I have made it no secret here on RJsCorner that I struggled through life trying to figure out what was wrong with me. My very narcissistic mother who abandoned me when I was nine years old did nothing but amplify those negative feelings I had about myself. In hindsight, I am kind of glad she left, as I don’t know how much damage she would have done if she had stuck around. My father was no help either, but even though he seldom showed it, at least I knew that he loved me.
Growing up not understanding why we’re different, ashamed of our struggles where others seem to just glide through, is hard on our self-esteem. Like me, many future Aspies grow up with being ashamed of our differences. We desperately attempted to fit in with the crowd, but frequently failed. We sought love and understanding from those around us, but just can’t seem to make it happen.
We learn that to get along in this world that is so different from us, we must put on a mask to hide who we really are. We who are on the spectrum, are frequently judged as being antisocial or snobbish. When we let down our masks, we are labeled as having issues or sometimes just crazy. As our result of not understanding why we are as we are, our self-esteem and self-confidence suffer.
Eventually, some of us just accept that we are different and finally say, “that is just what it is”. We accept ourselves, along with all our peculiarities. At that point, our self-worth begins to slowly grow. We eventually come to realize that many of our differences are actually assets instead of liabilities. Because of our weirdness, we actually excel at some parts of life that others do poorly at. That finally begins to tell us we aren’t bad or defective after all, just different.
After that realization, the chore becomes trying to convince others that although we are different from them in some ways, we are very much like in others. We finally realize that we must do the work to make others realize these facts. We can’t simply sit back and moan that we are misunderstood, we need to do the work to make others comfortable around us. The first part of that is finally admitting that we are autistic, or deaf, or a myriad of other conditions.
Wearing the label is an important part of living our life on our terms. That is something that took too long for me to realize. Most people treat us differently because they simply don’t know how to break down the barrier between us. It is up to us to teach them.
Here I am 75 years old this past week and this epiphany finally happened! But, it’s never too late to learn or teach new things. If I say so myself, I am learning to be a pretty good teacher for those who have troubles accepting us because we are different. This blog is part of that teaching process, and I am learning other ways to make this happen.
Better Late Than Never