In my blogs I often compare my present-self with my past-self. How I handle things in the past is a lot different to how I handle things now. My confidence back then was a lot different to what it is now. The key word is “self-confidence”. This doesn’t necessarily apply to people with Autism but it certainly has played a big role in my life.
I’m writing this specific blog because a recent incident has triggered a realisation in me- I have good strong self-confidence. Have I always been this self-confident? Have I always liked how I looked? Am I ashamed to admit that this is my identity in appearance and personality? What do others think of me? Should I adjust myself to please them?
Many questions ran amok in my mind…
My school has obviously played a significant role in my life, especially in my younger days. I was always afraid of doing something “wrong” so I would aim to please without being a burden. This meant that I always tried to be a “gentleman” to be the “cleverest”, know everything, always try my best.
Because I went to an SEN school it was important that we were all taught how to be polite and pronounce words correctly. You will find that a lot of Autistic people speak correctly but with a slight monotone. That is because we learn how to be polite and speak correctly rather than learn how to express ourselves. I was one of those people. When I spoke in my school days, I spoke with a placid monotone. I spoke politely with an edge of nervousness.
I learnt how to be polite and a gentleman, but I never really knew who I was. When I tried to express myself through my personality I would get chastised for being “silly” or “rude”. So, when I tried to express myself I often got shot down.
I was often misunderstood because I didn’t know how to express myself. My teachers and adult figures never gave me a chance to explain myself and what I meant; instead, they assumed that as I had said it, I must have meant it. So, more often than not, I would accept my punishment instead of being given the chance to speak. Those times were extremely painful, and it certainly made me self-conscious about myself. If this was what life was like in an SEN school then how was I going to cope if I ventured into the bigger world?
Going to Bobby Charlton’s School of Excellence (a football academy which was founded by ex-Manchester United football player, Bobby Charlton) didn’t help my confidence either. I was the only student that represented an SEN school. Even though SEN schools were supposedly involved the majority of the staff, at that time (2000) showed no inclination that they understood a person with Special Needs. The other children there certainly showed a lack of understanding. I got called weird underneath their breath and they often whispered things loudly so I could hear them… I probably should have walked away at that point, since I was most upset, but I was determined not to let them get the better of me…
I felt like a monster from that experience and it was from that point that I started to hide the fact that I was Autistic. I figured that I was treated horribly because I have Autism. I didn’t deserve to hang out with cool people. I didn’t deserve to get equal treatment and attend Mainstream courses at college. I hid my “problems” from everyone else, and I hid my “problems” from even myself. I didn’t want to accept that I was Autistic. If anyone knew that I had “special needs” then they would instantly dislike me…
Despite everything that had happened I could never get away from the fact that I was Autistic. That thought alone made me insecure. So, in order to not do anything “quirky” and to hide my “autistic quirks” I kept quiet and spoke politely whenever it was necessary. Don’t rock the boat. Try to remain the status quo. If I don’t say anything incriminating then I won’t get judged or get called a monster…
Then one day I started to attend University and that was when my life changed…. For the first time I was actually happy. I could express myself and say my views without fear of being thought bad of. I had friends, they liked me and they did not care at all about me being “autistic”. All this confidence gradually led me to performing my Auto-biography performance of my life with Autism… it was definitely one of my most memorable moments in life. I felt peace and happiness.
Right now, I like who I am. I accept who I am. I embrace the fact that I am autistic. I’m not part of Autism, Autism is part of me. Life is good. =)
I now have an identity that I call my own. I have the looks that I like, I have personality that I feel comfortable with and I have wonderful hobbies. I also have goals that I strive towards…
- The Recent Incident
There was a knock at the door. I was dubious to open it. We thought it was just a friend so I opened the door to see what the gent wanted… At the time I wore white shorts and I was topless.
Anyway, this man came up to me, looked me up and down and said;
“Hi. First of all, you need to shave that chest!”
I think it’s safe to say that I was quite miffed at that point. The sheer cheek of the man had me taken aback, and annoyed to. If this happened something like five years ago then I would have been terribly upset and insecure. In that moment though, I was more miffed that he had the cheek to say that to my face.
Even if he was joking it was still insensitive and gratuitous. You just don’t do it. It’s like me going up a gentleman, who is well endowed around the waist line and say “you need to lose weight!” or me going up to a lady “you need to pop that spot!” You may think it, but you just don’t say it, even as a joke. I get the impression that people like this gentleman can’t comprehend that saying that can do a lot of damage and cause unrest in an individual.
This issue does not apply to just people with Autism, it can be a problem for many people. It can especially be a problem for Autistic people since some of them will lack a lot of confidence in social situations.
How did I act? I did it by not rising to it. I just grinned. My attitude was “hahaha… not gonna happen. I’m proud of my afro chest and Tom Selleck agrees.” =)
- Irrelevant Ramble
I participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge. That was a lot of fun. =D
I did the challenge on a very cold and windy day. My Dad poured the ice on top of me and I kept my eyes open with a huge smile on my face… from my point of view it was like a beautiful yet cold waterfall streaming down right before my eyes. I always wanted to go underneath a water fall and so far that’s the closest I’v ever come to experiencing one. =)
THANKS FOR READING
I really have come a long way in many ways in my life, especially when it comes to my self-confidence. I have learned that I can handle people’s quips a lot better and whilst I may still be sensitive, I’m not as sensitive as I used to be. I can rub off people’s cheeky quips whilst not feeling ashamed about who I am and how I present myself…
Thank you for reading. =)