I Won’t Let My Stutter Hold Me Back

Last week, I wrote about the challenge to stay confident despite my speech impediment. My stutter has affected so many aspects of my life, including how I think about my future. I worry about my ability to find a life partner, to land a good job, and to be successful in my career.

This semester especially, I’ve developed anxiety about my career prospects as a journalism major. I decided to study journalism because of my lifelong passion for writing, magazines, and telling stories. I love most of my journalism classes – I get this feeling of enjoyment when I’m learning the material that makes me know I picked the right major. However, I dread the assignments that involve interviewing. My heart beats faster at the mere thought of interviewing someone.

I do like talking to people. I consider myself a social person within my friend groups. But, asking questions to someone new and in a different setting makes me way more nervous, which, in turn, worsens my speech and causes me to stutter more. Then, when I start to stutter more, I grow even more anxious about what my interviewee is thinking, and I spiral.

I’m working on keeping that anxiety in check and being more in control of my fluency, but, as I said in my last article, becoming more confident is a process. I’m taking small steps to get there.

I’ve become better at interviewing and do enjoy hearing people’s thoughts and opinions. Although, the impromptu, man-on-the-street, and major interviews make me very nervous.

Being surrounded by outgoing, talkative aspiring journalists in my classes does not help either. The combination of my go-getter classmates and my rigorous professors makes me feel pressured to fit the journalist mold – outgoing, charismatic, and competitive.

For practically all of this past semester, I’ve felt like I need to overcome my stuttering in order to be successful in life. When you hear about famous people who stutter, it’s almost always a story of triumph. Singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran learned how to stop stuttering by practicing raps. Former Vice President Joe Biden stopped stuttering through reciting poetry in the mirror. Many others overcame it through the help of a speech therapist.

Learning about these stories, although inspiring, disheartens me at the same time. They’ve created the standard idea that in order to be successful, one must stop stuttering or grow out of their speech impediment.

Who knows what the future holds for me? I could grow out of my stuttering at some point, but what if I don’t? Will I let my stutter hold me back for the rest of my life?

No, I will not. My stutter is not an impediment in my life, but, rather, an extra part of my character. I will not give it the power to hold me back.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting a professional Boston journalist who stutters. After expressing my anxiety about my future to my speech therapist, she suggested I reach out to this reporter she knew – a successful person who still stutters and is in the field I want to go into.

Through telling his personal story and responding to my concerns, he gave me amazing advice. He told me he still gets anxious when he goes to do an interview or make a phone call for a story. But, he told himself long ago that if being a journalist was the job he wanted, he had to accept his stutter as a part of himself.

Our conversation also made me realize I don’t have to fit the traditional journalist mold. He told me, “I have to do the job the way I can do it,” and those words I will keep in my mind as a reminder and as motivation. I can be quiet, I can stutter, and I can be a journalist.

He also pointed out to me that our stutters inherently make us better listeners, which is a key trait of a strong journalist. When he stutters while interviewing people, he told me, it seems like the interviewee then lets their guard down a bit. They become more open to talking to him.

Lately, I’ve started to advertise my stutter when I begin to interview someone. To advertise means to verbally disclose that I stutter to my listener. I use this tactic as my own secret weapon – it simultaneously makes me more comfortable talking to them and it also makes the person be more vulnerable with me in return.

A stutterer’s words are more valuable than the average, mostly-fluent person. They mean something. If a stutterer is going through the personal struggle to speak to you, they have something good to say. They’ve decided that saying those words is worth the effort and risk.

As an aspiring journalist, I will just have to work harder to prove I’m as good or better than my classmates and, in the future, the other journalists I work with. But, I’ve always been up for a good challenge.

 

I want to be a journalist because I’ve always loved writing and knowing that my words can impact people – make them feel something and think differently – is the most amazing feeling in the world to me. So, I’m taking my stutter along this wild ride with me, and I’m not giving up.

 

Want to keep up with HCBU? Make sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, check out our Pinterest board, and read our latest Tweets!