My personal growth through stuttering – Sybren Bouwsma

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 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:

  1. 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: In these communications both the person I speak with and I can grow in awareness.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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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My personal growth through stuttering – Sybren Bouwsma — 9 Comments

  1. Hi Sybren,

    Thank you for sharing your perspectives. I love how you see your stuttering now as a pillar of growth, I can see that being a huge inspiration to a lot of the youth you get to work with, and personal benefit from the ideas you shared in this post. From your experience, what would you say is a good starting point to help others start to make the change into seeing this challenge and turning it into a growing opportunity?


  2. Sybren, thank you for sharing a very personal paper. It’s nice to hear that as a result of your life experiences you are now a nature coach and an online coach that helps people personally develop. It is great to see that stuttering has allowed you to make unique connections with people in other countries. As you provide a wonderful perspective of stuttering and you have the unique opportunity to share it with many. Even though stuttering can be challenging you chose to take that challenge and use it to help others and yourself.

  3. Hello Sybren,
    Thank you for sharing your journey in this paper. I find it very inspiring that you have used your personal experience to help others who stutter as well. I really like your quote “Growth often starts with a challenge,” because if it is not challenging, than chances are you are not growing. I believe you need to challenge yourself in order to grow in your life. What was the hardest part in your challenge with stuttering?

  4. Sybren, thank you for sharing how stuttering has helped you grow as a person. I think it is important to highlight the fact that you are now able to relate and empathize with others who have challenges in life because of your stutter. It shows that you do not see your stutter as a something to hide, but more something to embrace and share with the world. And because of you, the world is one step closer to becoming more accepting of those who stutter.

  5. Hello, Sybren,

    Thank you for sharing your personal story. The story provides readers like me, with the knowledge that if you have the strength, courage and determination, any obstacle can become surmountable and provide invaluable life lessons. As someone who is entering into the field of speech language pathology, do you have any advice on how I could motivate and inspire my potential clients who stutter as you are truly and inspiration.

    Thank you,
    Therése Wells

  6. Sybren,

    Thank you for sharing your story and experiences. From your experiences, I enjoyed how you turned your perspective from negative to make stuttering apart of who you are and grow. I think future client’s would benefit to listen to others who have gone through similar situations. As a future speech language pathologist, what advice would you give a person who stutters who might also have a negative outlook on stuttering?

    Thank you,

  7. Sybren,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences that you have had with stuttering. You mentioned how you learned a lot about dealing with mental and psychological difficulties in different ways and how that inspired your career as a life coach. I am not entirely familiar with the roles of a life coach, however if I am correct, I think in part you help others identify goals and develop plans to achieve them. To relate this back to stuttering, have you worked with another individual who has stutter? If so, what kinds of psychological or emotional goals were made and what does that plan look like? I like that you mentioned attending stuttering groups and the impact they have had in your life. It is comforting to be surrounded by people who share similar challenges, as they are often the ones that point out the growth that you have made.

  8. Hi Sybren,
    Thank you for posting. I enjoyed your perspective on stuttering in that you can find commonalities across a diverse group of people. Reading through the submissions, comments, and subsequent discussions has increased my understanding of the stuttering community. You have also developed a deeper level of empathy that increases your ability to help your clients. I appreciate how you are using your experiences to better understand and relate to others of all abilities, backgrounds, and cultures.

  9. Hello Sybren, Thank you for sharing your story with such openness and care, I found as a fellow person who stutters, your outlook on having a stutter encouraging. Thanks for sharing.

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