If you could talk to your younger self, what would you say?

After reading and hearing about the different experiences that PWS have encountered in their lives, I do want to introduce the question of if you could talk to your younger self, what would you say? I believe the answers to this question will be a great way to reflect on the experiences and to provide helpful encouragement for the young PWS.

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If you could talk to your younger self, what would you say? — 3 Comments

  1. Thank you for this very useful question!

    Many years ago – in 2004, at the age of 50 – I wrote a letter to my 16-year-old self, some 34 years in the past.
    Here is a condensed version of what I wrote at that time:

    Paul, being you, I vividly remember exactly the way you feel these days. Facing the daily challenges of very severe stuttering can be often frustrating and agonizing. I remember that you often feel very discouraged about your prospects for a happy and successful life, since it is more difficult for you than others to express yourself in conversations. Adding to your burden is the hard cold awareness of having tried a number of different therapies for stuttering, none of which have seemed to help.

    But Paul, I am writing to you today to tell you that you have a bright future ahead, and you can look forwards with confidence and high spirits to the adventures of the coming years. There will of course be some rocky periods to endure and obstacles that will seem difficult to overcome. But as the years go by, you will be able to live your dreams, and a happy and successful life is yours for the taking.

    I know what you’re now thinking, having heard these words from your future self. You’re excitedly asking, “Does this mean that my stuttering is going to be cured?”

    I’m writing these words far in your future. There is (as of yet) no “cure” for stuttering, and none seems to be on the near horizon. But our understanding of stuttering has come a long way since your time, and neuroscientists researching the problem have made many significant discoveries. New therapy techniques will be developed in your future, some of which will prove to be of great help to you. In fact one particular therapy technique will enable you to enjoy many fluent conversations (something that you have not yet experienced). There will also be new inventions in the coming decades specifically to help stuttering, and some of these will be very useful to you. These future techniques and inventions, though not “cures” by any means, will be contributing in a small but important way to the happiness and success that you seek.

    I say “small”, Paul, because the larger share of the solution you seek already lies within you – and this has nothing to do with new techniques or inventions. It has taken me years to realize this fact, but after a half-century of life, I have come to see that the degree of speech fluency exhibited to others when we converse bears little importance in the grand scheme of things. For as human beings, we all have our strengths, skills, and talents. We also all have our “weaknesses” – those areas in which we may not excel to the extent that others do. I put the word “weaknesses” here in quotation marks, since from what we commonly regard as “weaknesses”, we also derive our courage to face and accept our personal challenges head on. This courage can provide us with the motivation to strengthen our “weaker” areas, if that is what we desire; but it can also mean a courage of acceptance. A courage of acceptance also strengthens us for it gives us a sense of balanced perspective. If we are not as skilled as others in fluent speech, it need not hold us back – neither in communicating our ideas to others, nor in our life’s activities, nor in achieving our personal goals of happiness and success. To always have fluent speech is not what life is all about. The way we live our lives, and what we do as people and for people is what life is all about – and this has very little to do with the degree of fluency that we happen to have in our speech.

    It’s true that I still don’t have the same degree of fluent speech as many others do, but I want you to know that I feel happy and successful as a person. I can easily communicate all the ideas I want to express. And I also feel a profound sense of satisfaction in life, which you will of course also come to have. These are some of the living dreams that you can look forwards to in your future years.

    Paul, just like today in your time is a special day for you (your 16th birthday), today in my time is a special day also. I chose to write to you today, September 22, because it is my wedding anniversary (as it will eventually be yours).
    A wedding, many friends, a move to a new country, new technologies that will have a great positive impact on your life, and improved fluency. Paul, there are so many wonderful surprises in store for you in the coming years and decades. So get out there, my friend and former self, even if you do stutter – meet those people, begin to live your dreams, and – most of all – ENJOY YOUR LIFE!

    [The full text can be read in the archives of the 2004 international online stuttering conference.]

  2. I would tell my younger self that it gets easier, that not everyone is as mean as other kids are and that the world is becoming so much more tolerant and respectful of differences.

    Standing out won’t always induce shame – one day it will induce a feeling of being unique and having something that makes us more compassionate towards others who stand out.


    • I want to add to my reply. While looking around on my computer for a document I need (which I couldn’t find) I came across this that I wrote in 2016.

      5 Things I Wish My Younger Self Knew About Stuttering

      When I was growing up as a kid who stuttered, I felt so isolated. I didn’t know anybody else who talked like me and no one ever talked about my stuttering. My father would yell at me when I stuttered, which made me feel scared and ashamed. When I started school, I remember my kindergarten teacher also reprimanding me for the way I talked, which again made me feel so ashamed.

      I got teased a lot for my stuttering. Kids mimicked me and laughed and I began to not want to talk at all, because of the reactions I got and the feelings I had. It was a very lonely experience growing up thinking I was the only person who talked like this. I felt weird and awkward and like somehow stuttering was my fault.
      I worried about stuttering all of the time and constantly figured out ways to not stutter openly. I developed a huge vocabulary as a kid and became an expert at substituting words that I knew I would stutter on with words that were safer to say. And I also avoided speaking situations a lot. Sometimes it was just easier not to talk – then it was guaranteed that I wouldn’t stutter.

      As I got older, things changed. Dealing with stuttering became a little easier because I learned to not care so much about what other people thought. And I met other people who stutter, which changed my life dramatically. I realized I wasn’t the only one and there was no need for me to feel so weird and awkward anymore.

      These are the things I know now about stuttering that I would have liked to know when I was younger.

      1.Stuttering is no one’s fault. It is a speech disorder that interferes with the normal flow of speech production. It is widely thought today that stuttering is neurological and also genetic. No one in my immediate or extended family stutters but it definitely wasn’t my fault. I didn’t do anything to cause my stutter and neither did my parents.

      2.When you get older, stuttering is easier to deal with. It’s a bigger deal in our heads than it really is to other people. Adults have their own issues– they don’t care that someone else stutters.

      3.Stuttering does not mean that we are less intelligent than others or that we have emotional problems. We are not nervous or shy. We just stutter. We’re as smart as anyone else and can do anything that anyone else can.

      4.There are lots of people who stutter. In fact, there is a whole community of people who stutter, from all walks of life. People who stutter are very successful and have careers as lawyers, doctors, educators and many more. When I was growing up, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to get a good job just because of the way I speak. That’s just not true.

      5.Stuttering make us unique. Only 1% of the general population stutters which means I have something that 99% of the world doesn’t have. And that’s kind of cool.

      Five years ago, it looks like I was thinking the same things I am now.