Authenticity in Stuttering

Onto the penultimate workshop from the NSA Annual Conference.

I attended Authenticity: Stuttering’s Greatest Gift.

What I got from this workshop was that we need to stay true to ourselves even if that means stuttering and not being as covert as we would like. If we’re covert, if we’re hiding, if we’re avoiding, then that’s not really who we are. We aren’t saying what we want to say. We’re not engaging with who we want to talk to. We’re not standing up for ourselves in our times of need.

Obviously being 100% authentic as someone who is covert and who wants to be overt isn’t going to happen overnight. They talked about weighing the costs of being authentic. How important is this issue that you need to speak and struggle?

Emma made a comment to the group that I thought was very interesting, and I’ll use my own name — “Rehan who stutters is not the same as Rehan who has a stutter.”

My understanding of this point (and what they said at the workshop) is like this — we attach a lot of labels to ourselves: Engineer, father, husband, American, photographer, etc., But we also add “stutterer.” And what happens is that instead of seeing all of those labels and those traits, we only shine the light on the stuttering. But it should be only a part of who we are. What I started thinking is that as someone who stutters, other people are only ever shining the light on the stuttering. And that bothers me.

But it turns out that no, I’m the one shining that light on my own stuttering. It’s me who has issues with stuttering, not anybody else. They have their own problems!

It almost seems like the stuttering permeates every other trait. I want to be a better photographer, but I’m afraid to engage with experienced photographers to get better. I am a father, but I change words when talking to my kids. I am a husband, but I don’t always communicate clearly and concisely with my wife.

The key I think is to isolate the stuttering and kick it out of everything else. Deal with it on its own. But obviously that’s pretty tough to do.

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