Discovering who I am helped with my stammer

A man smiling and holding his jacket open to display his t-shirt

Geoffrey Lloyd-Smith describes his journey of self-discovery, having spent much of his early years feeling worthless. 

The horror and trepidation is all engulfing. My legs shake uncontrollably beneath the table. Although the room is adequately air conditioned, I can feel the sweat trickle down my neck and back. I am now aware that my heart is beating dangerously fast. My mouth is dry. I wish I had got two cups of water before we sat down instead of just one.

Surely everyone sitting around me must see that I am in this state of nervous hopelessness? They surely must think I'm some sort of weakling, some sort of coward. 

My turn to stand up before the group of perhaps a dozen people and deliver a brief talk about myself has almost arrived. The polite applause for the slim and well-dressed young woman fades away quickly as the course facilitator turns to me. His smile is disingenuous as he gestures me to rise.

The absolute fear of speaking publicly had enormous repercussions during my early life. 

The idea of hurriedly escaping from this situation momentarily crosses my mind. But I find myself rising to my feet. I am stood up now, however, I am temporarily blind. My consciousness is enveloped in fear and self-doubt.

The above is a genuine example of the events that I experienced as someone who stammers. The absolute fear of speaking publicly had enormous repercussions during my early life. My lack of self-confidence completely overshadowed my intelligence and abilities.

Emerging from the chrysalis

In utter contrast I now look forward to public speaking. I no longer fear communication or social interactions, and I genuinely adore any opportunity to demonstrate my capabilities and knowledge. I have held several senior management positions that demanded regular public orations. I have been a pub quizmaster. I have even been a karaoke DJ.

How did I accomplish these amazing things? I hear you ask. Was it perhaps speech therapy? Hypnotherapy? Did he murder someone and steal their brain?

No. None of the above. There was never the simple click of a switch. It was the gradual growth of my self-esteem and self-confidence. My lack those things growing up was due to a number of things, one being my awkwardness of my physicality. So, in my 20s I worked on that and became more athletically built. I moved my focus away from my stammer and onto learning and gaining knowledge. I just decided to refuse to be forever held back by something I saw as damned awful.

It matters not what people think about you. You are their equal. 

Akin to a magnificent butterfly emerging from the chrysalis of a lowly caterpillar, by my early 30s I had vanquished my self-doubt, I conquered my fear, I banished my erstwhile concern of how I was perceived. I discovered who I was.

You are worthy

I personally believe that my stammer was tied up in a subconscious fear of being rejected. Not only was I self-conscious about my speech and my physicality (as well as my red hair), but there was a lack of a father at home and the seemingly instant upheaval of everything I was accustomed to. It all amounted to a belief that one's existence was valueless, irrelevant, unworthy. That one's contribution to society matters not. 

Did that last sentence cut you deep? Did that last paragraph hit the spot? I suspect that you recognised at least one of those examples within yourself.

So, dear fellow stammerers, stand up strong and proud. Recognise yourself as being valued, relevant, worthy. It matters not what people think about you. You are their equal. You can do anything.

My name is Geoffrey Lloyd-Smith. I am 61. I am semi-retired but I still work part time verbally communicating with people. I am also an artist, a writer and a musician. It's now very rare indeed that I stammer. 

Thank you for reading my story.

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Tayo & Bhupinder
A speaker on stage at STAMMAFest 2023

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