You ever been so pissed, you could literally punch a hole through the wall and then cry to yourself a few minutes later?Yeah. That was me. For the first 24 years of my life.

“He must be stupid…,” kids would say when I was asked to read.

“You don’t know the plays?,” coaches would yell at me during high school football.

“You don’t know your own name?,” people said as they laughed at me struggling to introduce myself.

I still hear the insults so clearly.

I’m 29. I’m a grown man. And I stutter. This means that at the randomest times, I’ll have the hardest time saying the simplest sounds. It’s totally unpredictable. And it sucks.

Being a kid is already difficult enough when you don’t look like, act like or sound like the rest of the kids around you. So me, with my hesitation and hard breathing, I was an easy target. When I was called on in class to read out loud or present a project, I could feel my body going into shock. I could literally hear my heart pounding, my palms would get sweaty. All I could think was, “Please let this fire alarm go off…”

I hated talking. I hated opening my mouth. And I legitimately hated myself.

It usually went awful when I spoke out loud. I’d struggle so much to the point where some teachers would run out of patience and ask me to sit down. And then came the laughter, the ridicule, the teasing…

“He can’t read!” “He doesn’t know his own name!” “Dumbass can’t even talk!”

And the worst part about it, is that I couldn’t “fix” it.

Throughout my childhood, and even in college, I went through speech therapy. I was taught to speak softer…taught to take deep breaths so I wouldn’t be gasping for air at the end of my sentences. These strategies helped a bit. I would use them in a conversation…but then I’d start to stumble and everything would go to waste.

No one understood my problem, so their reaction when I struggled was to laugh. I was in a constant cycle of trying to fix something, only to be ridiculed for it. I was miserable and frustrated. And I was done with it. I was tired of feeling like a loser, tired of hating life.

Can you relate?

As I got into my mid-20’s and was exhausted of being dragged through the mud, I had a eye-opening reflection—I realized that 100% of what I had been taught about my stutter was wrong. I was taught to view my stutter as a obstacle I had to master over in order to have a happy life. I was taught to see this as something that was wrong with me. But over time, I’ve realized that stuttering was not my problem. The way I viewed my stutter—that was my problem.

I always thought the biggest reason why my stutter was a problem was because other people didn’t understand it.

“If they knew what I was going through, maybe they’d show mercy,” I would say to myself.

But now I know that my biggest problem was that I didn’t understand it. I was taught anything and everything to help me overcome my stutter…except to understand, accept and embrace it. So, I made a mindful choice to do that.

I changed my perspective on it and it changed my world.

Today, instead of getting mad at my slow speech, I’m grateful for it. I appreciate the opportunities it’s given me.

My stutter has given me the opportunity to speak slower and think quicker. It’s given me empathy for people because I’ve been so judged and I know how it feels to be belittled. And it’s given me the platform to share my story with thousands of people and inspire them.

Today, I’m an empowerment speaker (I speak at schools, businesses, colleges and events), I have a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Nevada, I’m an entrepreneur digital marketer, and I’m a social influencer posting videos and content daily on motivation and business.

I could have never imagined any of this when I was angry and crying in throughout my younger years because I had zero self-confidence.

There have been so many times in my life where I felt like I didn’t belong, like I wasn’t good enough, like my stutter had doomed me from birth. Like I was cursed.

I was taught anything and everything to help me overcome my stutter…except to understand, accept and embrace it.

If you’re reading this, know that I still stutter. For real – look at my TEDx talk from 2015 and you’ll see my stutter in full form. Nothing has changed. I still get laughed at from time to time.

And yet, everything has changed. Because I know who I am – I love who I am – and I do not waver. Everything changed for the better when I stopped feeling sorry for myself and took ownership. I played the victim for so long because it was easier that way. It’s easier to blame things than to accept responsibility for EVERY single area of your life.

Here are 5 things I learned through this process that changed me forever—and this is what I want you to take away:

  1. You need to be the loudest person in your head. People will criticize you. Regardless of what you do. And if you allow their opinions to penetrate your mind, you will be at their mercy and you will lose. You need to be the biggest voice in your world – and shower yourself with positivity, optimism and love.
  2. The way you view life IS your reality. Perspective is everything. If you wake up feeling like a loser, you will be a loser that day. BUT, if you choose to empower yourself and take on the day with energy, that will be the reality that you live. Change your perspective and it will change your life.
  3. Trust yourself. Be your best self and be at peace. One of the (many) underlying problems I had as a youth was that I wasn’t confident. I wasn’t confident because of my stutter, but also because I didn’t trust myself. Once I learned to prepare, give my best effort and be at peace with the rest, I stopped being anxious. I stopped second guessing and I stopped doubting. Put your best self forward and let the rest take care of itself.
  4. Mindset changed my life. Nothing else. Not strategies, not methods, not secrets. Just the mindset I had on life. Change your mindset and it changes reality.
  5. You cannot beat something with negativity. I tried to be angry and pissed at my stutter for two decades in hopes that it went away. It didn’t. The changes came after I became positive. I started smiling more and taking on the day with optimism. My attitude determined the quality of my life.

Look, I’m not just talking to stutterers here. I’m talking to anybody who has ever had a negative belief about themselves. I’m talking to anybody who thinks they don’t belong, or isn’t happy with their body, or comes from a broken home, or has a handicap, or comes from poverty, or isn’t as smart as everyone else, or feels alone …

I’m talking to y’all – and I’m challenging y’all. I challenge you to change your perspective on whatever is holding you back from being your best self. Whatever is holding you down, whatever people might be making fun of you for – you have a choice:

  1. Continue to allow it to overshadow your life…

Or 2. Choose to take control of your life and stop feeling sorry for your circumstances. Choose to understand, accept and embrace everything about you. Choose to love you and do you.