Stuttering Is Like Walking Naked
Posted October 27, 2010on:
I had to smile when my friend Bob W used the phrase “walking naked in a fluent parade.” Bob and I are both in Toastmasters and have participated in Toastmaster Demo meetings at the annual National Stuttering Association (NSA) conferences. We also both contribute to the covert-s email group. There has been a lot of lively discussions there recently.
I had mentioned on the covert list that I had recently competed in my first ever Toastmasters contest. What an emotional roller-coaster that was! Bob commented that anytime a person who stutters speaks publicly at a Toastmasters event, it is like walking naked in a fluent parade.
The imagery of Bob’s simple statement grabbed me right away. I knew exactly what he was talking about, because Toastmasters is all about public speaking and communication, and when you stutter and risk letting your stutter out, you expose yourself.
I immediately visualized walking down a street in my birthday suit with all these other people clad in business suits. Yes, I would stick out, and everybody would notice.
That was the very reason why I would not compete in a Toastmasters contest for my first four years. I was afraid to stutter publicly in front of fluent people. Plus, I was afraid I couldn’t stay within the stringent time frames of Toastmaster competitions.
Well, through my journey with self-discovery, I realized how silly that was. I was only afraid of me. I wanted to see if I could do it – if I could compete with some of the best speakers in my Toastmaster area. So I did.
On October 18, I competed in the Division F-6 Speech Evaluation Contest. I did fine. I got up in front of an audience I didn’t know, and gave an evaluation of a speaker’s speech I had never heard before. And I stayed within time.
I was nervous and my heart was pounding so loud I was convinced everybody could hear it. Like in Edgar Allen Poe’s classic, “The Tell Tale Heart”. But of course, I was the only one who heard it. And I am sure I am the only one who heard my stuttering.
Did I win? No. Was I devastated? No. Was I glad I did it? You bet!
It was a good experience and helped me cross off another item on my list titled “I can’t do this because I stutter”.
Sure, stuttering publicly around others who don’t stutter can feel like we are naked in a crowd. It can feel scary and lonely and very vulnerable.
But it is also kind of special! Why? Because we are unique. We make an impact every time we find the courage to do something that we had been afraid to do.
In the words of my good friend Joe K, “stutter naked”. Chances are you are the only one who feels naked!