This was my first speech, given 5/12/2020, as a new Toastmasters member. The objective was to speak for 4-6minutes (I came in at 5min 19seconds) and help the club get to know you while practicing the basics of speech format, eye contact, and eliminating filler words like “um” and “uh”.

Thank you Toastmaster _________.

Fellow toastmasters and guests, as this is my first speech as a Toastmaster, I thank you for welcoming me and providing a safe and encouraging place for me to explore my thoughts, explore my voice and grow in my speaking skills.

When I joined toastmasters my husband asked if I was finally going to master the art of making toast.  “Perhaps you could stop over and undercooking it?  Or maybe learn how to get the butter all the way to the edges better?”  After attending my first few meetings he was disappointed to hear my report that no, this was not a toast making class.   At least I haven’t seen that on the agenda yet, maybe a future speech topic for someone…  Regardless, I like to think I’m unearthing something much more valuable in Toastmasters.

One of the first things I noticed when I joined was the use of the label “toastmaster”.  We were deliberately addressing each other with this title throughout the meeting.  I wondered if the creators of Toastmasters were intentional in this, recognizing that labels matter.  

We go through life acquiring labels.   When I graduated from medical school I was labeled doctor.  When I got married I was labeled wife.  When I completed my life coach certification I was labeled coach.  When I acquired 3 dogs I became Dog mom.  When I fell in love with golf I gave myself the same label as Tiger Woods: golfer.  

Labels are our shortcuts to quickly understanding ourselves and the world around us.  Labels are necessary. 

But we humans don’t stop at just the label.  We don’t say “golfer” and all conjure up the same image, the same feeling.  We humans with our ever evolving language immediately assign a story, a meaning, to each label.  The story we assign to the label will determine how we feel about the label. 

I suspect many of our labels carry pretty neutral stories in that they don’t make noticeable waves in how we perceive our life experience.  Other labels….other labels pack quite a punch in terms of the impact on our lives.

It took going through years of feeling burned out in my physician career for me to start to take notice of and explore the impact of my labels and the meanings I assigned to them.

I always wanted to be a doctor.  My parents tell me at age 5 I started playing with my doctor kit and telling people I was going to be a doctor when I grew up, and I never wavered.  

As I got older, in college perhaps, I started to think about what that actually meant or would look like to be a doctor.  My vision of a doctor was that of a Norman Rockwell painting doctor scene—cozy, comforting, compassionate, calm, caretaking.  What a great vision.  Imagine, every time I thought about becoming a doctor I felt cozy, compassionate and calm.  This enticing vision compelled me to keep going when the going got tough in my schooling and training. 

Fast forward to about 3 years ago when I was feeling utterly burned out, and I realized that Norman Rockwell vision was long gone.

In it’s place, when I envisioned doctor I envisioned someone that had an intolerance for mistakes, an incessant need for people pleasing and a quest to have to know it all.

For me, doctor had become a label synonymous with the fixed mindset: having to have the right answers, fearing making a mistake, avoiding new challenges, throwing in the towel if something didn’t come easily.

I joined toastmasters for probably the same reasons most of you did: to gain confidence and skills in public speaking and leading.  

Why? Because I’m ready to try on new labels and redefine old labels.

I’m still keeping the label doctor for now, and in fact am in the same job I was in during the worst of my burnout, but with some tweaking and pruning of what the label “doctor” means to me, including re-creating some of that Norman Rockwell vision I once loved.

My aim now is to live more congruent with the growth mindset: embracing challenges instead of shying away; viewing setbacks as learning opportunities not as failures; approaching life with more curiosity and less judgement.  

And so it was, the label of Toastmaster fit the bill.  Fellow toastmasters, I hope for each of us a life of curiosity instead of judgement, of learning opportunities instead of perceived failures, and of marching toward obstacles, come what may. 

Back to you, Toastmaster _________.