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Summary: The Tao of Self-Confidence: A Guide to Moving Beyond Trauma and Awakening the Leader Within by Sheena Yap Chan

  • The book is a guide for Asian women to build their confidence and leadership skills by embracing the Tao philosophy of balance, harmony, and flow.
  • The book shares the author’s personal story and interviews with over 700 Asian women who have overcome challenges and achieved their goals.
  • The book provides practical tips and exercises on how to apply the Tao principles in daily life.


Asian women face unique pressure to succeed and be high performers while navigating harmful stereotypes that limit their careers. Podcaster Sheena Yap Chan encourages Asian women to prioritize their health and well-being, forge new leadership pathways and break free from the harmful effects of intergenerational trauma. She urges readers to develop self-confidence, with interdisciplinary insights from trauma-informed psychological research and ancient Hindu spiritual practices. Chan offers practical steps for facing your trauma and unlocking your leadership potential.

Summary: The Tao of Self-Confidence: A Guide to Moving Beyond Trauma and Awakening the Leader Within by Sheena Yap Chan


  • The dominant culture expects Asian Americans to be “model” minorities, which can harm their mental health.
  • Toxic racist stereotypes limit Asian women.
  • Unlock your potential by facing your trauma.
  • Centuries-old mistreatment of Asian women sustains intergenerational trauma.
  • Prioritize your needs.
  • Improve your health with the ancient Hindu chakra system.
  • Build your self-confidence.
  • Embark on your leadership journey today.


The dominant culture expects Asian Americans to be “model” minorities, which can harm their mental health.

People frequently describe Asian Americans as “model” minorities – members of a minority group that has succeeded in the United States – to describe Asian Americans. Over 24 million Asian Americans live in America. Proportionally, Asian people should occupy 20% of organizational leadership positions. In reality, however, organizations often appoint a single Asian person to an executive role to project an image of diversity.

The model minority label is dehumanizing. Pressure to live up to their peers’ high standards can make Asian American women feel like failures when they don’t meet unrealistic expectations. Asian women often internalize model minority expectations of self-sufficiency and high performance. Such expectations often make Asian women less likely to ask for help.

“The perception that Asians are achievers, model citizens and self-sufficient can hurt rather than help.”

The term “model minority” has oppressive roots. Sociologist William Petersen coined the term in 1966, to describe how non-Asian Americans should laud Japanese Americans’ assimilation into Western culture. Many Japanese Americans regarded this as misplaced praise for exaggerated compliance. White people began contrasting the model minority of “obedient” and “hardworking” Asian people with other “problem minorities.”

Most non-white people would like to scrap the word “minority” entirely, as it conveys an implicit suggestion of inferiority and exclusion. It also fails to capture the diversity of Asian people. Asia includes 49 sovereign states, and over 2,300 recognized languages; “Asian” is not a monolithic identity.

The model minority myth is harmful to mental health. As a result, some Asian Americans feel internalized shame, for example, when they deviate from a pre-ordained path leading to status-quo goals, such as marriage. Asian woman must take time to safeguard their mental health and overcome the ingrained cultural taboo of doing so.

Toxic racist stereotypes limit Asian women.

Asian women face harmful stereotypes. Non-Asian people may view them as “quiet, submissive and obedient,” which hinders their leadership potential. Some people hypersexualize Asian women and treat them as “exotic” sex objects. In Hollywood, Asian women often appear in typecast roles as sex workers, geishas, submissive wives, or supporting characters who exist only for comic relief. Mainstream media perpetuates anti-Asian stereotypes in subliminal ways, such as, for example, illustrating articles about COVID-19 with images of Asian women, thus perpetuating the stereotype that Asian people spread the virus.

“It’s disheartening that we still face so many challenges as Asian women. It’s no wonder why we resist becoming the leaders we are meant to be.”

Asian women may be unable to imagine themselves in positions of power because they lack leadership role models. Only six Asian women were Fortune 500 company CEOs in 2020, according to research from Who Rules America. Negative stereotypes impede movement up the corporate ladder, as those in power may view Asian women as too quiet or lacking in assertiveness. When navigating these stereotypes, remember that other people’s negative views are their opinions. They are not your truth.

Unlock your potential by facing your trauma.

Trauma is any physical, emotional or psychological experience that causes distress and hinders your ability to function and cope. You can “unlock your traumas” by noting how they manifest in your life. You may be repressing your negative feelings, but you need to feel and process them in a safe context to heal.

“Sometimes your greatest strength can come from being vulnerable.”

Asian women may experience many forms of trauma. They may experience racial trauma in the form of anti-Asian hate. Many Asian women fear violent, racially targeted attacks. Money trauma is rampant among Asian women, as many low-income households in Asian countries normalize the financial abuse of women

Asian women are also prone to cultural trauma. They may be pressured to follow family traditions that don’t align with their personal beliefs, keep up appearances, please others or positively represent their families. Asian households are often hierarchical, and Asian women may struggle with guilt from saying “no” to family members. Asian women who understand and address their traumas can begin to heal from them.

Centuries-old mistreatment of Asian women sustains intergenerational trauma.

“Intergenerational trauma” is passed down from one family member to the next. According to licensed family and marriage therapist Jeanie Chang, a single traumatic event can harm one or more family members by initiating a chain of intergenerational trauma. For example, if one of your family members endured physical, emotional or sexual abuse, she may keep quiet and tolerate it when she has a daughter, who then may unconsciously raise her daughters to do the same. Of the Asian women survivors of abuse, 67% don’t talk about it because they worry doing so will negatively impact their reputation, while 45% don’t want to harm their family’s reputation.

“The traumas you carry are passed on from the historical trauma that your parents, grandparents and ancestors also bore.”

Varied cultural practices perpetuate generational trauma by normalizing misogyny and violence against Asian women. In World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army kidnapped women and girls across Asia to serve as “comfort women,” forcing them into sexual slavery to serve soldiers. In the Philippine-American War, Filipinas faced brutalities perpetuated by the US military, such as rape and forced labor. In many Asian countries, such as India, dowries – the price the bride’s family pays the groom’s family to ensure an arranged marriage – are part of the culture and can spur harassment if a family fails to pay.

The United States has a long history of treating Asian women unjustly, such as blaming Chinese women for the outbreak of sexually transmitted diseases in the 1880s in San Francisco. For Asian American women, unpacking their intergenerational trauma means recognizing that people have made the women in their lineage feel small for centuries. Acknowledge this and overcome intergenerational trauma’s negative impacts on your life today.

Prioritize your needs.

Practice self-care by vesting in your physical, mental, spiritual and emotional health. Many Asian women’s families and cultures teach them to prioritize everyone else’s needs, but it is also essential to meet your own. Find the self-care activities that appeal to you, such as listening to music, working out, napping, meditating, going to the spa, having a girls’ night, listening to a podcast or getting a manicure.

“You have to unlearn many things and go through the healing process, which can be ugly and painful, but when you can get to the other side, magic happens, and you become the person that you have been longing for all your life.”

Practice self-love – which means showing yourself love while accepting your imperfections. Self-love practices can include positive affirmations, such as: “I am worthy”; setting boundaries with friends, colleagues and family; and asking for help or support.

Improve your health with the ancient Hindu chakra system.

Working to “open your chakras” can help you embrace your full potential. “Chakra” means “wheel” in Sanskrit and refers to the seven primary “subtle energy” discs running through your body. Each relates to a different body part and impacts other aspects of your life, such as creativity or self-confidence. In a healthy person, energy moves freely between each chakra. But stress, poor diet, negative thoughts or a lack of exercise can block your chakras, triggering emotional, mental and physical ailments.

“Being able to open your chakras one by one enables you to focus on healing the kind of traumas you go through.”

Work with the following chakras through modalities such as breath exercises to improve your overall well-being:

  1. “Muladhara” – The “Root Chakra” is associated with being secure and grounded. Opening this chakra, which is situated at the base of your spine, helps you build a steady inner foundation that fuels leadership.
  2. “Swadhisthana” – Your “Sacral Chakra” is at the bottom of your belly button. Balancing it helps you tap into healthy creative and sexual energy.
  3. “Manipura” – Your “Solar Plexus Chakra” is in your abdomen. Balancing it helps you express yourself with confidence.
  4. “Anahata”– Your “Heart Chakra” is in the center of your chest. Opening it enables you to experience healthy, loving relationships.
  5. “Vishuddha” – Your “Throat Chakra” is in your throat. Balancing it helps you express your authentic voice.
  6. “Ajna” – Your “Third Eye Chakra” in your forehead associates with trusting your intuition.
  7. “Sahasrara” – Your “Crown Chakra” sits at the top of your head. Balancing it connects you to your higher self-purpose.

Build your self-confidence.

To build your self-confidence:

  • “Believe in yourself” – Cultivate the knowledge that you have the power to achieve your dreams.
  • “Educate yourself” – Pursue different approaches to building self-confidence, such as listening to an empowering podcast or meditating, until you find one that resonates.
  • “Take action” – Take aligned action toward achieving your goals while learning from your failures.

Embark on your leadership journey today.

Take inspiration from Asian women in positions of power, such as US Vice President Kamala Harris. An Asian and African American, Harris is the highest-ranking female political official in American history. Other Asian women are also making history. Kim Ng is the first woman general manager of a major sports team and the first East Asian American leader of a major league baseball team. Savitri Jindal is the world’s richest Asian woman. And Sandra Oh is the first Asian actress to win several Golden Globes.

“You can literally change your circumstances at any given moment, and the only person you need permission from to forge your own path is yourself.”

Asian women must continue pushing for change. They must break free from limiting stereotypes, embark on leadership journeys and make up the rules as they go.

About the Author

Sheena Yap Chan hosts the award-winning podcast, The Tao of Self-Confidence, which inspires women by interviewing Asian women about their “inner journeys to self-confidence.”


The book is a guide for Asian women to tap into their confidence and joy, and shine as leaders in today’s world. The author, Sheena Yap Chan, is a podcaster, speaker, and coach who helps Asian women overcome their self-doubt and become more confident. She shares her own story of growing up as a Filipino-Chinese immigrant in Canada, facing racism, bullying, and low self-esteem. She also interviews over 700 Asian women from different backgrounds and professions, who share their stories of overcoming challenges, finding their voice, and achieving their goals.

The book is divided into three parts: The Root Cause, The Solution, and The Action Plan. In the first part, the author explains the root causes of low self-confidence among Asian women, such as the model minority myth, intergenerational trauma, cultural conditioning, and false stories. She also debunks some common myths about confidence, such as that it is innate, fixed, or arrogant. In the second part, the author presents the solution to building self-confidence, which is to embrace the Tao philosophy of balance, harmony, and flow.

She introduces the four elements of Tao: water (adaptability), wood (growth), fire (passion), and earth (grounding). She explains how each element can help Asian women develop a positive mindset, a strong identity, a clear vision, and a resilient spirit. In the third part, the author provides an action plan for Asian women to apply the Tao principles in their daily lives. She offers practical tips and exercises on how to overcome fear, speak up, network effectively, manage stress, celebrate success, and more.

I found the book to be very inspiring, informative, and empowering. The author writes with honesty, vulnerability, and humor. She shares her own struggles and successes with candor and compassion. She also showcases the diversity and achievements of Asian women from different fields and walks of life. I enjoyed reading their stories and learning from their insights.

The book is not only relevant for Asian women, but also for anyone who wants to boost their confidence and leadership skills. The book is based on solid research and personal experience. The author cites various studies and sources to support her arguments and recommendations. She also draws from her own podcast interviews and coaching sessions to provide real-life examples and testimonials.

The book is well-organized and easy to follow. The author uses clear language and simple concepts to explain the Tao philosophy and its applications. She also provides summaries, key points, action steps, and reflection questions at the end of each chapter to help readers review and apply what they have learned.

Overall, I think this book is a valuable resource for anyone who wants to move beyond trauma and awaken the leader within. It is a book that celebrates the authentic self and encourages the inner joy of Asian women. It is a book that challenges the stereotypes and expectations that limit Asian women’s potential. It is a book that guides Asian women to find their confidence and voice in today’s world. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about the Tao of Self-Confidence.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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