I was envious of the army brats when I was young. They moved all over the world. Sure, they had to start new schools over and over, but at least they had a good excuse. Their parents were serving our country and making huge sacrifices to do it. My family moved all over Iowa. I moved five times from the age of nine to the age of sixteen.
We moved to Spragueville, Iowa when I was ten. It was a town of about three hundred people. Our closest neighbor was one mile down a gravel road. I didn’t know how to initiate conversations, make friends, or even find someone to sit with at lunch. But that isn’t the life altering, shrink in my seat, humiliating part of the story.
I hated math class. They were just wrapping up a unit on fractions and at the last school they hadn’t even started fractions. I wasn’t even sure what a fraction was let alone know how to add and subtract them. The teacher, I’ll call him Mr. Bellows, was a large man with a booming voice and huge forearms.
I knew I didn’t like him when one of my classmates was sick and had to leave class. As soon as she was out the door, he made fun of her and the whole class laughed. This lumber jack of a man enjoyed making kids squirm.
One day he called on me to answer a question. I wasn’t sure I knew the answer, but I managed to squeak out a barely audible “forty-two”. He asked me to repeat myself louder this time, so once again I said “forty-two”. He was just getting started with me. Now I felt hot all over, and everyone was staring at me. He ordered me to stand up and say it louder. I complied, “forty-two” I said in way louder voice than I was comfortable with. “Again”, he said. Now I was mad. My embarrassment shifted to anger. How dare he humiliate me in front of all my peers. This time I yelled at the top of my lungs, “forty-two!” with a smirk he said I could take a seat. He seemed satisfied with himself.
Mr. Bellows scared me into hearing myself loud and clear. I don’t agree with his methods however that experience was so awful I never wanted to have to repeat myself again. From that point on I answered questions loud enough to be heard and whenever I was in his class, I yelled the answers. He seemed to like it.
The Fear of Being Heard comes from a timid and small place inside. If you are struggling to overcome this fear here are some ideas to consider.
1. Accept that you are worthy.
2. Realize you have something of value to contribute.
3. Take a stand for yourself or nobody else will.
4. Find ways to express yourself with your voice.
5. Experiment with your volume and get trusted feedback.
6. Always use a microphone to amplify your voice when speaking to an audience.
That experience became a turning point for me. I had never heard myself speak above a soft-spoken whisper in school. I’m not sure how I would’ve grown out of the shy, quiet voice I got comfortable with had he not pushed me.
Thanks a ton Mr. Bellows.
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Sara Krisher's background in corporate sales has allowed her the privilege to connect with people at all levels within organizations. She's had the opportunity to hear the struggles and challenges many face on a daily basis. Constant pressure and expectations can steer us off course and have us abandoning our purpose. Sara believes with confidence we can make the difference we were meant to make in life and is devoted to evoking courage in others through speaking and coaching.