I could barely grasp the note cards in my hands while 30 sets of eyes were glued on me. Preparing to do the unthinkable – speak in front of a crowd of judgmental peers – I constantly doubted myself, bringing my self-confidence down to its all-time low in a matter of seconds. As nine years of skills learned through speech impairment classes suddenly vanished, the teacher announced my name, signaling that it was my turn to deliver a speech that I would have to pass in order to graduate high school.
I managed to introduce myself without stuttering, but when my confidence began to rise, so did the students’ chuckles. With a shaky voice, I continued my speech. Stuttering on every other word, I couldn’t help but see my peers – some I even considered friends – covering their mouths, trying to hold back the laughter, and I knew that in their minds, they were making fun of me. I finally finished my speech and quietly sat down. Choking back tears, I anxiously waited for the bell to ring.
As soon as it rang, I ran to the girls bathroom with tears rolling down my cheeks and sweat stains showing through my shirt. How could I embarrass myself that badly? Did people really make fun of me that much? Did I even pass my speech? Unable to think straight, I decided to go to the library rather than face my so-called friends. The next day, however, I was forced to confront them, and of course, they made fun of me and I laughed it off as if it was no big deal. From then on, I swore that I would never embarrass myself like that again.
That night, I searched through my room to find my speech impairment notes, and immediately started studying them. Of course, it was not an overnight task in overcoming my fear. I endured many other speeches, kids constantly making fun of me, and even teachers commenting on my stuttering. It took a few more tears, a lot of deoderant, and continuous practice to reduce my stuttering, which gave me the self-confidence to overcome my fear. Although not an easy task, I accomplished my goal to face my fears.
Towards the end of junior year, I presented several projects and speeches at least once in all of my classes. To many, a simple task such as giving a speech may seem like no big deal, but a young woman who has constantly struggled with speech impairment and lack of self-confidence, such as I, considers this to be a major accomplishment on the road to success. Many people fear spiders, big foot, or heights, but my fear is public speaking, whether it be in front of twenty people or one-hundred-twenty people.
To this day, I still get nervous every once and a while, but my continuous battle in facing one of my deepest fears proves my determination, courage, and commitment. Overcoming my fear has shown me that I can do anything that I can get straight A’s and I can stutter without being embarrassed, that I can make a difference. I not only gained self confidence through this obstacle on my path to success, but also the realization that I can never let something as small as a speech impairment define me. Only I can define who I am, and not through whom I say I am, but through who I show I am.
I can say that I’m not afraid to speak in front of a group of people or I could show it, I could go out and speak to a crowd of one-hundred-twenty people as I did recently at the Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Program I attended the summer of my senior year. It has given me the confidence to accomplish other incredible things throughout my life and the courage to persevere through any hardships that I may encounter. Most importantly, I have gained the self-respect, self-confidence, and self-discipline to help me succeed not only in college, but in life.