My Toastmasters Testimony – Moving From “I CAN’T” to “I CAN!”

Trophy my husband MADE for me – out of paper.

I wrote this as a submission for a book of collective stories about Toastmasters. Hoping it gets in, but wanted to share it here. I’m a strong supporter of Toastmasters. Here’s why:

“I have to quit Toastmasters,” I told my boss at our one-on-one meeting.

“Why?”

“Every Wednesday morning before the meetings, I spend most of my time dry heaving in the bathroom.”

My boss explained that part of my job involved communication skills, and eventually presentation skills as well. She said I needed to stay in Toastmasters.

I had Social Anxiety Disorder. I didn’t know the name for it at that point, but that’s exactly what it was. It’s a fear of being closely watched, judged, and criticized by others. I experienced it during meetings, and way back to when I had my first oral book report in grade school. Even talking on the phone was uncomfortable.

“I CAN’T do this!” I sobbed to myself that night. “Some people can do public speaking and some people can’t. I can’t. I am NOT one of those people who can do this!”

I seriously considered quitting my job – the first good job I ever had with a decent salary and benefits. I was single, trying to live the independent life on my own, hundreds of miles away from my family.

I toughed it out for a couple more years, then went back to my boss to tell her Toastmasters still wasn’t working for me.

She asked if I had given it my best.

Oops.

Truthfully, I had done the bare minimum. I came to meetings every so often, whenever I had a club role to fill. I never served as a club officer, and only delivered four speeches out of the ten needed for my Certified Toastmaster (CTM) award.

I told my boss I’d give it one more shot – my best shot. But this time I was doing it for myself. Was it possible to get my CTM? I fantasized about giving that tenth speech. I wanted to believe I COULD DO IT.

I volunteered as a club officer, Sergeant-at-Arms, for selfish reasons. It was a way to force myself to come to every meeting, because the Sergeant-at-Arms’s main responsibility was to set up the meeting room every week.

     As an officer, I was introduced to what leadership truly is. I realized how much I loved my Toastmasters Club, and wanted it to thrive. So I volunteered to finish my CTM that year.

Heads turned in the officer group. “How many speeches do you have left?” An officer asked me.

I admitted, “Six.” There were 8 months left to complete this goal. My average up to this point was one speech every six months. I knew the other officers silently doubted I could do it, and it only fueled my passion to prove everyone, including my inner critics, wrong.

Three months passed with only one speech accomplished.

Crunch time. I now had four months to plan and present five speeches. No more procrastinating, I told myself. Are you serious about this, or what?

Yes, I answered. I am going to do this.

And I did.

In that four-month span, I grew more than ever. I realized I was brave, I learned that speaking with sincerity was a valuable gift of mine, and most surprisingly I was able to see myself as a leader.

After receiving my CTM award, I went on to earn “Toastmaster of the Year” from my club. The same thing happened the following year when I jumped in the officer ranks enthusiastically to VP of Education.

Over the next few years I continued to earn the Competent Leader Award three times, and my Advanced Communicator Bronze. And finally I found the confidence to run and serve as President of my club.

Wow. I went from a phobic Social Anxiety case to President of my Toastmasters Club within a span of four years.

It hasn’t stopped there.

I now facilitate Creative Women’s Retreats, teach creative workshops and tele-classes live, recorded audios and videotaped myself for my business purposes, and I recently launched an online radio show. The business I run is almost entirely focused on my interaction with people – something I used to avoid like the plague. Toastmasters literally changed my life!

So, wow!

I DID it!

And if there’s one thing I know, it is this… If I can do it, anyone can.

That means you, too, dear reader.

Truly.

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2 thoughts on “My Toastmasters Testimony – Moving From “I CAN’T” to “I CAN!”

  1. Wow awsesome I’m really thinking about joining I’ll probably go tomorrow actually as a guest. I suffered from a speech impediment most of my life and I’m almost past it but the fear that I may mess up on my speech lingers on in the back of my mind. So to eliminate this fear toastmasters seems only right.

    • That’s wonderful that you’re considering it! I highly recommend going to check it out a a guest! Every club is different, and normally the members are very friendly and supportive!

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