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 — 28 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?


    • Hello Kyle,

      I would start by taking a non-judgmental look at stuttering, not positive, not negative, but just how it is for you. Then you can feel or describe what stuttering has brought to you (next to all of the negative aspects it also might encounter) and see in what ways it has helped or encouraged to grow in the way where you are now.


      • Hi Sybren,

        This is very great information, thank you for answering my question. Best of luck in all of your future endeavors.


  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?

    • Hello Angelena,

      The hardest part was to truly accept myself with who I am (and even now that is sometimes a struggle!) and that I can often not say immediately what I want or need but that it always takes more time. I really would like to be ‘normal’ and just say what I want. To accept that I am a person that needs more time and patience (both from myself as from others) is my biggest challenge.

      But also a great lesson in that what I say is often more important then how much time it takes 🙂


  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

    • Dear Therese,

      An advice is to ask to find people people who have the same condition and that somehow inspire you.

      And you can always ask me to give an (online) presentation or workshop :).


  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,

    • Dear Rebecca,

      One suggestion could be to ask to the harvest of their stuttering. Next to all the challenges and negative outlook, is there anything that they ‘harvested’ from the fact that they stutter, or any way they use their stutter or learn from.
      Is this an advice you can relate to?


  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.

  10. Thank you for sharing your story Sybren. You mentioned that, “growth often starts with a challenge”. This is important for people to hear. In times of struggle, it is often easier to focus on the negative rather than the positive. I am pleased to hear that you accept your stutter and feel that is a main pillar in your personal growth. Without it, you wouldn’t be who you are today. I appreciate how you are using your experiences to support others within the community. You are an inspiration to many!

    • Yes, it really helps me to see it that way. Growth often needs does not happen on its own. Times of struggle or challenges can really help (me and others) to grow!

  11. Hello Sybren,

    First off, thank you for posting such a positive perspective on how stuttering has helped you grow. I enjoyed reading how stuttering helped you empathize, improve your social and cultural skills, become more self aware, and has pushed you to want to become a life coach. Your words at the end, “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” couldn’t be a more perfect summary of this post. I appreciate your honesty and wanting to send a more positive vibe out there for people who stutter.

  12. Hi Sybren,

    Thank you for sharing your personal experiences. I think it is great that you are using your personal challenges and experiences to help others, especially the youth. It isn’t easy but as you’ve stated, “Growth often starts with a challenge.”

  13. Hello Sybren, I attend The University of Akron majoring in SPLA. I admire you embracing your “flaw” what advice would you have for a PWS that feels insecure/indifferent about their stutter? Would you recommend journaling as a helpful growth tactic?

  14. thanks for your enlightenment but my personal problem is gathering courage to speak in a public place or ask questions knowing majority of the people there might not hear or understand due to my stuttering and fast speech thanks

  15. Hi Sybren,
    I enjoyed reading your article. It was very interesting to hear about your journey as a PWS. I am a future Speech Language Pathologist and it brought me a sense of satisfaction to know that you are going to or participating in therapies and support groups.
    You concluded your article with this quote “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.”

    This statement stuck out to me in an amazing way. Please continue to encourage others as well as mentoring. Im sure that anyone could benefit from your experiences.

  16. Hello Sybren,
    First, I would like to say thank you for sharing your personal growth story. I believe that other PWS should read your post so that they can also learn to look at the positive aspects of their stuttering. Hopefully by doing this, they will be able to share a personal growth story as well.
    I love that you started your sentence with “Growth often starts with a challenge…” this is definitely true in ALL aspects of life no matter the challenge.
    Thank you again for sharing the benefits that you experienced!

  17. Hi Sybren
    Thanks so much for sharing your experience. You are note alone. We have come from all works of life and parts of the world like birds of a feather. The diversity we embrace is the most amazing thing.
    From Cameroon Africa

  18. Dear Sybren,
    I am a first year student studying to become a speech pathologist and appreciate you sharing your personal experience of growth through stuttering. Because of stories such as your own, I look forward to helping those who will come to me for guidance on their own stuttering journey. I will keep the actions you shared in mind when helping others!

  19. Hello Syrben,
    I really enjoyed reading your post. Thank you for sharing about your struggles growing up with a stuttering problem. I know it must have been hard to post that. You made such a great outcome from your past experiences, and turning your flaws, and “negative” personality traits into something positive. Not a lot of people can do this, and I admire you for that. Thank you so much for sharing!
    Megan Nugent

  20. Hi Sybren,
    I am currently a student at the University of Akron and I thought your story was very inspiring. I really like that you have used your personal life and personal experiences to help others. One question that I have for you is what was one of the hardest things you had to deal with during this challenge?

  21. Hi Sybren!
    Thank you so much for sharing, I really enjoyed reading your article! I am a first year student at the University of Akron studying Speech Language Pathology and am always eager to learn about ways that make someone with a stutter more comfortable. Reading your challenges and how you grew from them was very insightful. I do wish to ask, what advice would you give to someone who is transitioning from their challenge into their growth phase?
    Thanks in advance!

  22. Hi Sybren!
    I really enjoyed reading about your process of growth through stuttering. You had mentioned that you have been able to meet peolpe who also stutter and that your only thing in common was that you stutter, so my question is has there ever been anyone who you have had more in common with than just you stutter and what did that relationship turn into if it turned into anything?
    Thank you!