When I was a little girl, I literally could not use my voice. I had a severe stutter. I often needed to stomp my foot to get out a single word. Everyone called me shy, but I wasn’t. Not on the inside. I actually had a lot to say; it was just that speaking was not an option. So, I wrote stories.
I discovered that if I was alone I could speak more fluidly. As a result, I loved being alone. That made me the introvert I am today. But I’ve learned that you can be an introvert and also have a need to put yourself out there and share and teach – the catch is the connections must be meaningful.
People talk about “finding your voice.” For me that has been a lifelong search. After years of speech therapy I eventually was able to overcome the severity of my stutter, but the anxiety associated with speaking lingered. Even into my adult years, as a professional I secretly struggled with even having to introduce myself. A networking event was the equivalent of a nightmare. If I had a presentation to give, it took every ounce of my energy to get through it still standing.
I spent decades researching how to overcome my fear of public speaking and social anxiety. DECADES. Some things worked, a little. Remembering to smile so that my brain was “tricked” into believing “everything was OK,” I found slightly insulting to my brain. But breathing techniques kinda worked and kept me from passing out. Still, nothing had a lasting impact.
Nothing, that is, until I discovered an authentic way to break through my fear. And I mean through it. I’d been trying for years to go around it. To hide my stutter and nervousness. To “fake it until I make it.” To pretend I was someone I wasn’t. Then, when a local storytelling competition was created in my town, based on the concept of “The Moth,” a popular live storytelling competition that I was a huge fan of, I signed up. It was as if I had no choice. I didn’t think a lot about it; I just did it. Looking back I realize that was the critical point of my own “Hero’s Journey,” where supernatural forces intervened and I was about to cross the threshold. I was terrified. But the first night I found myself up on stage, telling my story, it was incredibly empowering. Exhilarating even. I won that night and went on to win multiple competitions. I learned unique strategies that finally worked. And my confidence grew.
Today it has grown into Storyforth, combining my passions and expertise in teaching, writing and storytelling with my years of experience and success as a business owner. It is my mission to help leaders, professionals and business owners confidently share their stories and inspire those they serve. Nothing is more powerful, and I’ve learned that first hand. Wishing you a story-filled journey, Laura