I hate the term control freak for many reasons. I think it’s more often used to refer to women, which is sexist, and I also think the word freak is ableist. But number one on my list is because I’ve been called one so many times before.
I’ll admit that I do like to keep things tidy and I like certain plans to go the way they were originally set out to be. I can be flexible, but it takes work. I like routine on busy days and I need lots of time to decompress after any type of socialization. But is this really being a control freak?
I know I used to need control a lot more than I do now. I’m not sure exactly what has changed but I have a few suspicions. I think growing older has mellowed me out, and I think dealing with less anxiety has helped a lot as well, but I suspect becoming overt about my stuttering has been the greatest overall contributor.
Being covert can be a form of perfectionist control over they way we are perceived. Instead of just being themselves, the covert stutterer attempts to delude others by managing their impressions. Some might say it’s just about how we sound, but I would argue that it’s much more than that. Yes, we try to control which words we use and that we are thought of as fluent, but it’s more insidious than that.
Once a covert person starts changing words, they run the risk of creating sentences that have bizarre construction. Similarly, they may avoid answering certain questions, give false information (ie a different name), or show less than they know about a topic of conversation. Some people who are covert even avoid social interaction. All this creates worry about how people perceive their intelligence or even mental health.
When one is a perfectionist in such an important part of life as how they are perceived by others, it’s understandable how that can affect other parts of their life. I found myself needing order in the things around me first. I felt that if my room or apartment was messy I’d have a harder time controlling my speech. I knew that when I was upset or emotional I was more likely to stutter or have blocks.
Now that I don’t try to hide my stutter, I feel a lot of that anxiety and need for control has fallen away. At times I still struggle with the vulnerability that comes along with stuttering openly, but it doesn’t cause me too much distress. I would even go so far as to say that I’m learning to enjoy vulnerability. For me it’s a reminder that people are perceiving me for who I really am.
Please check out my guest post on the Did I Stutter blog (and while you’re there read the other great posts)
For lots of great reading on stuttering check out the International Stuttering Awareness Day Online Conference papers: