The original topic for the blog was society's expectations. After exploring this topic extensively I have realised that self-esteem goes hand in hand with escaping from society's expectations/norms. The problem is that the term "normal" is often wrongly interpreted to mean adequate and correct. The thing is what may be normal to the majority (which is often not questioned and just out of habit) may not be suitable to be expected of everyone especially minority groups such as those on the spectrum.
Being an individual is important as it shapes a person's identity. The role of individualism has to do a lot with diversification, independent thought, and freedom of emotion. It allows you the freedom of knowing that you are traveling under a path of your own determination dictated by your own system of wants and needs, and nobody can tell you that you are wrong because, after all, you are unique.
On the flip side, if you spend your life trying to fit a mould you will end up losing your identity. People who work hard to conform, often suppress their own thoughts and desires in order to fit in, and eventually they simply forget these thoughts and desires. If everything an individual thinks is countered by their internal questions of "Will that make me look stupid?" or "Is that what everyone else thinks?" the person will often get into a pattern of second-guessing themselves. This results in the thoughts that are eventually expressed that is of their own have gone through a series of re-examinations and end up not being the true thoughts of the person at all.
There are positive steps you can take to improve your self-esteem to become confident in yourself. The first step towards better self-esteem is to focus on your abilities. Create two lists, one headed "Qualities in personality" and the other "Qualities in abilities." After you have wrote down some characteristics for both ask family and friends for more qualities you could add to the list. You could use this list to regularly record times when you exhibit these qualities. When you are doubting yourself/have low self-esteem you can look at this document and be re-assured of the admirable attributes you have and even use this list to help determine how to solve issues that you face.
You do not have to improve your self-esteem alone in fact it is beneficial to have people who have earned your trust in the process. Finding a like-minded peer group who have similar interests and/or characteristics such as a Aspie Social Group ran by fellow Aspies, a group that is based on a mutual interest like an art class or computer club can be a great way of boosting your self esteem as your qualities are recognised and appreciated more than other social situations. Spending time in nature and with animals can help by removing unnecessary sensory stimuli that can be overwhelming. Spending time with animals will improve your mood considerable as they are happy to see you and are nonjudgmental.
Tony Attwood suggests "Sometimes people on the spectrum can be overly self-reflective and dwell excessively and pessimistically on their inner thoughts and feelings" and that "there may be a need to be guidance from a psychologist or counselor" to help "acquire realistic and positive self-reflection".
As your self-esteem improves, you will be able to do more and more things reflecting your own needs and wants as opposed to what others think. You should never be afraid to be yourself as trying to conform will only mean that you will deprive yourself of what you are capable of and deserve.
If you have any comments/questions on this article or there is anything that you would like me to cover in a future blog post please leave a comment.
Special thanks to: Marie Lauzon
References and resources
Been There. Done That. Try This! An Aspie's Guide to Life on Earth
Image attributed to http://hrringleader.com/