written by Oskari Piilonen
For a person who stutters it isn’t always easy to be comfortable with your own stutter. I thought I was in complete peace with my stutter but after going to Erasmus+ Youth Exchange for people who stutter, I realized how much more comfortable I could get with it.
The Youth Exchange was held at Lemele, The Netherlands. It was the first time that I got to know other people who stutter. It truly was one of the best weeks of my life, but I wanted to use this opportunity to speak about an observation I made. I was surprised at how different people approach their own stuttering. Some were completely comfortable with it and didn’t even try to be fluent. Some had accepted it but strived for fluency, and some tried to hide their stutter as much as they could. But even those people didn’t mind other people stuttering. Everyone at the Youth Exchange loved to hear other participants’ stutter. Why do some of us see other people’s stutter a good thing but our own stutter as bad?
I think I’m one of those people. I have made a lot of progress with accepting my stutter as a part of myself, but I still think it’s difficult for me to see my stuttering speech as valuable as my fluent speech. It may be an outcome of me trying to speak like people around me for 20+ years. The reactions from other people have taught me that fluency is good, and dysfluency is bad.
But even if I try my best to be fluent, I might still stutter, and then I’ll have to feel disappointed in myself. Or do I? What inspired me the most at Lemele was to see how some of the participants were so confident stuttering that they really didn’t seem to care about was their speaking fluent or dysfluent. They seemed so calm and unmoved about their stutter. How can they be so confident?
I believe that the answer can be found from the power of peer support. Before this week, I had never known other people who stutter, so no wonder it’s been difficult for me to feel confident while stuttering. Nobody wants to feel different from the rest, especially as a child, so the natural way of tackling the issue is trying to hide your stutter as much as possible.
I forgive myself for acting the way I did back then. But the week at Lemele helped me realize who I want to be. I want to be proud of my stutter and not let it limit me in any way. Most of the time it isn’t my stutter what is limiting me, it’s fear what is limiting me. Fear has caused me to avoid situations where I’d have to stutter in front of people. I think I’m finally ready to face my fears.
“If you praise yourself for being fluent, don’t be surprised if you feel bad when you stutter” - @juststutter