I’m not sure when I learned that I needed to blend in with others for self-preservation purposes. I’m certain that I was very young though. I know for a fact that this knowledge within myself was fairly firmly in place by the time I was 7 years old. Possibly earlier.
Blending and the sense that I’m not good enough have plagued me ever since my childhood. I would sometimes be myself as a child and the reactions from other people were so confusing and terrifying in their unexpectedness that I immediately would resolve not to do what I had done, not to say what I had said, ever again.
These “rules” for what never to say or do added up and it was exhausting to remember them. No wonder I spent most of my childhood reading books and avoiding people.
As a young adult I began to closely observe groups before approaching them. Even if I was in the middle of a group, I would watch and listen to them before joining in. I paid attention to what they liked, where they were from, and noted any things that were also interests of mine and/or that I might be interested in learning more about.
I was able to essentially blend into any group if I tried hard enough and had the energy to do it. I spent time with almost every high school clique when I attended the public high school part time. I was able to manage fairly well in any of those groups, yet it was extremely difficult.
Difficult in part because of the sense that I was lying. I didn’t know who I was apart from the people in the groups. I was never sure what I agreed with and was terrified to speak up much. Who was the real me? If multiple groups happened to be together, I never knew which group to be like. How to function within two or more very different peer groups when I’d been presenting as almost a completely different person with each group privately?
I was constantly told that I was wrong and bad and hurting people when I let my guard down at all so I internalized that I was a horrible, awful person. Add that to the constant feeling of lying and the fact that I didn’t realize I was doing it in self-preservation and it gradually chipped away at my sense of being until there wasn’t really anything left.
That’s all in addition to the exhaustion such blending caused/causes.
I’m still on the path to self-acceptance. For me, it’s been far easier to accept my children as they are than to accept myself. Maybe it will take the rest of my life to manage it, but I’m so glad to be on that path now after so many years of wandering in the wilderness of not knowing the most important things about myself.
I wrote the above paragraph in April. I still have yet to achieve much in the way of self-acceptance. In some ways I feel farther from it than ever. I still need to accept my future, that my essence is not going to change, that I need to respect my needs, and that the allistic (non-autistic) world isn’t going to be supportive for the most part.
The ending of this post is brought to you by the fact that I’ve let down several friends this week. I hope they understand. Of course they were all allistic friends and I haven’t even contacted them to explain yet. I’m not sure how to go about even starting these conversations.
Not being around people when I wouldn’t be able to blend or not even being able to blend enough to let them know in a socially appropriate way that I won’t be able to do whatever it was I’d planned to do hurts. It’s one of those things that feels as though it should be easier, but isn’t. I struggle the most to accept myself when I hurt or disappoint others.
Yet, ironically enough, the more I accept myself and the less I attempt the intense blending of my earlier years, the more I’m going to disappoint allistic others. That’s something I need to accept along with myself. I need to practice using more disclaimers too.