In Anna’s words: “I have never experienced an environment quite as supportive and welcoming as this one. Upon stepping foot in the meeting room, I knew everyone supported me and there was a kind of ‘we’re all in this together’ vibe in the room.
I felt so accepted and excited that I decided to jump up for “Table Topics” in my first meeting. I felt so empowered being up there and speaking. To my surprise, I actually won that TableTopics session!
My confidence was at an all-time high. I felt so proud of myself, something I had never felt regarding speaking at all let alone public speaking. I was riding this high when I signed myself up for my first speech. I had the opportunity to meet with a member of the club, Youssef Elderiny, who became my mentor throughout my Toastmasters journey. He helped me create and practice my speech, and he cheered me on throughout the process. His positivity and enthusiasm translated into how I felt about myself. He made me feel like I could, in fact, speak in public and that I actually had the right to feel confident in myself.”
When the time came to deliver her first speech, Anna worked her way, sweating and shaking, to the front of the room where she shared her struggle with stuttering.
Although she stuttered a lot during that speech, she didn’t care. It was just about delivering her message to the audience and proving to herself ‘that yes – I have a voice and I can use it’.
Anna discovered that people don’t care if she stutters; if they do, that’s their problem and not hers. The experience was incredibly empowering but also emotional.
Anna was nearly brought to tears as she sat down after her speech. She had never shared her battle with stuttering with anyone but my parents and two best friends before. Anna felt hopeful, like she was on the road to accepting my stutter as just a part of her – no negative stigma attached – rather than letting it define and own her.
A seven-week student internship at Baycrest Health Sciences loomed in July, a job that involved public speaking, working on a research project and presenting the findings to fellow professionals. Anna disclosed her stutter to her interns and mentors, something she had never done before her Toastmasters speech.
The reaction was no reaction. People didn’t care and instead listened to what she had to say. Although very nervous on presentation day, Anna knew that her stutter was already out in the open, and the audience just wanted to hear the interesting things she had to say. To take the pressure off, she told the audience about her stutter before she started speaking. The presentation was a great success and a massive personal victory for Anna. She achieved something that for awhile she didn’t think was possible for a stutterer like herself.
Anna says: “I am incredibly proud of what I accomplished this summer. I want to give a massive thank you to everyone at Toastmasters for providing me a space to start becoming a public speaker.
I also want to mention that I have not overcome my stutter. I have not even overcome my fear of or anxiety around stuttering. I am, however, on a better and more positive path to acceptance and anxiety-free speech than I have been on in the past.
I still have days where my confidence is shot and I feel silenced; but, I remind myself of the positive memories I created in the summer and remember that I am a young female leader with valuable insights to share. I remind myself that I deserve to be heard regardless of whether my voice sounds pretty or not.
This summer, Toastmasters helped me prove to myself that I have a voice and I deserve to use it!”