This TED Talk video about animator Safwat Saleem who kept speaking even when people mocked my accent reminded me of my own personal experience with my accent years ago, shortly after I had moved to the US.
I remember it to this day. It was January 2009 and I had been in the US for about a year and a half. It was the first day of a self-discovery and improvement workshop and I spoke in a small group. As I started saying: “Hi, I’m Lavinia”, this older woman bluntly interrupted me to mock my accent that apparently sounded funny and unusual. Even though we were talking about deep emotional issues, she took it upon herself to explain to me how incredibly funny she thought my accent was. As I felt my stomach churn and tears coming to my eyes, I just got enough energy to not walk out of there. She told me I was lucky I was speaking in a small group and not to the entire room and that it would be a good idea if I didn’t speak the next day when we had the extended group shares. And for a while, I actually considered her advice to just stay quiet.
Thankfully, I’m not shy by nature and the next day, I was the first person to stand up in the extended group shares. I walked up to the stage, stood in front on the microphone and said: “Hello, my name is Lavinia and yesterday someone in my small group told me that I should never speak in public because my accent is funny. I considered not standing up here today, I even considered walking out of the entire workshop even though I’ve been looking forward to it for a few months. But then, I figured if I walk out, nobody else will have the chance to hear my so-called funny accent. So here it is. My name is Lavinia and whoever you are who tried to shame me, thank you for your insight, but I will keep letting my voice be heard.”
Needless to say, I got a standing ovation from the entire room and I’ve never stopped speaking my truth since. So if you’ve stayed quiet before because you’ve thought that no one needs or wants to hear your voice, think again. It’s time to let your voice be heard.