As with most things I write on here, the topics come from my day-to-day life as a therapist working with various clients. I have always been a proponent of authenticity in our daily lives and may even quote a little Brene’ Brown from time to time. A recurring theme that seems to keep coming up for my clients on the spectrum and me is the concept of masking. A simple definition of masking would be doing whatever you can to “mask” the fact that you have autism from society. Masking can mean non-disclosure, pretending to take an interest in things that you would not normally do. Sometimes expressing emotions that you think you are supposed to feel and putting yourself in situations that may be very uncomfortable in an attempt to fit in.
Unfortunately, we do not live in a society that is always kind to those who do not fit the typical mold. The terms Neurotypical and Autistic have gotten a great deal more press lately, but in many ways, it continues to create stigma because its adds to the “difference.” A prevalent phrase that comes up in session at least once a week, if not more, when working with individuals on the spectrum is “I just want to be normal.” I have done a lot of research on normal and still could not tell you precisely what that is or what that means.
I believe it is human nature to want to belong...to have a connection, and that at times, we may sacrifice a piece of who we are to attain that. In an ideal world, people would treat each other with respect and cherish the differences that we bring to the table. Unfortunately, we do not live in that world. From a very early age, many children are trained to fit in regardless if they have a particular diagnosis or not. Social norms give us a set of rules that are not written on paper, but we all discover them when we break one. For the individual on the spectrum learning to mask the authentic self can feel like a survival technique.
Let me ask you a question for the individual on the spectrum who sits across from this screen. Who do you admire the most, the person who walks into the room, owns who they are, quirks and all, or the individual who walks in and you can tell they aren’t even comfortable in their skin?
I am not asking you to disregard something that may make you feel safe and fit in with others. I would ask that you take a moment and write down the characteristics of the person you admire most. Then take note of the traits that you may be lacking, or excel in. If masking keeps you from becoming and loving the authentic self that you can admire, it may be time to rethink a few things. Remember, each morning; you get to wake up and decide who you want to be. Quirks and all!
At Mind Works Counseling Services in Lubbock, TX, we specialize in working with individuals with Autism geared towards helping with figuring out what they need and want to feel authentic and safe in today’s world.
Learn more about the Autism Counseling services we offer.
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