Acceptance – Not Perfect

Another installment regarding acceptance.

Here’s what I said in my talk regarding being perfect … or not.

I have accepted that I am not perfect. I will never be perfect. Not in how I speak, how I sound, how I do my job, as a husband, father, son and brother. I accept this because I have seen what I can accomplish without being perfect. And how much stress and energy I would need to be perfect. I know that nobody is perfect, and I would expect that grace from others. 

Let’s look at where this comes from, this idea of having to be perfect. At our core, when we are someone who stutters, we want to be fluent. That’s it. We want to sound like the people on tv. Movies. Friends. Bosses. Coworkers giving a presentation. They all say “oh, I hate public speaking” but yet there they are, up in front of others, being fluent. Not stumbling over words, not getting stuck on sounds.

So at a young age, we always see this. This fluency. It’s everywhere. And when we hear a stumble, a stutter, a hesitation, we are taught that it’s wrong. Abnormal. Not what we should sound like. The person is nervous. Trying to hide something. We are forced to then be perfect in the one thing that we physically cannot be. And that’s extremely stressful.

For me I started thinking about speaking as something equal to everything else that I do. It may not be, but this exercise helped me. I compared it with something like a written exam or a physical test. I don’t need to speak for those things, but they take some skill and talent and knowledge to do. And I can measure those things.

When I was growing up, I did well on written tests in school. Not always a hundred percent, but I got good grades. But a hundred percent is perfect. And I wasn’t perfect.

In gym I was overweight and slow. I finished last in the mile. I couldn’t do all the push-ups and sit-ups. I could play dodgeball, I suppose. But I wasn’t exactly making varsity for anything. So I wasn’t perfect. But I tried hard, didn’t complain, and got a decent grade in gym. Also not perfect.

As I reflected on these things, I realized that not being perfect didn’t stop me from moving forward in life, going to college, getting a job, making friends and having a family. People didn’t ask me about my grades before befriending me. Grad school wanted good grades, but not perfect. And they didn’t care about my physical prowess.

Once I applied this all to my speech, I was able to accept myself more. I understood that my speech will never sound like a tv commentator or movie star. That I will have bad days and great days. But I can still accomplish my goals and feel good as a person for trying and working.

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