What Health Coaching Has Taught Me About Stuttering

When I meet with clients for the first time, I ask them what it will feel like to finally accomplish their goals. I ask them if they are scared of anything, and what they have experienced in the past that’s held them back from realizing their full potential. Many times, things will come out that have nothing to do with food. This is always the way with change, the only guaranteed thing; and it is both terrifying and exhilarating. Change is what binds us. But it also sets us free.

When I decided to start a business, I knew I would need to tap into the confidence around my stuttering that I was known for. Being that strong public speaker was essential, and ironically, I was used to publicly speaking – about stuttering. However, my knowledge about health was newer than my lifetime of dealing with this disorder, and I had to be sure I wasn’t jeopardizing my credibility when it came to my wellness audience. So I decided to minimize the “issue”. I decided that stuttering would no longer be important. Almost immediately, the confidence I had worked so hard to cultivate slowly began to fade.

When I was 15, and I started intensive speech therapy for stuttering, I was thrown into the fire, instructed on the second day to recite my mission to anyone who would listen as we strolled the streets of New York. The goal was to desensitize myself from the caustic effects of stuttering by talking about it to strangers. Rude listener responses, phone hang-ups, angst; none of it would matter if I did as I was told. I carried this goal from high school to college, heart racing, with my one-two punch of an introduction ready at any oral presentation I gave. It came with me to retail jobs, staff meetings, internships at Rolling Stone and Cosmopolitan, and into conference room roundtable introductions in the advertising industry. Even on command over a speakerphone (a special brand of anxiety for those who stutter). The thought of another “Umm, you’re breaking up…” in front of my colleagues was just not an option.

It’s been 13 years since that first day in the park, standing before a stranger, telling them about my deepest insecurities as part of the therapy approach. Fundamentally, I’ve acknowledged and accepted my stuttering over the years. But the more I spoke with people about my health coaching business, the more my mind nagged at me to be careful not to let stuttering out. So you can imagine my surprise when I relayed the issue to my business coach Elisa and she said the following: Love it. “Huh?” I replied. LOVE. Your. Stuttering. It’s you. It was so matter-of-fact, so sensible, so OBVIOUS. It was not a lecture, but a simple statement that begged the question: How on earth could you not?

I don’t know what made those three simple words click so hard in my mind, but after thirteen years and this one session, I realized that stuttering was so much more than an announcement.

It’s my story.

When I talk about losing 25 lbs. and struggling with binge eating junk food, I’m talking about years of trying to master fluency. When I ask my clients what scares them about finally changing the way they eat, I’m telling them that I worry what will happen when a new person finds out that I stutter. And when we talk about potential and why they are afraid, I tell them that they can confront something they think is going to make them different and weird, and still come out stronger in the end, like I did.

When I came up with the name, “Well Gone Weird” for my company, I had only an inkling of what it would come to mean. You can try things that are hard, or weird or unknown to make yourself a better person.. You don’t need permission or to make sense to anyone but you. You can be your own version of yourself, no matter what it seems like to other people. Whether it’s health, stuttering, or any other issue that has helped define who you are, NEVER be afraid to be weird. Sometimes, it’s all we need.

Health coaching and stuttering