By: Bolu Kasumu '23
Something that used to terrify me is now one of my greatest strengths.
A fear of public speaking is the most common phobia, ahead of spiders, heights, and even death. That means that at a funeral, most people would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy! When I first came to STS in Grade 4, I was one of these people. I was (and still am) extremely talkative, but ironically, public speaking was one of my biggest fears. I loved speaking with family and friends, but the thought of speaking in front of my peers in a formal setting made me feel queasy. This fear continued with me into my Middle School years.
When the option of joining the Speech Club arose in Middle School, my response was an instant ‘no’. Why would I join a club dedicated to one of my biggest fears? Unfortunately for me, the speech coaches had the clever idea to email parents about the opportunity to join the club. My father lovingly urged me to join Speech, primarily because he knew it was a weakness of mine.
At the time, there was nothing I wanted to do less than join Speech, and if you had told my seventh-grade self that in four years, I would compete in the World’s Individual Debate and Public Speaking Championships and place second in the world, I would have simply laughed at such an absurdity.
In the Speech program there are many different categories of public speaking but the category that challenges even the most seasoned of public speakers is probably Impromptu Speaking. The Impromptu category is completely unprepared. After you are given a topic you’ve never seen before with only two minutes to prepare, you deliver a speech for up to five minutes that is essentially created as you perform it. As a young public speaker, this category terrified me, and I avoided it at all costs. However, encouraged by my dad and my coaches, I worked at the skill, and naturally, it improved over time. The differences between me at the beginning of my STS journey, and who I am now are many. For one, I’m much taller. I’m a much better public speaker, in fact, you could say I’m pretty good at it. But most importantly, I’ve taken more risks, and I’ve tried things far outside of my comfort zone. My proudest accomplishment in Speech hasn’t been advancing in a competition or placing well; in fact, what I am most proud of is how much I’ve grown in my ability to try new things, and risk embarrassing myself in order to grow.
Something that used to terrify me is now one of my greatest strengths, and for that, I am extremely thankful to STS. With this in mind, I'm excited to see what fears I'll get the chance to conquer in the future.