For Chaz Bonnar breakdancing is one of the things that has helped his speech. He now uses dance to support young people in building self-esteem, social and leadership skills. Vlog below.
Stuttering, and my journey to speaking more fluently, was the best thing to ever happen to me.
How can something that caused me so much emotional & mental torment be the best thing to happen to me? I mean, my stutter was severe throughout my child & teenage years – which made school tough for me. At a time when you’re trying hard to fit in, I stood out for all the wrong reasons. I felt ashamed to speak up in school because I couldn’t get through one sentence without stuttering. Any time I did I always felt embarrassed afterwards.
It led me to dread every social interaction. Developing low self-esteem and a negative mindset. Wasn’t much fun to be around. All of this eventually lead me to take up Breaking – the proper name for Breakdancing. Then the unexpected happened: My speaking improved and so did my confidence.
Breaking gave me the opportunity to express myself without words. At the classes I took I was judged only by the quality of my character. Instead of by my appearance or the way I spoke. To tell the truth it felt refreshing! A surprise at first, but refreshing.
Breaking gave me the opportunity to express myself without words.
From these classes I began to attend different Breaking events in Scotland and across the UK. Meeting other dancers that, before they got into dance, had no confidence and no way to express themselves. Something I could relate to deeply. Fast forward 10 years later and I can say that I became a more confident and outspoken person because of Breaking. Using it as a tool of expression helped me to cope with frustrations I had with stuttering.
Which is why I engage with Breaking as often as possible. I’m grateful that I have this outlet to channel my negative energy into. While Breaking developed my confidence, social skills, travel curiosities and healthy lifestyle, there are more factors to consider in my growth.
Around the same time I started learning Breaking, I was learning about new breathing exercises and slow-rated speech. I saw instant improvements from this – albeit small improvements – and placed a large emphasis on continuing this. Through constantly doing breathing exercises and being vigilant about talking slowly, I developed a new attitude towards my speaking. Beginning to look at my development from a place of growth and positive action. This allowed me to obtain a higher level of control over my speech.
Even with this knowledge and positive attitude, it took a great deal of effort to progress further. Only my family saw the great lengths I went to; from doing breathing exercises in every car journey to forcing myself to speak at an incredibly slow pace around them. To the point where I'd sound crazy to anybody outside of my family.
What has stuttering taught me?
Back to my opening statement. Stuttering was the best thing to happen to me because it taught me valuable lessons about life and personal development. Lessons that I may have missed if I averted any of the hardships I endured. In a nutshell:
It taught me to take ownership of my problems. We all love to shift the blame and claim outside influences as reasons for our setbacks. We can all play victim, and ask ourselves why these horrible things happen to us, but it's those who choose to take action that get ahead - and stay there.
It taught me that anything worth having takes time to attain. When my stutter was at its most severe I wanted it gone immediately - even though I did nothing (at first) about it. Everybody wants a quick fix and this is an issue in the stuttering community at large. It took me roughly 6-7 years of incredibly hard work to have great control over my speaking.
You can either let life happen to you or you can take charge of your life.
It taught me that we're responsible for our circumstances and outcomes. You can either let life happen to you or you can take charge of your life. Nobody is making you hang out with certain people; take a certain job; stay in a particular country...They're all choices. Whether we like to hear that or not it's true. I've chosen the life I live right now.
It taught me that our subconscious mind is an incredibly important asset. The science is there - your thoughts can hugely impact your quality of life. When I felt victimised by my circumstances my thoughts reflected that. I allowed these negative thoughts and feelings to consume me. It's when I learned how to use my subconscious mind effectively that I began to see real change.
It taught me compassion. It taught me social skills. It taught me how to be a better communicator and a better human being. It taught me to take care of my physical and mental health.
Since learning about these lessons, so much has changed for me. More specifically, I experienced a huge paradigm shift. I view the world differently now than I did when I stuttered severely. A few insights that have carried me forward:
1. Things do get better!
They do. At least with a growth mindset anyway. It’s so easy to get wrapped up mentally and emotionally in your current circumstances. Doing that takes away from your potential to change. It takes away from your inclination to try new approaches.
2. There’s a lot we’re in control of.
We are in control of the thoughts we have, the practices we do, and our reactions to other people’s opinions. Contrary to popular belief, we’re in control of more than we think we are. We choose to get upset at people who bully us for being different. We choose to eat the foods that we eat and we definitely choose what to do about setbacks.
3. Positive action wins the day.
Any action taken to improve your speech, your circumstances, and your life is a win. It’s important that we recognise when we’re taking positive action. Repetitive exercises may feel monotonous but are creating new and improved habits.
Among all this, I implore everybody to be relentless in improving their communication. To adopt new habits and constantly reinforce them into your subconscious. Everything worth having takes time. It’s possible.
Chaz helps young people build confidence, self-esteem, leadership and social skills, through dance and the creative arts.
Watch vlog by Chaz of a trip to Amsterdam, for an international B-Boy event Red Bull BC One.