I’ve always feared success – who would I become, when and if I succeeded? The uncharted land is the most fearsome. But I came to see it as an adventure. And I said to myself, that I deserve to be the best I can. And that there wasn’t any way back when I committed to this journey. A journey about freeing myself from the shackles that held me back. In other words, I freed myself from myself. I freed myself from my own mind-made-prison.
I think the most fearsome about success is not knowing what lies beyond the line of success. To paint a mental picture it’s Plato’s cave. It’s safe and secure inside the cave, but that there could be something beyond the cave is absurd and even more absurd is the thought, that you would like it. Because it’s simple logic that you won’t like something, that you don’t know what’s like – and it’s even simpler logic, that you don’t like to change who you are in order to become what you want and wish for. See it doesn’t even make sense on the screen here.
I used to play around with the thought of not stuttering and being able to speak my mind when I wanted to. It was a nice thought. I enjoyed it. Then reality hit me and I realized that it wasn’t so. I had to do some serious work to overcome stuttering. Time went and I fantasized about not stuttering.
One day I woke up. I was scared shitless about change on a level so deep as it is to go from being a stutterer to be a perfectly normal person who happens to have non-fluent speech sometimes.”It was uncharted land. It was an adventure in my mind. Without a map, I embarked on this journey. I committed. I knew this was it. It was the only time I was ever capable of doing this change. I was so scared of who I would be, but I knew it would be better than being a stutterer all my life.
To take an analogy from climbing. It’s the same as being right at the summit without being able to reach it if you don’t do a daring jump-move. You know you have to do it. The wind and weather is right. You know you can, but you’re scared shitless. If you fall, you won’t be able to do it again. Doubt would cause too much wreckage. Your eyes blink. Without thinking you just do it. You jump into thin air, hold your breath for a few seconds and feel the raw granite and you hold on. You hold on like a motherfucker. And you pull yourself up.
I was ready to change. And so I began my journey on a Monday. On Wednesday I didn’t know who I was. It was the most difficult day because I wanted to go back to the known. I knew I couldn’t. I would regret it my whole life. So carried on into the unknown. On Friday I had changed. I didn’t perceive myself as a stutterer any longer. From that day on I never looked back. I never saw myself as a stutterer again. My stuttering disappeared. Of course, it was just the beginning. For a long time, I woke up and said to myself, that I was a normal person who happened to have non-fluent speech. One day, I didn’t say it. It was automatic. And it’s automatic now.
But I feared the success of being who I wanted to be. So what lies behind this “success phobia”. And what to do about it? Let’s dive in.
Fear of success and the fear of standing out
We fear discovering that we are more than we think we are more than our parents/children/teachers think we are. We fear that we actually possess the talent that our still, small voice tells us. That we actually have the guts, the perseverance, the capacity. We fear that we truly can steer our ship, plant our flag, reach our Promised land. We fear this because, if it’s true, then we become estranged from all we know. We pass through a membrane. We become monsters and monstrous. We know that if we embrace our ideals, we must prove worthy of them. And that scares the hell out of us. What will become of us? We will lose our friends and family, who will no longer recognize us. – Steven Pressfield, The war of art.
On one hand, I fear to be extraordinary. I fear to stand out. I fear to let go. But I realized that I will always stand out because my brain is wired differently.
On the other hand, I know I have to stand out. I have to be authentic and true to myself or I will suffer. I will always be different, no matter what I do. So why not go all the way, and overcome stuttering?
The first step is to accept that you will stand out. Next, think about all the positive things overcoming stuttering will have:
- it will boost your confidence beyond your expectation.
- you will get more friends, and learn who your true friends are.
- you will learn more about yourself and what you’re capable of.
These three benefits are all worth it. But there is always the question about change. Who will you become? I think that it’s limiting to think about removing something from your identity. Here you are on the brink of learning about what you’re capable of. You hone new facets of your identity. If you’re doing something to your personality, it’s adding to who you are and what you can do. And that’s exciting.
The artist committing himself to his calling has voluntered for hell, whether he knows it or not. He will be dining for the duration on a diet of isolation, rejection, self-doubt, despair, ridicule, contempt, and humiliation. – Steven Pressfield, The war of art.
There is no other way around. You have to commit like you’re committing yourself to another person. Either you’re committing to overcome stuttering or you’re not. Imagine half-way up the Dawn Wall. Do you think it’s likely that you say: “Nah, I don’t like it. Too windy.” Not a chance. You would climb the other half because you’re committed. You trained yourself to do it. You did the mental preparation. And that’s what you have to do with stuttering. Prepare your mind to do the work. It’s about doing the work today. And then do it again tomorrow.
Most stutterers quit because of:
- Lack of faith in themselves
- A history of failures
- Not accepting their stutter
All four are bound together. From the bottom up. When you don’t accept that you stutter, life is way easier. You think. The truth though is you’ll live a life full of regrets. You know that if you accept you stutter, then all the hard work comes crashing onto you. And you can’t have that because you have a history of failure. The more you think of these failures the less committed you become. You start losing faith in yourself. You start telling yourself lies about how you deserve to stutter, and that there’s nothing to do about it. Other lies are about perfection because when you don’t have faith in what you’re doing, every non-perfect condition destroys what’s left of you.
Teach your mind, that there is no other choice than to overcome stuttering. Never look back. Never return to first base, but keep going no matter what.
One writer I know tells me that he sits down every morning and says to himself nicely, “It’s not like you don’t have a choice, because you do—you can either type or kill yourself.”
― Anne Lamot, Bird by Bird
Although a bit harsh the quote gets it right on spot. Every day you have a choice. Either you stay put and do nothing about your stuttering and die a bit every day. Or you do something about it. And if you choose to do something about your stuttering, then you can’t look back. I didn’t look back. If I did, I would have fallen, never to rise again.
If you want to succeed at overcoming stuttering you have to commit yourself to the journey. It’s a lifelong journey. It’s easy to become distracted and doing what feels known. But it’s in the uncharted land, where you make the big gains. Success requires you to ignore what’s known (stuttering) and do the hard work: accept your stutter and deal with it.
But most of all, you have to be ready to change. If you’re not ready, nothing will happen.
You and I will always be different, because of we stutter or used to. That’s great because then we don’t have to worry about standing out. We’ll always do it, even if people don’t see it. So why not go all the way, and overcome stuttering. Let’s be different and stand out.