|About the Author: Sybren Bouwsma – 40 years old from the Netherlands. I have been stuttering all my life and I am an active member of the Dutch Stuttering Association Demosthenes and a member of the board of the International Stuttering Association (ISA). I attended and organized several international meetings for people who stutter. I have a background in Public Administration, Ethics and Social Research and graduated as Outdoor Life Coach. I am now working as Nature Coach and Online Coach and coach people in their personal development and am involved as a workshop leader in international projects. See http://www.orangeraven.org/en for more information.|
The fact I stutter has not always been easy, and I still have my difficult moments. I have been bullied at school, and as the only one in my family who stutters, I used to compare myself with my (non-stuttering) family members, and at a young age I had problems with making friends and social contacts.
But now I also can see my stuttering as one of the main pillars in my personal growth. Some ways in which it has helped and still helps me include:
- Stuttering has made me very self-aware. My stuttering works as a kind signal for me that helps me to stay close to my feelings. If I feel tension I ask myself what it might mean for me and always learn a new aspect about myself. I also ‘use’ my stuttering in communication with non-stuttering people, like I wrote in a contribution to ISAD two years ago: http://isad.isastutter.org/isad-2017/papers-presented-by/stories-and-experiences-with-stuttering-by-pws/stuttering-as-a-mirror-to-understand-the-world/. In these communications both the person I speak with and I can grow in awareness.
- Because of my stuttering, I have met people in many different countries who just have one thing in common: the fact that they stutter. Making these contacts have broadened my international scope and have helped me improve my social and cultural skills. I am now involved in organising international events for (young) people who stutter and this has improved my organisational skills.
- I have been active in different stuttering therapies, self-help groups and workshops of my stuttering association. Because of these therapies, workshops and self-help groups, I learned a lot about dealing with mental and psychological difficulties in different ways. They have made me very interested in how other people think and have inspired me to participate in a life coach training and learned how I can help other people as a life coach. I am still growing in this field and learning about new approaches that not just help me, but also others.
- Having a stutter has allowed me to quite easily relate to and empathize with other people who have a vulnerability or challenge in life. I tend to understand people and also relate to their challenges. This helps me a lot in social contacts with a wide range of people.
Growth often starts with a challenge, and stuttering is one of these challenges. Stuttering is not always easy or fun, but as I have to deal with it, I’d better use it for my own benefit and for others.
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