Synthesizing an Unmistakable Voice

Srinivas Rao sent me an advanced copy of his upcoming book, “Unmistakable”.  I’m sure he sent out dozens of unproofed copies but still,  to be on his radar is pretty cool.  I’m reading it now, slowly.  One section at a time and yes, it resonates.  I’ve had 3 epiphanies just in the past hour.

Paula Howley ex-stripper, speaker, public speaking coach for kids, kids speaking expert, confidence and compassion coach

Life-changing conversations at Unmistakable Creative

Ephinany # 1 Compassion

My business, Head Start Public Speaking For Kids MIGHT need to change it’s trajectory.  Yes, I’ve always wanted to bring it into the schools but my daughter Meaghan’s difficult experience in school has shown me how desperately society needs to learn compassion.  And the only way to become compassionate is to listen to other people speak about their experiences.

My company’s tagline has always been “Walk through your fear and into your confidence”.  But it needs to be MORE than that.  Confidence is great but compassion is everything.  Imagine a bunch of people just walking around confidently.  Sounds like a bunch of pompous assholes, doesn’t it?  I picture them walking around with their snooty snoots up in the air, confidently ignoring everyone while they ruminate on their greatness. COMPASSION, which my course teaches almost by DEFAULT because we have to listen to others tell their stories, is EVERYTHING.  

“Walk through your fear and into your confidence and compassion”  OMG!  It’s the Holy Grail!!!!

So I need to do some research and really meditate on this and think about how I can offer THIS to the schools.  Grants may be more forthcoming when I show that I coach kids how to become better communicators which includes speaking, writing, listening and showing compassion.  An anti-bullying program almost.    DING DING DING!!!

Epiphany #2 Mrs Gorski, Validation, Being Heard for the First Time

Validation and our desperate need for it.  Do people who grow up with encouraging parents need their parents’ validation like we do?   Srini infers that his parents wanted him to be a business success.  Go to med school  or something on the safe approved path.  But he moped along that path miserably for a decade.  I don’t think I care as much about my parents’ approval as I used to because I accept that the relationship I have in my head with my folks will never exist.  It’s not ideal, but I accept it.

All those comments from my dad on my old Toastmasters blog back in 2012 and 2013 … I needed them.  I craved them.  I cried when he finally typed (because he couldn’t say out loud) “I love you.  I have always believed in you.”  I’d never been sure.

Thing is, it just doesn’t matter as much anymore because I have finally accepted what is and have stopped longing for what I wish it could be.

I look back to when I did that public speaking contest when I was 16- it wasn’t so much the winning, it was the standing there and speaking.  Being HEARD for the first time in my young adult life.

I was part of the group that was written off, the partyers, the druggies.  And I was only there because I didn’t fit in anywhere else and they were the only ones who would take me!   But because I was on the periphery of that group, my voice didn’t matter.

Until Miss Gorski my English teacher told me it DID.  And I still remember the surprise, and the sweet warm feeling in my chest, the smile coming to my face.

“Really?  I should enter my essay into a public speaking contest?”

It was a validation of both my WRITING and my PUBLIC PRESENCE.  My VOICE and my BODY.  As a young girl in the 80’s, those two things were virtually invisible.  What a revolutionary act standing there and speaking was!  I was ALIVE and I had a VOICE!

I wish I’d had some kind of mentor after that; someone with a clue looking out for me who could have directed me to a group that would appreciate my energy and my gifts, encourage and push me.  Instead, I just faded back into the background and smoked another joint.

But the thing is, I never forgot what Miss Gorski did for me and I never forgot how it made me feel.  I knew I was able to speak up after that- I USED my voice to speak for the forgotten when I was in the world of the totally forgotten – the sex industry.

When table dancing got squeezed out and lap dancing showed up, most of the women were very uncomfortable with the new groping and pawing that was going on.   We stopped getting wages and started having to pay to work.  We were pissed off and I was the big mouth that organized everyone.  We had secret meetings, I spoke to my Minister of Parliament, I contacted the unions.  I was a VOICE until  my voice got threatened with a baseball bat, fired and then blacklisted from every club in town.

Even after I moved I found a voice in my writing.   I wrote for a ‘zine called The Pole and my own zine, “Drug Addicted Sluts”.  It felt good to speak, even if no one was listening.

And when I discovered the Exotic Dancers Alliance of Ontario existed, I wept with relief because this was what I had been looking for all this time.  A VOICE for the voiceless.  I joined them and a year later,  was the chair of the board of directors and the editor of the newsletter.

I was giving a VOICE to the VOICELESS because I had been encouraged all those years ago by one woman.  I owe her so much.  The way I see it now, I kind of owe her everything.

Paula Howley ex-stripper, speaker, public speaking coach for kids, kids speaking expert, confidence and compassion coach

One person CAN change everything

Epiphany #3 I Want a New Drug

In 2011, I’d been  in Toastmasters for a couple of years and I was getting ready for a Humorous speech contest.  My daughter and I live in a rural area so we do A LOT of driving and chatting in our car and there was a story she used to ask me to tell over and over.  It was the story of how I almost got beat up by the neighbourhood bully for letting her butterfly out of a jar and how my little sister, (whom I mostly hated) saved my ass from getting beat.  Meaghan would ask for that story every time we went out.

One summer night as we drove home, it occurred to me as I told this story for the thousandth time that it would make a fine humorous speech so  I turned that story into a fun little speech.

I ended up winning my club’s speech competition which I considered a big deal because we had some seriously funny people and I was still very new in the public world in my non-stripping persona of wife and stay-at-home mom.  My confidence as a civilian with anything to offer the world was still relatively low.
That win felt pretty damned good.  And I went on to win the Vancouver finals.

Next it was on to the British Columbia finals.

That night I got on stage and was just happy to be there.  Kind of blown away, actually.  It was a big crowd, about 300.  I gave my speech, got some laughs and felt pretty amazing even though I tripped over my words a few times.

I felt even more amazing when they called my name for 3rd place!  Holy Shit!  For real?  3rd in all of British Freaking Columbia???

For the rest of the night, I was on the best drug of my life as person after person congratulated me and told me how awesome my speech was.  Even Angela Louie who had taken 2nd place at the World Championships.  It went on for hours.   My face hurt from smiling.  I felt loved and important.  I think it might have been the happiest night of my life.


The next day a talented and hard working man who had been to the World Championship of Public Speaking said to me “I think you’ve got what it takes to get to the World’s.”

Well it was Mrs. Gorski all over again folks.

So I started  chasing that.  For years.  But what was going on I think, was I was chasing the immaculate high of that evening.  I never quite found it again.

(I had a similar feeling during my one and only visit to Vegas when I got a royal flush on the poker tables.  A crazy rush went through my body as I picked up my cards and knew I had a great winning hand.  The difference is, I walked away from the poker table and never went back because I recognized that rush as a potential addiction and it scared the piss out of me.)

The rush I got on contest night in 2011 was a socially accepted,celebrated accomplishment.  I could chase that addiction!  Instead of really trying to find MY voice, I was mostly trying to find A voice, just so I could be heard and celebrated again.  So I could feel that rush again.

IN 2012, 2013 and 2014, I competed in the International contest with a voice trying to say something IMPORTANT instead of just what I wanted to say.  But the thing was, I was still working through my own shit!  I didn’t even K NOW what I wanted to say!

2014 was the closest I came to my own voice when I scrapped a manufactured speech with only 9 days to go before the contest to talk about something close to my heart.  Acceptance.  SEEing people .  Giving them a voice.

I haven’t competed in 2 years because I didn’t want to just manufacture a message and spill it out there.  I had to offer something worth hearing, that would make a difference.  And I needed to use that time to figure ME out.

Anyway.  Right now I feel I am so close to what I’m supposed to be doing that I’m already mostly doing it!  It just all needs to be synthesized now.  This is what this blog post is.  Synthesizing.

It might seem irrelevant but I had a great night’s sleep.  I did yoga.  Breathed.  (what a concept!) I ate well.  I read a little before writing.   I CARED for myself.  (listening to the voice of my body)  I feel GREAT.  How revolutionary is that?  It’s like listening to the thoughts of a young woman in the 80’s!  And here I am, figuring some stuff out.  Listening, really listening to my own Unmistakable Voice.


Follow and like me for more juicy details:

2 comments on “Synthesizing an Unmistakable Voice”

  1. chelsea @ the new wifestyle Reply

    yeeees! love the direction you are potentially taking your powerful business’ mission! yes yes YES! also YAY for caring for yourself and synthesizing. good things are happening in and around you it seems like paula!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)