Have you ever felt that something is holding you back from being what you truly are? Even though you think it's personal, it's something we all feel in different stages of our lives. Most of us think that people who have become successful are cut from a different cloth. But it's not the case every time. You may recognise many of the iconic people in the cover photo easily. They all had a common challenge in their lives that had been holding them back from becoming what they are today. What do you think that challenge is?
Communication is something really necessary in order to share your knowledge and ideas with the world. Right to speak is one of the human rights too. What if someone comes and put a plaster on your mouth or holds your throat which stops you from speaking? Looking in another way can you live a single day without speaking a single word? All of these iconic people have struggled with their speech in their childhood. Some are still dealing with it every single day. According to National Health and Safety website of UK, 1 out of 100 people can develop problems with their speech where men has 4 time higher chance than women.
The world's no.1 richest person and best innovator of the decade Elon Musk, struggles with his speech. He explains about the hardships he had to overcome in his childhood while being a victim of bullying. But deprived of his speaking skills, still he manages to inspire millions of people about his vision and what the future would look like. Great people like Joe Bidden and King George VI has proven that you don't need to be an fluentspeaker to even be the President of the most powerful country in the world. This has also proven in the film industry. Our beloved Rowan Atkinson, aka "Mr.Bean" is an electronics engineer who used his body language and miming skills to bring laughter to the whole world. There are also female actors like Emily Blunt and Julia Roberts who had to undergo the same challenge. Moving on to the music industry my two favourite artists Elvis Presley and Ed Sheeren also struggled with their speech in their childhoods. Ed Sheeren once said he moved on to rap music when he was young because it was the only way to express his thoughts to the world. As a proud Sri Lankan and an Anandian, I'm wouldn’t forget to mention Bathiya Jayakody who took Sri Lankan music to the International level while tackling with the same problem. There are so many examples where we can find similar people. In Sports we can find Golf world champions like Tiger Woods and in Science we can find Scientists like Einstein and Alan Turing. Nonetheless great writers like Lewis Carroll and James Earl also falls in to this context.
You will now think what can I learn from them if I don't have the same problem or challenge they had? Apart from nature the of their challenges, how they approached their challenges in life is what amazes me. All of them didn't define themselves as someone that can't express themselves to the world because of their speech problems but rather they found unique creative ways to mark their existence. These people learn from their weaknesses and turn them into a strengths which takes them from being a victim to a victor.
I truly believe that your biggest weakness is your life changing factor. If you can turn it into your strength or your gift, you will find your unique contribution to the world. I too had struggled with my speech in my childhood. In my school days I kept away from doing Sports and engaging in Club activities because I was afraid of being judged as a person who struggles with speech. But I always wanted to make my parents and school proud which I figured out the only way for that is to focus on my studies because to pass exams you don't need any speaking skills. As a result I have achieved the Island 5th from Physical Science stream in GCE A/L Exams in 2016 which was a turning point in my life. From that point onward I excelled in my studies and also in other areas of my life. Currently I'm in my final year of my BSc. Electronic and Telecommunication Engineering degree at University of Moratuwa. My speech problems couldn't stop me from doing sports, taking part in club activities, winning many competitions and even building startups from ground up at the university level. My biggest weakness gave me the courage to keep on learning new skills and to eat bigger frogs as how Brian Tracy says in his "Eat That Frog!" book. I learned that your voice alone doesn't mean anything but rather what you have to share with your voice is.
Another turning point in my life is the day I joined Moratuwa Toastmasters. Toastmasters gave me a place to experiment with my speech and to find out my speaking style. Toastmasters gave me the confidence which led me to discover my lost voice. The members of the club are really helpful in nurturing new members guiding them to perform their best. After a year, reflecting back I see great memories and great people. But still, it’s worth mentioning that there's a long way to go too for me!
In summary, you are limited by not what others define about you, but what you define yourself to be. The fact that is common among the people who are successful in their domains is that they don't define themselves by their physical limitations. It's proven by all of the iconic people mentioned above. What is that thing that holds you back? Turn that into one of your strengths and use that to find the motivation to keep going and to do what only you can do for the betterment of your family, friends and for the whole society. The best day to start changing your life is today, so why not just start now!