I SEE YOU

This is somewhat of a follow-up to my FB live "My thoughts on Toastmasters" (September 21).

We are back to regularly scheduled programming! Because I was competing in a Toastmasters Humourous Speech contest, I had to skip a week of blogging. It was an intense ten days of writing and rehearsing and practicing. It was also a lot of me freaking out with thoughts like, "Oh fuck. How the heck am I going to get through this? I think I need to barf. Why am I doing this? UGG. I need wine. No, I need some chocolate. No, just everyone leave me alone, ok?!!" Good thing I have a VERY patient husband.

I was super nervous, unable to efficiently focus on work, and I felt super ungrounded. I also had a doozy of a headache for two days before the competition. I think my brain was literally fed up with my speech - it had heard it on a continuous loop for too long! It no longer thought it was funny. Lol.

But I survived! And I'm pretty excited to have won 2nd place in the Club Contest and 3rd place in the Area Contest with my speech titled 'The Mullet' (yes, it was indeed about a hair catastrophe - just keepin' it real, Mavens). More importantly, however, I gained some serious - yet simple - insight as to why this speaking club is so powerful.

As I watched and supported a bunch of new friends and total strangers get on stage and speak their little hearts out, I was truly inspired. The entire room was filled with people willing to be brave and face the uncomfortable. One after one, people from all backgrounds and of all ages put themselves out there. They risked stumbling on their words, forgetting parts of their speech, looking weird under horrific fluorescent lighting, and flashing sweaty pits. They made mistakes – and they also delivered some moments of brilliance. Ultimately, these courageous people let their voices be heard.

The evening brought to mind something I was once told by a very compassionate grief counselor. I can't remember how it came up, or if she got this from a book, but she said we all need to feel that this phrase is true:

I see you. I hear you. What you say matters.

We, as humans, need to be heard. We need to know someone is listening.

Sadly, there are few times where we get people's undivided attention. When you are in a Toastmaster's meeting, you get exactly that. Cell phones are off, eyes on you, and you get to say pretty well whatever you want. The ball is in your court and the encouragement is palpable. 

I could literally feel the energy of the room rising with every word spoken. Even during the awkward stumbles and fumbles, you could tell people were gaining confidence and feeling a healthy sense of validation. I think it is simply because for just a few minutes at a time, the participants got to intimately feel that YES, we see you, we hear you, and what you say does, indeed, matter.

If you are feeling frustrated or low in certain areas of your life, ask yourself if it because you feel you are not being seen? Is no one listening? Or maybe the tables are flipped - are YOU the one not seeing or listening to others? You need to put out what you want back, so at the risk of sounding a little too hippy dippy unicorny, take one teeny tiny moment in your day today to a) really listen to someone who means something to you and b) make the space necessary to let your voice be heard by at least one person who you respect.

To your brave success,
Alana

PS sidebar: And while yes, Toastmasters does attract some people that just want to talk and talk all day and hog the stage, my experience so far is that these members are the minority. Also, there is no kool-aid in sight. For reals. For more info check out

PHOTO: Alexandru Zdrobău