What if your truth came out in staccato? What if the gently flowing words in your head sounded nothing like those that danced in dented circles about your ears? This was me. Far from flowing words, mine came out like a badly put together rusty sprinkler – in uneven, unpredictable bursts.
It took me a long time, over twenty years to conquer a great nemesis – my very own voice. My stutter.
But, you're an award-winning speaker, you might say? Well, yes, I am. But more importantly, I'm a warrior. Why? Because I kept on fighting until I conquered something that would have derailed what I love to do – SPEAK and share wellness whispers to help others live their lives to the fullest. To describe myself as a warrior may sound self-indulgent, but I use this word so that you, too, can feel comfortable describing yourself that way. We can’t talk self-love and then not live it.
I remember sitting in English class. I loved listening to the teacher speak with her eighties blonde perm and exaggerated blue eyeshadow. I loved books, poems, listening to her read, writing essays, and losing myself in the imagination and creativity of it all. However, when the dreaded termly orals arrived, along with reading aloud in class, English went from being one of my favourite classes to a heart-pounding ordeal. Let's add the word IMPROMPTU in front of 'oral,' and my anxiety would skyrocket while my confidence would dive, reducing my voice to shrapnel at my feet.
I felt stupid. Imagine that? Feeling stupid every time you open your mouth. People carry judgements, and even the most well-intentioned person falls into this trap. We even judge people who attempt to speak English when it is not their first language. Shouldn’t we celebrate their bravery and applaud the respect they have shown in trying to communicate with us in our first language?
So, the teenage me, the little warrior that was trembling inside, did all she could to conquer her stutter. I said yes when invited to public speaking competitions at school, and I trojan-ed on. However, sometimes willpower can only get you so far, and in my later life, I attended private professional lessons at The Dynamic Voice Company. Juliette was her name, and she changed my speaking life. Quite literally. I still dip into some of the skills she taught me, like warming up my voice before public speaking and practicing breath work. I would look at home amongst opera singers preparing for a show night. That’s the crazy part. Something we all have complete control over. Our breath. When we’re clenching our jaw, tapping our feet or biting our nails so often the solution to reducing these telltale signs of rising angst is right in front of us. By slowing our breath down, slowing ourselves down, we regain the grip our anxiety took away from us. And your gorgeous nails will thank you for it!
Here's the message: you CAN take your biggest stumbling block, spin it on its heels and make it work for you (or at least with you).
Look no further than Britain’s favourite home-cook. Jamie Oliver, who is dyslexic, currently commands a £240m empire. The cooking mogul is one of the pioneers of healthy living and homestyle cooking. Yet this charismatic chef was told to expect to fail. Perhaps, this was his greatest gift? The expectation of failure always being present was what drove him, motivated him. From struggling to read one line of writing, to producing some of the most successful cookbooks to ever grace our kitchens, he is just one example of how resilience and believing in yourself can combat the fear of failure. Through our discomfort, a resounding growth accelerates us towards our victory.
In fact, we thrive in discomfort. The place where everything feels unnatural. Your heart beats differently. The air feels sticky. Your brain shouts self-doubt. It’s a place of unfamiliarity. BUT, it’s a place of learning. It is at this point we can back down, or use it as a springboard into the future that sets our eyes and soul alight.
Another someone you may have heard of? Dr Seuss, the much-adored author with countless records and accolades. Dr Seuss’s first book was rejected 27 times by different publishers! 27! Yet, here we are today, still giggling at his oddness. His oddness was his superpower. Time and time again, the lesson remains that setbacks, failures and discomfort are all the telltale signs of progress. And who to better sum it up than Dr Seuss himself: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”