When I was in 6th grade there was an award ceremony at the end of the school year. They gave out awards that said things like “most likely to succeed, most likely to be famous, most funny, etc.” Every kid in the entire sixth grade class came up to the stage to receive one of these certificates. When it was my turn to come up on stage, I was given a certificate that said “Most Soft-Spoken.”

I felt the heat rising in my cheeks as humiliation and shame washed over my body. Even though it felt like all eyes were on me, I had never felt so invisible in my life.

Most soft-spoken isn’t a compliment. It’s a “I don’t know who the fuck you are because you’re the quiet chubby girl so here’s your default award because we had to make up something.”

I shredded it into a million pieces and tossed it in the trash on my way out of the auditorium. There was no way in hell I was going to bring that home.

I was an introverted and shy kid and I hated the fact that I was so shy. I was always envious of the outgoing, popular kids that were the center of attention.  I wished  that I could be like them. This certificate was humiliating because it reassured me that nobody actually knew the real me nor did they care. I was voiceless.

I had an amazing opportunity last week to attend Heroic Public Speaking Live founded by Michael and Amy Port in Philly. When it was first mentioned to me, I came up with every excuse why I couldn’t attend.  I’ve never considered myself a public speaker but yet I speak all the time whether it’s online or in person at conferences and trainings, Several people close to me convinced me to go because they see something in me that I can’t always see. Deep down, I knew this is what I needed and I took the plunge.

I stepped outside of my comfort zone and broke the rule that told me nobody cares what the most soft-spoken girl in class has to say. I have so much more power than I give myself credit for and I have found my true voice. I’m ready to spread my message to the world and nobody will ever silence me again. Nobody. Not even myself.

It’s an understatement to say that this event was life changing. I met tons of new friends and learned tactical techniques for speaking. The event also has a layer of personal development that I never expected. Here are my five aha moments from the event that I hope you can apply to your life.

1. Find Your Voice

Helping women create irresistible lives by focusing on emotional eating and body image is what I’m the most passionate about. It’s what I want to do full-time and I truly believe that it is my life’s purpose and calling. I can write the most vulnerable blog posts knowing thousands of people will read them. However, it’s been a challenge for me to use my voice to tell people in-person those same stories. This event made me realize that in order to make my dreams a reality, I have to use my voice.

I learned that one of the ways to discover your voice is to ask yourself, “What is my impact to the world?”

2. Stop Editing

I relate this back to the need for perfectionism and all or nothing thinking. They talk a lot about creating without judgment when you’re in the creative process. This can be applied to many things in your life. Michael and Amy also say in their pledge “I’ll be a performer not a critic.” I love that philosophy. We have to stop being critics of our own lives in order to change and create the lives we know we deserve and are capable of. Stop trying to edit and be in the moment.

3.You Have to Make Noise

There was an amazing Q&A panel with keynote speaker and author, Scott Stratten. He was full of awesome advice but there was one thing in particular that stood out to me.  Scott said if you want to get noticed, you have to make noise. Oh did I need to hear that! If you have a message that is going to impact the world, then make noise. Don’t be afraid of pissing people off. If they get pissed then they’re not your people. Also, don’t be afraid to speak up for YOU and what you need.

4. Get Off the Fence

This also came up in Scott’s panel. Scott said that you need to get off the fence and take a stand. “Be polarizing.” So true. Emotional eating and body image have a range of opinions. In the past I’ve tried to think too much about what each side would say so that I don’t cause any friction. I do share different views that some in the body positivity community. I wrote about this in WTF is Going on With the Body Positivity Movement?

5. You Got This!

This was probably my biggest aha moment of the week. After meeting new people, pitching my business, and doing the work in the sessions, I realized that I got this. I know my message. I know which side of the fence I’m on, I know what I want, I know what I need to do. It’s now a matter of executing and making it happen! Same thing with weight loss. If you’ve been on the diet roller coaster for years, I guarantee you know what to do and how. It’s a matter of staying consistent and persistent.

On my way home from the event, I saw a rainbow peeking through the clouds and it followed me for a long part of my drive.  This was the perfect ending to the week!  I took this as a reassuring sign of rebirth and hope for new things to come.