I used to be self-conscious about speaking.
“What??? Really?? You make videos every day, and you look confident.”
I wasn’t always a confident speaker. English was not my first language. Marathi, which is an Indian language, was my first language. Because of that, I went to speech and ESL classes for seven years.
Teachers, the other kids, and my family had a hard time understanding me at times. I repeated myself constantly, especially over the phone. I had a hard time with my R pronunciation.
My friends used to mimic how I spoke every time I was in a group speaking up. I still remember the ridicule I received year after year for fifteen years; elementary, middle, high school, & college.
When I was a teen, and anytime I had to handle customer service, my parents told me to hand it off to my dad or siblings because they knew speaking was not my strong suit.
When I would give presentations, the other kids or my friends would laugh the first fifteen seconds.
I had ZERO confidence. I didn’t have a girlfriend for the first eighteen years of my life because I thought no girl would want to go out with me because of how I spoke.
When I joined a fraternity in college, I handed off presentations to other members because I didn’t believe in myself.
It wasn’t until I was 21 years old when I did a group presentation in class. We had a group of four. The class had to give notes to each individual of the group. I received multiple notes telling me I was by far the best presenter in the group.
I realized my potential, and that was the start of believing in my communication ability.
When I was 23 years old after college, I knew I wanted to be a speaker. I joined Toastmasters (a public speaking organization), and in the first eight months, I won three speech competitions to advance me to the District finals. The funny part of all this was people came up to me telling me I was a natural.
Haha, little did they know the struggle I had to go through. I still had one problem; I had a lot of grammatical errors. Grammar was never my strong suit, either. People told me if I wanted to be a professional speaker that I had to go to speech therapy.
I was about to go until one of my mentors stopped me. He said, “People are not going to listen to me for my proper grammar; people will listen to me because of my message and my authenticity.”
What he said completely changed how I perceived myself as a speaker. I started becoming prouder of how I spoke and wasn’t ashamed of it at all.
What are some tips for you if you are self-conscious about public speaking? I have three tips for you.
- Other people’s opinion of how you speak does not matter – Some of the most successful people (celebrities and noncelebrities) have an accent. One famous example is Arnold Schwarzenegger. People told him he couldn’t be an actor because he talked funny and no other actors spoke like that. He became a famous bodybuilder, actor, and governor of California. He didn’t limit himself to how he spoke. My Dean of the College of Business at the University of South Florida also has a thick accent. He is one of the most influential people in Tampa, FL. I used to worry too much about people’s opinions. Eventually, I realized people will always have an opinion.
- Work on getting on slightly better – We live in a great time to get better at any skill. There are Google and YouTube. Find what your weaknesses are in speaking and attack it. Take public speaking classes, if you are old enough, join public speaking organizations like Toastmasters and be the first one to present in group presentations. I didn’t get better by not attempting. I gave five group presentations in a couple of months.
- If people are smiling or laughing at you when giving a presentation, don’t worry about them – When I used to give presentations, every time someone would smile, I would think they are laughing at me. Sometimes they were and sometimes they weren’t. If I think they are smiling or laughing because they think I am funny, I acknowledge them by smiling back. If I think they are laughing at me and have bad intentions, I look at the people in the crowd who engage with my speech. When you look at people who engage in your speech, you will slowly become more confident.
Speaking is an important skill to have in life. Coming from another country and having an accent is tough. Trust me; it will get better and later down the road; speaking will be a piece of cake. Whatever country you are in, practice your speaking skills every day, and you will slowly become confident to talk to people individually or in a group setting.