In this fast-paced, corporate world of ours, speed and extroversion are prized above all else, which leaves us introverts pushed to the wayside in many situations.
What I particularly dislike is when people ask what’s wrong with me, simply because I have been quietly observing and contemplating what to say next. I HATE small talk. I’d rather quietly consider what I am going to say rather than blurt out anything that comes to mind, as most people do.
Unfortunately, as an introvert, I feel like I’m constantly being judged for doing what we were taught since we were in kindergarten: “Think before you speak!”
I am sometimes truly appalled by the way people react to my introverted nature. Teachers and professors have always given me meaningful looks when lecturing us about participating in class and sharing our views with our classmates. I always struggled throughout my school life because I am not only an introvert, but also a stutterer.
The fear of stuttering over my own name, in combination with being introverted, has stunned me into silence in most situations, but especially when there is a group of people quietly listening to what I have to say.
The widespread ignorance about stuttering has been quite challenging. The callousness with which the matter is treated is concerning. When you’re struggling over your words and people are looking at you with wide eyes, you block and suddenly nothing, no words or sounds are coming out of your mouth.
After spending 3 weeks in Senegal from October to November 2019, I came back feeling pretty traumatized. It’s interesting how strongly people’s stares can affect you and make you feel small, weird, attacked almost. I stutter the most in French and while I am currently working with a speech therapist to help alleviate the matter, it was pretty challenging to go to a majority French-speaking country and have to speak the language that scares me the most on a daily basis for almost a month!
As with most uncomfortable experiences, it always feels better once you’ve gone through it and made it to the other side. It did make me question, however, the concept of “pushing yourself out of your comfort zone” and whether that is the wisest course of action sometimes. I’ll always remember what my therapist had once suggested to me during one of our sessions some months back: “Focus on expanding your comfort zone, rather than forcing yourself out of it.”
Do one thing that puts you on the spot this week
This could be something as simple as making a phone call you’ve been putting off or making the first comment during a work meeting. Do something small and manageable that you wouldn’t usually do, something you push back against and say you can’t do because of your stuttering, speech impairment, or social anxiety, whatever it is that’s holding you back from realizing your potential.
Tell someone about what you’re struggling with
I’ve noticed that the more I talk about my stuttering, the more comfortable I am with speaking up and taking initiative. I also end up stuttering less! Talking about what makes you nervous with the people contributing to your nerves is, oddly enough, super helpful and will help alleviate your anxiety.
Seek Help from a Professional
It took me years to build up the courage to visit a therapist. Not to mention, it can be super expensive depending on where you live. However, if you have the means and feel that it will benefit you, please seek professional help. There are amazing professionals out there who are more than willing to help guide you through whatever it is that you are grappling with.
The most important thing to remember is to keep going and to never give up. Some days are harder than others. I wake up some mornings dreading whatever social activity I have to get through but what helps me the most is remembering that I have control over my mindset and feelings. I can either go in with a negative attitude or a positive one, and I can either drag myself out of my comfort zone, or simply expand it.
Life isn’t a rush. Take your time, do what you gotta do, and you will get there.