the icebreaker: breaking the silence

With much prodding and affectionate teasing from the great Bob Hawk (link to follow!), I finally gathered all courage to take the first step in giving my first speech. Sure I’ve been attending for quite some time and I’ve been called to take on a table topic for a few meetings but nothing is comparable to the thousand knots my insides were apparently capable of doing. Suddenly I dreaded lunch break, usually my oasis and most welcome escape from the office realm.

Even though I am nervous and my brain jelly-like 99.999999% of the time, my deepest gratitude towards Bruce, Daryl, Patricia, Bob, Mirjana, Fayaz, Vlad, Gordon, Igor, Zafar, Jay, Barbara, Brad, Paris, and Elena for welcoming me warmly into their Toastmasters family.

It’s no secret—words escape my, and suddenly the room is too small. My stomach is doing double back flips, my heart
beat well beyond its ideal rate. I burst into giggles hoping to disguise the awkward silence. I become all flustered and
hot, and no it’s not menopause—my best bet—glossophobia or the fear of public speaking.

I turned 25 last Monday and yet I still feel like I am the same helpless 3 year-old who’s tugging behind Mommy’s skirt.

Looking back, I wasn’t this anxious about speaking. I have to admit that I did grow up with a soft-spoken and quiet
family. Both my father and mother were not comfortable with stepping up and speaking especially in social situations—
they pretty much kept to themselves.

We lived in a rather small subdivision, similar to a suburb herein Paranaque City, south of Manila – Philippine’s capital
region and whenever our family got invited to a neighbour’s party—my parents would find some excuse not to go if they
did decide to turn up, they would leave and head back home within the first 2 hours, even if our house was only a few
steps away.

Seeing them like so definitely made an impact on me—I felt that it was the way to live. I clearly remember my mom
saying “Silent water runs deep.” I took this to heart (probably too much to heart)—and I retreated into my room and
immersed myself with my thoughts, books, and writing.

This resonated with how I acted in school. Come report day, all of my teachers’ feedbacks were the same: that I was too
quiet and I should start talking more. When it came to the written exams, there was no doubt that I knew the answer so
it didn’t make sense to them that I couldn’t exert that extra effort to raise my hand and recite in class.

Nevertheless, 5th grade I ended up being one of the contestants to declaim in front of the whole school at our
gymnasium! My stomach doing double back flips, my heart beat well beyond its ideal rate, all flustered and hot, I say my
piece with all the courage I could muster. I simply couldn’t let my teacher, who had laboriously trained me and believed
in me, down. I was going head to head with a popular orator at our school, her name was Amber. All tides were against
me, but I didn’t care. As expected, I didn’t win, I came in second place but it was a win for me at a different level.

From the private Catholic school that I went to for grade school, I went into a public high school in which I felt more
comfortable. I felt that I could be myself and not worry about what other people thought about me. But comments from
my teachers did not change! Again, I was too quiet and I needed to talk more.

Despite this, like before I made my way into a series of situations in which I didn’t expect I would find myself in. I
agreed to join the Storytelling contest during my freshman year, I starred in one of our plays in Literature when I was
a sophomore, I became involved at our school’s science club and became vice president when I was a junior, and up
until now I still could not believe that I joined a fund-raising pageant when I became a senior student. Although it wasn’t
exactly public speaking…in more ways than one all of these involved putting myself out there, open and vulnerable to
public scrutiny.

This is not to say that I didn’t have qualms in doing all of these things, on the contrary I remember that I almost backed
out on all of these circumstances thinking of the humiliation waiting for me at the end of the line. I am blessed that I was
surrounded by friends who constantly reminded me that I shouldn’t give in to the fear, that I should continue and not
focus on my stomach doing its double back flips, that I should ignore my heart beating well beyond its ideal rate, and
that I should not mind myself getting all flustered and hot. Like what I have done now.


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