Make Room For The Stuttering

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mirrorWhat do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you see how great you are, or do you look for the things that need to be fixed?

Like many people, I often notice what’s wrong instead of what’s right. I lament over a new zit or a sudden sprung hair. I check to be sure my hair looks OK and look to see if I messed up my make up.

Rarely do I just look in the mirror and smile and say to myself, “you look great.” I have long struggled with thoughts that I’m not good enough and that often translates over to what I see when I look in the mirror.

I heard a powerful keynote speaker last month who reminded us that we need to like what we see when we look into that mirror. We need to tell ourselves that we like what we see and start our day off on a positive note.

That resonated with me, especially as I was working on a workshop about positive affirmations that friend Annie and I would present at a stuttering conference in early October.

Annie and I worked on our workshop for 6 weeks, trying out different affirmations that we would encourage people to use when looking in a mirror, both generally and about their stuttering as well. We caught ourselves saying things to ourselves and each other that were not affirming and found out how loud our inner critic’s voice can really be.

We did our mirror workshop on Saturday at the NSA regional conference in Anaheim. We were both a little nervous, worried that people wouldn’t get “into it” and that we were not well prepared enough.

We were prepared enough and people did get into it. We handed out small mirrors and asked people to look deep into their eyes while we took turns gently reading positive affirmations. We then invited people to come up and sit in front of a large mirror and say something aloud, affirming their self and their stuttering. Several people took the risk and we then shared out at the end how all of this felt.

It was a powerful workshop where we were present with each other. We ended by sharing this with the group, which everyone read aloud together.

I AM STRONG

I AM KIND

I AM BEAUTIFUL

I AM SMART

I AM IMPORTANT

I AM FEARLESS

I AM AMAZING

ISAD 2014This year’s International Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD) online conference begins on October 1, 2014 and runs for three weeks through October 22, 2014.

Authors will present papers on a variety of topics relating to stuttering – attitudes and feelings, therapy techniques, research updates and personal experiences.

Presenters are a mix of people from the international stuttering community – people who stutter, family members of people who stutter, clinical therapists and scientific researchers. This is an exciting conference where different voices from all over the world are heard.

This will be a treasure trove of information on stuttering, and you will have the opportunity to interact with the contributors and ask questions of professionals in the field.

Plan to check out the conference and plan to learn a lot. Spread the word!

What do you think of this? Being around other people who stutter is like seeing a reflection of our self. We see ourselves in other people who stutter.

Maybe when you are around other people who stutter, you think to yourself, “oh, that’s how I sound.” Maybe you’re OK with that. Maybe you are not.

Maybe it makes us feel vulnerable when we’re around other people who stutter.

Other people may remind of us ourselves, both the parts we love and the parts we don’t love quite as much.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

 

 

How many times has this happened to you? You’re in a conversation with someone, either someone you know well or someone unfamiliar. You’re going along fine with what you are saying and then it hits – a big block.

You get stuck and nothing comes out. You feel helpless and the moment feels like an hour. Your mouth is open and nothing is happening. Or sound is coming out but not the word.

And then your listener tries to help and finishes the word or sentence for you. Maybe they even got it right.

Or maybe they get it wrong, and say something not even remotely close to what you were actually going to say.

How does this make you feel? What do you do?

When this has happened to me, sometimes I feel angry. Angry that the block has happened in the first place and that someone has seen what I look like when I get stuck. I imagine it looks awful, but I’m sure in reality it doesn’t.

I also might feel angry if the listener has finished my word and they guessed wrong. I do one of two things: finish what I was going to say anyway and move on, or move on and pretend like nothing happened.

I don’t like to do that – pretend nothing happened, because something did. I got stuck in a block and someone reacted to it.

I wish I had the guts to acknowledge my feelings when this happens but I often don’t. I don’t like to draw more attention to my stuttering.

What about you?

I wrote a post on Loss of Control five years ago! And it still rings true today. I want to share parts of that post in today’s blog post.

Probably one of the most helpless feelings a person can have is that feeling you get when you lose control when speaking. You probably know what I mean.

My stomach feels like its going to bottom out, my chest gets tight, and my heart starts to pound so hard it feels like everyone can hear it. And my face heats up, I feel a lump in my throat and then my eyes start to well up. If the feeling lasts longer than a few seconds, my eyes spill over.

I feel loss of control when I get embarrassed, because these reactions happen automatically and involuntarily. I also feel loss of control when I get angry, or sad. I always felt like I should be able to control my reactions to feelings. Almost all of the same physical reactions occur.

I used to feel I had some control over my stuttering. Fairly early, I began to know which words or sounds I might stutter on, and concentrated on switching words or doing the avoidance thing. That stopped working for me long ago.

I started feeling more in control when I dropped most of the covert stuttering and just let natural stuttering out. Since not fighting so hard to not stutter, I have felt pretty controlled with my easy, relaxed repetitions.

But sometimes my speech is messy. I can’t predict stuttering moments like I used to be able to, and I feel more tension and lack of control.

I often feel helpless, especially when around someone new or who is impatient.

Even though I tell myself I don’t care what others think, I still sometimes feel the sting of judgment and fear rejection.

What do you think? Do you feel out of control when you get really stuck in a stuttering moment? Does this feeling ever go away?

I just finished reading a great article in my Toastmasters magazine on the importance of body language when speaking, whether to one person or a large group.

As a Toastmaster, I know the importance of body language. It helps us to convey feelings and emotions and shows our level of confidence. People pick up on our non-verbal cues and then often know how to react or respond.

As I read and reflected on body language, it made me wonder how it relates with our stuttering. I posed this question on an online forum for women who stutter and got some good responses.

Several said something similar – standing with pride. Friend Amey writes: “Shoulders back, head up, eye contact. Keeping this posture during stuttering can be liberating. It rips down stereotypes of us being scared and curled up in a ball.”

Amey goes on to say that seeing a proud person who stutters is powerful. It conveys confidence. She says, “Watch me stutter!”

What do you think? Is body language important to keep in mind about our stuttering? Can you feel pride while stuttering?

I participated in a great conversation this week about ways to build confidence if you stutter. During a Stutter Social chat, a young person asked how some of us more “seasoned stutterers” deal with the anxiety of stuttering in certain speaking situations.

Some people shared their experiences from speech therapy, some shared from their perspective on acceptance and two of us talked a little about Toastmasters.

The following are some of the ideas that we shared about building confidence. Maybe you’ve tried some of them. Maybe you’ve got a suggestion to add.

  • Don’t obsess or rehearse before hand. That increases anxiety and decreases spontaneous conversation.
  • Consider advertising and letting listeners know that you are a person who stutters.
  • Try using voluntary stuttering to help you gain some control during the speaking situation.
  • Seize opportunities to speak, such as Toastmasters clubs or other speaking forums. Practice helps reduce anxiety and build confidence.
  • Remind yourself that you have as much right to be in that speaking situation as the next person, that your voice deserves to be heard.
  • If someone interrupts you, calmly let them know you’re not finished speaking yet and then proceed to complete your thoughts, no matter how long it takes.

What do you think? Do you have anything to add?

 

 


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Same protection applies to the podcasts linked to this blog, "Women Who Stutter: Our Stories" and "He Stutters: She Asks Him." Please give credit to owner/author Pamela A Mertz 2014.
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