Do you ask yourself what would be different if you were a fluent speaker? How would you be perceived by others? These questions will stop having relevance once you realise that you can be whatever you want to be, regardless of your speaking ability. You don’t need approval from anyone to be yourself.
Not long ago, I heard Anna Wintour, Editor in Chief of Vogue magazine, saying: “Own who you are but without apology.” This sentence made so much sense to me and totally summed up my personal view on how we should handle stuttering.
I understand that such an approach requires determination and a good level of self-esteem, and some of us are not there yet, however, it all starts within us, in our willingness to work on what’s causing our lack of self-confidence and decide which path we want to take.
Throughout the years, I got used to being frustrated with the way I speak, but getting used to it didn’t particularly comfort me. At times I felt sorry for myself, but self-pity never turned me into a fluent or confident speaker, on the contrary actually, it just made it worse. The vicious circle of self-depreciation can turn stuttering into an invisible, invincible monster that we create and nurture on a daily basis while letting it control our lives.
The constant need of approval and validation can prevent us from being ourselves, it affects our self-confidence and can bring us down when we fail to communicate fluently. In fact, it can negatively impact our speech flow, particularly as we strive to be accepted or appreciated by others.
I fell into this trap for several years until I decided to take ownership of who I am and fight this inner voice that persistently persuaded me to believe that I couldn’t be more than a person who stutters. Why should stuttering take precedent over my skills and talents? Speech fluency should never define who we are, who we can be, or what we can accomplish.
Becoming my own protagonist doesn’t mean stuttering will miraculously disappear or stop bothering me completely, but it means that I consciously decide to which extent I’ll allow it to affect my life decisions and everyday activities. Taking the lead requires everyday effort but it’s a rewarding path that has helped set me free from my own stigma of stuttering and allowed me to gain a healthy self-esteem to truly be myself.
Why do we expect others to pay attention to what we say rather than how we communicate, yet we are often the first ones to criticise and judge our own ability to speak? Learn to value, love and respect yourself, and others will follow your lead. I believe this is one of the most powerful lessons we could learn in life and one that changes us from the inside out, shaping our perspective, giving us new purposes, bringing self-acceptance, changing our approach to disfluency, and impacting our outside world for better.
We don’t need to be fluent to understand our worth, neither should we apologise for our lack of fluency when we are trying our best to communicate despite our speaking difficulties. We should be the first ones to respect ourselves and our everyday efforts to stay sane and positive, despite the chaos and negative feelings stuttering can bring us. Here, I would like use Anna Wintour’s words to re-emphasise: own who you are but without apology!
If you’re struggling with self-confidence and don’t know where to start, perhaps talk to a close family member, a supportive friend, or a professional therapist who can help you in your quest to find your own voice – you’ll soon discover the amazing and talented human being you have always been. Digging into emotional life events, closing certain chapters and discovering who you are may help you increase in confidence and even improve fluency, or at least help you deal with stuttering in a lighter manner.