Make Room For The Stuttering

Self Conscious

Posted on: February 28, 2010

Do you know this feeling? You are in the middle of a thought, a sentence and not thinking at all about your speech? You’re actually feeling comfortable and confident. And then you stutter.

Not just a barely noticed repetition, but a good hard block. One that lasts longer than you can try to pass off as something else. I flush, my chest tightens, my heart pounds, and I find myself breaking eye contact.

I tell myself all the time that I am OK with stuttering and that I have accepted it, and then this happens. I feel self-conscious. I don’t like it.

I am comfortable stuttering while talking about stuttering. Makes sense, right? But when I am doing a presentation to a neutral audience and the topic has nothing to do with stuttering, I sometimes feel self-conscious when I stutter. It’s hard for me to admit that, because I honestly thought I was past that.

When I give talks to SLPs or colleagues about stuttering and the emotions that go with it, I have no problem stuttering freely. In fact, I feel quite comfortable being able to be so wholly free. But when doing an important speech to a non-stuttering friendly audience, I still get that self-conscious shameful feeling. That I cannot control. I cannot will myself to not flush. So not only do I feel out of control with the stuttering moment, but also with the physical reaction that makes me look uncomfortable.

I shared this at my self-help group earlier in the week. I rarely disclose feelings with this group – for some reason I feel particularly vulnerable when I do. Even though we all stutter and it should be the ideal place to discuss feeling vulnerable and self-conscious, I find it hard with mostly men.

After sharing, I got feedback. One guy asked why I wouldn’t just make an announcement at the start of any talk I do to let folks I know I stutter. He said that of all people, he surely thought that I would do that automatically, since I talk about empowerment and self-advocacy. Several SLP students thought I should do that as well, seize the opportunity to educate at those moments.

I tried to explain the dilemma I sometimes feel – that I don’t always want to talk about stuttering. That making “such an announcement” is not always what I want to do. Several other people chimed in that it would make sense to do that – I would be killing two birds with one stone.  One of the SLP supervisors then asked what I could do to “relax” before a big talk that might make me anxious about feeling self-conscious.

The problem is that the self-conscious feeling just creeps in there unexpectedly. Adding to the complexity that stuttering is. Some relaxation techniques were then bantered around. Finally another member commented that she (the only other woman in the group) thought the group was being a little harsh on me. Afterward, one guy came up to me and apologized. I told him there was no need to apologize. For what? Maybe he felt uncomfortable.

I felt self-conscious for bringing up self-consciousness! Darn emotions! Why are they always part of the equation, huh?

1 Response to "Self Conscious"

This is interesting and I am writing about a situation on my blog that my interest you.
You say some important introspective comments. From what you are saying and I am reading from your post, it is not about relaxing. We can be perfectly relaxed but still be self conscious.

As you may or may not know, I won a wonderful award in Sept for my work with stuttering. They have event 4 times a year honoring exceptional women in business. I went to the one last month and heard wonderful stories about amazing women. When I walked in, they gave me a flower to wear so everyone would know I was a past honoree. So that meant I was asked over 15 times by very nice people what I was honored for. I wasn’t embarrassed telling people, but I was tired of working all day and needed a break from telling “my story”. I was a little self conscious but finally realized that I didn’t have to mention each and everytime I stuttered. Stuttering is so complex. Good post. Hope you all read my article at (tks)

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