Looks like the hotel’s wi-fi is working! Technology and I may have a chance at an amicable relationship after all. This means that I can write a post after all.
Speaking of doubt, now I’m going to point the laser beam at myself.
As an Asperger’s child, I acted naturally. I did what kids do. I talked too loud, moved too fast, went all-out when I had fun…until counseled by an adult, that is.
I don’t fault the adults for spoiling my fun (well, I did at the time, but now I understand the need for giving children the needed guidance). But something I’ve noticed in myself and some other members of my fellow neurotribe is that the discipline we receive as children can have a ripple-effect. This gets further compounded by the reactions to us from other kids our age.
As we realize that the rest of the world doesn’t operate like we do, we begin–at an early age–to constantly monitor ourselves. We review, analyze, and rehash everything we did, said, thought, felt, etc, right down to–and especially–the clothing we wore and the image we cultivated (or tried to cultivate).
Thoughts begin like sticky snow being made into a small snowball at the top of the hill. Driven by its own weight and the slope of the hill, it begins to roll down, all the while picking up speed and mass.
…..Am I acting “right”? (As determined by our peers)
…..Am I acting “acceptably”? (As determined by the adults, usually during our attempt to play under their radar)
…..Am I talking too much? Too little?
…..Am I talking too loudly? Too fast?
…..Am I losing their interest? Are they fading away?
…..Are they trying to find a way to tell me they’re done with/it’s time to end the conversation?
…..Am I coming across to other people as snobby? (Actually, I’m just shy, and was shocked to find out that some had thought I was snobby.)
…..Am I inadvertently shutting people out?
…..Am I dressed OK?
…..Did I do/say the right thing?
…..Am I coming across as sensitive enough?
…..Did I respond in the “expected” way to something or someone?
…..Am I revealing too much?
…..Am I getting too personal?
…..Am I boring (someone)?
…..Am I monopolizing the conversation?
…..Did I make the right choice?
…..Did I express enough sympathy?
…..Did I explain enough?
…..Do they like me?
…..Did I choose the right words?
…..Am I being (un)reasonable?
…..Are they taking me seriously?
…..Did I listen enough? Do I appear bored?
…..How do I appear to a stranger who’s never met me until now? How is my attempt at a good first impression being received? What impression are they forming?
…..What do people think of me?
…..Am I sending the right/wrong signals?
…..Do they think I’m flirting with them?
…..Why do they look at me like that?
…..Am I being misunderstood or misinterpreted?
…..Am I paying enough attention?
…..Do I smell funny?
…..Does my hair look all wrong?
…..Am I annoying anyone?
…..Do I look like an easy target? Am I making myself an easy target?
…..Am I being fooled or manipulated?
…..Did I make someone feel bad/hurt someone’s feelings?
…..Did I cut someone off by accident?
…..Would anyone miss me if I’m gone?
…..Is it OK if I want to be alone? Do they think that I’m abandoning them?
…..Am I normal enough? Do I look normal enough? Do I pass for normal? Do they know the difference?
…..Do people notice my extra weight?
…..Am I being too self-centered?
…..Did I remember everything? Did I forget anything?
…..Do they sense my insecurity?
…..Do I look/seem like I know what I’m doing?
…..Am I good enough? Do I measure up?
…..Is the other person going to feel rejected if I’d rather stay home than go out with them?
…..Does my facial expression look depressed, irritated, or annoyed?
…..Did anyone notice me stumble/trip/drop something/knock something over, etc? Did they laugh or think I’m a clod?
…..Do people understand what I mean?
…..Are they just humoring me?
I’m sure that all of these questions have crossed everyone’s mind at one time or another, and I’m pretty sure that those of us on the spectrum don’t have a monopoly on insecurity, self-monitoring, anxiety, or self-doubt. But I also get the feeling that we spend more time contemplating these questions, and that they probably cause more anxiety in Aspie/autistic people than the rest of the population.
We tend to lack the instinctual knowledge of social norms and rules. We don’t necessarily know how to act, or what to do or say. We don’t always pick up on other peoples’ responses or body language. We don’t know what they’re thinking or feeling, so we’re “flying blind” in a conversation, with limited feedback (or perception thereof). So, we may have to spend more time thinking about the questions above (and others).
I like to quote Dr. Seuss: “Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.” Those are excellent words to live by. They’re true, and they put things in perspective, easing some of our anxiety.
But often, it’s not that simple. Sometimes there are people who do matter (because we value them, love them, admire them, rely on them, work with them, etc), and sometimes those people do mind. And that matters.
I don’t have any easy answers. I wish I did. All I can say is, if you find yourself asking the same (or other similar) questions, you’re not alone. You’re in good company.
As a consolation prize, I can reassure you that if you spill/drop/trip over something, people probably won’t remember, even later that day. The same goes for accidentally cutting someone off. It’s also safe to say that you’re not being self-centered. You’re definitely “good enough”; in fact, you’re probably way beyond that. And as you continue to monitor yourself on some level, you probably won’t egregiously mess up in a way that people won’t forget.
It’s important not to get too bogged down in the self-doubt, though; it’s not fun when thoughts like that dominant your life. Just know that you’re giving life your best shot, and no one can legitimately demand more than you are capable of giving. If the “best” that you have to give falls short of whatever they’re expecting from you, they’ll just have to live with it 🙂