Make Room For The Stuttering

Stuttering’s Boomerang Effect

Posted on: August 19, 2009

Recently, I have talked with people who stutter who express that they feel closed off from the world because of how they think the world views them and their stuttering. A couple of people have said that they don’t feel they can stand up for themselves because they stutter. They feel taken advantage of and weak. One or two have expressed such negativity and resignation  that it seems like they equate self esteem with their stuttering.

I can so relate to this. I used to feel my identity was tied to two things: my job and how well I hid my stuttering from the world. My esteem – how I felt about myself and whether I liked myself – was enmeshed in two of the larger areas of my life that I had no real control over.

I realized how my identity had been strangled and actually lost when I was fired from my job. I didn’t have any friends outside of the workplace, what little socializing I did was associated with work, and my interactions with people came from work. When I was fired, I lost all of that, literally. No one called me to see how I was doing, no one came by, or even emailed me. I felt like a pariah and so isolated, and realized then that I had depended on my job for my fulfillment as a person, which was ridiculous. I had no outside interests at that time, and was very much alone in a little box.

And stuttering had everything to do with this. As I got older, it was becoming harder to hide my stuttering and I still thought I had to do this, as exhausting as it was. I did not feel good about myself, I did not like myself, and thought stuttering was so shameful. So when I was fired from my job because of stuttering, I thought it was my fault. I stuttered, which made me less adequate than fluents. And I was so ashamed of my stuttering that I couldn’t even explain to my employers that I did stutter. Instead, I let them believe that I was  nervous, anxious, a poor communicator, etc. Trust me, this all had a deep effect on my esteem, who I thought I was and how I didn’t like myself.

So when I hear these people talk about being held back or repressed because of their stuttering, I can understand it, because I was there myself. When self-esteem is lost, a very high cost is paid. If you sit in the back row, avoid eye contact and shrivel up instead of blooming, of course you will not think too highly of who you are as a person.

But there is a way out.  Reclaim your self, and understand you have value to the world. Accept who you are, and that we are all complex and flawed in some way. I am not saying that stuttering is a flaw, but we all have something that makes us different. The first step to accepting ourselves and loving ourselves is realizing that we can help others just by being authentic and offering our true selves to the world. We have to shift the focus from self to others. Who can we help by being our self, spending time with someone else, educating others about stuttering and that it is really just a different way of talking.

This will not happen overnight. Building a healthy self-image takes time and effort. It requires baby steps. I started attending self help meetings and started talking about stuttering. To my utter amazement, people want to hear about it. Then I joined Toastmasters and just started talking generally. And meeting new people, taking risks, opening up, being approachable. That’s how we begin to feel better about our selves and love ourselves – by giving ourselves to others. Like a boomerang, it comes back to you, every time.

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1 Response to "Stuttering’s Boomerang Effect"

HI Pam

I was wondering if I could copy and paste this into a email? I would like to send it to others who stutter.

thank you

gloria

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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.