Most people who know me learned pretty early on that I LOVE to talk. However, one thing that a lot of people don't know is that I struggled with a speech impairment growing up. If you've ever heard a kindergartener talk, it is clear that they haven't learned how to say everything correctly yet. Most kids' speech improves as they get older, but for some, like me, talking the right way was really hard. I didn't even realize it until I began speech therapy in elementary school, but I couldn't even say words like "dog" or "cat" correctly. I also talked really fast, so that certainly didn't help anything. I never expected, though, that I would need speech therapy.
I was in speech therapy until the ninth grade when the speech therapist at our high school told me that I no longer need it. That was an incredibly happy day for me as I had worked for years to improve my speech. Even though my struggle didn't necessarily end there, I think it is important for me to use my past experiences to help other people, so I want to explain what having a speech impairment taught me about life.
- Our weaknesses can actually make us better, because they teach us how to overcome challenges. I would consider myself to be a pretty determined person. However, my biggest obstacle growing up was my speech and I wanted to give up so bad as the years went on. Had I given up, I would've failed myself, and I wouldn't have been able to see how determination pays off. Now, when I am stressed, I can think about how hard I worked to get where I am and it makes me want to do better.
- People's words hurt. I remember being teased for the way that I talked and I didn't know if people were doing it out of meanness or just because. However, it hurt me because it was something that I worked hard to improve but still struggled with. Outer wounds may heal, but it's our inner scars that stay with us for a lifetime.
- The important thing in life is how we care for those scars. Do we mope about how people treated us or do we use it to improve our own character? Until Jesus comes back, there will be evil in this world and we can't control what others say. We can encourage others to be nice, however, by our own words and actions. I remember one instance at my former job in which a customer couldn’t understand me so they decided to talk to me as if I was a child. I was very upset, but I didn’t react. Holding one’s tongue requires a lot of self-control and it shows more about our character than reacting does, At the end of the day, we are the better person for this.
- Our weaknesses don’t diminish who we are as individuals. We're still as beautiful, as handsome, as smart, as talented, as funny, and as emotional as the next person. I've always been that straight-A student who was super ambitious and had her dreams pointed to the stars, but I felt like because I couldn't talk right, I wasn't as good as everyone else. This just goes to show how we can be our own worst enemy. When we let fear and hurt run our lives, it just brings us down and we start to torture ourselves. Our self-image becomes broken and our self-confidence decreases.
- Having a speech impairment has taught me that our differences make the world a much more beautiful place. Because we are all different, we all have our own strengths and weaknesses which make us unique, and all that’s left to do is learn how we can use those things to help others. When we realize that, it really affects the way that we love on others.
I used to be ashamed of the way that I talked. Now, I thank God for the experience. It has taught me so much more about life than I ever thought possible, and it has made me a better person. Don't let the struggles you face define who you are... Let them change who you are for the better.
Be a ray of sunlight for the world. Even on cloudy days, your light can still shine through.