Christina Spicer talks about breaking free of self-limiting thoughts, the importance of community and fulfilling her potential.
I knew something was different about me. No one wanted to tell me, but I knew I didn’t sound the same as everyone else.
I always believed I would grow out of my stammering. Every year on my birthday I would wake up, take a deep breath and talk aloud to myself in the hope that this would be the year it was gone. Not until my early twenties did I decide it was time to be honest with myself – my stammer wasn't going away.
I allowed my stammer to take control as the real me quietly hid in its shadow.
The definition of 'honesty' has always intrigued me. Honesty is defined as being "free from fraud or deception". It took me years to realise I was a fraud – an imposter, pretending to be something I was not. I played the role of an insecure, unambitious, timid girl and there could not have been a more inaccurate depiction of me. I allowed my stammer to take control as the real me quietly hid in its shadow.
If there is one thing I’ve learned through my experience, it is that you must make a deliberate choice to not let your speech consume you. I was wrong to think my stammer was holding me back from reaching my full potential. However, this was something I had to discover on my own. I don’t recall a specific day, and I didn’t encounter some life changing experience, but at some point I decided I was done being a fraud. I am different, I have a stammer and it isn’t going to stop me.
Engaging with the community
For many years I separated myself as far as possible from the stammering community. It was my way of refusing to accept the reality of what I was experiencing. It had taken many years for me to reach the point in my journey where I felt the desire to connect with others, share my experiences and work with the community to offer the support I missed throughout my own journey. I sometimes wonder how much easier that journey could have been, or how earlier I could have arrived at this place of acceptance, if I had utilised the support that was available.
I know there are so many others out there just like me. Not just people that have a stammer, but people with disabilities who are hesitant to use the resources around them. I started opening up about my stammering and having constructive conversations with the people around me, including professors, friends, colleagues, and supervisors. When someone giggled as they asked me if I was sure about my name, I found myself frankly stating that I have speech impediment and waited for them to consider a more appropriate response to the situation. I admit, when I did this sometimes it was to 'teach someone a lesson’, but more importantly, I felt empowered that I was standing up for myself and informing people about an invisible disability which many don’t know much about.
It is now my accomplishments that set me apart, not my speech.
For many years I felt that I was the only one who was going through this struggle, but the reality is I was not. It felt selfish not to inform the people around me, not only for myself but also for the stammering and disabled community. To ensure I gave those like me a voice, I became the author of the Canadian Stuttering Association monthly newsletter and I continue to create a stammering community here in my local town.
I was wrong to believe my stammer could define or limit me. I completed a BA double major in Political Science and History; I received post-graduate acceptance into four of the top 25 universities in the UK including the University of Edinburgh, which I will be attending this September. I have also begun to build a career within the Provincial Government of British Columbia in Canada. All this, I know, demonstrates a fraction of what I will be able to accomplish.
Once I refused to let my stammer suppress my true self but I've been able to accomplish more in the last few years then I expected to achieve in my lifetime. I pushed myself to reach my full potential – to push past the perceived limits I had set for myself. It is now my accomplishments that set me apart, not my speech. Although my stammer may still make me unique, there is something else different about me: I’m determined, passionate, ambitious, intelligent, I exceed expectations and I refuse to let anything stand in my way.
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