I have had a speech impediment my whole life.
When I was little, I couldn’t pronounce the letter “R” and I had a bad stutter. I got made fun of a lot in school because of it. Years and years of speech classes didn’t seem to make a difference. I saw a lot of the other kids who struggled like me fixing whatever the problem was or they simply grew out of it – but not me.
There is only so much teasing and ridicule you can take, especially as a child, so I resorted to simply not talking. I never spoke up, never made new friends, never shared my thoughts or opinion; I was just the girl who never talked. Even though I was a smart kid in school, I NEVER raised my hand to answer a question in class, and I absolutely dreaded reading out loud. Kids in class would make fun of my stutter, and laughed at me for “talking like a baby” since I couldn’t pronounce my ‘R’s.’ I was labeled by the school system as having a ‘disability,’ which I was constantly reminded of with each piece of mail that arrived at my house for parents with ‘disabled children.’
Because of how depressed and hopeless I felt, I stopped talking to people altogether. I then had to deal with my parents constantly telling me how “rude” I was for not properly introducing myself to people, or answering their questions, or anything that had to do with talking. I constantly felt like I let my parents down or that they were embarrassed and ashamed of me.
I cried myself to sleep countless nights, BEGGING for God to fix my voice. After many years, I gave up hope on my voice ever being fixed.
As I got older, because I didn’t talk much, I constantly heard comments about how this person thinks I hate them, or that person is afraid to talk to me, or nobody wants to hang out with me because they thought I was mean, stand-offish, mad at them, rude, stuck-up… I heard it all. Everyone had their own assumptions of me.
I became so bitter and angry at the world. My whole life revolved around my insecurity.
There was a constant inner battle and torment going on in my mind: “I want to say SOMETHING, I want friends, I want people to like me… but if I open my mouth they will only make fun of me and not even hear what I have to say.” It was a lose-lose state of living. People didn’t like me if I was too quiet and people didn’t like me if I spoke up.
Trying to overcome it on my own proved to be impossible. So when someone I knew invited me to a Lovely Group, I said (to myself), “Sure, why not?” At the group I felt safe and accepted. I finally decided to share with someone the struggle and pain I was going through. As soon as I began to express my insecurities and my fears out loud, I realized how much bigger they seemed in my head than they actually were when I heard myself say them. This realization helped me see, not only that my problems were not unbeatable, but also that I wasn’t the only one who had them. I heard other girls in the Lovely Group sharing about their troubles, and I realized – somehow, somewhere inside, we are all dealing with something. I thought, “how could I be so selfish to allow my insecurity to consume my life and keep me from helping others?”
It wasn’t until I stepped out of my comfort zone and started reaching out to people that I mostly “grew out of” my speech impediment. I still stutter to this day, so it is a constant battle to keep pushing on and to not be afraid to speak up in any situation. I am 22 years old and people will still make jokes. (I guess some people just never grow up!) I have learned to just shake it off and not let it bother me.
Here is another thing I’ve learned – If you speak up and stand for something, there will always be people who don’t like you: whether it’s because of the way you talk, the way you dress, how educated you are, how much money you have, or what you are saying… But we all have a voice – we should not allow anyone or anything to make us afraid of using it.
I used to not have a voice.
Now, I am Lovely.