Life is a series of obstacles, and you must know how to embrace who you are along the way. You may have imperfections, but that’s what makes you human. In this episode, Jason Freeman shares his life struggles being born with a speech impediment and how he overcame those. It will always start with yourself and accepting your flaws. Jason strives to help other people see the best versions of themselves, take their next step forward, and persevere towards their dreams for the happiness of generations to come. Tune in to uncover how to be awesome in this complicated life.
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The Importance Of Embracing Your Imperfections And Loving Who You Are With Jason Freeman
Welcome back to the show. I am delighted to have a fun guest with us, Jason Freeman. Welcome.
Thank you so much. I’m delighted to be here.
Let me tell everybody a little bit about you. Whenever you speak to an audience, be it an intimate mastermind in North County, San Diego or an assembly of 1,500 high school students in Austin, Minnesota, you are 100% committed to bringing your speech impediment with you. The audience see you on stage against all odds and living your dream, which helps them live their dreams and get closer to attaining them.
You have a unique walk, a love of country music, a sweet tooth, a Masters of Fine Arts in Poetry, a TEDx Talk, and a book you authored called Awkwardly Awesome: Embracing My Imperfect Best. Welcome to the show. I am excited to talk about imperfection. This is a great topic for us. Give us a little background on you before I ask a ton of questions.
All of us humans experience imperfections. We never want them but we experienced them. I thought, “I know this is going to happen, so I’ll get started right off the bat.” I didn’t want to waste any time. When I was born, I got my umbilical cord kinked like a garden hose, which makes it difficult for me to say the word umbilical. As a result, I have this pronounced fine speech impediment and some coordination differences. I’ve also been very lucky because it could have been a much worse injury.
You’ve gone on to college and achieved all these beautiful things. You have a beautiful mind. Something happened to you when you were younger that I’d like for you to share.
I was born to two very loving parents. I’m the only son. They nurtured me when I was young to think I was the best. I wanted to be everything from a carpenter to a doctor to a successful businessman. In the 4th grade, 5th grade, 6th grade, I started looking at the other kids going, “This is unfair. The other boys can play sports well.” My biggest skill is catching basketball with my glasses.
That’s a skill I have too, except it’s with my nose.
These are painful skills we have. No one else in my grade school had a speech impediment. I’m like, “Why am I different?” Everyone comes to this point about something in their life. They have something hidden that they are embarrassed to tell other people. They are like, “Why do I have that different thing? I don’t want this.” In seventh grade, I didn’t want the difference. I was concerned about the national and international news about accidental nuclear war breaking between the United States and the USSR. With all the stress and shame about my body image and thinking I was nothing, one day, I got on my bike furiously. I got home and attempted to take my own life.
That is sad at a young age, especially having loving and supporting parents, and still not feeling you are good enough. What do you say to families that have young kids? Statistically, we’ve heard that the suicide rate is up. I’ve been fortunate enough that no one in my circle has had any difficulties. The suicide rate is up for children. We know it’s up for adults as well. Everyone is going through a lot of things. We feel we’re resilient but there’s an undertone.
What do you say to people who are feeling imperfect, not because of a physical issue or anything like that? When you look back on yourself and say, “Here I was, seven years old and was feeling this way,” because you have a speech impediment, what do you say to people that are perfect? They are not perfect, but they don’t feel they are perfect. They are watching people on Facebook or seeing what other people are doing. They are comparing themselves to everyone else like you did. It’s no different. What do you say to those people who have children like these or to them about imperfection? I know this is your specialty.
It’s challenging because we want the people we love to be happy and to be doing well. The first thing I would say to myself as a seventh-grader and to parents is to listen and honor where your kids are.
Don’t just say, “You’re pretty. Don’t worry about it. You’re smart.” Honor that rather than saying, “Don’t worry about it. It’s okay.”
[bctt tweet=”All of us have imperfections, whether we want them or not.” username=””]
It’s so tempting to try and build someone up. I would tell parents and friends to listen to your young people. I would also tell young people and anyone, “Listen to yourself and your struggle.” Part of the reason I got in trouble is I was feeling all these feelings and telling myself, “I don’t want to feel that.” I wasn’t listening and honoring myself. Instead of releasing all the emotions, they go up.
Jason, tell us a little bit about some of the ceilings you’ve had to break through in your life. What happens is once our mess becomes our message, and once we’ve broken through a glass ceiling and we’re on the top of that, we’re saying, “I can help you get there too.” We’re looking up to our next level and want to break through glass ceilings. We’re listening for other people to share with us how to take that next step. Tell us about some of the ceilings that you’ve had to break through in your life.
Back in junior high, there was this one kid who every day I came to school was constantly putting me down. He’s telling me that I couldn’t live the life I wanted and I would never be good enough. When I got home, he would nag me too. Do know who that kid was?
Was it you?
Yes. I’ve had to figure out how to communicate with people in a way that they understand what’s going on with my voice. I’m casual about it. I make jokes about my voice. Back in the day, I don’t talk about my speech impediment. That created a glass ceiling between me and other people based on my disability. Once I learned how to break through the glass ceiling which is the shame about being me, I could start giving other people cues on how to treat, understand and help me. They started letting me help them. The ceiling slowly dissolved. It was the co-creation between me and the people around me.
I almost lost my husband to a brain injury. We’re in that mode of trying to figure out how to communicate. It’s a co-collaboration. I’m learning how to re–engage with a man I’ve known for and been married to for many years, but he’s a new person. I have always been interacting with him a certain way. Now that has to change. We’ve been collaborating on, “How does this work? Why didn’t you understand? How come I said the thing I said? How come you said what you said?” It’s very challenging. I love that you say this collaboration that happened with that. Tell us about some of the things you’ve done in your life that you’re most proud of.
The biggest thing I’m most proud of is I’m a good friend to lots of people. I love people’s stories, asking people questions, and bringing out the best in people. I learned how to keep friendships even when big challenges arise, and how to navigate through them. More than anything, I’m proud of being a good friend and a good son to my parents too.
You have a big heart. True friendship is when people are there even at bad times. We’ve experienced that with my husband. People have drifted away. The real friends stayed in the hard times, call and find out how both of us are doing. They know he’s struggling but they’re also asking about me. That’s relevant especially for what you do. That’s important. If you could condense your TED Talk, what was the biggest message that you conveyed or that you’d want to convey to someone if you were to do another TED Talk? What’s the most important and relevant in your life?
[bctt tweet=”Learn how to keep friendships even when big challenges arise.” username=””]
I’ll talk about my first TED Talk quickly. The main message is to do your imperfect best. I encourage people to dream, have goals, think of what their best is, courageously own what they want to do in life, and take small steps towards the goal. Mistakes are going to happen. Michael Jordan got cut from a varsity basketball team in school at one point.
When we learned a new skill we’re not good at, mistakes happen. I encourage people to notice the imperfection instead of using the imperfection as a reason to stop and say, “I’m not good at this.” Learn from the mistake and move forward. When we wanted to go from San Diego to Boston, the principal sway us not to get there and to go off in some different direction. If we want to get there, keep going in that direction. Some days it’s going to be slow but just keep going in that direction.
Sometimes you’re going to have snow. Sometimes you’re going to have flat tires. You talk a lot about the stress of modern life and how people can relax. I’m an empath. I feel people’s pressure in their chest when I speak with them. I don’t feel that when I’m speaking to you, but I do feel that pressure when I’m speaking to people. It’s odd because you would think that if we were going 100 miles an hour and we were still driving, commuting, going to lunch, having dinner, networking, going to the dry cleaner to pick up whatever and had this crazy busy life, that stress is a lot different than the stress that we’re experiencing now whether we know it or not. What are the suggestions you have for people to mitigate the stress we’re all experiencing and to have a relaxing lifestyle?
First of all, know that it’s possible to be more relaxed. I used to be the most stressful person I knew. I used to call myself the most stressful person in America. I was constantly stressed out. If you’re stressed out, start investigating different ideas. I’ve done lots of yoga for about a fourteen-year period. I do a meditation where I count my breaths a few different times a day. They both work at different times in my life. It’s important to find what works and find something that you love doing on a consistent basis. If you just do yoga once and quit because you don’t like it, it’s not going to do you any good.
I love meditation. I’m not a fan of yoga because my back is always stiff. I’m sure it would help me, but getting through it is painful. If I went and take your advice like go to Boston and keep my eye on the prize, I’d probably be better. One of the things that I love that relieves a lot of stress for me is watching birds. I’m not a bird watcher where I got my book and I’m trying to figure out what birds they are with my binoculars.
I just love watching them because I sit here in my office. I have a bay window. I have 52 windows in my house on the first floor. Any angle I go, I can see outside. With the snow that we’ve had, these poor little guys were trying to find anything. I said to my husband, “Go get some more birdseed.” I ordered a new bird feeder. I love standing at the window and watching them do their little antics. The blue jays are mean and the cardinals are beautiful. All these things that are going on take away all the stress.
I call it my own time out. I put myself on time out quite a few times a day where I just breathe. Breathing is so important. When we’re not breathing during the day, we’re in a perpetual state of fight or flight. Fight, flight, fear, fun, we’re in all those perpetual states, especially when you’re counting. We have to count and breathe. That takes us out of that state of fight or flight. We’re helping ourselves live longer by doing that. I did a timeout. I was so ingrained in something. I went to my husband. He goes, “What are you doing?” I go, “I’m on a timeout.” I came back to it and was able to finish it faster. I love what you said about relaxing. What message do you want to share with the audience?
Tune in to the dreams you had. Maybe you dreamed of a camper a few years ago. It’s so easy to look way ahead and say, “There’s so much going on. These things will never happen.” The journey involves going around corners. When we turn to the next corner, there may be a mark over there. We may meet a person who accelerates our life as we accelerate their life. We don’t know what’s around the next corner. Build your energy up. When you go to the corner and find something new, you have the energy to embrace it and go, “This is what I’m looking for. I want to play with this,” instead of, “This is good but I’m exhausted.” That’s what I would say.
Live life to your fullest. I love that you said going around the corner. You never know there’s a miracle right around the corner. We just have to have the energy to go pursue it. Jason, thank you so much for your words of wisdom here and for sharing your story. Your heart is so large. I can feel it. It’s so big. I love that you’re making an impact on people when most people in your situation would say, “I’ll be alone. I’ll be in the room. I’ll be with my mom dad. I’m not going to be out there. I’m not going to stick my neck out.” I love that you’re doing that and you’re putting yourself out there for everyone to see what’s possible. Thank you so much for your contribution to this show.
Thanks so much for having me on, Jen, and for all that you do to encourage people to break through the glass ceilings of their lives.
Thank you so much. Everybody, thanks for joining us on this show. As always, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to read this. We hope that you gain something and that you were inspired to take some action in your life to break through those glass ceilings. Don’t forget to subscribe to us on YouTube so that you can watch all of these wonderful videos that we’re putting together with all of these great interviews. Until next time, we’ll catch you on the show.
- Awkwardly Awesome: Embracing my Imperfect Best
- TEDx Talk – The Imperfect on YouTube
- YouTube – Jen Du Plessis
About Jason Freeman