Last Wednesday, I went to the next round of my Toastmasters speech competition after winning first place at my club. All day, people questioned if I was nervous. My past experience at two competitions and multiple tournaments with speech team made me feel calm.
Well, I was calm until I drove to the event. Fear gripped me as I tried to steer my car and contemplate my speech. School had taken away time from practice, and play practice had drained from me the emotion that I usually invested in my topics. Perhaps this was a poor decision. Maybe I should give up right now, I thought.
Then I decided to change my mindset. Instead of focusing on myself and being good enough, my attention turned to my audience. If I could touch them, then I had fulfilled my purpose. Even if only one person walked away changed, my speech was worth the anxiety.
However, part of me still itched to win. Letting my club down after winning last year would be so mortifying. I just wanted to be good enough for them. “God,” I prayed. “Please let me walk away with a trophy. Second place, how about that? Whatever happens, it will be okay. Still, knowing that I succeeded would be great.”
This seemed like a good compromise. After all, I don’t have any time in my schedule to add another event. So winning first place would add extra stress and another activity to panic about trying to accomplish.
The contest went well. Getting up there and speaking honestly was difficult but very rewarding. You can read more about my topic of being controlled by numbers on this other post. Overall, I sat down feeling accomplished but so relieved to be finished.
And guess who won second place? Me.
Joy filled me at first, but perfectionism quickly crept in to ruin the award. If only I had practiced long, if only I had been prettier, if only I sounded more knowledgeable, if only…
Then a woman came up to compliment me. “Your speech was so good, dear.” She squeezed my shoulders kindly. “But your club really let you down. Shame on them. You had three huge grammatical errors in that speech – I instead of me.”
“Oh,” I tried not to look any of my club members (who were all sitting around me) in the eyes. “That was not their fault. It was all me.”
“No, dear.” She protested. When I again asserted that they had not been the cause of my error, she looked at me with a sympathetic smile. “Okay then. You also pronounced a word wrong. It began with a ‘R,’ I think.”
I nodded as she bustled away, not knowing if I should cry or smile. Then another man approached. He told me that a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder and how inspiring my speech was. My heart sank in pain for him but also swelled as I gave him comfort and inspiration.
So in the end, being second best was good. Yes, winning is wonderful. However, I did win. I set out to touch people and take is what I accomplished. That is prize enough for me.