Your True Self

The third and final thing I picked up from the Stuttering Brain is this:

3. After the stutter, we feel regret or shame. We identify ourselves with the stutter, and thus become covert. This becomes who we are instead of our true selves. Thus, we lose our authenticity.

I talked about authenticity before, but I wanted to make some more points. What Tom said is that if we are interviewing with a company, and they make a big deal out of our stutter, do we really want to work for them? Is that the type of unnecessary hardship we want to put ourselves through?

On the same interview idea, they should know that we stutter. This is how it’s going to be. This is how we are going to present ourself, but we can still tell them we can maange it, and we have pushed through it before. The work should define us, not the stuttering. We need to be our true self.

One of the more tricky points though about authenticity (in my mind) is that after so many years of covert stuttering, our personalities are set. Many things are defined by the stuttering. And now, at age 35, I’m saying I’ll put all that aside and let my true self out. But what is that true self after so many years?

Is it the true self who wanted to speak up so many years ago, didn’t, but then learned from experience that being a loudmouth isn’t always desirable?

Is it the true self who wanted to ask a question in class but instead had to find answers on my own — leading to a drive to be more self reliant?

Is it the true self who wanted to participate in a group presentation but told the others I’d be happy to put more effort into the presentation — making me a valuable and reliable coworker?

I guess the main question is trying to compare our stuttering self with what we think our non-stuttering self would be like. And that’s very difficult. We’d like to think we would have done things differently, said different things, had different outcomes. We’d like to think that version is better. So if we ignore the stuttering, push through it, and educate our friends, that better version will come out.

But I think that really discounts a lot of the positive outcomes of stuttering. We sell ourselves short by doing that.

I’m not saying we should let our stutter define us. Definitely not. But at the same time, we should acknowledge that it has had a strong effect on our lives — sometimes for the better. We are probably better listeners. We don’t make silly comments all the time. We are more patient.

I’m not sure if I’ve really expressed this the way I want. I may revisit it again in a few weeks once I sort out some more feelings on it. I suppose a relevant thought exercise is this: If you woke up tomorrow morning and didn’t stutter, what would be different?

I think there’s a big difference in that answer at age 10, 20, 30, 40 and beyond.

Stuttering Fear, Feelings and Fluency

Alright, so this is it. The last review of the last workshop from the NSA Annual Conference.

The last workshop was called Fear, Feelings and Fluency.

So first the bit about fear. And what, did they say is fear? FEAR — False Evidence Appearing Real. False evidence like how people are going to react to your stutter. We have a fear of rejection and criticism. And we’ve been through these occasionally with our stutters. So we assume that all future situations will be like this. So the walls go up …

People who stutter often engage in a lot of self-talk that sabotages the self. We talk up how things are going to turn out when people hear out stutter. So the best protection is to be covert.

On feelings — talking about acceptance — there’s no cure. We should accept ourselves and have no guilt and no shame about the stuttering. That we don’t have to meet your expectations, we have to meet our own. For me, at a fundamental level, I get this mixed up all the time. It fuels the lousy feelings I have about my stuttering. It’s important not to get down on yourself with stuttering. It’s an individual journey, and, as the saying goes, “results may vary.”

On fluency — they talked about focusing on communication, not fluency. Are you getting your message across? Great. Are you stuttering while doing it? That’s fine. If your fear of not being fluent is hampering your ability to clearly articulate your message, then the stuttering has won.

I’ll talk more about these concepts when I talk about my visit with Tom Weidig from Stuttering Brain. He brought up these points as well as some on being authentic.

Next task for me is to make a separate page with all of the links from the conference as well as some parting thoughts. Then it’ll be on to talking about my trip to France that I took on the way back to Saudi after the conference. After that, back to posting on what’s happening around the Internet and other stuttering snippets that I’ve written down over the years.

Lastly, this is the three-month anniversary (or pretty close to it) for the blog. 80 posts, and people from 52 countries have stopped by to take a look. Please feel free to comment or shoot me an e-mail.

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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