Confronting My Fear Of Speaking - A Stutterer's Journey

Aug 20 2011

I debated about whether or not to publish this because it is a hard post for me to write. I have never written or really spoken publicly about this, because it is quite personal to me. However, now that I’m starting to get back involved in various activities that require me to speak publicly, such as screencasts, podcasts, webinars and user group presentations, I felt it would just be easier to address this issue here in a central place.

No Pity Parties Please

I am blessed by God beyond measure and seek every day to be thankful for what He has given to me and my family. Speaking of, my family alone is the biggest blessing I could ever receive. So in the grand scheme of things, the fact that I’ve had trouble speaking most of my life is just dust in the wind. My goal here is not to seek pity, but to simply clear the air about this topic as it relates to things I’m planning to do in the future. Think of it as squashing the big elephant in the room. :)

A Little Background

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been afraid of speaking. Not because I don’t like people (although that’s often what I joke about). Nor is it because I don’t like interacting with folks; I enjoy that very much. It’s because I’ve always struggled with some form of stuttering (or stammering). Only those that struggle with the same thing can really understand the impact this kind of speech impediment has on your everyday life. Knowing exactly what you want to say and how you want to say it, but not physically being able to, can take its toll sometimes. There are often specific words that I want to say, but I decide to change them to a word I feel I can more easily get out without stuttering. Folks who stutter will know exactly what I’m talking about here. Not many people have to consciously think about talking or breathing. They simply do it and then carry on about their day. Along with many other stutterers, that’s not my reality. For me, every sentence, every word, every syllable requires conscious thought to get from my brain and out through my mouth. I have my good and bad days.

I used to be fairly involved in public presentations and even some screencasts years ago. In fact, after much prayer beforehand, the talk I gave back in 2008 on ASP.NET MVC at our local .NET user group went off without a hitch. I talked for 90 minutes straight without a single hiccup! That was amazing and I definitely give God the credit for that victory.

There is lots more I could share along these lines, but that’s not really the ultimate point of this post.

Rebirth, Of Sorts

Recently, I have started getting back into some activities that require me to speak publicly. I gave a webinar on Backbone a few weeks ago, published a screencast on Backbone and am starting to get more active in our local Ruby user group CVREG. In fact, I’m even starting a new online service to bring live coding sessions and events to the web, which will probably start out with myself as the main “code caster”. On top of all that I’ve started hosting a weekly chat with fellow developers, along with my co-host Derick Bailey. I really enjoy doing these things and as an independent software consultant/aspriring microprenuer, it is also quite an important aspect of my job. Some may ask why I don’t just focus on non-speaking activities like writing books or blogging instead of those that require me to speak publicly. While I do enjoy blogging and writing sometimes, I also enjoy interacting with folks face to face and via voice calls over Skype for example.

I’ve decided I can’t let my fear of speaking publicly prevent me from pursuing the things I love and want to do. It’s been a long time since I’ve actively tried to improve my speech, but I’m going to try and pick up that stick again. All I can ask from you folks that have and/or will watch and listen to me speak in the future is to bear with me as I try to improve. On a final note, thanks to everyone who has given me positive feedback on my recent screencast. Perhaps now you can understand why it means so much to me. :)