The nobel pursuit of confidence

Three years ago, I was more toast than Toastmaster...

Jean Oliver (left) used Toastmasters to build her confidence. She stands with friend Marguerite Gayfer after planning the Victoria Human Chain D.O.T.S. Rally for Suicide Prevention in 2011.

Three years ago, I was more toast than Toastmaster.

Completely burned out and a prisoner to anxiety and panic attacks, a chance meeting at Camosun College led to an unexpected lifeline, as though someone was saying: hang in there and we’ll show you how to open up your life and let some light in. But talk about your stage fright: ‘Hello, my name is Nervous Nelly, and I am Toast.’

We don’t get to a state of misery by accident. When I was nine, my mother entered me in a singing contest. Contest day arrived and there I was on a large stage, facing an auditorium filled to capacity. I looked out at the crowd and opened my mouth — nothing happened. All I could do was stand there, eyes blinking, feet planted on the ground. I saw one judge shake her head and bend to write something down. The next memory I have is of mom offering me ice cream. Two things came out of that miserable day: ice cream remains my favourite comfort food, and I can’t sing a note. Luckily, confidence comes in more ways than one.

My first meeting at Toastmasters was pivotal. There is a standing item on a Toastmasters agenda called Table Topics, where you get two minutes to talk on a subject without preparing ahead of time. When the meeting topics were announced, my hand shot up and I was up at the front in a flash. My body shook so hard I had to grip the podium to keep my knees from buckling. I opened my mouth and, to my horror, nothing came out. There I was again, eyes blinking, feet planted. This time, no one shifted or looked down to mark an “F” on a piece of paper. They just waited, and one or two nodded in encouragement. Then, something in me fired to life, the words flowed from me and I filled up my two minutes, then some.

It hit me: there was a formula for public speaking and all I had to do was learn it. I’ve been hooked on the pursuit of confidence ever since.

Whether you are facing a lack of confidence, an in-class presentation or have ever wanted to hold your ground through conflict, get to a Toastmasters meeting. Those zingers you always think of later will be on the tip of your talented tongue from now on.

The take home message is this: you cannot fail as a Toastmaster — you can only progress.

All you have to lose is a load of anxiety and low self-esteem. M

Just Posted

Multiple Juno Award winning Arkells bringing new tunes to Victoria in 2019

Hamilton-based rock band proved hugely popular in city during Canada 150 celebrations

Bill Gaston, Monique Gray Smith capture Victoria Book Prizes for 2018

Butler Book Prize and Bolen Books Children’s Book Prize winners collect $5,000 each

Canada’s country music sweetheart brings The Gumboot Kids to town

Jessie Farrell to perform songs from her hit CBC TV series at McTavish Academy of Arts

VIFF wrap-up: Finely crafted films part of festival finale

Monday reviewer Kyle Wells puts a cap on his 2018 Vancouver International Film Festival experience

FILM REVIEWS: Race relations, refugees and racy romances featured at VIFF

Monday reviewer Kyle Wells presents round 2 from the Vancouver International Film Fest

WATCH: Twelve Angry Jurors puts a new spin on an old tale

Canadian College of Performing Arts opens season with reworked version of Reginald Rose teleplay

CRUSH 2018: Fine wine affair benefits the Belfry Theatre

Patrons sample B.C. wines, bid on rare international treasures donated for fundraiser

Harry and Meghan travel in different style on Australia tour

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are on day seven of their 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific.

WATCH: Twelve Angry Jurors puts a new spin on an old tale

Canadian College of Performing Arts opens season with reworked version of Reginald Rose teleplay

INDY FILM FARE: 1970s hedonism and more at The Vic Theatre

From Studio 54 to Rocky Horror, there’s plenty of excess to observe this month

Shark-attack metal band coming to Victoria tonight

Shark Infested Daughters, a Calgary metalcore group, play the Upstairs Cabaret tonight, Oct. 13

STAGE AND SONG: Spotlight on Victoria arts groups

Learn about some of the city’s favourite theatre and musical entertainment options

Island lensman Jim Decker lands three top photography awards

During exciting photo trip to Yap in Micronesia, Cobble Hill man earns trio of firsts

Most Read