Make Room For The Stuttering

Perfectionism

Posted on: February 27, 2009

Have you ever thought you were a failure? Do you ever compare your self to the lofty standards that society seems to adhere to?

It’s all around us, this incredible drive to be the best, look the best, have lots of money, drive a nice car, send our kids to the best schools, and excel at work. We know it’s hard for young people to fit in, to not cave to the demands of peer pressure. What about adults? Do adults feel the same pressures? And what happens when you spend your time striving for perfection?

When I was little, my father demanded perfection from his kids. Being the oldest of six, I always felt that pressure to succeed, excel, to take care of things, to be the perfect little adult. But I wasn’t perfect, and I wasn’t an adult was a kid who stuttered, and that embarrassed my father. He too was driven to seek perfection. He didn’t tolerate flaws, just like his own father had not. He was one of 13 children, and he competed for attention in his family. In his eyes, having a big family, a big house, the biggest swimming pool on the block, complete with this amazing lighted lawn display, meant that he had made it. But maintaining all of that took a lot of work, and meant that we kids were often left to fend for ourselves, and figure out where we fit into that kind of world.

I was taught to make my feelings invisible, to be as self-sufficient as possible, and not to present any problems. I didn’t live up to the trophy standards that my father seemed to feel were most important. When I stuttered, he would yell at me, tell me to be quiet, not say anything unless I could say it right. So I always had this feeling that there was something wrong with whom I really was.

Having been invisible, with regard to feelings especially, has made it a struggle for me to be Real and Authentic as an adult. Sometimes it looks like I “walk the walk”, but that is not without the inner battle that often ensues. Quite honestly, I sometimes wish I did not stutter, and that I consistently had the smooth, fluent speech that I have a lot of the time. I think being real and authentic means to be able to admit this. I accept that I stutter, but still wish there were times when I could turn it off, or at least be able to look into a crystal ball and know when it is going to make an appearance.

In our professional lives, oral communication is often taken for granted. When one feels that we don’t “measure up”, even knowing deep inside that this is not the most important thing, you can be left with feelings of doubt and contempt. Feelings of shame and guilt are also common when you think you have fallen short.

I am closer than I have ever been to being ok with acknowledging these feelings. It means that I am not perfect. It means that I, we, all have painful feelings from time to time. It is ownership of those feelings, coupled with presenting yourself to the world, “As Is”, which makes us capable of being authentic in a world that pins so much on being perfect.

Being invisible as a kid played a role in how I turned out as an adult. It was a survival tactic. It made me strong. I now recognize that those feelings I hid for so long would eventually need to swim to the surface. Knowing how to swim and stay afloat is also a survival tactic. It allows me to be vulnerable and authentic, and claim my place.

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2017. 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 2017.