A major theme in my life has been learning to trust myself. When you’re autistic this can be a hard thing to do. I should start by giving you some background information. I have a very mild form of Asperger syndrome. I was diagnosed two years ago, when I was 26, so I’ve spent most of my life without a diagnosis.
I’ve spent most of my life feeling like something was off, but I didn’t know what it was. This can lead to an incredible sense of insecurity, especially for a young person. I knew that sometimes I did things that other people didn’t like or understand. Once I realized that I was not always acceptable, I started to feel that I couldn’t trust my own judgement. I thought, “other people must know more about these things, so If someone tells me I’m not acting appropriately I should believe them.” I went along in life with this mistaken belief for a long time and it hurt me.
In my adult life I’ve worried about relationships, walked on eggshells trying not to upset people, all the while ignoring my own feelings. When someone else got upset with me I automatically assumed it was because I was wrong and was bad at relationships. Occasionally this is the truth. We all make mistakes and hurt people’s feelings sometimes. But I was giving away my right to my own emotions. As a result I had low self-esteem, anxiety, and a lingering depression. In fact, it was making myself miserable which in turn had a negative effect on my relationships. It was a never-ending cycle.
Luckily, wisdom comes with time and reflection. I am realizing that I am allowed to feel how I feel. In fact, I should listen to those feelings because most of the time they’re telling me something very important. I have to make a promise to myself that I won’t let anybody else tell me that my feelings aren’t valid. And I have to allow myself to feel these emotions without fear that it will upset someone or make other people uncomfortable. I’m not saying that I should act upon every emotion I have; none of us should do that. But I have to listen to myself and use my own judgement.
This sense of insecurity can happen with any young person, but we must be especially careful with young people with Asperger syndrome or high-functioning autism. The truth is there are certain things that we have to learn in order to interact with other people. Chances are we won’t act in the “socially acceptable” way all the time. We can learn social skills. But, it is imperative that this learning process includes temperance. We have to learn that when something doesn’t feel right it’s okay to say so. I had to learn that other people do not know what is best for me. But that got blurred by my intense desire to get other people to like me and my belief that they knew more than I did.
So, teach us how to start a conversation politely or how to make proper eye contact. But also teach us that we are unique individuals who have as much right as anybody else to express how we feel. It is important to accept constructive feedback from others, but we must not let other people decide how we should feel or what is in our best interest. We must have the confidence in ourselves to make these decisions in order to be healthy, happy people. And, we must stand up for those decisions, even when other people don’t understand them.
You are the only person who knows what is right for you.