Building my self-confidence through Toastmasters

Throughout my life I have always felt inadequate, not as good as others, and there have been times in my life that I felt just plain not worthless.  But those feelings of inadequacy, inferior to others and worthlessness have faded away during my first 9 months as a member of Toastmasters.

The journey to self-confidence began years before Toastmasters

I have known before I was a teenager, I had self-esteem and self-confidence issues.  How they began is something I do not know, and honestly that really doesn’t matter.  The fact existed that I knew I had a problem and I needed to find a way to build (or possibly re build) myself confidence.

My senior year of high school I received the Rotary International Student award for the student who had improved the most from his Freshman year to his senior year.   Although several teachers, including my resource room teacher Mrs. Mahoney, assured me that I had earned it, the award did very little to give me self-confidence.

In college I was honored by being included in the “Who’s who in American Junior Collages”. Although this was an honor, I felt the reason I was given this honor was because I was serving in student government as president of the Able-Disabled Association club.  Truthfully, I was struggling academically at the time to the degree of being on the edge of academic probation.

Don’t get me wrong, it is not like I never believed in myself.

There were a few times that I had enough self-confidence in myself to go after something I wanted and get it.  In my early twenties I went out and applied for a job at Target on McHenry avenue in Modesto California.  I didn’t tell anyone in my family that I was applying, and I didn’t tell anyone who interviewed me at target that my mom worked there.  I did get the job as cart attendant and although I did keep everyone in the dark until I was hired, I still wonder if part of the reason I got the job is because someone figured out who my mother was.

Then there was the time in my early thirties that I convinced a company, that was not hiring, to hire me despite my disability.

Then the day came when I was forced to face my self-confidence and low self-esteem problem head on.

For most of my life, I have always allowed others (or would find someone) who would advocate for me.  Someone who would make phone calls for me.  etc.  When I needed something done I would talk to someone I already knew and get them to make the call, comfort someone I did not know, or deal with a sticky situation and if I couldn’t find someone – I would just avoid it.

But all of that started to come to an end when I realized that the only way I was going to archive my goals, exceled my goals, and be a success in life was to develop the self-confidence needed to step outside of my comfort zone and take risks.

One day, I was sitting and reflecting on my life.  I guess you might call it a mid-life crisis where a person looks at the goals they had when they graduated from high school and compare it to where they are in life today.

I had wanted to work in radio hosting my own morning radio show in a major radio market (preferably St. Louis).  But that never happened because I sat around waiting for someone to offer me a job.  Why did I make that choice?  Because I didn’t have the self-confidence or the self-esteem in myself to put myself out there and go for a job.

That was when I realized it was time to make a change.

I had tried “self-talk” in the mirror with just minimal success.  It was time to push myself further.

I had started my career of being an inspirational and motivational writer, now I wanted to launch being an inspirational and motivational speaker.  Learning form my past mistakes, I knew that I couldn’t sit at home hoping that someone would call on the phone or stop by my house and offer me a speaking gig.  I needed to hone my skills and put myself out there.  That was when I decided to join toastmasters.

At my first meeting I didn’t know anyone, and no one knew me.

The fact that no one knew my past gave am a fresh start.  I took advantage of it and forced myself to take the initiative, to ask for things that I needed instead of waiting for someone to notice my needs.

The speaking part was not hard.  I had always loved to be in front of a crowd.  I feed off the crowd’s energy and since I worked in radio I loved the speeches.

The part that has both challenged me and has help me grow the most has been the interaction with my fellow members.

As I have forced myself to interact with people I do not know, I have started to develop new friendships and hopefully some professional contacts.

As I have forced myself to step outside of my comfort zone by trying new roles at the club meetings, I have developed a craving to push the envelope further and embraces challenges outside of my comfort zone.

As I am about to deliver my sixth speech at Toastmasters, I look back over how far I have come since the day I went through a min mid-life crisis.  I can see that I have come a long way.  I know I have just begun, but I am excited about my future and I know see endless possibilities in my life.