Mary Wood attended her first conference for people who stutter in Ottawa in 1993 presenting a workshop on self-esteem. Since then, beyond Ottawa and Canada, she has attended and presented at conferences in the United States, Great Britain, and Europe. She was ordained as a Unity minister in 2005, a lesson that taught her you never know what’s around the next corner.
What I’m going to share with you has allowed me to go beyond the immense fear that was a large part of my life for many years. The immense fear that held me back from being who I am, doing what I want to do, saying what I want to say.
I’d stuttered for almost 50 years when I went to a seminar on January 21, 1989 at York University in Toronto that taught me how important “thought” is. I learned that What I think about I bring about – this is what shows up in my life. Somehow I knew from these words that I didn’t have to stutter any more.
I came home from that seminar focusing on fluency, wanting to be a perfect 100% fluent speaker…. (not too much reality in that eh!!) Then one morning, I looked at myself in the mirror and asked why I didn’t like to stutter. The answer was there immediately: I thought someone wouldn’t like me if I stutter. This was where this immense fear came from. From that point on, my focus has been self-esteem. Loving and accepting me, whether I stutter or not, moving beyond this fear: the fear of rejection. So this paper talks a little about stuttering and self-esteem.
I read a book by Dr. Leonard Shaw Love and Forgiveness that told me there are only two emotions – love and fear. I pondered that for quite a while, and then realized this worked for me. Love is peace, joy, laughter – everything that makes us feel good. Fear is all the negative emotions – shame, guilt, embarrassment, anger. So, if I was not coming from love, I had to be coming from fear.
First of all, I started to look at what I was thinking about. Were my thoughts focusing on the fluency that was there or the stuttering that was there? We have about 60,000 thoughts a day, and about 75% of them are negative – no wonder we get tired, stressed, and angry. Every moment of every day we make a choice what we want to think about – positive or negative.
In July 1990, I went back to York University to hear Mark Victor Hansen speak – co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul series. During his workshop, these words came into my mind: “Share what is changing your life – speak about it!” I finally knew what I wanted to be when I grew up – a speaker! Wow! How scary is that!!
And we need dreams to grow and change from, and for the first time in my life, I had a definite dream. Two months later, I was at Toastmasters – and stayed there for four years – every Wednesday night, telling people I stutter (that was a first), working through my fear. A dream gives you a reason to face your fear. It motivates you, pushes you where you don’t want to go, but know you have to go if you want to realize your dream. We are always our dreams, even before they come into fruition.
And to go beyond our fear, we have to make changes and take action. It doesn’t have to be one giant leap for mankind. It can be tiny baby steps. Speaking to someone at the bus stop, making a phone call we really don’t want to make, asking for what we really want to eat. Keep a victory journal! Write down all the little steps you are taking. Think about them, and congratulate yourself – that feels good!!
Change is inevitable. It’s happening whether we acknowledge it or not. When we change one letter in the word “change,” we get the word “chance.” That’s what change is all about for me: a chance to grow, to learn, to laugh, to love, to be who I really am. That’s what stuttering is for me. The biggest learning lesson I’ve ever had – so far!. When I look at it as a lesson, then the fear starts to go away.
When I started to look at my feelings, I found out stuttering was not the problem. It’s how I felt about IT and how I felt about ME – mostly me. Do we acknowledge how we feel? Do we know it’s okay to have the feelings we have? Have we been told it’s not OK to cry, it’s not OK to be angry. And so we squish (I love that word) these feelings down until we don’t know they’re there anymore. My mom died in 1994 – I didn’t realize I was angry at her. I was driving to Ottawa to a self-help workshop, thinking about her. All of a sudden I started to cry, and then scream. I can remember being surprised – but I let it happen. Then I was aware of how I felt. I was angry. My dad had died 6 years before, now my mom had died. I felt very alone, I was scared there was no one who really loved me.
I think that one of our biggest fears is the fear of rejection….. I know it was mine and still shows up some days. Somebody won’t like us because we stutter, because we don’t say the right things, wear the right clothes, have the right job, etc., We need to know that what someone else thinks about us has nothing to do with who we are. What we think about ourselves has everything to do with who we are. We don’t need to change to please someone else.
What you think about me is really what you think about you. I’ve just finished reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. It outlines agreements that we can make with ourselves to replace some of the old negative beliefs we have about who we are. The second agreement is “don’t take anything personally.” Really Big Lesson! If someone says you’re stupid, thoughtless and inconsiderate, it’s not about you – it’s about who they think they are. But….. We take it personally because we agree with whatever they said. As soon as we agree, we’re trapped in this belief. What someone says, what someone does, and the opinions they give are according to their beliefs, to the agreements they’ve made with themselves. We think that someone else knows more about who we are than we do, and so we take what they say about us to be the truth of who we are.
When we take things personally, we feel offended and we defend our beliefs and create conflicts. We make something so big out of something so little because we have the need to be right….. that comes from fear. So….. Would you rather be right – or would you rather be happy?
What does all this have to do with stuttering, you might ask. The fear of rejection was a large part of my stuttering. I’ve also come to realize that stuttering was only one of the ways that it showed up in my life. Stuttering was maybe the most noticeable. Some other parts are still hidden and show up some days.
I also learned that fear is a negative thought – if you feel good about yourself in a situation, then the fear isn’t there. It’s there when you’re unsure, when you’re scared, when you feel you might be rejected.
An important lesson to go beyond the fear is – what someone says or does cannot make you feel anything – that is your choice. Not an easy lesson to be sure. If they say I don’t like your green hair, you’ll laugh because you know it’s not true. However, if they say you’re thoughtless and inconsiderate, somewhere inside here you might feel that way, and take this personally. But it has nothing to do with who they think you are – it has everything to do with who you think you are.
So…… How can we go beyond this fear?
We can also go beyond this fear by helping others. We’re not learning all this “good stuff” to keep it locked up inside. We‘re here to be it and share it! You are wonderful, caring, creative, and loving. Share some of this. Give it away. When we help others, we forget about ourselves, our fears, and think about what we can do for them. When I stop worrying about if you’re going to like what I say, and I focus on how I can help you, what I can say that will let you know how special you are, then the fear goes away.
Stuttering is my greatest lesson – so far. When I started to look at it this way, then I started to go beyond the fear. Learning from stuttering and the fear enables me to be on this awesome journey that I’m on. In 2005, I was ordained as a Unity minister – talk about an unexpected turn of events in my life!! Know that it is okay to be who you are today – not who you might be tomorrow. Search for and speak your own truth, no matter what anyone else says or thinks. Listen for your own answers. Look to others for help, support and ideas, and then take only what feels right for you at the time. Be honest with yourself about this. Focus on the moment and not on the outcome, and then the fear will start to disappear. When you go beyond the fear, you will find the love that is there.
My wish for you – may you speak your own words, may you sing your own song, and may you know that you are always loved.
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