I’m socially awkward.
I experience social anxiety- particularly in new social settings.
Going to parties is the worst, because I just don’t know what to do with myself and feel completely out of place.
Can you relate?
I didn’t join Toastmasters to help me overcome my social anxiety- I didn’t even know Toastmasters would help me be more comfortable in a variety of social and business situations. Facing my social anxiety in Toastmasters was a completely unexpected and wonderful bonus!
I didn’t even realize how much my social anxiety had improved until recently. I reflected on what changed and that is when I realized, that what changed was me, and what changed me was Toastmasters.
When I started in Toastmasters I felt really uncomfortable talking about myself. I was confident in my abilities but I was still uncomfortable being me. Not Chrysta the blogger, or Chrysta the accountant, or Chrysta the hostess- just Chrysta.
The first speech we give in Toastmasters is a speech about ourselves. I wrote and rewrote and rewrote that speech. And finally, I hurriedly threw my speech together the night before because I just couldn’t figure out what to say about me.
As I continued in Toastmasters I discovered, with the support and encouragement of my club, that I gave the best speeches when I was genuine, honest, and 100% Chrysta.
That’s right, people actually like me for being me. People from vastly different backgrounds with very different interests, liked me.
People like me.
It may seem strange to suggest that learning people actually like me as a revelation, but it was.
I’m a nerd.
I’ve never enjoyed sports and many other mainstream interests. I’m thrilled to curl up with a movie or book.
I’m a homebody.
I’m an introvert.
I’m a Trekkie!
It wasn’t that I thought I was unlikable- most of the time I just feel different. I’ve always felt out of place in social situations and found it difficult to get comfortable just being me.
Toastmasters may or may not be for you, so I’ll try to share some of the insights I’ve learned in Toastmasters that helped me face my social anxiety.
How Toastmasters helped me overcome social anxiety
I am friends with every member of my Toastmasters club because we all get to know each other really well. What I love about getting to know my fellow Toastmasters is hearing what they are passionate about. When I’m passionate about something and I share it with others, I shine.
When I started out in Toastmasters I chose topics I thought my audience would be interested in. Sometimes they were interested and sometimes not, but either way my fellow members didn’t connect with me when I wasn’t sharing some part of myself. That, my friends, is as genuine as it gets.
I used to be so afraid of making a fool of myself in social situations. In this, Jennifer Lawrence is my hero. She trips at the Oscars and she laughs it off and we all laugh with her- it’s endearing.
In Toastmasters I’ve had a lot of practice making a fool of myself in the most supportive and encouraging environment. We all make fools of ourselves, sometimes and it’s often our vulnerability that makes us relatable.
“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” ~Oscar Wilde
One of the many reasons Toastmasters is so fun is because each member of my club is different and we all have something unique to share. I’ve learned my contribution to Toastmasters, and the world, is my own experiences and perspectives. My voice is unique and beautiful. No one else can tell my story.
The encouragement and motivation from my fellow Toastmasters gave me confidence to keep trying new things, keep putting myself out there, and to embrace and love myself just as I am. Every time I get up to speak I am learning, growing, and becoming more comfortable doing things that used to make me quite uncomfortable.
In Toastmasters I’ve learned that when I’m having fun, other people are having fun with me. Whatever attitude I adopt is like an invitation to my audience to share. I can choose to have fun and so I will- now won’t you join me?