How to redefine confidence and own your power

Editor’s Note: We asked Lisa Sun, founder & CEO of the viral clothing company Gravitas and author of the book by the same name, to share an excerpt from her manifesto on living with self-assurance in the hopes that meeting professionals can learn from her entrepreneurial journey and step into their own

woman in black clothes smiling
Lisa Sun

Society is full of unwritten rules that hold women back. The system was not built by us, nor was it built for us, so we are still finding our way in the fight for our equal rights (work in progress), equal pay (still trying), and racial justice (eyes are opening).

On top of all of this, it’s really hard to use our own individual voices in our daily lives. We still get hung up on what other people will think, hold back on asking for that raise or bank loan, stay silent when someone takes our idea or cuts us off or speaks over us, and doubt ourselves when we are given that promotion.

And if we do get up the nerve, many of us still apologize for asking for what we deserve. If we can each master gravitas in our own lives, we have a chance to make a contribution to the collective.

One of the biggest things I have seen hold women back is not knowing their worth. And so before you can go out busting rules and getting what you want, you need to fully understand your own value. The question is, how do we fix this once and for all? One woman at a time.

This is my inspiration for painting a more complex picture of gravitas.

For most of us, the word conjures up an outward presence; we think of world leaders and heads of companies as having it, mostly framed by patriarchal notions of what it means to be confident. What I’ve learned in thousands of conversations is that we feel genuinely confident when we value and deploy our strengths. Those strengths come in many forms, not just in a singular ideal.

Much like how we can understand and appreciate differences in people’s personalities—how we relate to people, how we soak up information, how we make decisions and how we organize our lives (or, if you’re like me, don’t organize it)—I saw that the strengths that form the basis of self-confidence come in many forms.

The Superpower Question

In dressing rooms, Zoom calls, boardrooms, and event ballrooms alike, I began to ask women a simple question: “What is your superpower—what are you the best at in the world?” as a way to have them articulate their strengths. Every time a woman answered this simple question, I could see the start of her journey toward gravitas, rooting her sense of self-worth in her strengths.

Read More: Empowered Women Take Center Stage

Over the years, I have captured thousands of answers to this question, and I noticed that several characteristics kept recurring. I realized there would be power in codifying these superpowers, correlating them to how confident and capable women felt, and creating a vocabulary women could use to value, and therefore believe in, themselves. To fully develop this methodology, my company’s team conducted qualitative and quantitative research with thousands of women to dive deeper into what it means to truly have gravitas.

“What is your superpower—what are you the best at in the world?”

Through this work, we identified eight strengths:









Each of us is strongest in at least one or two of these qualities—our superpowers—while there are other qualities that you may demonstrate sometimes or not at all.

Think of it like languages. There may be a language in which you are fluent, one in which you are proficient, and others that sound like gibberish to you. Your unique combination of superpowers is your “confidence language”—the strengths that are the basis of your self-confidence, the language in which you are fluent.

Uniquely You

Discovering your confidence language is an important step on the journey toward gravitas. Belief in oneself comes from within; getting to an unbreakable belief in yourself starts with knowing what makes you uniquely you, making the unconscious conscious.

The next step is understanding how your superpowers are helping (or hurting) you, so that you can fully embrace the foundation of your self-belief. But that’s not enough to be a master of gravitas. We face challenging situations and other people with different confidence languages, so we may need to develop other skills, navigate outside of our comfort zones, or decide when a situation doesn’t serve us.

Mastering all eight strengths will always be a work in progress, but I am here to tell you that the process will make you stronger, wiser, happier, and more self-actualized.

This article appears in the December 2023 issue. You can subscribe to the magazine here.