A friend of mine posted a question on Facebook: Let’s start today out with some self-loveand positivity! What’s something you like about yourself?
Some people went with physical traits, others a personality trait–there were no wrong answers here. I went with my inability to see social hierarchy. No one has inherent authority (so I’m great with police or people others are intimidated by), and I pay equal respect to those whom society belittles or others. To a further extent, that maybe feeds into my compassion for nonhuman animals, as I fail to see why humans should have dominion over all species.
It struck me that that was an autistic trait, which I thought was funny, so I came up with some other characteristics that I like about myself, and they were all related to autism. Surprising at first, but then again, I am my autism and my autism is me.
So aside from my eyes, which I like because they can be pretty or an effective weapon, here’s a list of stuff I like about myself:
My attention to detail and ability to see patterns: All the data I bring in–which is a lot–has to go somewhere, and my brain does seem to work pretty hard sifting through and sorting it (and then holding onto it). That’s helpful both in seeing problems or errors others don’t or before the issues become serious ones. Filing away that data for future use, if something pops up that I’ve experienced before, I can see a bunch of potential outcomes and causes (also helpful), pulling up whatever information I think is useful in preparing myself for whatever is next. This can be human behaviors, political events, mechanical errors, or even locking onto speech patterns, which helps me edit other people’s writing.
I am pretty logical. Not that I never experience emotions–far from it–but perhaps owning to my alexithymia, I can compartmentalize and shove emotion to the side when I’m making decisions.
Hyperfocus gets the job done. If you want to get something done and it happens to align with my interests, you want me on your team. I will throw myself into it completely, in an “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” way. Not always healthy for me, but definitely a win fo you.
Honesty rules. I’m so bad at lying and I don’t care. Even white lies or niceties seem silly and useless to me. Sometimes I read to strangers as cold or severe, which, whatever, but people who know me know that when they ask my opinion I’m gonna give it to ‘em straight. That opinion will also likely be very nuanced and lengthy because I have 100% overthought the situation.
I’m great at respecting others’ time ad accommodation requirements. My sensitivity to this one may stem from my lack of diagnosis, since I never felt permission to ask others to respect my needs for planning and sticking to a schedule (among many other things), which are very important to my well-being. It’s likely that I projected my needs onto others and assumed everyone was as uncomfortable/put out/downright miserable as me at times, and I didn’t want to be a cause of that.
While it’s been somewhat true all my life, especially since my diagnosis, I have a strong sense of individuality. Peer or social pressure hasn’t really been a problem for me, whether it was a drug thing as a kid or what measures of success to accept as an adult, I’m good at saying no to the things I don’t want to do and embracing the things I love. I’m not afraid to be different. I’ve always been a little weirdo. In fact, now that I’m older, I feel that embracing and displaying (or writing about) my differences encourages others to do the same, which I think is especially helpful for younger folk. I know I would have appreciated more confident outsider role models when I was a tween, aside from celebrities like Andy Warhol and Grace Jones. Note: I realize that I’m in a fairly safe position in life, with many privileges others don’t have, so I do understand that not everyone is able to fully unleash their inner weirdo. Also note: I don’t even fully unleash my inner weirdo, so anyone who thinks of me as eccentric, you’re seeing me at like 75%.
So thanks, Facebook friend Katie, for this little exercise. Some days, the more bothersome autistic traits hog the spotlight and I just need to make it through the day, so it’s difficult to think of anything positive. And a lot of people in my life–even the supportive ones–I think still see autism purely as a disorder, with no real perks. We can thank the deficit diagnostic model for that, but still, if you’re one of those people who think it’s a real bummer for me that I “have Autism Spectrum Disorder,” then hopefully this will help you see that the things you like about me may well be directly owning to it. Except my eyes, of course, that’s just physical.