Updated: Jun 28, 2022
She Broke through Some Tough Cultural Barriers
"I’ve discovered my authentic voice. It’s a joyful way to live,”
Growing up in India and Kuwait, I was surrounded by conflicting messages—from parents who encouraged me, to a society that considered a woman’s desires and aspirations as secondary.
I had subconsciously adopted these cultural norms even as I tried to break the barriers. Years later as a hardware engineer in Silicon Valley, where I was usually the only woman in my group, I often felt unseen or that I was being viewed as aggressive when I spoke up. So I hardened the protective walls and gradually lost my sense of self and voice, and with it went my self-esteem.
The stress of juggling a career and a young family and trying to be perfect at both took a toll on my health. It was my wakeup call. Something had to change.
I searched for answers by journaling, meditating, and reading Eckhart Tolle, Rumi, and other philosophers. I began to realize that I had built boxes in my mind, like barriers, to protect myself.
When I decided to leave my engineering career to start an educational nonprofit, breaking through these barriers reached critical mass. I knew then that my ability to speak confidently and communicate my vision was more important than ever.
I had tried Toastmasters and taken a local library class on public speaking. But I still froze when I got on stage—the words didn’t come through. Or when they did, they didn’t feel authentic. For the sake of my nonprofit, it was crucial that I be that voice.
I was looking for a public speaking coach and came across Lynn Kirkham, who described a heart-centered, spiritual approach that I was drawn to. I trusted her from the first time we spoke.
I still remember the big aha moment during my first private coaching session with Lynn when we identified the root cause of my struggles around public speaking. Before this, I had no idea it was rooted in my youth.
I discovered the boxes that I’d built so well too. She helped me unpack them and leave them behind for good, which unlocked my authentic voice. I was amazed at how quickly we made progress.
The entire process took just a few months, not years. Now, I am as comfortable speaking before large groups as I am in individual settings. I believe that each time we speak, whether to a family member, friend, or someone new, it’s public speaking.
Now I look at my life experiences as teachers and move forward with a deep sense of gratitude. Working with her has allowed me to express the positivity within me and I am excited for the opportunities that each new day brings.
And when I speak publicly on behalf of my nonprofit, I no longer feel the need to rehearse every word. I can just speak from within, extemporaneously. My voice is deeper, from my center, and comes naturally with conviction.
–Deepa Gopal, Founder, Youngzine