In this episode of The GenTwenty Podcast, Nicole Booz and Marina Crouse chat with speaking coach Rae Fung on learning to speak up and finding confidence in your physical voice.
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Speaking Up With Speaking Coach Rae Fung
This transcript has been gently edited for clarity.
Nicole Booz: Welcome back to the GenTwenty Podcast I’m Nicole…
Marina Crouse: And I’m Marina! And today we’re chatting with speaking coach Rae Fung about how to build your voice and tackle a fear of speaking up and speaking out.
Nicole Booz: So Rae, we’re so excited to have you here! Can you talk to us a little bit about your background and how you came to be a speaking coach?
Rae Fung: Sure! Oh my goodness! Marina and Nicole! I am so excited to be doing this podcast, and I’m so honored to be here on the GenTwenty Podcast. And it’s pretty crazy that we’re doing this in three different time zones and I’m like speaking from the future. So this is really cool! It’s looking really bright. It just rained but still looking bright.
Marina Crouse: Yeah, I love that! Hey we need that rain to grow.
Rae Fung: So yeah, I’m Rae I’m your speaking coach! And how did I become a speaking coach? There are a lot of things, a lot of challenges that happened in my life to let me where I am today. But I will try my best not to share a novel and to probably save the novel for another day. So I will just share a little bit about how I went from hiding in the background and not valuing my voice and myself at all to now, coaching people to own their voice and speaking on global stages and to students all around the world, and stuff like that.
So when I was younger, I felt like I wasn’t good enough to speak up because I was born in a society where the metric of success and knowledge is known just by the internships that you get. If people come to you and talk to you, you can easily know how good you are at the jobs or how cool you are in school. Like I didn’t do very well in school. I saw my classmates receiving praises in class, whereas for me, I studied really hard but… I remember there was once in Junior college I was 16 or 17 years old, I was so stressed about doing well because I was afraid not going into university, I was doomed for life… So I studied till like 3am, I had so many cups of tea. Every time during lunch break I was just staying in class to study or to sleep because I was so tired, and in a single mind I remember losing like 7kg… that is like two sizes down because I was so stressed and I was so obsessed with doing well, so that I could be good enough to take up space in the world. And that was how I felt.
You know for a huge part of my youth until, at least I was twenty/twenty-one and I think sometimes it still does come up. So yeah, it was just a girl that hid in the background and I remember that there were days. When I was younger I didn’t want to look at myself in the mirror because I hated how I looked like. I didn’t see the value in my voice, I didn’t want to lose. People sometimes say something and then think that I said something stupid, so they ignore what I’ve said and just continue. And for me, I just sit and continue the conversation, and let the smarter people that are more confident, more extra but that are more cool, to just tape the leave. Yeah, so that was me back then. I don’t know if you have ever felt this way and all of that.
Feeling like everybody else is better than you and you have nothing worthy to say, that was how I felt back then and so I started seeking like a lot of superficial ways to build my confidence which is like buying nice clothes putting on makeup, um, having like a twelve step makeup routine. I then also started working in a club where I gained a lot of confidence because guys would come to me and ask me, you know, “can I have dance with you,” “can I buy you a drink”… And I let that build my confidence. So my confidence was built based on the opinions of these guys who, you know, thought that I was attractive. “Oh, you know I’m good looking! Okay, people care about me”… but the next day when you wake up, you know you don’t hear from them again and you’re like, “wait, okay?”
Rae Fung: This wasn’t real. I’m still someone that are not valued and I think that was the spiral that I had for the longest of time. I think, what really changed for me, is two major things. The first thing is meeting mentors and cultures in my life that saw the potential in me beyond the way I look and who I am at that moment. They didn’t see me for who I am then, they saw me for like my potential and what I can be in the future. And through speaking to mentors and coaches who are entrepreneurs that coached people to become entrepreneurs.
They are the ones that started with me this journey of personal development, and of even self-reflection. Learning, reading books and listening to podcasts, which I wasn’t doing back then, and you know, learning this knowledge and also sharing what I have to say. To to the world, to them first, and then to the world. That’s one major thing choosing your right community bumping into the right people. I’m so grateful for what I did. And the second major thing that really changed everything for me was this huge Eczema outbreak, that I had in 2019 which is two years ago. I had a full body Eczema outbreak and you can see some of the photos on my Instagram, basically just imagine, it was like a sunburn, but like 10 times worse…
Rae Fung: I remember just waking up one day and like my entire bed was filled with dead skin, and I just freaked out because I just felt so ugly in that moment. I knew that I probably had more self-love than years ago. But in that moment when I saw myself in a mirror and I was like a swollen writ, healing lobster, I was so scared and I didn’t know what was going on. I felt so ugly that I refused to stop wearing makeup even though I know that if I wear makeup and took it off at the end of the day, I’ll be removing.
There were new skin that was grown and I would basically restart the healing process and the raw skin is going to show again. And I still did it because in a sense, I contribute that my wins or my opportunities to my looks, maybe in that moment, I didn’t completely see what I had as a skills or knowledge or value. So I still sort of think that my looks um, contributed to my success or any successes that I have, but in that moment of complete vulnerability, I received a lot of love, you know, from my parents. Um I remember my dad would spread Manuka honey all over my body trying to see if it worked. My mom would, um, yeah, like sweep all the dead skin from my bed and basically in the moments that I felt like I wanted to whine and not do anything. They were the ones that loved me for who I am.
Rae Fung: Also seeing that love that I got for who I am. Even in that moment, also encouraged me to take that step of courage to continue doing what I love and went out there to train in school. So, I did life skills training in schools, I attended networking events. Basically I was just doing the things that I was already doing even if I looked like a red lobster. And when I did that, I was so pleasantly surprised that people didn’t even bother about how I looked like. They just focused on the conversation we had, and I had so many good conversations, even deep ones with people, with strangers, and a networking events light-minded people, who are also serving the community.
They also didn’t care or asked about how I looked like, they just focused on the conversation and I think that’s what really showed me that. If you find your right people, if you write with the right people, they will value you for who you are and not for how you look. Um, and of course, that can only start happening when you value yourself. So to me, it’s all about how you value yourself, this is all that matters.
So when I saw the impact that I had on others, and the value that I give to others when I serve them, and all the contribution that it does to the world, I started focusing on others instead of myself. I started seeing value, you know. My contribution, my service to the world, which is being a speaking coach, doing the networking, the workshops that I did and all of that, helped to forget how I look. It’s like I don’t even think of how I look anymore because I’m just focusing on the audience. People who saw my value got attracted to me, and then that’s how my business grew, and then magically, my Eczema disappeared because I think I became happier and I care less about how I look. So that is basically a little snippet of how I became a speaking coach.
Rae Fung: I know how what it’s like to feel small and feel afraid to speak up and I just never want anybody to belittle their potential, to belittle their voice, and to belittle their story. Because all of us have a unique story to share, no matter how small you think it is or no matter how inexperienced or young you think you are. You have a value to share and there going to be people that would relate to you and not relate to someone [else]. And that’s why you have a place in this world and your voice has a seat at the table.
Marina Crouse: I love that. Something you said while you were explaining how you got your start really hit me when you said you were afraid for your voice to take up space. You felt like you didn’t have the value to share and I think that’s really common among younger people, especially women, because the patriarchy ruins everything. I’ll say it, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. But, I also know, for me, when I was a kid growing up, society showed me that I should be seen and not heard. I was told that I talked too much in class and that I was bossy, and too opinionated. And those are actually really good things.
Like it’s good for your children to have opinions and to be curious. But there was constant negative reinforcement, I would get in trouble or scolded anytime I spoke up and I became really conflict averse and believed I didn’t have anything valuable to say. And it took me a really long time to get more comfortable with who I was. Actually, it was starting the GenTwenty podcast that made me more comfortable with the sound of my own voice where I was like, “yeah I have thoughts, I’m going to share them. ” Your story just resonates with me so much and I think Nicole can talk about it too, the importance of feeling hurt as a twenty-something.
Nicole Booz: Yeah I think that one thing that you were saying that I feel like really stuck with me was when you were talking about not feeling good enough. I think that is a feeling that most of us, if not everyone, has felt at some time. Like I think it’s a universal feeling, right? And for a lot of us it probably happens really early in life like elementary school, middle school. I know that in class, I would never raise my hand because, well, I was so afraid of being wrong. First of all, because, you know, like you’re sitting there and you’re so sure, you know the answer and someone else answers they say something completely different.
Marina Crouse: Yeah.
Nicole Booz: And you’re like, wow, thank God It wasn’t me who said the wrong answer. I think a lot of things can like stem from that because it’s like so encouraged to be right versus wrong. And I think that’s something that holds people back from reaching their value like you can probably…
Rae Fung: So relatable.
Nicole Booz: Speak a little more to that because like as twenty-somethings, it can be really hard to find your voice and you’re still learning so much about yourself and the world around you and how you fit into it. So where do you start with that? What advice do you give people?
Rae Fung: You know, one thing that you mentioned which is right versus wrong, and that feeling of wanting to say something and then you wait, you wait, you’re like, okay let me say it, and then the wait becomes so painful before you actually speak up.You start feeling that heat up your chest and someone else answers, and you realize that it’s completely different. Wow, like that’s something that happens so often to me and I think a lot of my clients as well. And one thing that you mentioned that called out to me is being afraid of being wrong.
Rae Fung: But what if there’s no right or wrong opinion? I think that opinions are opinions and everybody’s opinions are valid. Of course if it’s a question on facts, yeah, perhaps it’s right or wrong. But in terms of opinions and ideas, I think it’s important to first know that your opinions are valid and other people’s opinions are valid too. And that your opinions are built via the influences of your culture, of your stories, of your challenges and of everything that you go through. And their opinions are bit off via experiences, via unique couch, you know, stuff that they go through. They are unique! So, it’s important to first know that your opinions are valid, and logically, you guys, are just different, you and this other person that you’re comparing yourself to. And just because the other person is louder doesn’t mean that your voice doesn’t matter. So, I think that’s important to note. As you’re in a process of finding your voice, you know that your voice matters. So, the first thing to find your voice is to acknowledge that you have a voice. I think it’s very important, and sometimes it might feel like you don’t have one because perhaps…
Marina Crouse: Definitely.
Rae Fung: All your life, you’ve been trying to fit in and hold yourself to other people’s opinions. I remember when I was in the secondary school, so that’s like around, you know, dust in 1415 years old, whenever people said something about a movie or something new that’s upcoming. And instead of actually thinking of what I think about this movie, I would just go and say “Oh yeah, yeah, it’s very good. It’s very good.” “Oh, yes, yes I watched it already”. “Oh I loved it too.” “Oh I love this too.” “It’s like my favorite faces I love this too.” You know it’s like I will always agree…
And just try to hype it up and agree because I didn’t want to give a deferring opinion. I wanted to fit in, so that might be a reason why you feel like you don’t have a voice. Because all your life you’re just agreeing and fitting in, and not really asking yourself: “Hey what do I think about this?” “What do I really think about this?” “What is my opinion about this?” So I think number one, is to acknowledge that you have a voice even if you feel like you don’t have one.
The second thing is to look within yourself and know that your voice is already within yourself. So seek your voice internally as opposed to externally. Yeah, so ask yourself, looking inwards, what are the topics that I love talking about, what are the things that I usually feel energized speaking about, what are the books, the movies that I like to have a conversation on it, or even what are the people I like hanging around. Because those are hints to what your unique voice is about. And you know, I realized that I didn’t really talk about what exactly makes your unique voice, but essentially your unique voice includes your metaphorical voice and your physical voice.
Your physical voice is how you sound like, your tone. Some people have a really good storytelling voice, like when you hear them speak, you feel like you can trust them and you’re safe with them and that’s your gift. Some people they are physical, their unique physical voice is just very loud and extra, and that probably will make great presenters and hosts and deejays. But yeah, that is basically your physical voice, your tone, um, and how you sound, your diction etc. But what’s very important is knowing that you also have a unique metaphorical voice and that’s you’re unique. Speak up your unique thoughts, your unique opinions about things that you care about. And that’s something that you want to start building, starting from today. So knowing that you have a unique voice somewhere inside of you that it just might be hiding under all the Dogma, the stereotypes in the world expectations.
The second thing is to start finding your unique voice, and to look internally and ask yourself the tough questions, this is really the journaling. You know the boring stuff right? But it’s so important. Looking back in the past week, in the past month, what are the topics that interest me what do I naturally scroll on Instagram or what do I naturally google, what do I naturally talk to others about. And I talk to others about this topic. Do I feel excited? Yeah, and those are the two things to actually start. Finding your voice!
Marina Crouse: Okay Rae you are talking about the physical voice which I really never thought about before, but I am a pretty quiet talker. I remember back in my first job in my early twenties, I worked in a big open office, we were all talking on the phone all the time and I would speak very quietly and I don’t know soothingly, because I found that customers calling in would be less mean if I was calm and collected. But I noticed that in my team when I would talk to my coworkers I often got spoken over…I would be telling a story or something and someone would just interact interject and talk over me, because I wasn’t loud. And so I got really intimidated and I think that can be really common when you’re younger and especially if you’re like the younger side on your team or in the workplace. So while we’re working on our finding our voices physical and not what’s a way that we can build the confidence to use those voices that we’re finding.
Rae Fung: Wow. Yeah. Especially when you mention about, maybe the louder people talking over you. Actually that exact fear is something that one of my coachees shared with me and to answer your question.
Rae Fung: I Want to give a specific example to what she did. So she’s someone that you know as an introvert, and she also finds herself in meetings wanting to say something and then, an extrovert will come. Okay I’m not going to Stereotype extroverts and introverts, but basically a louder person someone that’s more loud.
Rae Fung: Will end up speaking first and then she feels like her voice can be heard and it’s just so awkward. Because especially now in this online world when you unmute yourself and you speak and then everybody else is speaking. You can’t be heard. So, she has sort of developed strategies to find ways to be hurt. So one of the ways that she actually implemented was to ask her manager if she could host a social. So I think they are these team building events where, you know, one of one, the people on the team can come up and host like an event.
So, she actually hosted a planned social, because she loves plants right? And what this means, is that basically, they just go and zoom and just share about plants. People who love plants will just come on and talk about plants share. And when she decided to be the leader and be the one that hosts the plants social, basically she has the might to actually give it to other introverts that didn’t manage to speak up as often too. She’s now like the holder of the mic, she has that control in that sense, because she’s the host. So that’s one good way to find strategies and work around your unique voice and find out how to leverage your unique voice and the string that you have. Confidence to speak up, like think about this, if let’s say your strength is speaking in a one on one setting, then start with that first.
Because imagine if you are in a team and you have a huge team if let’s say, you know the people better one on one, you actually have more confidence to speak up. In a group of people that consists of those one on one, so that was what happened for me, I remember when I joined the new church back then, um, years ago. I entered, and they were just all strangers and I felt so scared to speak up. Because I felt like everybody knew each other. So, what I did was I started just having a conversation with one person, and then once I had a conversation with one person, that person introduced me to another person, and then slowly my relationships were built via those one on one connections. And because those one on one connections knew me, the conversations we had in a group setting, they’ll actually pay more attention to what I say, because they know me and they have a relationship with me. So that is one way, it’s like a rare practical way to build relationships within the crowd before you know you speak up.
I think that’s one way for us. You know, I’ll just share that with us, because I think there’s a lot of other ways to build the confidence but that’s a very practical tip to like, navigate your voice. Knowing what works and what doesn’t. That’s a little bit more in a sense, you know, calm and quiet then use it to your advantage people will probably love to have conversation with you one on one, and then you can use your voice in a bigger setting. Yeah, that’s why we share.
Marina Crouse: Yeah I love that! And as you were talking, I thought about something that happened in the political landscape here in the us, and which I don’t like to talk about. But there’s this quote where Kamala Harris was speaking, and someone began talking over her and she just said “I’m still speaking”, and I think that was iconic and a good reminder. That’s what I started to do once I realized that I was like, oh even though I’m quiet, I still have something to say. I started just repeating myself until I was heard.
Rae Fung: Wow. Yes, oh my goodness. Perfect I love it! I just wrote it down I’m just going to place it. So I love it. Yay, Thank you and you know that’s great! Because, if let’s say you’re in a zoom meeting, and you start saying something, but someone else says, we may actually feel tempted to just not say anything. But if we stop ourselves then we actually create that belief in our mind that, “hey I shouldn’t speak up because someone’s going to talk over me.” And your brain would then latch onto that in memory and in the future, you’re gonna speak out softer again whereas if you’re in. So, in a sense, insist to speak like hey you know like I have an opinion about this and you say it? Anyway, after maybe the next person speaks then I think that creates a positive memory in your mind that, hey you can speak up and you have the confidence to speak up. So very often, confidence really stems from action and courage. Having the courage to take that small step of action to do it anywhere. Even if you have fear, so that you’ll be one step closer to be more confident in that action. Yeah, confidence really comes from courage and taking action.
Nicole Booz: Yeah I think that’s so true, and I think that it really does take those, even those little positive individual moments to really try to build your voice, which I think is so important to do in your twenties. Because this is what makes me think about this, is that my son, was born with a really rare birth defect and so we’re going through a whole process with him of things. But we have to really advocate for him and I feel like I’ve had to use my voice more for him than I ever have for myself. And you, talking about all this, just makes me wonder what I can even start doing now and what people that are younger in their twenties can start doing to begin advocating for themselves more.
Rae Fung: Oh Yeah! You know when you used your voice for your son, that’s a great point and that’s something that if you’re listening, you can think about as well. Because one of my coachee’s told me that she doesn’t really stand up for herself very much and that’s the reason why she had a bad relationships, because she doesn’t speak up for herself. But on the contrary, if let’s say a colleague, is the one that is being put down, she will want to stand up and speak up for that person. So sometimes, to speak up, you need to have a cause. Maybe that’s you, you feel for a certain cause or you feel for people, and those environments, challenges and opportunities would put you in a position to speak up and find ways to explore and understand yourself better. See when you have that urge to speak up and allow yourself to, if let’s say you have that urge. Basically don’t dampen it if you feel like speaking out. Um, yeah, if you like speaking up, speak up. But in the point of my coaching, she was not speaking out for herself. I actually mentioned to her, “can you imagine yourself as the third person?”.
Rae Fung: It’s important all the time, to speak up for yourself when the context requires it too. And imagine that you are like speaking up for the second version of yourself, if let’s say you don’t speak up for yourself.
Nicole Booz: Yeah, I like that as a general exercise where you’re kind of like easier to do things for yourself if you’re thinking about yourself. It’s like a third person you know, like you saying it’s not as personal.
Marina Crouse: Definitely because it’s always easy to defend someone else than to defend yourself. But I think, if we all were to work on our confidence and validate our opinions and remind ourselves that what we have to say is just as important as whatever someone else is saying, it would get a lot easier to say: “hey, actually no, this is what I want to say, or no you can’t speak to me that way, or all the things we don’t let ourselves say.”
Rae Fung: Yeah, I just want to assure you listening to this right now that is completely normal to feel afraid to speak up. It’s completely normal to be afraid that what you say is not going to be valuable and it’s going to waste someone’s time, because I felt this way before you. Like it’s completely normal to feel this way and for one of my coachees, I think he’s already 30 plus, but he also still feels this way. So, I realized that when I ask him questions, he always just answers in one sentence and doesn’t elaborate. And I’ll be like, “ah yeah, so why it’s an incomplete answer?” So, I pointed this out to him and he’s like, “oh yes” I realize that if let’s say, it’s kind of I basically call him out loud. Okay, so I told him basically, what you’re doing is you’re saying: “Oh, you know, um, something so great happened at work today…” and then he doesn’t continue and someone needs to say, “oh so what happened?” Or something like that, and then he continues saying. So, I was wondering why he did that and he told me he realized that he was afraid if he continued elaborating, that the person he’s talking to actually didn’t have interest in what he say or think about it as a waste of time.
And I asked him if it has happened to him before, where he said something and people actually think it’s a waste of time or dismissed it and he said: “yes, it has happened before”. Back then, at work I think he mentioned an idea and opinion and the entire group that he was talking to dismissed it and carried on with the conversation and that negative experience affirmed this. Belief that what I say does not matter so I feel like you’re listening to this. It’s important to look back and ask yourself where does my fear and my limiting belief makes me decide if I should speak up or not. “my voice doesn’t matter.” Where does it come from? Does it come from any incidents in the past and are you holding onto that incident that’s causing you to be stuck in speaking up? So, for him, I asked him: “what if you operate that from the belief that what you say does matter. How will you speak up?” I think that’s important to start choosing a new belief. And I know it doesn’t sound as easy as it is, but it first takes courage to decide to let go of their old belief that’s not serving you and choose the new one, and then take little steps to confirm that new one in your mind or to strengthen that new belief in your mind.
Rae Fung: So, one thing he did to build that courage. Well this one, I’m so proud of him, because I notched him to do so and of course gave him all the love, affirmation and skills to do this. Like teaching the skills and do the role plays. I actually asked him to go to the bookstore, because he loves reading. And start conversations with people that end up beside him in the owls of the bookstore and he did that! Like it’s crazy. He was so afraid of initiating conversations, but he did and he started having conversations with people in a bookstore, in the gym, etc.
And he realized that he can have good conversations and those people did not judge him or dismiss what he had to say and that those incidents, those positive experiences actually prove to him that his voice does matter. So, I think this just shows that, once again, confidence is built in small increments and through the little tangible things that you do every day, even if they’re a little bit uncomfortable. And when you take those little steps towards building confidence which essentially is building positive experiences of you speaking up in your mind. Your future self will thank you, because you realize that years from now you’re more confident than you are today.
Marina Crouse: That’s such a great advice! I’m all about the positive affirmations and the positive proofs, and that it’s like muscle building right? It’s like muscle memory. You do something, you have a positive reaction, so you learn that you can do it more. Rae I know people would like to continue to follow along with you, where can they find you?
Rae Fung: Great! yeah, please do reach out to me, the conversation doesn’t end here. I think if Marina Crouse and Nicole and I were to speak about this, we probably can speak about it forever.
Please do reach out to me on Instagram. It’s my favorite social media platform and my Instagram handle is Rae matrix. Yes, so you can find me there and let me know if, I think one thing that you could do to start getting some free resources is, I would just suggest coming and drawing my private telegram channel. Because I put a lot of digital resources there, templates… How to find your unique voice is a template that I have in my private telegram channel. So, drop me a message on Instagram and I’ll add you in or I’ll actually just send the form to Marina and Nicole, and they can edit in wherever is added in the notes. So yeah, um, come speak to me, let me know if you are going through anything and you’re afraid of speaking up and I always reply.
Marina Crouse: Awesome! Yes, we will definitely have all of that added in the show notes too, so people can click on the link. And Nicole, do you want to sing us out?
Nicole Booz: Sure thing! This has been another episode of the GenTwenty Podcast. We’ll talk to you again soon! Bye.
Rae Fung: Bye!
Marina Crouse: Bye!