Alumni, People

Dr. Najwa Zebian on the transformative power of authenticity

February 14, 2024

Educator and author Dr. Najwa Zebian.

There’s a lesson to be found in the life of Dr. Najwa Zebian, and it’s one she hopes will prove helpful for readers of her upcoming book.

The Only Constant: A Guide to Embracing Change and Leading an Authentic Life is Zebian’s latest offering of timeless wisdom as she once again combines two of her greatest passions: education and writing.

As its title suggests, The Only Constant offers readers a blueprint for becoming their true selves by navigating the unfamiliar terrain of change, no matter how difficult that may be.

Always striving to be an educator who leads by example, it’s a lesson that Zebian has followed many times before.

While most folks know Zebian as a celebrated writer and educator, things may have gone very differently had she not adhered to authenticity.

“I did my undergrad in biology and the reason I did it was that my parents wanted me to do it,” Zebian said.

“After going through four years of feeling like I was doing something that I did not enjoy and did not love, it felt like it was time to make a choice that reflected me.”

The choice was to enroll in Western University’s Teacher Education program. Soon after she graduated, Zebian received her first class — a group of eight students she taught at a private school while she pursued her Master of Education, her second program with the Faculty of Education.

The students were newcomers to Canada, having fled Libya due to war back home. Most of them could not speak English, and the ones who did knew very little.

In those students, Zebian saw herself. 

Just seven years prior, at the age of 16, Zebian had moved to Canada from Lebanon, a relocation that was also a consequence of war. Zebian recalls constantly feeling excluded as she grew up in her new home, a feeling she describes as one of her biggest wounds from childhood.

“Somehow helping my students heal from what they’d gone through, helping them see the value that they have, teaching them that they deserve a seat at the table… that was easier to do for someone else than it was for me,” Zebian said.

“As I was doing it for them, through my writings and through speaking to them in a motivational and inspirational way, I was doing that for my 16-year-old self. My healing began with the healing of my students.”

Reflecting on this experience, Zebian questions if she would’ve pursued a career as an author were it not for teaching, as the writings she shared with her students were later adapted into her first book, Mind Platter.

Her first students also inspired the next chapter of her journey with the Faculty of Education, which involved pursuing a Doctor of Education (EdD) in Educational Leadership.

It was during this time that Zebian’s writing career took off, publishing five books, including Mind Platter, and amassing millions of readers worldwide, all while tirelessly pursuing a doctoral degree.

Zebian recalls many days where she, and others around her, questioned if she truly needed to continue pursuing her doctorate, given the success she had achieved as an author and the immense work the program required.

“It was the exhaustion of having to carry the title of writer, author, finishing manuscripts on time and finishing a dissertation on time,” Zebian said.

“I reflected on that and thought if I don’t do what is central to my authentic being as a person, then in a way I’m betraying myself.”

Choosing to stay loyal to her true self, Zebian continued the program and obtained her doctorate in 2022.

“Me being a writer will never go away, just like me being a teacher and an educator will never go away,” Zebian added.

Dr. Najwa Zebian poses for a photo after graduating with a Doctor of Education in 2022.

New lessons and a new approach for The Only Constant

Zebian describes her time in the EdD program as an identity shift and said it was a formative experience in writing her new book, The Only Constant.

“It changed my view on why people do what they do, what keeps them committed to what they once wanted or once thought they needed,” Zebian said.

“Going through this program helped me understand at a deeper level what healing and coming back to yourself really means.”

Along with new lessons drawn from new experiences, The Only Constant also shares a side of Zebian that may be unfamiliar to even her most devoted readers.

Hoping to paint an even clearer picture of her true self, Zebian took a new approach and used voice-to-text software in writing The Only Constant. This involved four months of waking up every day to a Word document as Zebian let her conversation with the page flow unfiltered.

“I cried a lot. It was extremely therapeutic for me, but I did it intentionally because that’s my biggest fear — exposure,” Zebian said.

While she had grown comfortable with exposure as she released more books, Zebian considers The Only Constant to be her “Everest in writing.”

“There were so many chapters I wrote where I asked myself, ‘Are you really going to send this over?’ I had to coach myself through my fear as I wrote this book," she added.

“I know this is the only way to truly and genuinely help people… it’s to show up, it’s to lead by example, which is again, what I learned through education.”

Zebian’s class has expanded well beyond her first group of students from Libya and she now devotes herself to helping others through a variety of formats beyond books, including social media, podcasts and her digital school, Soul Academy.

Through it all, Zebian says her favourite moments are when she can “see the healing happening,” be it through receiving heartfelt messages from fans or witnessing passionate reactions from audience members at her speaking engagements.

“It never fails to get me emotional because as much I’ve grown as a person through my writing, I think there’s still an element of feeling alone in my experience,” Zebian said.

“In helping someone be seen, I’m also feeling seen.”

The Only Constant is available for pre-order from a variety of sources and links for different sellers can be found on Zebian’s website.

If you’re curious about Zebian’s other books, the full collection is available on her website.