User Requested Permanent Ban
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Seattle, WA
A pro-active way to expose yourself to public speaking
Social Anxiety Background
Social anxiety has affected me since I was in elementary school. While it was triggered initially by a traumatic experience, it is something that runs in the family and I certainly had a predisposition for. Some examples of how it manifested itself over the years: avoiding certain types of social situations and friends, avoiding public speaking, avoiding the opposite sex completely, hiding in the library during lunch, the thought of just walking down certain hallways at my highschool terrified me, fear of being around large groups of people, fear and avoidance of going to parties or social gatherings, etc. My social anxiety started to get severe when I dropped out of college after one quarter because of my social anxiety. That's when I started to get uncomfortable just leaving my apartment and hit "the bottom" so to speak. Through treatment with group cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming (EMDR) for mild Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and medication I've been able to live the balanced life that I value and form healthy friendships and relationships.
CBT group for social anxiety, where we would do public speaking exercises, among many other exercises to challenge our feelings of anxiety. While much more challenging anxiety wise, I think Improv lessons are probably a better experience for someone with social anxiety (see my treatment experience on Improv) as you learn that making mistakes or failing is OK and there isn't any preparation involved.
I want to start off by saying I don't think Toastmasters would be beneficial for anyone with social anxiety UNTIL they have gone through some treatment with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and a CBT group as well. I am a member of Toastmasters club currently. I've been a member for about six months, having given three speeches and served in a variety of the roles at meetings, including the leading role of Toastmaster.I have mixed feelings about Toastmasters.On one hand it is a great behavioral exercise to confront a fear of public speaking and learn that it's not so bad. I found a club that's very eclectic and supportive, with people varying in age from 19 to 60. I encourage you to keep trying clubs until you find one you are comfortable with. I went to three other clubs before I found the one I am currently a member of. Some clubs may be full of business lawyers, which may or may not be right for you. So what don't I like about Toastmasters. I have somewhat of a problem with perfectionism, which I understand is common for people with social anixety. Toastmasters allows you to feed that perfectionism. There are various small roles in a Toastmasters meeting as well as larger roles and speech roles. I've consistenly found myself having to do a "perfect" job in whatever role I'm in. For example, if I'm the Jokemaster, I have to find the perfect joke or if I'm a speaker, I have to memorize an amazing 8 minute speech and literally go up and give it without even bringing up notes. I find myself dedicated too much time to Toastmasters, which ultimately isn't that important in the scheme of things. Don't use what I'm saying as a justification for not trying Toastmasters. I think it's something very beneficial for anyone working to not let their social anxiety control their life, but keep in mind what I said and don't feel that you have to be perfect. No ones perfect!