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Embrace Who You Really Are & Unlock a True Sense of Belonging with Ritu Bhasin

Embrace Who You Really Are & Unlock a True Sense of Belonging with Ritu Bhasin
Embrace Who You Really Are & Unlock a True Sense of Belonging with Ritu Bhasin

Feeling like an outsider and attempting to conform to societal norms can lead to a loss of self-identity and a longing for true belonging.

Ritu Bhasin, a child of immigrants, has navigated her own journey of self-acceptance and emerged as a leading voice in equity, empowerment, and belonging. She’s also a passionate advocate for authenticity and helps others stand in their power in high-conformity workplaces.

Her books, The Authenticity Principle and We’ve Got This, provide strategies and a framework for living more authentically and cultivating your relationship with yourself. She’s on the show today to share insights from her books and her journey towards self-acceptance and aligned choices.

In this episode of the Branding Room Only podcast, you’ll learn about how to courageously choose to be who you really are and create an unshakeable sense of belonging. She’ll share her framework for navigating challenging professional settings while still maintaining authenticity, and also reveal the key to experiencing true belonging.

1:24 – Ritu and I discuss how we define personal branding, the three words that describe her, and her favorite quote and 10-minute hype song

9:38 – How Ritu is a reflection of what happened to her in her childhood and the transformative power of therapy

17:04 – Ritu’s career journey (from joining big law for the wrong reason to becoming a business leader and DEI consultant) and legacy as a driver

24:20 – Why Ritu wrote The Authenticity Principle, the core message behind it, and the Three Selves we all possess on the authenticity spectrum

31:09 – How to tell the difference between hiding versus adapting who you are in the moment, especially in high-conformity environments

34:06 – The big “A-ha” moment that led to Ritu’s second book and how you unlock the beauty of belonging

43:21 – What to do if you’re struggling with being your authentic self in professional settings

47:22 – What Ritu will never compromise about herself and her brand and when she feels she’s in her best element professionally

Connect With Ritu Bhasin

Ritu Bhasin [RIH-thoo bah-SEEN], LL.B. MBA, is the CEO of bhasin consulting inc., a globally recognized full-service DEI, and leadership consulting firm that has worked with hundreds of world-renowned organizations since its launch in 2010. Ritu is an award-winning speaker, author, consultant, and internationally recognized expert in belonging, authenticity, inclusion, leadership, and empowerment. She has presented to hundreds of thousands of people globally and has personally coached over a thousand people. Ritu’s new book, the bestseller We’ve Got This, was released in 2023 (June), and her bestselling book The Authenticity Principle was released in 2017. Ritu lives in Toronto, Canada. When she is not working, you’ll find her traveling around the world to eat, swim, hike, dance, and chill.

Ritu Bhasin | bhasin consulting inc.

Instagram | LinkedIn | TikTok | YouTube | Facebook

The Authenticity Principle: Resist Conformity, Embrace Differences, and Transform How You Live, Work, and Lead by Ritu Bhasin

We’ve Got This: Unlocking the Beauty to Belonging by Ritu Bhasin

Mentioned In Embrace Who You Really Are & Unlock a True Sense of Belonging with Ritu Bhasin

“Osaka Riddim Mix” by DJ JEL | The Soca Boss on SoundCloud

Vernā Myers

“A Tribute to My Mother Joan Donna Griffith”

Sponsor for this episode

This episode is brought to you by PGE Consulting Group LLC.

PGE Consulting Group LLC is dedicated to providing a practical hybrid of professional development training and diversity solutions. From speaking to consulting to programming and more, all services and resources are carefully tailored for each partner. Paula Edgar’s distinct expertise helps engage attendees and create lasting change for her clients.

To learn more about Paula and her services, go to or contact her at [email protected], and follow Paula Edgar and the PGE Consulting Group LLC on LinkedIn.

Paula Edgar: Welcome to The Branding Room Only Podcast where we share career stories, strategies, and lessons learned on how industry leaders and influencers have built their personal brands. Now, let’s get started with the show.

Hi everybody, it’s Paula Edgar, host of Branding Room Only Podcast where I talk to influencers and professionals about their personal brands, their reflections on their brand, and their advice on personal branding, and anything else I want to because it’s my podcast.

Today, I have a wonderful opportunity to talk to somebody who I met a long time ago and I’ve loved from afar and now I have an opportunity to talk to her today, Ritu Bhasin. Let me tell you about Ritu.

Ritu is the CEO and founder of bhasin consulting, inc., author of We’ve Got This and The Authenticity Principle and she is an award-winning speaker and an expert in belonging, equity, leadership, and empowerment. A passionate advocate for authenticity, Ritu has presented to hundreds of thousands globally and coached over a thousand professionals.

She’s a living proof of what can happen when you stand in your power while fighting the hate and hardships in your way. Come on, welcome to The Branding Room.

Ritu Bhasin: Thank you so much for having me, Paula, it is so great to be here, and I just want you to know, I am sending you all kinds of love and affection back.

Paula Edgar: Thank you so much. All right. So let’s get started. I ask everybody this question when we start which is what does personal branding mean to you? How do you define it?

Ritu Bhasin: So personal branding for me is about having a really deep understanding of who we are. Who we are at our core, what our values are, what our beliefs are, what we care about, and ensuring that all of what we do, all of what we put out there into the universe is in alignment with that messaging.

Paula Edgar: I love that, I love that. It’s so funny because I think when I first started doing the podcast, I thought to myself, “If I’m going to ask this question, I’m going to keep getting the same answer,” and I have yet to get the same, no, it really is this consistency, of course, but it really is everyone’s take on it, which is really aligned with their brand, which I love.

Ritu Bhasin: Can I ask you how do you define personal branding?

Paula Edgar: Of course, first of all, I love when my guests ask me questions, so yes, you can. Branding is your skill set, your experience, and your magic and how to come together and print upon the world. You being consistent is how you shape your brand and it’s also how people feel when they interact with you or think about you.

Ritu Bhasin: Yeah, 100%. I think that branding is about, well, and I think this is a really important point that you’ve touched on which is that there’s what I believe my personal brand to be and what others perceive my brand to be.

Of course, we want alignment with that, but that doesn’t always happen. In fact, when there’s a disconnect between how what we want our brand to be or what we think our brand is and how people are perceiving us, this is where things fall apart.

This will go back to my brand and my messaging, which is about we’re authentic and if we are truly doing and being and embodying the essence and the spirit of who we are, then there shouldn’t be a gap.

Paula Edgar: I love that. I mean, absolutely true. I call it the Destiny’s Child conundrum. If you say you’re a Beyonce and everybody else says you’re Michelle, you want to meet into the movement, at least be Kelly.

Ritu Bhasin: I would be happy to be any of them but okay.

Paula Edgar: That part. I always get people that I’m sure people will respond to me now who are like, “Well, I’d rather be Michelle.”

Ritu Bhasin: I would want to be any of them frankly. Former Destiny’s Child and recurrent, I’m happy to take anyone.

Paula Edgar: No matter what, they can’t say.

Ritu Bhasin: Former benchwarmer, I’m happy to be anything.

Paula Edgar: All right, so tell me about your brand. How would you describe yourself in three words or short phrases?

Ritu Bhasin: Well, I’m going to start with the word authentic, not just because I write about this and I research about this, but really I am so deeply committed to living a life of authenticity and being who I am after decades of not doing that. So I’m going to say authentic, I’m going to say empathetic, I’m an empath. I feel my way through life and I feel energy. It’s remarkable, actually, how my intuition, call it your gut, sixth sense, your intuitive power, my empath abilities basically navigate how I live.

So I’d say empathetic, and then the third one would be passionate. I’m hardcore. I go whole hog. I’m like, “Oh, I don’t just dance around. If I’m in, I am in, my whole body is in.” I once had a therapist say to me, “Ritu, most people, when they have an interest in a topic like yoga, for example, they’ll take some yoga classes, but you went and studied it and became a teacher.”

I do this on everything. I’m very interested in trauma so I almost completed my trauma professional certification. It’s like, when I am in, I am so passionate about it, I’m like, “I’m going to do a PhD in it.” Be a part of it and immerse myself. So yes, I would say passionate.

Paula Edgar: I love that, that passion and that commitment, I think links through and speaks to authenticity as well, all of that kind of talks to each other. Okay, so tell me, do you have a favorite quote or mantra that you used?

Ritu Bhasin: Someone recently asked me of my favorite quote and I shared it and then I thought, “You know what, it’s not an alignment with the times, but I’m going to share it anyhow.” Of course, Paula, I hope you’re going to say it’s on brand, so my favorite quote is “Those who hear not the music think the dancer is mad.” Those who hear not the music think the dancer is mad.

The word mad, I’m not sure we would use that in today’s day and age, but the quote for me, even as I shared it with you, I felt a whoosh of energy go through me, a motion go through me because I’m like, “I want all of us to dance, dance to whatever that energy is, the spirit is, whatever it is that brings us joy.”

When people judge us for being who we are and being our zany, zingy, quirky selves, let us remember it’s not because we’re broken, we’re effed up, or we’re flawed, which is how I used to think about myself, I now realize you don’t hear the music.

Paula Edgar: It’s a them thing.

Ritu Bhasin: Yeah, I’m dancing hard, passionately, and I am loving it. If you don’t love it, it’s because you don’t hear the music.

Paula Edgar: I love that, especially because I’m usually the person on the dance floor where nobody else is. I’m like, “It doesn’t matter to me if you’re dancing or not.”

Ritu Bhasin: Oh, we gotta get to the club together, because that’s usually me too. I’m like, “I’m going to go dance. In fact, who wants to go dance with me right in the center?”

Paula Edgar: 100% done, it’s a date. Okay, speaking of dancing, do you have a hype song? The way I describe it is this, a song that when they’re going to get a full Ritu experience, that’s the song that’s playing in your head. Or if you’re having a terrible day, the song that you’re playing to get yourself hyped up, and it can be the same song or a different song.

Ritu Bhasin: Okay, you’re going to love this, given the conversation we had before we came on live. My go-to when I’m having a bad day or I’m feeling like I’m in a funk or I need to hype myself up and I’m going to put my earbuds on or whatever, I am a huge, huge Soca music fan. Soca, hailing from Trinidad in particular, historically. It’s not a song, it’s a rhythm. It’s called the Osaka Riddim.

I mean, I’ll listen to anything Soca-related or Bhangra, Bhangra, hailing from India, Punjab, I’m Punjabi by culture. Anything Bhangra or Soca related, but in particular, if I had to go to one thing, it’s called the Osaka Riddim, and on SoundCloud, there’s a 10-minute mix with the Osaka Riddim and then different songs are played on the same rhythm and I put that on.

Paula Edgar: We’ll definitely be linking that.

Ritu Bhasin: When I’m in a funk, that’s the first place that I go and I love it.

Paula Edgar: Okay. We’re going to be linking that in our show notes so that every can know exactly what you’re talking about. The mixtape is going to be live this year. Okay, love that.

Ritu Bhasin: What’s your hype song?

Paula Edgar: Well, they’ve probably heard this a million times, but I’m going to say it over and over again because I can. Prince, Baby I’m a Star.

Ritu Bhasin: Oh, oh, hello.

Paula Edgar: Anytime, so I love Prince, but that song in particular, when I’m about to go speak or if I’m having a bad day, it’s just a reminder that you’re a star, baby, like come on, you got this. I’ll play it in the shower, I’ll play it in my headphones. It’s an automatic trigger, so much so that my son knows, he’s like, “Oh, you’re about to go speak” when I’m playing it. So I’m like, “Exactly.”

Ritu Bhasin: It’s so cute, I love that. I love, love, love that.

Paula Edgar: I love me some Prince. Okay, so tell me about how you grew up and tell me how that shaped you.

Ritu Bhasin: Oh, I love that you’re asking about my childhood in particular because one of the main messages I have and the belonging work that I do is that as adults, we are direct reflections of what happened to us as children.

I am the daughter of Indian immigrants who came to Canada, and so I’m Canadian. I live in Toronto, Canada. In fact, I stare at the CN Tower. When our brother Drake is talking about Views From The 6, he’s talking about the CN Tower for the record. I stare at it all day long.

I have a quintessential story of being a child of immigrants. My parents came to the country now over 50 years ago with very little money. I had a front-row seat to watching them struggle in every way.

I should add that not only are we Indian by culture and we’re Punjabi, like North Indian, but we’re Sikh by faith. My faith is called Sikhism or Sikhi. I am a Sikh. It’s not pronounced Sikh and Sikhism. We’re learning to decolonize language and pronounce things properly, so the colonial pronunciation, we are saying bye to and we are focusing on Sikh and Sikhism or Sikh.

My father was a turban, has a beard the full deal, and in fact, if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know this because his videos go viral mind you not. I watched them struggle in every which way, but then I also had my own struggles. I am a survivor of relentless racist childhood bullying that went on for years and years.

It was very structured, collective, and orchestrated so I struggled a lot as a child. In fact, it wasn’t until I was in college and university at the age of 20 when I realized I am not okay that I started doing therapy. This would have been in the mid-1990s when no one was doing it or you certainly were talking about it because of all the stigma.

But that was when I started to really first learn that I had had a really difficult troubled childhood and upbringing. Fascinatingly, I would say it’s only over the last several years that I’ve now been able to say, actually, I have a lot of childhood trauma. I experienced a lot of childhood trauma.

Now on the flip side, I can say that those childhood experiences that led me to live with trauma in my body, not only were horrible but have been so hard to unravel, then I would also say that I’m so grateful that I discovered therapy when I did at the age of 20 because here I am now almost 30 years later, living a life where doing my healing work has enabled me to be a really authentic self and not fear who I am and dance. If people think I am mad for the ways in which I dance, then F them, that’s on them, not on me. So, yeah, so childhood, Paula, directly has shaped my life.

Paula Edgar: I think your point about how childhood impacts all of our lives and in understanding the importance of therapy, it’s a huge thing that to your point about it, sort of now being culturally in the vernacular, people are talking about it, it’s a better thing now.

But I can tell you, and I can tell all of you listeners, anybody who’s watching can look at me in my face, I’m telling you, it is transformative. When you understand, number one, how you’ve been impacted, and also how you impact people, there’s the accountability of therapy as well as the sort of mirror in terms of your experience.

My therapist, she’s like, “Okay, well, if you want to lie to yourself, okay, but I’m not going to be along with this.” That’s why I’m like, “Oh, no.” She’s making me see the things and do the hard things. But it makes me a better person.

A lot of the listeners are lawyers, unnecessarily known for our growth mindset as a group, we’re not necessarily known to love change. That being said, there’s nobody I know who has not done the arc and work in therapy that is not a better person on the outside of it. So take this as my, “Hey, Paula says after school special, you should definitely go to therapy. Try it, you’ll like it. The water’s fine over here, it’s all good.”

Ritu Bhasin: Oh, and something else if I may add to what you’re saying, which I think is so important, is over 30 years, almost 30 years now of doing therapy, there are so many different modalities and types of therapy and approaches. There have been years when I have done a lot of what’s called CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). A lot of focusing on top-down like mind-based.

I over the last few years have been doing way more of what’s called somatic therapy, which is more body-based. I am exploring in this very moment like really cutting edge nuanced, provocative types of therapy. There have been times when I’ve done group therapy or I’ve done self-healing work where I’m just focusing on just journaling and or I’ll do wellness retreats, meditation retreats, or whatever.

The biggest thing that I think that’s important in the legal profession or in any profession is to recognize that as human beings, all of us struggle physical health and mental health-wise, and caring for ourselves is what not only enables us to live heightened professional and personal joy, but on your point, hurt people hurt people.

For those joining today who wear leadership hats, if you are wounded, it’s so imperative that you work on healing your woundedness because your woundedness could be hurting your team members.

Paula Edgar: Mic drop. It’s so true because I know that both you and I engage with people both on the having been hurt and the “I’m hurting and I’m not sure what to do” space, but there’s a lot of that going on in there.

I think in particular, the whole collective trauma we all had in 2020 following from the pandemic, we are all in a space, even if you thought you were okay then, we are not, there’s no way we could say we’re okay having done that.

Ritu Bhasin: We are not okay. No. In fact, how about this? Going into the pandemic, we knew we were in a loneliness epidemic globally. The pandemic did not help that. It pushed us to isolate further. We know that loneliness rates in Canada and the US are higher now than they’ve ever been. So there’s a real need for us to do our healing work so that we’re careful about how we’re treating others.

Paula Edgar: Yes. Yes. People are walking along with a whole bunch of baggers that you don’t know about just because you don’t see them carrying the luggage, it is there. Trust me. Okay. Tell me about your career journey, so going from your lawyer to business leader, globally recognized DEI, and leadership consultant, tell me all about it. How did that process work for you?

Ritu Bhasin: First of all, you’re so sweet and I mean, can you introduce me all the time everywhere? Please, and thank you. Maybe we should just hang out all the time? Although I have to get a bit funkier pair of glasses. I thought my glasses were funky and then I saw yours, yeah.

From a young age, because of the injustices, I was observing my parents endure and then also my own experiences. I knew I had a deep passion, commitment to social justice, and I thought, “You know what, I’m going to do something social-justice oriented,” but this was back in the 90s, there was no such thing as a DEI professional back then.

As a child of Indian immigrants, it was like, “Okay, what profession are you going to enter? Because you’re going to have to do something like doctor, lawyer, engineer type,” and I was like, “I’m going to be a lawyer. Thank you.” So I decided at a young age that I’d become a lawyer thinking I would do human rights work and work in some type of clinic or advocacy center.

But when I got to law school, all the cool kids were like, “I’m going to end up in the towers.” When I say towers, in particular, we call it Bay Street, you call it Wall Street or Midtown, like the big skyscrapers in New York, I’m going to end up in one of those. I was like, “I’m going to do what the cool kids are doing,” even though I had zero interest in doing business law at all.

But also, my first-year salary was greater than what my parents made combined while growing up. I was like, “Dallas, I’m going to be like a baller.” So I was like, “I’m all over this.” So I joined big law for the wrong reasons.

I immediately knew I didn’t like it. I didn’t enjoy being a lawyer in big law. It took me a few years, but I ultimately made the decision that I could not practice law anymore. This is not for me.

I transitioned first to a PD role, a professional development role, which I did at a large international firm based in Toronto for seven years. I was the director of legal talent. I did everything that one would imagine under the sky as it relates to HR legal talent, recruitment, onboarding, mentorship, evaluations, like all of it. I was an HR expert.

I became an HR expert and I did that for many, many years. After 10 years in the legal profession working within the firms, I had an epiphany that it was time for me to spread my wings. I did an executive MBA because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. That’s what ultimately led me to be in a place where you know what, in Canada at the time, there was no one doing DEI work in the legal profession and there were people in the US doing it like the incredible Vernā Myers.

She and I had become friends and she had said to me one day, “Ritu, I’m being invited to Canada to do this work. You’re doing this work within your firm, but have you ever seen me doing it as a consultant?” I was like, “That’s a brilliant idea.”

One thing led to another, and then I launched my consulting practice now almost 14 years ago. I have worked with almost every single major law firm in Canada, not to mention across the US globally. I’ve actually worked with over 250 law firms, legal departments around the world now and have never looked back.

I’ve not looked back at being an employee. I thought that being an entrepreneur was just, well, grueling, overwhelming, and exhausting and then liberating at the same time because I get to choose what my brand is, what my company’s brand is. I get to choose who I work with. I get to say whatever I want.

Literally, I could say whatever I want because the ramifications of what I say, I entirely bear. Everything I do is a choice for me as opposed to an establishment. Here we are.

The last thing I’ll mention, Paula, is that I’ve been working now for over, well, 25 years. I’m hitting a milestone birthday soon, 50 coming up in a year and a half and I’m giving thought to, “What do I want the next decade of my life to look like?” I’m starting to turn, I’m more interested in legacy.

I’m thinking less about business building and more about legacy and what’s the imprint that I want to leave and have and the mark and passion projects, especially at a time when it’s really hard to do this work and there are so many challenges, I’m shifting more into that legacy journey.

Paula Edgar: First of all, thank you for sharing this story. I always say I can read somebody’s bio and think I know them, but hearing them talk about their story, there’s always extra things, always more that you gain from it. I definitely did that just now. Also shout out to Vernā because she is all the things.

But what resonates for me is what you said about legacy. That has always been my driver. I think probably because of how I started coming into the profession generally, most of my viewers know that my mother was killed in 9/11. It was like, “Oh, I have to be able to do something. I have to do something. The lawyers helped us so I should be a lawyer. I have to be a lawyer. I’ll be a lawyer, and I will change the world as a lawyer,” and then I quickly realized that was not quite what I was thinking about.

But whenever I do anything, like branding and legacy really overflow, they are that, my mother used to say, “You can be the wind or you can be the leaf.” You can decide where you’re going to go as the wind, or you can just figure, like it will just get there, and then hopefully, it’s the same place the best way you want to go but being more thoughtful and strategic about where you’re going to go is what she would always sort of commend and so as soon as you said legacy, I was like, “Ooh, come on, mom.” My mom is like here saying, “Of course, there’s that.”

Ritu Bhasin: Also, I did not know that, Paula. Thank you for sharing that with me and my heart goes out to you and I’m sending love and energy to you but also to your mama.

Paula Edgar: Thank you.

Ritu Bhasin: And for her legacy that is part of our discussion today, I love that you can be the wind or you can be the leaf. Let us choose to be the wind as much as possible. So thank you, Mama Edgar, for that.

Paula Edgar: Of course, there’s a lot of overlap in this conversation, particularly because, number one, right before the last time I saw my mom was when I had gone to Caribana and come home. I was living in California with this guy who was terrible, but anyway.

Then I was like, “I’m going to go to Toronto to Caribana.” She’s like, “Let me buy you some stuff. Let’s go shopping.” That was the last time I saw her. It always is a special sort of thought for me. All of you all know who have been to my website, there’s a great tribute from my mom to some of my site because I believe in her legacy, not just being as the victim, but being as somebody who was impactful in this world.

Taking back the sideline and coming back here, I want to talk about a couple of things, speaking of legacy. My thought about my big legacy piece that I want to do one day is something that you’ve done twice now, which is to become an author, and to put the written word out there and have something that says like, “I have written this,” to have your own eyes be a number and you have that twice and talk to me about why you wrote The Authenticity Principle. What was the core message and why is that important to you to put out there?

Ritu Bhasin: Okay, so first of all, Paula, when you are ready, I so want you to do this. If your heart calls to do it, do it. Start now, even if you are writing one paragraph a week, fine, but start and the world would love your messages. So I’m about this. I’m all about this.

Paula Edgar: Manifesting. Let’s do it.

Ritu Bhasin: Yeah. Total, and making it happen. Making it happen. There are so many important messages like even today in all that you’ve shared, I just think that there’s so much you could offer the world through your written word. So do it. Please do it. Please do it.

I wrote my first book, The Authenticity Principle, let me reach over for it here. My baby, by the way, this is the very first copy I took and I have never taken another copy and you can see all my tags on it.

Paula Edgar: Oh, the tag on it.

Ritu Bhasin: It’s so nerdy. Seriously, I’m like that nerdy.

Paula Edgar: I love it.

Ritu Bhasin: I wrote this book several years ago as a guidebook to help people in workplace cultures, leaders, to better understand how do we be more authentic? How do we live, work, and lead in more of an authentic way? Because one of the things that I found on the front lines of doing talent management is that despite our stated efforts or commitment to wanting people to bring their whole true authentic selves to work as part of inclusion, it was like, we say that, “But just kidding.” Do not be you, conform, conform.

Then how do you actually even be who you are in the context of this mixed messaging? So that’s what led me to write the book, but also I developed a framework which is called The Three Selves. If you check out my empowerment site,, there is a whole section on it.

I flesh out, how do you be who you are, your best authentic self in a professional way and still meet performance expectations and also learn when you need to adapt behavior because we can’t all be authentic 100% of the times because we do need to meet societal and workplace expectations, rules, and norms around how to behave.

That’s why I wrote it. However, the spiritual of why I wrote it, I didn’t know that then, but now I understand is I wrote it for me to help me live a more authentic life.

Paula Edgar: Wow.

Ritu Bhasin: Even now, as I do my work and I continue to do my healing work, just when I’m like, “Wow, I am really living, putting myself out there in a vulnerable way,” I’m reminded in moments that I’m still peeling and peeling. So writing that first book transformed my life.

Paula Edgar: Oh, wow. Wow, wow, wow, wow. I remember hearing you talk about authenticity. I was saying before we got started that I followed you. Another speaker after you spoke at a diversity conference at a law firm. I remember, I was like, “She’s super authentic.” I thought to myself, “I’m authentic.” I was like, “She’s really, really authentic.” Then I remember having this epiphany moment where I was like, “There’s not like a competing authenticity, but it’s like who you are and who you are.”

So when I’ve had conversations about authenticity, I often will say to people, “If you’re someplace where you cannot be authentic at all, you need to leave.” But there’s like a scale of authenticity. You’re not always at 10. Sometimes you gotta be at a 1.5. It depends on the what, in context. I guess the people don’t get it. I think it’s like keeping it real as opposed to not.

Ritu Bhasin: I think what you’re raising is such an interesting point because my model, I call it The Three Selves, and what I say is there are three selves, we all have each of these selves. There’s the authentic self, which is the self work. There were no negative consequences for our actions.

This is how we would show up. It’s the good, bad, ugly of who we are. No one can be their authentic self 100% of the time because there are negative consequences. Also, we need mechanisms of social control to keep us regulated, all of that.

So there’s the authentic self that lives on one end of the continuum. On the other end of the continuum is what I call the performing self. When I say performing, I don’t mean high performance. I mean, like life is a stage and we’re all actors putting out this curated image or masking, hiding, sanitizing, changing our accents, changing our appearances, not talking about who we are. Not because we want to, but because we feel like, “If I don’t change who I am or mask or hide, you’re going to take love and opportunities away from me.”

We know that this happens for everyone, but when we come from communities that experience heightened depression, it’s even more pronounced that we perform. We also know that when we can’t be authentic selves, when we feel judged, biases come our way, it harms us, it hurts our health, physical-mental health, so performing self is a really really, really unsafe place to be, unhealthy place to be, and we want to push out of performing.

But the self we never talk about is this middle self, which I call the adapted self. Your adapted self is a self where you recognize there are going to be moments where you can’t put out your whole true authentic self so you willingly, happily choose to adjust your behaviors to meet your needs and the needs of others.

The adapted self, it’s a choice, it’s willing, it still serves us, it feels good to do. In doing this and in adapting our behavior, it’s still a manifestation of authenticity, it’s still empowering to do. In fact, it can be a really safe place to stay. What I often will say is for people starting off in their career, in workplaces where there is high conformity, you’ll probably spend more time as your adapted self, and that is okay. The key is to not be performing or to push out of performing.

So the last thing I’ll say here about The Three Selves framework is that sometimes people are confused about what’s the difference between performing and adapting. What I always say is this: “It’s how you feel. Performing doesn’t feel good. You’ll feel activation in your body.”

So whatever your signal is for anxiety or stress or this does not feel right, it will start to happen. For example, for me, when I feel like I’m being judged, which is what causes me to start to mask, hide, and change who I am, and it feels awful, I’ll feel tightness in my chest, I’ll start to sweat, my cheeks will get hot and flushed.

Whereas adapting feels fine, I’m choosing to do this. For example, I’ve already mentioned to you before, like I cuss like a pirate. I’m not doing that right now. I’m adapting. I could have sworn 85 times during this conversation, but I’ve not done that.

So adapting feels fine. Now, if we feel the pressure to adapt and adapt and adapt and adapt, then we’re getting pushed into the performing self vortex funnel and we’ll notice that based on how we feel. Being 100% authentic all the time isn’t realistic. We’re usually flowing between our authentic self and our adapted self and we’re trying to push out of performing.

When we start to look at our behavior in that more nuanced, sophisticated, complex way, not only do we do a better job of understanding who we are, what our values are, what our personal brand is, we do a way better job of communicating it, and we start to live in a more authentic way that enables us to claim our belonging, and for leaders too.

Paula Edgar: When you were describing what it feels like, I was like, “I could feel that. I know exactly what you mean when you’re saying it,” but particularly, I get this question a lot where people are like, “How do you shape who you are and go towards the authentic self when you’re junior, because there’s so much less agency,” etc.

What I explained is that there’s a culture. Whatever culture it is that you’re in, there’s that culture. But you being in it shifts it, as immediately, and it depends on the how and the what, but just being there and being different in whatever way that is from the people who are already there shifts it.

If you own it a little bit, like again, I’m not telling you to come into your gangbusters, but I am telling you to understand who you are so that you can understand that value. I love when you’re talking about not going into that performing, and I love that performing and conforming rhyme because I’m like, “That’s how I remember it.”

It’s the choice, which feels like a strategy as opposed to being, I’m holding myself into my momentum, I’ll be like, “What are you doing?” you’re being bound as opposed to you’re choosing to be in that space. I love that.

How do you go from The Authenticity Principle to We’ve Got This? What was the leap from, “Here’s my messaging here, we got to figure out this framework, etc, now what are we going to do about that belonging piece and authenticity and how they love each other?” Tell me about that.

Ritu Bhasin: My second book is called We’ve Got This: Unlocking the Beauty of Belonging. I was just working on it earlier today. When I say working on it, I was like referring to it, so here it is next to me. It just came out a few months back. I’m so proud to say humbly that it’s an award winner and it’s stellar and I’m so grateful.

I loved writing my first born, but I have to whisper a little, but this one in particular. I love both my children. When I wrote this, I thought, “You know what, I am pouring out my heart,” and then I wrote this.

The gap between writing the two books was a solid six years. I journeyed a lot over those six years. One of the biggest ahas that I had over the six years is that my struggle in life, it wasn’t just that I couldn’t be who I am. The real struggle for me in my life is that I have never deeply, truly experienced a sense of belonging until now.

Even now, I struggle with it. I have, if not daily, weekly reminders that I am still on this lifelong journey of experiencing belonging because of my childhood experiences. I define belonging as being the profound feeling that we hold within ourselves of being honored and accepted for who we are.

In order to experience belonging, first and foremost, we must belong to our own self. This is what enables us to claim belonging with others. A few things that are really important here, belonging can only happen on the basis of being authentic. You can see how belonging and authenticity go hand in hand.

Belonging is about being accepted by our own self and by others for being our authentic selves. When we are authentic, this is what unlocks belonging. In fact, here’s a really simple way of looking at it, belonging is the outcome of authenticity. Belonging is the outcome of authenticity.

Now, the other thing that I said that’s extremely important is that we can only experience belonging with others when we belong to ourselves. First and foremost, we must belong to our own self.

Paula Edgar: Wow. That’s a mic drop right there. Wow.

Ritu Bhasin: If I can’t accept and embrace who I am, I won’t be putting out the energy, I won’t be putting out the demand that you honor and accept me for who I am. What I realized in that six-year gap of The Authenticity Principle and then writing We’ve Got This is I had never really belonged to myself up until this moment of now doing this work.

What I realized is when I wrote The Authenticity Principle, yes, to help leaders, team members, and all that, I wrote it myself, that was this turning point where I’m like, “I’m going to do me and be me and live as me.” I started to belong to myself. The more I did my work and the more I did my work, I was like, “The music is so loud, I’m dancing everywhere.”

I’m feeling better about me, I’m attracting better quality relationships, and all of it was happening and I was like, “I have figured out how to make this happen. I need to share this with others.” That’s what led me to write We’ve Got This. We’ve Got This builds on The Authenticity Principle and it’s all about how do you create a life of belonging for yourselves and for others, because it is the greatest act of allyship to cultivate dynamics that are rooted in belonging.

Paula Edgar: I’m having a moment because when you said the belonging to yourself part, there’s a couple things that you’ve said that I was like, this is, of course, to your point, about leadership and organizations, et cetera. But it is also very much relational.

You could apply that to a relationship. If you are not showing up as yourself, it doesn’t work. If you don’t love you, if you don’t belong to you, then you can never belong or be in relationship really authentically with somebody.

I often will be like, “Hey, this is also relationship advice,” so I want to pull that out. Because it really is understanding, and going back to that plug for therapy, doing the work gets you that cheat code, when you realize, “Oh, okay, I’ve unlocked the next level in the Mario game of my life,” which is, “I gotta love me and accept who I am, wantingly.” Then also, it changes, like who I am yesterday is not the same as who I am today. It’s continued the process of belonging as a continued space, and so is authenticity, and so is personal branding.

Ritu Bhasin: All of it. All of it is true. All of it is true. All of it is true. In fact, it’s interesting, I have a story in We’ve Got This about it, where I, and this will deeply resonate with you on a few fronts, I was speaking in a law firm retreat, and I got off the stage, and I was there to talk about authenticity, the importance of being who we are, and the chief DEI officer handed me a note, it was a handwritten note.

He said, “Someone in the audience passed this along,” and the note essentially said, “Several years ago, I had heard Ritu speak. She was a bit stilted and I was a bit like blah, whatever about hearing her speak today, but today she’s showing up as her authentic self and it is wonderful.”

Paula Edgar: Oh, wow.

Ritu Bhasin: The note made me cry. I still have it in my office and I mean, I put it into my book. The reason that it was so important is years and years prior when I had been speaking, I would have thought that I was showing up authentically. I would have thought that the people’s perception of who I am, my brand was in alignment with my own, but clearly it was not.

But it shows you how we are all on a journey of healing, growing, and developing. If we do our work, we close the gap. How I perceive myself, and I want others to see me is an alignment and I deeply care about that. I go back to you asked earlier the three words, one of the words how I would describe myself, one of the words I was going to say in the moment is kind and good, kind/good or good. I think about goodness all the time.

Let’s think about it in the context of legacy. At the end of the day, I want to be known as someone who did good, is good, was good. I deeply, deeply believe in goodness. I want to be someone who is focused on goodness. That for me would be a beautiful outcome of claiming my belonging and putting that out there.

Paula Edgar: I love that because truly, when you’re in that space, that sort of zone of genius of you, it resonates. Years ago now, I guess, but before the pandemic, I did a keynote at a conference and right before I got on stage, I found that a family member was very sick and going into surgery.

I have no idea what I said on that stage. No clue, nothing at all. But when I got off, people were like, “Oh my God, that was the best thing that I’ve ever heard.” I was like, “I have no idea what I said.” Because I just did, I just started, I was like, “Forget about my [inaudible].” I just spoke.

That’s why I call your brand your magic because it’s not that it’s effortless but it’s so free like you can just tell the person whenever they’re in that space, it doesn’t seem forced, it’s very much like, “Oh, this is like they could do this in a sleep.” Again, I get a lot of sleep loss but I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do but I could, those things can just come to you.

But you know what, I would love for you to talk to me about what advice should we give to somebody who is struggling with this who wants to be their authentic self, but they’re struggling with what the professional expectations are, what would you tell somebody in that space?

Ritu Bhasin: So I would say two things. First of all, the starting point is figuring out what it is that causes us to shut down or to not be who we are. In fact, when I’m doing my sessions within organizations, within law firms, for example, I’ll talk about understanding why you hurt. What is it that causes us to feel wounded, broken, feel like we shouldn’t be who we are? What judgments or bias that comes our way activates us and pushes us into a place of masking, cloaking, and changing our accent and changing our appearance or whatever?

When we start to unravel and peel off the layers of the onion and start to see that, “Wow, so much of how I’m showing up as an adult ties back to childhood woundedness,” the real work is around our childhood woundedness, we start to realize, “I’m not broken. There’s nothing wrong with being a child of immigrants and talking openly in the law firm environment that I did not grow up with fancy things and I do not understand yachting, golf, oil paintings, or whatever.”

There’s nothing wrong with naming it and saying, “Actually, that’s just not what we did.” Versus say reading sports headlines and trying to whittle our way into conversations. The first piece is to explore why you hurt and work on healing the woundedness. Because when we do that, we get better and better and better at standing in our power and we feel better about who we are and we no longer feel shame, we let go of shame. That’s the first piece.

The second piece is I would say leveraging the Three Selves Framework is developing a really crystal clear understanding of who you are. If I said to you, “Who is your authentic self? If there were no negative consequences for your actions, how would you speak, what would you wear, what would you talk about? How loud would you laugh? What words would you use? Which accent would you embody?”

All of it, determining that, and then understanding, “Okay, what are the adaptations I feel good and fine to make? Around whom am I going to make them? Where does it feel fine? Where does it not feel fine?” Recognizing in any given moment, we can be both showing up authentically in some behavioral dimensions and then in others be adapting, and that’s perfectly fine too, and even recognizing we might be performing in others.

All three can be happening at once. But when we do a deep, deep, deep self-dive into who we are by exploring a lot of self-reflection questions, which I have in both my books and you can check it out or online at, all free online, you start to realize, “Wow, I’m getting to know who I am better and better and I’m better able to adjust and adapt and hone my behavior and own my behavior.”

Ultimately, what we start to realize, and I think this is so important, and it is a great final takeaway is everything is a choice. We all get to choose, even when it feels like we don’t have choice, we have choice. It’s about recognizing that you always get to choose how you behave, how you respond, how you show up.

Maybe for that moment, because you’re shut down, you’re triggered, someone interrupts you yet again in a meeting, you hear bad news before you get on the stage, whatever, in that moment, we may not feel like we have choice, but after we do, we still have choice. Everything is a choice. We start to reflect on making higher quality choices so that we can live our best, both personally and professionally.

Paula Edgar: I love this. Though, of course, I knew that I was going to act like it wasn’t even time. Time is the social construct. I have two questions, just give me two minutes, that I ask everybody on my podcast.

Ritu Bhasin: Okay, okay, I’m ready. I’ll be brief, which is not my forte.

Paula Edgar: One, I think I already know the answer to, but what is the aspect of yourself, so I call it your stand by your brand moment, something that you will never compromise on about your brand.

Ritu Bhasin: Oh, God, like who I am, without a doubt. You take it or leave it, if you leave it, fine because I’ll just go dance over there and I’ll dance by myself or whoever wants to join my party can come join. But if you won’t come and party, fine, whatevs.

Paula Edgar: I kind of knew the answer on that one. The second one is The Branding Room Only is the take on standing room only, so the question is, what is something that a room would be filled with people standing, there’s not any place to sit, just to see you do or experience about you?

Ritu Bhasin: So they’re coming to experience me and what are they doing? Oh, without a doubt, speaking on a stage. I think that this is awesome, like magic, like I think when I’m on a stage, I am truly in one of my best elements. In fact, when I’m speaking, I often say this, “It is probably the most present I ever am professionally.” Because I’m literally in that moment. I’m inhaling the crowd. I’m regulating. I’m spewing my message. It wouldn’t be to hear me sing, let’s just say that.

Paula Edgar: We have that in common. It just wouldn’t be fair if I could sing too. But anyway, I want to thank you so much for spending some time in The Branding Room. Everybody, tell a friend and tell a friend to tell a friend, because they need to hear this conversation.

Of course, I’m inviting you to come back anytime you want to have whatever conversation you want because I really love this. Everybody, talk to you soon. See you next time.

Ritu Bhasin: Thank you.