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.