This is kind of related to an earlier blog post on being a perfectionism on the autism spectrum that I wrote last month. It is about developing a sense of self acceptance and care for individuals on the spectrum. I consider this a goal and New Years resolution to develop more self acceptance because I feel that I will feel more happier and liberated. Believe it or not, I am constantly criticizing myself over my beliefs and choices even though I know what I want for myself. This comes in the form of constant questioning, doubting and cross examining my needs and wants. Unfortunately this has the consequence of creating unnecessary anxiety and is a form of self-injury. I feel that my brain is constantly attacking me and I am never satisfied of myself and where I am now in my life. For instance, I feel that I should be a more thoughtful person than I am now and call myself a "selfish" and self centered person because I have natural desires of wanting things for myself. Another habit related to my inability to accept myself is my constant comparison to others and the use of "should" statements. When I see friends or peers doing something I am not yet doing, I feel that I should be on the same track as they are if I am to be on track to a good life.
How I developed these self destructive habits has to do with the external situation that I currently live in (being a autistic person living in a neurotypical world) and what I was subjected to during my formative years. As stated previously, I was placed in various therapies in which I was constantly compared to peers (both neurotypicals and others with disabilities). When I was younger, my mother made these statements comparing me to my classmates as well as her friends' children who were a similar age. She would make these statements such as "someone so is doing this, how come you can't do this." The people in my life made decisions for me that I necessary would not have made for myself if I was put into the driver's seat. For instance, friends were chosen for me because my parents and therapists wanted me to be more social and to have the experience and more social opportunities available to me.. Although the intentions were good, it had the down side of creating a self destructive script that I do not make good choices in my life and my desire to be a "loner" (meaning I don't crave so many friends in order to be happy) was not socially acceptable. It also didn't help that my behavioral therapist was the type of person who would sometimes cross examine me during our sessions and it would lead me to self doubt my decisions despite being confident about them internally. It doesn't help that in the greater autism community, autistics are ranked against each other based on how they conform to neurotypical expectations. All these factors that I was exposed to growing up has led me to internally believe that no matter the compliments people gave me or the accomplishments I have achieved so far, I still cannot internally accept myself or my core beliefs.
Luckily I am still young enough to combat these self destructive scripts and can lead a more happier life for myself. My status as an adult allows me to make the choices in terms of how I want to live my life that I wasn't able to make when I was in high school. How I am going to get pass the negative scripts that I acquired during my adolescence and early college years, is to focus on accepting myself the way I am. This is accepting my strengths, accomplishments and also my limitations. It is accepting the fact that there are going to be people in this world(both neurotypicals and other people with disabilities) who are going to be more accomplished and more independent than I am but that doesn't mean that I am less deserving of the right to live a happy life compared to these people. Another component of self acceptance is self care. Autistics like myself were always taught to think more about other people and to put their desires first before their own. However, as the saying goes is that you can't help others until you take care of your needs first. Like neurotypical people, this rule applies to people with autism (perhaps more so, because we have a more limited energy capacity compared to the average person). The notion of self care can look different for each person since people have different needs and wants. To look at my life as an example, part of self care for me involved hiring a part time support person who can drive me around to various places in the community as well as providing companionship to me. Although I can function without this person, hiring a community support companion made my life easier since it frees myself from the drama and emotional baggage that a two way friendship often brings. This is one way autistics can achieve self care. However other forms of self care that worked for me as well as other adults with autism include finding other autistic people to connect with, finding a passion or special interest, watching cartoons or movies on the weekends as well as many more activities that would be too long to list here. Both self acceptance and self care remind all of us to embrace the journey and that there is on such thing as perfection. Without self acceptance and self care, we wouldn't be able to function in our day to day lives. I know for myself that it is going to take awhile to get over these self defeating scripts and to develop true self acceptance but I believe that one day I will get there. Writing this blog post is one step towards my goal of self acceptance and self care. If self acceptance and self care were more emphasized in autism interventions it would reduce some of the high rates of anxiety and depression that is so prevalent in this population. I hope my post on self acceptance and self care would be helpful to those both on and off the spectrum who are struggling with this issue right now.