By Charmaine E. Ralph, ALB, ACB, B.A. (Law)
What is a person’s number one fear in life? If you said fear of public speaking, you would be correct. More people fear public speaking than fear dying, according to Psychology Today magazine. Isn’t that remarkable? Mindspa Phobia Clinics says that, “Public speaking fear and anxiety is a form of social phobia called glossophobia – an intense and irrational fear of being judged by others when speaking in front of them – or of making mistakes, being embarrassed or humiliated in such situations – causing dread, panic and avoidance.” I want to share my testimonial with you, about how I overcame my fear of public speaking, by being an active member of Toastmasters. This is one of my greatest achievements in life. I also want to persuade you to visit Toastmasters clubs, choose one and eventually join as a member.
When I was a girl, I was shy. In class, I was quiet. When the teacher asked a question and I knew the answer, I would raise my hand, waiting to be called to give my answer. At these times, my heart would beat fast. My adrenaline would rush through my body. I felt fear keenly. However, I still spoke and participated in class discussions.
Fear of public speaking, whether to one person or several, followed me into my university years and then well into my career. Until one day, I read an article that changed my life forever. The Ottawa Citizen had published a story about Toastmasters. I learned about the organization and its program. That article lit a flame in me that still burns today. I knew in my heart that I had to join, but joining would mean I would have to speak publicly. I vacillated for I do not know how long, before I made up my mind to join a club at work.
I can still remember my first speech, called the Ice Breaker at that first club. I stood at the lectern, with my speech before me, pacing backwards and forwards, the sign of nerves. As I was speaking, I glanced at myself in the floor to ceiling windows of the boardroom. I saw a tall, confident, well-dressed, young woman. On the inside, I felt out of my league. I also felt visceral fear. After my second speech, I did not continue my membership. The Toastmaster program looked too daunting to me. However, I could never shake the feeling that Toastmasters was the place for me and I needed to re-join a club. Over a decade passed before I decided to re-join Toastmasters. It was like coming home. However, the same fear was still present. I however made up my mind to remain a member.
I decided to go to club meetings and actively participate. I love completing projects because I am goal-oriented. My Toastmasters manuals give me explicit guidance on how to complete my projects. It takes time to prepare to perform roles. I have to set aside time to write, revise, and practice my speeches. Next, I have to go in front of an audience and speak to them, whether I am giving a full-length speech, giving a joke or evaluating someone. To me, this is time well spent.
Being a Member of Toastmasters has helped me manage the challenges of life. My devotion to Toastmasters pulled me through great stress. My father passed away in 2019, which was very hard. I also faced great pressure from difficult people. I decided that I was going to overcome these problems, by continuing to participate actively in club meetings. I needed to escape the difficulties by doing something constructive with my time.
My Toastmasters club has a fun environment where nice, friendly, smart, professional people surround me. My club is the perfect escape for one hour each week, from challenging people and situations. In this environment, I give speeches and perform leadership roles. In performing these roles, I developed many competencies. I have improved my analytical, organizational, diplomatic, and writing skills, to name a few. In changing my focus from upsetting situations, to fun Toastmasters tasks, my morale improved. The projects are challenging but the rewards are so very sweet. In completing projects and practicing my skills, I am building up resiliency to face difficult situations and people. I now have power to face the hardships of life. I faced my challenges and I am overcoming them.
I reached this stage through hard work. I completed many Toastmasters projects. Are they easy? Some of them are. However, in life, if something comes too easily, it probably is not worthwhile, and you likely will not appreciate it as much. When you work hard for something and get good success, you usually feel deep satisfaction.
I will be a life-long member of Toastmasters. I am reaching my full potential and I am happy with the person who looks back at me, in my mirror. I see a tall, confident young woman. Today, I am fearless and I feel confident all of the time. I very rarely feel anxiety when I deliver a speech. One of my greatest life achievements is that I have overcome fear of speaking publicly. I can speak to one person or a group of people, with ease. If I can do it, so can you! Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.”
I hope I have convinced you to visit Toastmasters clubs and to join one of them. Since many club members are no longer meeting in person, you can visit clubs virtually, in any part of the world! If you seek to transform your life, there is no better place to do so, than in a Toastmasters Club.