Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘stuttering and self-esteem

Episode 231 features Sherrika Myers, who hails from Baltimore, Maryland and presently lives in Charleston, South Carolina.

Sherrika is one busy lady. She is certified life coach, a children’s author, a national speaker and founder of Every 1 Voice Matters. She is the creator of Lil Herbie, an African American mascot she uses to help children build their self-esteem and love themselves. She created Lil Herbie when her grandson began to stutter. Lil Herbie represents the little kid in Sherrika who stuttered.

Sherrika also has a YouTube channel which features the Lil Herbie Series. Lil Herbie looks like her grandson!

Listen is as we talk about stuttering awareness, anti-bullying initiatives and importance of loving your voice. Sherrika is doing things now that she wanted to do a kid. She says, “I’m playing catch-up.”

We also talk about reaching parents so they are prepared to help their kid who may stutter. Sherrika tells us that parents should be patient, listen to their child and “allow them to find their way.” More importantly, Sherrika’s universal message is “Be sure kids love themselves.”

I am borrowing this two word phrase from good friend Anita Blom, who always ends her email with the phrase “keep talking.” In my last blog post, I talked about the affects of isolation on my/our stuttering. Being quarantined – or isolated – has been very difficult for me. I am an introvert but still very much a social being. I made a promise with myself to talk to at least one person every day, by phone or video chat, not just texting or messaging.

I’m finding it difficult to keep talking. I am not seeing people daily to keep talking. I have not kept my promise of talking to at least one person every day. When I do, I definitely find I’m stuttering more, or at least it seems that way to me.

I also find I talk really fast, as if I’m worried that I won’t have enough time to get out everything I want to say.

I have written before that communication is one thing that most people do not even think about, that it’s taken for granted that when we open our mouth, what our brains want to say actually comes out.

Now more than ever, I am keenly aware of how I have taken for granted that we should keep talking. I find myself in fewer and fewer social situations where there are opportunities to talk.

The last I worked was June 3, 2019. So I’ve been home alone for more than a year. For awhile I was diligently looking for a job and did actually go on job interviews. Nothing came of any of them, and I’m convinced that ageism played a role.

It feels imperative to encourage all of us to “keep talking.” Otherwise I fear our stuttered voices will struggle to be heard.

There is no doubt this is a very strange time for humans. This relentless global pandemic has turned our worlds upside down and tossed many of us into previously unknown isolation.

Humans are social. Our brains are hardwired to interact with each other, to communicate in person, face to face. Even our technology that has made email, texting and messaging the norm, has not completely replaced in person connection.

For many of us, we are now in our third month of lock down, staying home and physically distancing from each other. We are compelled to wear face coverings, to protect our selves and each other from a deadly contagious virus. But when we do wear face masks, we can’t see expressions and smiles.

Businesses and schools have closed and we really have no idea what they may look like if and when they reopen. Employees and students are now working and learning remotely, from home. Many of us stare at ourselves on computer screens in the endless video chat sessions.

Many people who stutter have expressed that they stutter more now, when indeed they interact with others by phone or video. I am one of them. Because I am not talking consistently every day, when I do speak, I notice my stuttering is more pronounced, different, hurried. It’s like I am trying to make up for lost days by talking faster.

Being isolated is, well, isolating. I get lonely, I yearn for people, I yearn for physical contact. The person I have seen the most over the last 3 months has been my sister, and we have not hugged in all that time.

So this makes me think about all the other people who are isolating at home, alone, with no family close by. It’s scary, it’s different, it makes one think about our relationships and our very human need to touch and be touched.

I hope we come out on the other side of this with strengthened promises to take care of, and stay in touch with, our families and communities.


I had a wonderful conversation last week with a woman who stutters who will be featured on this week’s episode of the podcast Women Who Stutter: Our Stories.

We spoke about how important it is to own our story and be comfortable with all of it. That is the primary reason why I started the podcast, to give women who stutter a space to share their stories, because we all have one.

We talked about how sometimes we can feel so diminished when someone mentions, “Oh, you don’t really stutter,” or “I can hardly tell you stutter.” It brought back memories of a time where I found myself telling someone, “Yes, I really do stutter, honest I do!” It felt like yesterday, that feeling of having to defend that part of me. Why in the world would someone need to convince someone that they really stutter? You’d think there would surely be more important things we’d want to defend, like honor, integrity, reputation.

As I thought about this, I realized anew that my integrity and reputation is based on the very fact that I honor my story and don’t shirk from it, that my experiences with stuttering have greatly shaped and informed the person I am today.

People don’t really know me unless they know my story. How can you possibly know someone when you don’t (or won’t take the time to understand) the life cycle of all that was grappled with, reconciled and is now proudly owned as part of me?

All of us have a story, a legacy that will live on after we are gone. I want people to remember me, not just for something I did, but for who I was as a person.

What about you? What’s your story? What do you want, need, for others to know about you? What do you hope for in your legacy?



He-StuttersEpisode 22 of the very occasional male series features Chaz Bonnar who hails from Glasgow, Scotland. Chaz is 24 years old and is a dancer and freelance creative artist. He works with young kids building their confidence and self-esteem through dance.

Chaz believes that dance has helped him to express himself without words. He has been dancing – specifically breakdancing – since he was 15. Now he works with kids with the hope of offering them the same opportunities for self expression.

Listen in as Chaz shares what has helped him overcome his stuttering. He is a strong believer in the laws of attraction and feels that we have more control over our lives than we have been led to believe.

Chaz also talks about the importance of being completely honest with ourselves with regards to our speech and other areas of our life. And finally, we hit on social anxiety, which has many parallels to stuttering.

Chaz encourages listeners to reach out to him on social media if they’d like to talk with him about his ideas. Instagram: @chazbonnar Snapchat: @chazbonnar Twitter: @ChazB

The music clip used in todays episode is credited to Dano Songs.

I have recently listened to podcasts (besides my own, who knew?) where people have suggested that we can have fun with our stuttering. Micheal Kidd-Gilchrist, a NBA basketball player with the Charlotte Hornets, was recently on a sports podcast where he talked about having fun with his stuttering.

And Chris Constantino, a host with the StutterTalk podcast recently talked about having fun with our stuttering and seeing if we could make stuttering a pleasurable experience.

I have thought of stuttering in terms of making it a positive rather than a negative – “I’m stuttering well today” – but have never really thought about how it can be fun or pleasurable. That takes re-framing from a negative to a positive to a whole new place. A place that many people may not be at in their journey with stuttering.

I brought this idea of having fun with stuttering up at a recent discussion on Stutter Social. It was met with mixed results. Some people were intrigued by the novelty of the concept, as it really is the opposite of what people think about stuttering. One person was willing to explore out loud what it’s like when he makes fun of his stuttering. He mentioned that when he reaches that point, that he can poke fun at his stuttering, then he might not really stutter anymore.

Several people indicated that they could not imagine at all having fun with stuttering. They mentioned the negativity they feel when they stutter and how they wind up feeling depressed during and after long periods of stuttering.

I have been more conscious lately of smiling when I am in a stuttered moment. Whether it be a string of repetitions or a block, I try to remember to smile while I am stuttering. That may not be the same as having fun with it, but it makes me feel better to smile during the moment and I’m pretty sure it helps the listener to remain comfortable and present until I finish.

I am going to challenge myself to play with my stuttering and see what happens when I think about how the repetitions feel as they roll off my tongue and what the sensation of the block feels like. I am far from feeling that getting stuck in a block can be pleasurable, but I get where Constantino is coming from. Anything that we produce – and we produce sounds and words – should be valued as ours, as creative, as something positive.

What do you think of this idea of having fun with your stuttering? What does it feel like when you block? Can you make that a pleasurable experience?

We hear so much about acceptance in the stuttering community. It is important that we accept ourselves, perceived flaws and all, if we want others to accept us as we are.

Acceptance is one of humanity’s most basic needs. If you think back to psychology courses you took, you’ll likely remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Love and belonging (or acceptance) is right smack in the middle of the needs that all human beings need in order to lead a fulfilled life.

It takes courage to accept acceptance into our lives. We live in a society where we are constantly bombarded by media images of perfection and many of us hold ourselves up to those images, aspiring to achieve goals that may never be achieved.

To truly accept yourself, you must have the courage to present yourself to the world as is and be proud of who you are.

People who stutter often have tremendous difficulty with acceptance. We feel different, we sound different, we are different. There are very few role models for us who stutter openly in the media. What images we have of stuttering in the media are often infused with negativity or comedy.

So it’s no wonder we might struggle with accepting acceptance. It’s not something that comes easily and for some people who stutter, they may never fully accept acceptance. They may strive for fluency and constantly be on the lookout for the next greatest program, therapy or medication that promises to eliminate stuttering. They want to live up to those media images of perfection, where no one stutters.

Accepting acceptance doesn’t mean that we can’t still explore ways to manage or improve our speech. We may be interested in stuttering more comfortably and with less tension. That’s not a sell out to acceptance. It just means that we want to be the best that we can be with what we have.

It took me years to allow acceptance into my life. I was ashamed of stuttering for so long, because of all of the negative external messages that I internalized. For me, it was and still is a journey. Shame still creeps in occasionally and it’s in those moments that I actively remind myself that I am good, that I am whole, that my difference is OK and that I am enough. I think when I do that, I’m accepting acceptance.

What do you think of accepting acceptance? Have you?





Whenever I hear someone else stutter, that I wasn’t expecting, my stuttering radar kick in. What do I mean?

I was at a networking meeting on Thursday and a woman from a local agency was the main presenter. She stuttered. My ears picked it up right away and I felt my cheeks warm, as this surprised me. I am used to being the only one at these meetings who stutters.

And here was this woman talking and stuttering easily. She had no visible signs of tension or struggle. Her stuttering was in the form of hesitations and repetitions.

She was a very good speaker. She kept eye contact while talking and didn’t seem bothered at all by her stuttering. Neither did any of the listeners. There was no visible reaction by any listeners. I know this, as I glanced around to see how people were responding. Everyone was respectfully listening and making appropriate eye contact with the speaker.

I was the only one who appeared to be taken with the fact that this woman was also a stutterer. Thoughts went through my mind: “Hey, I stutter too!” “You go girl.” “Should I say something to her after?” Would that be appropriate? Would she be OK with that?

I decided not to react to her any differently than I would to any other speaker. After all, she was doing something I do all the time too. Speaking, presenting, sharing information that other people need and want.

As a stutterer, my radar kicks up a notch when I hear someone else stuttering. Perhaps it’s just the novelty of, for once, not being the only one in the room who experiences less than perfect speech.

Sometimes I think about that sad, frightened little girl who stuttered and wish I could just give her a great big hug and tell her everything would be OK. If someone had told her that, things certainly would have been different.

She wouldn’t have grown up feeling so insecure, afraid and ashamed. Insecurity, fear and shame stays with those who don’t get early positive messages. How can we change that?

One of the earliest memories I have of stuttering is my father yelling at me to, “Stop that,”  “no one talks like that,” or “Jesus Christ, shut up.” I don’t necessarily remember the stuttering, but I vividly remember how that criticism felt, stung!

I didn’t know how to cope. I was afraid of my father and his deep disapproval. He was ashamed of me. He never said that. He didn’t have to.

I wanted my father to love me and be proud of me.  I never, ever felt I measured up in his eyes, not as that little girl and not as an adult.

Those feelings of hurt, of being a disappointment, and being disappointed, of not feeling loved, stayed with me a long time. Those early moments drove me to try and hide my stuttering.

I always tried to find that love and approval, which I didn’t think I could as a stutterer.

As an adult, I often still feel the pain and loneliness of that wounded little girl. The shame that still creeps in sometimes when I stutter leads right back to my 5 year old’s shame. I tell myself I am over it, but it comes back to remind me, haunt me, actually.

What can be done to ease the pain that is still there of the wounded inner child? Do you have a wounded inner child that you do not acknowledge, or tend to?

I try to be kind and gentle when she pops in unannounced! I wish I could give her that warm hug and tell her everything will be OK. I wish I could dry her tears and take the pain away.

The closest I can come is to try and embrace myself and remind myself that I am good and special and loved, just the way I am. Stuttering and all!

Can you do that?

Episode 82 features good friend Jamie Rocchio, who hails from Rhode Island. Jamie recently moved to New Jersey and is currently enjoying retired life. Or as she puts it, she is “puttering” around the house and loving every minute of it.

Jamie and I met through the National Stuttering Association (NSA) about 5 years ago and we have become good friends. We stay in phone contact a few times during the year and I went and visited her for a weekend in Rhode Island.

Jamie is an outspoken advocate for stuttering. She was a NSA Chapter leader while living in Rhode Island, and for several years she has helped with first-timer orientation at the annual NSA conferences. Jamie was also a regular guest for a while on another podcast Stuttertalk.

In this episode, Jamie and I have a “catch-up” conversation and talk about how stuttering has impacted Jamie’s life, past and present. We talk about fear, change, being stuck, and most importantly, how we as women take care of ourselves.

I don’t think women in general talk about this enough – we have to take care of self before we can attend to anyone or anything else. Men too, of course, but we women tend to beat ourselves up more, so being gentle and taking care is oh so important.

We also talk about how important it is to be open to change, to listen to the universe, and take those leaps.

Feel free to leave comments for either of us in the comment section. Feedback is a gift!

Episode 76 features Andrea Montes, who hails from Seattle, Washington. Andrea works in Redmond as a massage therapist. She always loved getting massages when she was younger, and became good at giving massages because she knew what she liked.

Andrea decided to become a massage therapist, both because of her love for it and because she thought she wouldn’t have to talk much. Not surprisingly, she learned otherwise!

Andrea only “came out” about her stuttering 7 or 8 months ago. She was covert, and worked hard at hiding stuttering at work, for fear of being judged or fired. She was terrified of being found out as a stutterer.

She talks about how it took so much energy to hide, that when she left work and returned to her safety zone, she was almost inaudible. Her blocks were severe after being near perfectly fluent at work.

Listen in as we also talk about quality of life, getting rid of the “fluency dream”, self esteem and anxiety. Andrea also talks about her experience with the McGuire Program, and how it helped her “come out of hiding.”

Andrea shares that she is still dealing with the shame of stuttering, which prompts a segment about how we manage shame and other people’s reactions. Andrea gets really honest about her fear of her “big blocks.”

I loved getting to know Andrea, and loved her gut honesty. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions, or just let Andrea know how great she did in sharing her story.

Credit for the music used in this episode goes to ccMixter.

I really don’t want to be identified as the lady who stutters at work. But I know darn right well that is how some people know me and remember me.

I stutter during one-on-one conversations, I stutter on the phone and I am known to stutter when making small or large group presentations. Contrary to what I used to think, most people in my world know I stutter.

There’s certainly worse things to be known for, right?

I could be known as the one everyone hates dealing with because she never follows through.

Or I could be the one that everyone knows is always late.

Or I could be known as the one that you can’t tell anything to because she can’t be trusted.

On one of the stuttering forums I visit, someone was talking about how it’s too bad some people reach “old age” and never come to terms with the fact that they stutter.

He shared an observation that he had when he had a group of people over to his home recently. People were gathered around, talking, laughing, chiming in when they had something to contribute. He also noted that there were several different conversations actually going on at the same time.

He found it interesting to watch how people jockeyed for the right moment to jump in and add something to a conversation when they had something they wanted to contribute. Sometimes people talked over one another and interrupted.

He also mentioned that he didn’t contribute much because he really didn’t have much to say, and was rather busy keeping people “watered and fed.”

But when he did have something to say, the conversations stopped and everybody listened. Because this guy insists that he not be interrupted when he speaks. Sometimes he struggles to get his words out, so when he does want to contribute, everybody listens.

I likened this to being memorable. People remember people who stand out and say something compelling and valuable, even when stuttering while sharing their point.

A friend and I talked about our stuttering last night. He was venting how frustrating it feels to him to have conversations at work with colleagues or people in authority. He feels like no one knows who he is.

I told him what I thought about that! My take is that he feels that way because he rarely takes opportunities to initiate conversation and “make people want to hear more from him.”

When I said this, he looked at me with this “raised eyebrow look” of his that means, “What the hell are you talking about?”

I said to him, “You have to be memorable. You stutter, so be so compelling in what you say while stuttering, that people will definitely remember you.” I had his attention. I could see his wheels churning.

There’s worse things, right?

The Indian Stammering Association (TISA) is having their first National Conference to promote self help and community for Indian people who stutter at the end of this year.

The conference will take place from December 28, 2011 to January 1, 2012. It is being held at the Institute of Health Sciences (IHS), Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India. Details for meals, lodging and the purpose and agenda can be found here.

I am happy to pass this information along to anyone who regularly visits my blog or listens to any of my podcast episodes.

Stuttering/stammering is universal. We may live in different countries and have different accents, but anyone who stutters understands the fear, shame and stigma that can result from trying to deal with our stuttering in isolation.

I have been very fortunate on many fronts. I found and got involved in the United States National Stuttering Association (NSA) in 2006. I learned how empowering it is to connect with other people from different cultures who experience communication differences in a world where we take talking for granted.

I started writing about my stuttering journey on this blog in February 2009 (almost 3 years!) and have regularly been supported by people who stutter in India. We have shared resources, perspectives and ideas.

I have also had the good fortune to talk with several people who stutter from India via Skype. This has been a wonderful opportunity to prove how important self-help is, as well as paying it forward to others.

If you are an Indian person who stutters who wants to discover the power of meeting others who stutter, do everything you can to attend this first ever Indian National Conference.

Or if you love someone who stutters or are a professional or like me, a person from another country who would like to attend and can afford to do so, GO. (I wish I could!)

It will be a life changing experience.

Have you ever worn shoes that don’t fit right? So tight, it hurts to walk? Or even to stand still? I’ve bought shoes sometimes that are too tight, hoping either they would loosen or my feet would shrink.

Especially leather shoes. I’ve hoped that the leather would soften with wear and conform to my foot. I have stubbornly endured foot pain for days. And blisters. Sometimes it worked. The shoe did soften up and became comfortable. Other times, I realized I wasted my money.

What about shoes that are too big? Have you ever fell in love with a certain pair that didn’t come in your size and you bought the next size up? I have, thinking I could  wear fluffier socks or even two pair.

I remember one time wearing shoes that were so wide, I feared falling out of them. And I did! One of the shoes FELL OFF as I climbed stairs!

So what do you do when shoes don’t fit? You don’t wear them! You get rid of them, ideally passing them on to someone who can use them.

But sometimes that’s hard to do. Even when we should get rid of something that doesn’t fit or we don’t even wear anymore, it’s hard to give up what we know.

I remember years ago when a brand of shoes called “Docksiders” was all the rage. I just had to have a pair. They were leather boat shoes, flat, like moccasins. They had sturdy hard cords as laces. I wore those shoes to death. They became scuffed and the cords broke. I couldn’t find the exact replacement laces, so I tied the broken cord together and still wore them!

I outgrew those shoes, but had a hard time getting rid of them. I kept them in my closet for years, finally parting with them when packing up to move.

I had a conversation with my mentor the other day. I was complaining about how dizzying my life seemed lately. I lost a job that I loved, had a serious bike accident, had to move suddenly due to flooding, and had a temporary job that also ended abruptly. All in the course of 4 months.

I was moaning (crying) about how all of this was way too much to handle and it wasn’t fair. When would I catch a break?

He just looked at me very calmly and said, “Pam, stop. This doesn’t fit you anymore. You know better than most how to navigate changes in life. You’re an expert at it. It doesn’t fit you anymore to bemoan change.”

He stopped me dead in my tracks. Of course he was right. Whining and complaining does nothing to change any of the “drama” that has gone on in my life. I can’t hold on to the old ways of reacting and panicking. That’s not me any more.

Like shoes that don’t fit, we have to get rid of strategies that don’t work or we outgrow. My mentor calmly said, “That’s it. I give you permission to stop carrying all this and just let it go. Can you give your self permission?”

I thought about this long and hard. I want to gently acknowledge all of these things going on in my life and let them go. But it is so hard. I still find myself fighting it, as tough as that is to admit.

When something doesn’t fit, we need to get rid of it and make room for newer things that fit better.

Like stuttering, loss, change and pain – we have to take control, not let “things” control us.

What do you think? Do you still have a pair of old shoes in your closet (like me) that you can’t part with? Why is it so hard?

I had an interesting proposal last week. A colleague from a prior job emailed me out of the blue and asked if I would consider coming on with them (for hire) in a coaching or consulting capacity.

He said, “this is going to sound kind of funny, but we need a self-esteem coach, and the first person we thought of was you.”

He had my attention.

It seems my colleague is working with an amazing young man who has mild Aspergers syndrome and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder.) The young man has several part-time jobs, friends, and is involved in an adult sports league. He is accepted by co-workers and friends.

But he doesn’t believe that! He is having a hard time reconciling his difference and being able to present himself as “normal” to the world. In his mind, being different and being perceived as normal by the world just doesn’t compute.

My friend thought I could maybe help him as a coach, since I have worked my way through similar experiences very successfully. I was like, “huh? what are you talking about?”

He told me he thought I must have worked through the feelings of  “being different'” that comes with stuttering, because I am so open and confident and have such a healthy perspective on who I am. (If he only knew how I sometimes feel and don’t let on!)

I was momentarily stunned. I don’t recall ever having a significant discussion with this colleague about stuttering. He knows I stutter obviously because I stuttered openly at that job. He was my supervisor.

Then I felt pleased. We haven’t talked much at all over four years. Yet, he thought of me as a good resource to be a “self-esteem coach” for this young person.

We talked over the phone and brainstormed. He is looking for someone in a non-clinical capacity who can just share with this young person how I came to terms with my own “difference”, some of the feelings and challenges I have dealt with, and how I did/do that. That’s all. Just sharing my experience, in a mentoring/coaching capacity.

The young man has clinical people in his life. He doesn’t need anyone else like that. The thought is maybe he might benefit from an ordinary person who has struggled with similar self esteem doubts.

I am very interested in this opportunity. Who would have thought? Never me, in a million years.

This journey we are on . . . . . .  when we share, it does make a difference!

Can you see how your experiences with stuttering might/could help others?

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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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