused to send her to the prestigious private school her brother attended because she was a girl. Paz recounts how these elements of her upbringing contributed to her sense of worthlessness. In her teens, she started having flashbacks of sexual abuse, which pulled Sahar further down into a chasm of despair.
However, despite a tumultuous adolescence, Paz graduated college and began a promising career in the fashion industry in New York City. While her determination and perseverance won her accolades, fear of incompetency and a sense of inferiority and worthlessness pervaded Sahar’s thoughts and filled her with anxiety so severe that she eventually attempted suicide several times. Desperate to stay alive, she sought inpatient treatment at a psychiatric facility where she received the standard treatments of antidepressants, but also received talk therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and yoga. With the aid of these modalities, Sahar was finally able to recognize that much of her despair stemmed from the years she had kept her mouth shut in order to survive.
While her story is not an easy one, Paz lit up the stage at the Emerging Women conference as she explored her relationship with suicide and her choice to follow the path of her pain until she could find the way out. Paz’s book, Find Your Voice, is more than a memoir. Each chapter shares part of her story, as well as a guide for the reader to understand their inner voice. Paz brings a fresh perspective to the positive thinking practice and explores the, ‘yeah but…’ “backtalk” we say to ourselves after a positive affirmation. With Sahar’s stories as the backdrop, you will begin to understand the relationship between your inner voice, your emotions and the life that forms around them.
To see a video of Sahar Paz’s discussion from Emerging Women conference, click here.