I have a confession — a strange confession — but a necessary one to voice this aloud, to speak to the truth of what has crippled my belief using my full potential for advancement.
I have a stutter.
According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communications Disorder (NIDCD), stuttering is a speech disorder characterized by the repetition of sounds, syllables, or words; prolongation of sounds; and interruptions in speech known as blocks.
Anyone close to me had known this verbal disorder all my life. I can go as far as back in grade school when speaking became a chore. At first, I never thought of repeating syllables or prolonging words as a big deal. I thought it was the norm. But that was until the giggles, and side-eyed stares followed along. And the teasing, and then bullying.
I slithered into a shell of painful shyness and withdrew into a world of loneliness and gloom. And I had friends, but not a lot. Being popular hadn’t been my thing during my young academic career. So, I grew used to having one or two friends. I later came to appreciate the value of these small circles, personally and professionally.
As I grew up, so did my stutter. It joined ranks like an annoying sidekick, refusing to go away. Worse, trying to converse by saying hello was arduous. Imagine trying to speak as a first impression, and the words wouldn’t come out. The assumption, for some, that I must be an imbecile. I received it from the teachers, peers, and some in my family.
The point of the article is to empower a disorder some would deem as cynical. Just because someone conveys a disability doesn’t mean the person can’t function-specific tasks. Mine happens to be speaking. And of all the passions I chose to do, like writing, has caused a loss of opportunities. I’m not blaming anyone but myself. I made the bed and must lie in it.
Understanding Your Value
When I feared promoting my books as a podcast guest, I wavered and made an excuse why I couldn’t participate. I was too embarrassed to state the reason, and instead, I’d create a grand lie and moved on. I knew I was hurting my brand by not expanding to other markets. Call it as being guarded against disastrous moments. It happened before, and the tweets and posts from listeners proved it online.
My solution: I keep notes — lots of notes. Sometimes I write short scripts detailing the talking points of conversation. I’ve taken this idea from public speaking. And it made a world of difference, boosting my confidence and self-respect.
I still, on occasion, stammer through syllables and some words. I realized it is what it is, and I need to accept what the universe gave me. My value to my brand and as a Creative will mean more in the long run.
Find Your Purpose
It has taken me a while to understand the reason for breathing on this earth. A few years ago, I considered myself as existing, waking up day by day with no meaningful purpose. I had no idea what talents or gifts I had because of the stutter. Trying to articulate simple words could not get my foot into any door. Or so I thought.
And, then, there’s writing — a gift I overlooked because I’ve never considered it as a gift. I saw it like air and a tool of therapy. One day, I had a crazy idea to write a novel. The characters were speaking into my conscience. But didn’t know how to start.
Well, foolish me, went months thinking I had no purpose despite the whispers of these characters. I jotted down my strengths and weakness and eliminated the prospects of jobs or hobbies that involved strong verbal communication, such as customer service or social work.
My solution: During this quest, the characters’ voices grew louder and annoying. So, I went to my desktop computer and began to write. I didn’t know what I was doing as far as chapter breaks; I just wrote until the two precious words “The-end.”
A self-congratulatory smile emerged as I stared at the blinking cursor. I’ve achieved that some couldn’t do: finishing a manuscript. I also discovered a passion and later a purpose. And I realized I don’t need to speak to write.
Even if you don’t have a speech disability or any disability and unsure of your purpose, write down your strengths and weaknesses and what makes you happy. I guarantee the answer will be closer than you think. Mine were characters, chattering in my head nonstop. Go figure.
Of course, I’m not talking about food for the body but food for the soul. A desire to succeed despite flaws spells a hungry heart. So, yeah, I stutter. And unless mine disappears into the netherworld dimensions, I’ll most likely continue to have nonfluent speech.
Think of whatever you feel is a flaw, and you’ve feared taking a step to a dream or goal because of understandable concerns of cruel ridicule. I’ve been there and done that and had no choice to persist through the hurt. But if you want your breakthrough, you must empower yourself with a strategy to win.
My solution: Every goal is a process — even failure. I’ve fallen several times, but the comebacks were sweeter. No matter if some were born with oratory skills rivaling presidents and trained actors, I could never compare myself to their capabilities. And why should I?
My stuttering, a deficiency I’ve loathed and forced me out of my comfort zone, has opened my eyes to talents I didn’t know while on this journey.
So much so, in my day job, I work as an Intake Specialist: part customer service, a dash of social work, and lots of talking — the same jobs I’ve tried to avoid years ago are now my primary source of income.
Talk about stepping out of the comfort zone, huh?