This entry is inspired by Bruce’s latest post about us aspies having to try and “pass” for normal in order to get along in the world. He talks about how this can be harmful and cause you to burnout if you’re constantly trying to fit in. It’s a very thoughtful post. It got me thinking about how much of ourselves we have to hide in order to be socially acceptable. Even people without disabilities do it.
I kind of have mixed feelings about it. When I was first diagnosed it was a relief, but I was also angry that I was still expected to try to act like everyone else in order to be acceptable. It seemed like it was quite okay for other people to be offensive to me, but I had to “fix’ the way I acted so as not to offend them. A lot of that anger has faded away now. I’ve accepted that it’s just one of the cold hard facts of life. If you want to play the social game you have to follow some of the rules.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be yourself. But I think that in order to be realistic we have to balance both being ourselves and being passable. It’s life. It’s what all of us do. Some of us are just better at it than others. Some of us just really have to work hard at learning the social rules. I’ll never get it perfect. I’ll always be autistic. All I can do is try my best to make other people comfortable around me. If they still don’t like me after that then I guess it’s their loss.
I spent a good 20 years of my life torturing myself over my inexplicably failed interactions with other people. This is the particular cruelty of Asperger Syndrome. You want people to like you but you know that there’s something not quite right about you. You want to live up to other people’s expectations yet you have no idea how to go about doing it. And the worst part is that nobody will tell what it is that you need to change. You’re left alone and floundering, wondering why it has to be so hard for you. Oftentimes depression and feeling of self-loathing set in. And the more depressed and anxious you get, the more uncomfortable other people are around you. At this point you have a decision to make. You can be miserable or you can fix what you can and accept the rest. I’m not saying that it’s easy. It’s a work in progress. Like I’ve said before: all we can do is try our best and be kind to ourselves.