Task #11 ….. Go to a Toastmasters Meeting

Just THINKING about joining a group whose sole purpose is to get me to speak in front of a group makes me uncomfortable. But once the idea popped into my head, I knew I had to at least go check it out.

This one got added to the list when I was thinking about this whole “20 For 20” project and what I wanted to get out of it at the end. What did I want to be different about me at the end of the year.

I have never been good at speaking up for myself.  I have spent most of my life just going along as an agreeable person. I dont speak up about anything controversial, I keep my strong opinions to myself.  But it goes deeper than just being polite in social settings, I also dont speak up when my boundaries are being pushed, or when I am being asked to do something I really dont want to do.

Unfortunately that is a “way of being” I learned early on.  Its hard to pinpoint when that happened or exactly why, but I took on the pleasant, peacekeeping role.  My mother didnt speak up for herself much either.

So…  how can I use this “20 for 20” list to work on changing that quietness. How can I push that part of myself and learn the art of speaking up?

Toastmasters is a great place to practice.  I remember a good friend of mine went to Toastmasters years ago when we worked together.  He loved it, he said it was challenging, definitely not the easiest thing he had every done, but he was learning and getting better at it. And.. 15 years later, he just did a TED talk:  “Emotions: The Data Men Miss”.

I searched for meetings around me and found a “Wellness” Toastmasters Group where all the members work in the wellness field. That sounded perfect for me.  So I put the next meeting on my calendar and planned to attend.

The actual day of the meeting was not a great day. I had quite a bit of transition happening in my business, and learned of the untimely death of a friend… I was feeling down in the dumps. The LAST place I wanted to go was to a TOASTMASTERS MEETING!

But there never is a perfect time for change is there.  So I got in the car and went.

The group was really friendly, and I sat down and looked over the agenda.  Wow, this group is really organized. Every minute is allocated for something.  Then the meeting started and I just tried to soak it all in.  Little did I know that guests are invited to stand up and speak as well. And we are timed, just like the scheduled speakers. There is no hiding in the back, trying to be invisible in a Toastmasters meeting.  So I got up and put my thoughts together. I was asked “What is a time that you acted audaciously?”

Man did I wish for a dictionary right then.  I think I knew what audaciously meant, but I didnt want to be wrong… in front of  ALL…. THESE….. PEOPLE.  And then my heart started pounding… yep, theres that familiar feeling I get whenever I am in front of a group, the nervous heart pounding, and now I cant get my thoughts together…..

So I just started talking about the time I was supposed to be layed off with 100 other people because our company was bought by an East Coast company, but instead, I asked to go WITH them to Pennsylvania, to be one of the 10 people that were moving with the company to rebuild it in the new state.  And they said YES, so I packed up everything and moved 5,000 miles across the country……

And then I stopped talking, and everyone smiled at me and clapped.  So I sat down.  But then my mind raced…. did I actually make sense when I was speaking?  Was my story cohesive?  Shoot, there were so many other things I could have said.  But that was it, and the meeting moved on.

At the end of the meeting a friendly person came over to me and asked “So, are you going to join”?  In that moment, I wanted to NEVER come back to that room again.  I have always thought of Toastmasters as being this scary thing, a place that I would have to face some BIG fears. And it still is…..scary, intimidating, uncomfortable… which is exactly why I HAVE to join.


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