Last night I saw myself deliver the worst speech ever at a speech competition. Firstly, I don’t do speeches. So I don’t know what made me agree to it in the first place. I guess people just expected me to be good or a natural at talking so I was sent the digital poster multiple times by many friends who had a lot of expectation of me. Just like them, I too, was sold. Secondly, I came to the realization that my experience on stage last night was so just painfully ironic- just thinking about it makes me want to puke. Let me explain.
We all are our own biggest critics. It’s the same for me, but sometimes when I genuinely think I did a bad job at something, I still get one or two people thinking quite the opposite, so their complements kind of offset and balance out how bad I feel about myself. Although realistically speaking, as a person diagnosed with GAD it can take me weeks for their words to finally make sense to me (and yes, in that period I pathetically mull over how bad and talentless of a being I am. Even cats have more talent [and self-respect] than I do). But last night, man I wish time travel was a real thing. Wallah I did. If time travel was a thing then I would most definitely go back and back out of the competition before even taking the mic. I knew, and everyone in the room knew that I put up a horrible show. And I’m not saying this to secure anyone’s pity. I knew I was going to fail the moment I entered the hall. I should have listened to my gut but God knew better. He wanted me to learn.
The topic of my speech was Ihsan. The competition, which aimed to showcase voices of the ummah, naturally expected us to speak about ummah issues to invoke the spirit of brotherhood and to call for action. But I wanted to be different, so I began with the point that wars and killings are not the real predicaments of the Ummah, rather they are the symptoms of an even bigger problem. Pause right there. Great and valid point right? BUT. I started writing this “great point” 2 hours before the actual event. Mistake no.1. I knew I wasn’t made for public speeches yet I still left it to the last minute. And that’s probably my one mistake that lead to many other smaller mistakes. Everyone knows that preparation is key in any presentation. I overestimated my own strength- I thought I could find my voice on stage and the words would just flow like they always do when I’m among my friends and classmates. This time though, it didn’t. I was too dependent on my script, and being the only participant who didn’t have it memorized, my having to refer to the script every 2 minutes was absolutely distracting and unprofessional. This isn’t spoken word. This isn’t a reading circle. This was a new format and style that I just wasn’t used to. Even if I had started it earlier, if I’m honest, I still wouldn’t be able to pull it off.
Last year I took a module called Advanced Debating. Our first task in class was to deliver a famous speech. So it was definitely scripted, you had to try and act like Malcom X or Barack Obama or whoever’s speech you chose and you had to look natural doing so. It was my first ever failure presentation-wise. I like to think that I’m good at presenting because of my persuasive skills. But if it depended on a script, and there are certain points to be made script-wise, I’m not your girl. Unless it’s okay to read from it. Like spoken word. I’m allowed, at times, to read from my script if I hadn’t memorized it; especially when it’s freshly written. Because people know that the focus of the show is my words. They know I’d written it, and those words are my own and no one else’s. So I’ll be judged according to my creativity, the imagery I used, rhyme and rhythm, diction (vocab) etc. But speaking to an audience freely, based off a written script (doesn’t matter if I’d written it or not), is something I wasn’t made for. I think my trainer had given me 14/20. Which of course bothered me so much that I had to go and see him afterwards. I ovary-acted (lol) and spent the entire day reading this dua that was meant to be read at war: Allahumma aj3al fi nu7oorihim. Yes, you may laugh at me. I had so much anxiety creeping up at me that day that I couldn’t focus on anything anyone said to me before my appointment with my trainer. In the end his words mattered to me although he didn’t change my marks. He said I did good, if only I was more prepared, I would have scored higher. And that was all I needed.
Sometimes that is all you need. But not always.
Other times, you’ve got to own up to your mistakes because you’re a grown woman. I should have prepared the script days before the competition and practised it till I memorized it like any other sane participant would. I may also have been a bit cocky because a lot of people were saying “you’re gonna win this”, “I’m sure it’s peanuts for you“, “we’re rooting for you” before the event which made me procrastinate in its preparation. But the other participants blew my mind, to be honest. I was the 8th presenter of 9 and sitting there and listening to all of them speak before me made me want to stay glued to my seat and just listen to them till the end of the night. It was like sitting in a baby version of an Islamic conference. I honestly enjoyed it until of course, my name was called and everyone’s disappointment showed on their faces a minute into my speech- if you can even call it that.
The reason I’m even more angry at myself was because it was ironic. I said that the reason we, the Muslim ummah was failing is because we don’t have ihsaan in us. Ihsaan, as Angel Gibreel taught the Prophet pbuh is worshipping Allah as though you see Him, and although you cannot see Him, surely He sees you. It is doing things with excellence and perfection. I was saying we could solve all of the ummah’s problems if we did things with ihsaan- sending aid to our oppressed brethren in a swift and no-deliberation way is ihsaan. Being accountable for a task given is ihsaan. And so on and so forth… all whilst delivering poorly. So much for ihsaan-preaching, Yasmin. Well done on showing your true colours. I didn’t take this challenge with ihsaan. At all. I didn’t make sure my speech was well-prepared I couldn’t care less about memorizing it and perfecting it. I was a hypocrite and I deserve what I got. I wouldn’t say it was humiliating but it was definitely humbling. Allah put me back in my place. He showed me a small taste of failure; a peek into what life would be like for the rest of my life if I continued to delay my Fajr, not give thanks to Him enough, not speak good words and not assume the best of people. I was guilty of all of these charges at the first degree.
Having said all of that, I still stand by the points of my speech. I hope someone else out there can deliver it in my place in a much better way than I did. You’re welcome to read it and use it in any way you see fit. As for me, I don’t feel that I deserve to be the bearer of these words just yet. Although I wrote it, the state I’m in right now needs a lot of fixing. Like I said, I’m guilty of all the above charges, so let me rise from that and only when I return (if I return) will I then feel deserving of delivering such a message.
Till then. Jumuah Mubarakah.
My speech script: v4u-comp-speech