As a child, when I spoke the kids would mock my speech and make it sound as though they were talking through their noses. It happened so often that I avoided speaking around others.

But, my family and stuffed animals never made fun of me.

As an adult, speaking didn’t get any easier. I spent my career ducking out of meetings that would potentially require me to speak. My first job after getting my MBA was at an investment bank. I still remember the day I got called on to answer a question in front of my peers. Instead of answering using my voice, I wrote the answer on a piece of paper, pretending to have laryngitis.

Not speaking up for yourself can have devastating results. Five years ago, my life took an unexpected turn. I was the victim of severe online harassment from an ex-boyfriend-turned-stalker. It was so extreme that it shut down my career and my social life.

I became passionate about raising awareness around cyber harassment, its debilitating effects and how it leaves victims feeling powerless. After all the years of bullying and, later, cyberbullying, I finally decided to stand up for myself. I remembered my grandfather was a Toastmaster. He was a smart man, and if he found value in it, I would too. 

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