Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘standing up for ourselves

Today’s post doesn’t have a lot to do with stuttering. Or maybe it does in some way.

Yesterday I had a conversation with someone who challenged me to find a way to make my voice heard. That was hard to hear, as I like to think my voice is loud and clear.

I am open with my stuttering, and have a voice in that community. I let my voice be heard in the Toastmasters community and my voice is certainly heard through this blog and various social media platforms.

But this was not a challenge about my literal voice. He was pushing me to find a way to have my figurative voice be present in a tough environment with a lot of pushback. We talked about the different meanings of voice, which did not include stuttering at all.

For the first time in a long time, I am considering stepping away from a tough situation, instead of “shaking it off and stepping up.” I’ve prided myself on doing that and encouraging others to do the same.

I mustered up the courage to say I think I need to bow out gracefully from a tough work situation. After much self talk, I had arrived at the decision that self-preservation and being happy was more important than the daily grind. That life is too short to be miserable every day.

But this individual would not let me off the hook! He pushed back and debated with me. He is convinced that I am supposed to be right in the thick of things and that my leadership and voice will strengthen and that I will be better for sticking it out. And that the work is important and worth it.

He challenged me to find new ways to collaborate, communicate and problem solve.

My insides are screaming that I’ve had enough, that as long as I can save face, it’s OK to bow out and still stand tall.

But I’ll admit I’m struck by this individual’s confidence in me that I can stay the course and emerge better, stronger and with new skills.

Having your voice heard means being active, not passive, which I am trying to convince myself is OK at this stage in my life and career.

My white flag was not accepted. So I have to figure out how to raise my voice another octave. And do that with grace.

This school year I am excited about the potential to offer self-advocacy groups to students transitioning from high school to college. For most students, entering college can be a rude awakening. They go from a relatively safe, structured environment to a college setting where they are expected to be independent and employ self-motivation.

Many students fail miserably at this, as they often move from a high school setting with hundreds of students to a college with thousands of students. This can be  overwhelming, especially if the student has a special need and requires assistance that they have to ask for themselves.

Lots of young people do not know how to stand up for themselves. They may feel intimidated by the process or embarrassed by the potential of being seen as different.

Right now, I am working temporarily at the same school I have been at for about 4 years. I am hoping the system will find me a permanent title, so I can go about the business of helping students navigate through high school and be ready for success in college.

I have been going around to classes this week and presenting sexual harassment prevention training. I have also let students and staff know that I hope to be providing self advocacy groups throughout the year. I explained what self advocacy is and why its an important skill to have.

I surprised myself by using my stuttering as an example. I told every class that I stutter, and what that was like for me in school NOT talking about it and being afraid to volunteer in class or let anyone know.

I shared that now as an adult, I have learned how to talk about it openly and have disclosed in the workplace. I let the students know that I ask for an accommodation. I prefer to not use the public address system in my building, for fear of having my stuttering broadcast through the building.

I told the students that I always imagined that if that happened, everyone would laugh at me. Even though that probably wasn’t true, that is what I thought, and our thoughts sometimes become our reality.

Surprisingly, as I disclosed this personal information about me with class after class, I felt great. I felt empowered and it made sense to relate a personal example of advocacy as I discussed advocacy.

And the students listened intently, and there was not one look of concern, or confusion, or anyone trying to conceal a smile or humor, which I always thought might happen.

I shared with them that now I won’t have to worry about reactions when I stutter in front of them, since I already put it out there to them.

Do you have any similar examples? Or thoughts?

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2022. 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 2022.
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