Friday, April 8, 2016

I Am Not Broken

My hair looked nice.
I like to think I clean up fairly nicely. I was at an archival event on Wednesday (which turned out to really be a talk and not much of a networking opportunity even though I'd mentally prepared myself for networking for about a week) and I made sure to look presentable in case I met anyone who could further impact my career. I actually looked pretty damn good, I think, despite the wind making it difficult to keep my hair in line!

I always wonder when I'm dressed more formally if I'm somehow more "acceptable" to the public that way. I wasn't particularly fashionable when I was younger due to just wanting to wear loosely-fitting T-shirts and jeans all the time (function over form), something I imagine probably contributed to the bullying I dealt with as a kid and teenager. I tend to spend a lot more time than I should wondering if my existence as a human being is socially unacceptable or not, and that's not something I should be wondering at all.

I actually look good in this dress.
I read a great piece on The E is for Erin earlier today about the phenomenon of "hiding" oneself, and I related to a lot of the things she said with regards to feeling this need to hide your true self in order to be relieved of social stigma. As I said in an earlier article a week or two ago, I have a sort of "false self" that I present to the public, which has gotten so sophisticated at this point in my life that not even my closest friends get to see the "real me" 100% of the time. I really only trust my family with "real me" with the exception of the internet, where it's easier for me to reach out and find like-minded people. I've internalized this idea over the years that "real me" is somehow socially unacceptable and shouldn't exist in the world that I live in, so I've gotten really good at hiding her from society and instead putting on this sort of false front. Whenever people do see cracks in the facade, they get confused at best and have rejected me at worst - a classic example being my college roommate, who was unintentionally emotionally abusive to me because I turned out to not be the carbon copy of her deceased mother that she had projected onto me. For the longest time, I genuinely believed that "real me" was somehow broken, and although getting my autism diagnosis gave me relief I also battled feelings of inadequacy and this idea that maybe I was somehow "sub-human" according to the rest of the world.

In the article from The E is for Erin, Erin writes,
Humiliation and shame. Those are recurring themes in my social life over the years. The life lesson learned is to hide. Hide everything you care about, hide the things that matter, hide all of your feelings, hide your true self, because letting people see you is dangerous.
Hiding is an early instinct for autistic people, I think. Because it only takes a few rejections and betrayals for us to note the pattern: expose yourself and you may be hurt. Because we have an intense drive to protect ourselves from pain. Because we often can’t tell which people, places, and situations are safe, so it’s best to just avoid risking it, and to hide our most valued things, our most intimate selves, out of sight.
I'm tired of having to hide. I want a world that sees me the way I see myself - as completely human, as acceptable, as not broken. I am not broken. I am a human being. I shouldn't have to hide the person I am just because I don't fit into a society designed by people who didn't have people like me in mind, only themselves. I feel like I still have to, though, and it exhausts and hurts me every single day of my life. Somehow, I'm just not good enough for society when I'm myself. That's not okay.

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