9th March 2023
Having a stammer made Azelli Aris feel a pressure to prove himself. Here he tells us how he made peace with it and went on to succeed at work.
In my late 20s, I found myself working late nights with no work-life balance fuelled by the unhealthy need to prove my worth. Laying in bed at night thinking of that PowerPoint slide. Legs walking my daughter to school while my mind walks through tomorrow's presentation. How I envied the carefree vitality of peers who could 'switch off' so easily, while I was trapped in the mental prison of constantly self-judging how I chose to spend my time.
All my life I have pushed myself to reach beyond, never settling for second best. The compulsive mindset of proving myself has been a curse. And when my mental struggle reached its limits, I had to reflect internally to understand why the constant need to prove something. Why am I like this?
My stammer, and my constant need to overcompensate for this chink in my armour threw me into an unhealthy endless spiral of proving my worth.
Steve Jobs shared in the widely popularised 2005 commencement address in Stanford, "You can only connect the dots looking backwards". So I followed the dots and it led me all the way back to my adolescent self and to my stammer. Growing up with a stammer always made me feel at a disadvantage. As if the playing field was never even. And to compensate for what I saw as my lack of verbal dexterity, I sought refuge in working overtime as a means to prove to myself that I wasn't a lesser person.
There is such profound power in introspection. No wonder it is such a prevalent tool in psychotherapy. This discovery of how I developed behavioural traits to deal with my stammer released me from its grip. For once I acknowledged the root cause of my insecurity, I could make peace with it. And all of a sudden, I saw that the cup was half full all along.
Seeing stammering as a gift
If it wasn't for my stammer I wouldn't have pushed myself to join the debating team. Or win a medal in high school for acting. For growth comes from being in the uncomfortable.
Stammering taught me confidence and bravery. To fight through challenges and overcome the tribulations of life. I wouldn't have pushed myself to such extremes had I not wanted to prove that I could deal with my stammer. And that determination developed to sheer grit that got me through university with first class honours and subsequently great success in the workplace.
Stammering taught me confidence and bravery.
I have a great job, a wonderful family and an incredible life. And I am no longer ashamed of my stammer; I am proud of it. For it has gotten me where I am today. I no longer feel the burden of proving my self-worth and that chink in the armour now looks like a badge that I wear proudly.
Stammering set me up for success, and for that I am grateful.
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