Scaling my Everest: Overcoming Stammering and Stage Fear

Though there are over 70 Million people who stammer and stutter and many million more who have stage fear, while growing up I felt I was the only one. Like so many others I felt lonely, ashamed, embarrassed, inferior and completely lacked Self-Esteem.

For as long as I can remember I stammered, sometimes slightly and at other times I would freeze and totally give up. I would want to hide and not speak to people at all. I avoided people in corridors and on the phone, because I was scared of stammering and stuttering when I spoke with them. In fact, I would walk the other way on seeing someone I need to wish.

Saying “G..G…G…G…G…G…G..G….G…. good M..M..Morning” was no fun at all.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think, that one day, I would be a public speaker and make a living addressing many people.

Well, Let me tell you how I Scaled my Everest:

I was a shy, timid little kid who stammered whenever put in a spot or in the limelight. For years I wondered whether that shy, timid little kid who stammered, was shy and timid ??because he stammered or stammered because he was shy and timid??

Is it the problem that creates the mind-set or the mind-set that creates the problem?

While growing up I made myself believe the former and therein lay the problem; however,

my life turned around the day I began to believe the latter.

The 98-2% Principle

This is the Belief Principle that guides all the others. Without this belief no other holds ground. So what do I mean by this.

Well simply put….. 98% of all obstacles and problems are in the head,

and the real problem is just 2%.

It starts with your own belief in being able to overcome that mental obstacle in front of you. Once you truly believe, then 98% of the work is done and the rest remains in executing and following through on your belief.

Of course this is easier said than done, one needs to maintain the belief through all difficulties, failures and challenges one faces en route.

Sometimes one can do everything right and still not see the light at the

end of the tunnel, and here is where one needs to keep the faith and “bash

on regardless”.

Explore other ways of overcoming what’s in front, not because you have a ready-made solution to fix it, but as you believe it can be done.

Positive Self-Talk and Brainwashing

Once the first barrier of the mind is conquered one needs to build Self-confidence and belief in oneself. Many people say that confidence is the key to it all; however, very few talk about how to build it.

If I were to suddenly ask you the following questions:

  • What makes you important

  • What makes you competent

  • What makes you likable

  • What makes you successful

How long would it take you to answer these questions?

The trick is in making yourself aware of your strengths and also building on them by creating action plans to make oneself more Important, Competent, Likable & Successful.

Are they at the tip of your tongue?

The fact is that most of us spend far too much time and energy focusing on the other end of the spectrum.

We tend to ask ourselves

“Why am I not important to them?

Why am I not able to do……..?

Why doesn’t he / she like me?

Why don’t things go my way?”

The answers to these questions are normally de-motivating and demoralizing.

It is important for each one of us to remind ourselves and build on the following affirmation statements:

  • I am important because……

  • I am competent because…..

  • I am likable because……..

  • I am successful because…….

So how this work is, maintain a diary and every week write down what you did that made you more important, competent, likable or successful. If you don’t have anything to write, don’t lose hope instead create an action plan for how you will better answer these questions next week. Thus, building on strengths and finally confidence.

Now, whenever you are low on confidence or need a “Pick me up”, all you need to do is read your diary and I guarantee you will get a boost.

This method of constantly reminding oneself of one’s strengths using affirmation statements is called Positive Self-talk and brainwashing yourself to look at the strengths in you.

Speaking slowly and pausing

The next step is to reduce your rate of speech and ensure that you have a slow and measured way of talking.

  • Start with some reading practice and bring your rate of speech down to at least 140 words per minute.

Some of the best orators like Narendra Modi, Barack Obama, Martin Luther King Jr, Adolf Hitler, Sushma Swaraj, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, etc are a perfect example of slow measured speech, using pausing and pace for effect.

While this helps with overall impact of the way a person speaks and sounds, it gives a person time to think ahead and plan what he or she is saying.

Most people who stammer and stutter are usually trying to say things in a hurry lest they forget. This way of speaking tends to become a habit and thus our words have a tendency to come out tumbling and stumbling over each other.

Just imagine if all the students in a school decide to come charging out of a single door the moment the school bell rings

Can you envision a scenario where there are many kids stuck in a doorway?

Well that’s exactly what happens to our speech when everything tries to come out at once.

The best ways to reduce the speed or Rate of Speech is

  • To practice reading children’s books.

  • Add the drama and expression in the story, as that reduces the speed even further

  • Time yourself and be happy once you start reading consistently at about 120 words.

  • If you read at 120 you might bring speech down to about 140-150.

  • To be able to effectively do this the last point plays a critical role.

Effective Breathing

he average person takes about 15-18 breaths in a minute. Try it without consciously slowing down.

  • The aim is to be able to bring it down to 3-4 and average it out to about 7-8.

  • Reducing your rate of speech is directly related with your breathing pattern.

  • Instead of trying to say all we can in a breath, we should use our pauses and punctuation for breathing; short breaths at comas and longer breaths at full stops.

  • A stutter normally occurs when the vocal chords are stressed and stiff. Effective and regular breathing reduces stress in the body and vocal chords.

  • Whenever one gets stuck or feels a stammer or stutter coming, take a short pause, a deep breath and you will immediately feel the body and vocal chords relax, thus, freeing the voice.

  • Good deep breaths also help in providing oxygen to the brain. When we are stiff and not breathing freely the mind tends to go blank due a lack of oxygen to the brain.

  • Yoga breathing techniques are very helpful in creating a good breathing pattern and rhythm.

These points are not the only things that I did or feel are needed to overcome stammering and stage fear.

However, I do feel these are the most important and critical, and were instrumental in me “Scaling my Everest”. In fact the first 2 points are universal to overcoming any obstacle or challenge in life.

So what is your Everest? What is holding you back? What do you want to achieve?

Do you need someone to talk you through it?

Connect with me and I can share more insights on overcoming any challenges you might have.

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