A Year of Fear: Becoming Okay with Seeing My Stutter

No comments

With two face masks on, a blue dress shirt, and a red skinny tie, I sat before an 80-inch screen as at least 15 faces stared back at me. The faces—a mix of peers, supervisors, and senior executives—weren’t aware of the courage that it took to stutter through my ten-minute presentation. While I spoke, I almost lost consciousness from the amalgamation of fear, effort, and shame. Yet, I did it and experienced, rather than endured, their looks of uncertainty as they tried to understand what I said in the midst of my stuttering. 

After a full year of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m openly stuttering on each call, a slow yet steady progression enabled by the social distancing restrictions. The fear and shame still exist, but now only smolder from the background. 

This does not mean it was easy to overcome or that it has been easy to continue showing up to see my stutter. Ever so gradually, I have gained the self-confidence needed to keep learning what happens when I do show up and fight to stay present. Taking the risk to step into the fear has worn down my default desire to dissociate from the moment entirely to deny my defenses the opportunity to step in to protect me. 

What has happened every time I have chosen to take the risk and confront whatever may follow? 

Nothing. Nothing bad ever happens. In fact, quite the opposite. 

People value what I have to say even if I stutter. This reality has helped to stop judging how much I stutter and how it may look, and instead yearn for the next opportunity. 

In 12 months, I have averaged at least one of these teleconference style meetings per week combined with many one-on-one Zoom-style calls, which have both accelerated my acceptance of seeing my stutter. I went from saying a few words during each call in the beginning to just this week doing the above presentation to completing another an hour afterwards. I recovered after the first and stayed present in each—something I couldn’t have imagined doing this time last year and a remarkable sign of progress to build upon. It was a huge breakthrough.

I am further along than I expected yet there is still a long way to go. However, one thing is true—only by repeatedly seeing my stutter in all its glory can I turn these moments into opportunities for incredible growth. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s