The Ugly Duckling, Self-Identification, and You
According to Dictionary.com, self-identification is defined as
identification of oneself with some other person or thing.
We all know the story about the Ugly Duckling.
I’ve always loved the story, because I can relate. There’ve been times in my life when I felt like an ugly duckling, not quite belonging.
Perhaps you’ve felt that way, too.
Too bad the ugly duckling didn’t know sooner about self-identification.
Today I’ll share three ways that self-identification will change your life for the better.
Autistic adults go through nine developmental stages of growth during their lifespan. (Source: The Nine Degrees of Autism).
The first degree of autism is being born on the autism spectrum.
In the story of the “ugly” duckling, the baby swan is born into a family of ducklings. By definition, the swan is different than the ducklings.
The second degree of autism is knowing that we are different, without understanding why.
When his duckling parents and siblings rejected him, the ugly duckling knew he was different. When he looked at his reflection in the water, he knew he was different but didn’t understand why.
As an autistic, you’ve more than likely felt different. Maybe your parents, siblings, or peers didn’t understand autism, so they tried to make you be more like them. Over time, you realized you thought and felt differently than so many people around you.
The third degree of autism is developing secondary health issues.
Like the ‘ugly duckling’, the autistic person may experience ridicule/teasing/bullying. He may be excluded from society, or treated as inferior within the family. These factors, in turn, can lead to depression, anxiety, insomnia, stress.
When feeling depressed, sleepless, anxious, and stressed, how can you or I grow?
That’s where the fourth step of autism comes: self-identification.
Everyone can grow by learning about self-identification.
Self-Identification Offers A Solidified and More Accurate Self-Perception
Successful self-identification gradually evolves from initial disequilibrium to a newly formed and eventually solidified and accurate self-perception. Old memories and experiences are now filtered through a clearer lens, and your life story emerges with more clarity as previously confusing experiences begin to make sense. (Dr. Debra Moore, PhD, The Nine Degrees of Autism)
Imagine thinking your a duckling, and not a very good one at that, during your whole life. Then you find out you’re a swan! It boggles the mind, then brings things into focus.
Self-Identification Offers You Space And Time To Learn About Yourself
During the period of self-identification there may be a long time when you’re exploring whether you may be on the spectrum. It’s okay to take your time, because a) it may take a while to receive a diagnosis, and b) you don’t want to jump to conclusions.
You may want to try some online autism quizzes , but remember that these are only screening tools that don’t take the place of an official diagnosis.
In the words of a Wrong Planet member –
I will offer how it was for me. After first hearing of Asperger’s, I felt like I was reading my own biography. I thought, “Wow, this is me, after all these years of wondering why I am the way I am … this is it!” But I did not go out and say I had Asperger’s … not yet. I scheduled an appointment for a diagnosis from a qualified expert. After running through the necessary testing and interviewing and paperwork and and and, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s and proceeded to schedule some counseling sessions. It was after the professional diagnosis that I made known I had Asperger’s. I can’t speak for others, but I thought I would share how I felt about it for me.
Self-Identification Helps You Contextualize Your Struggles and Learn About Your Strengths
“For us…identifying with Asperger’s syndrome (and maybe going on to get a formal diagnosis) has been the most positive moment in our lives, and provided a crucial turning point. It has been distressing, for sure, but out of the catharsis has come self-awareness and with it, self-confidence:
“I am no longer a failed normal person. I am a successful aspie.”
(source: Life on the Spectrum)
Check out some Aspergian specific strengths here –
Conclusion: Self-Identification, The Ugly Duckling, And You
Once the Ugly Duckling found out he was a swan, the story ends beautifully as he swims off with his family.
It’s not that easy of an ending in real life.
The road to self-identification doesn’t always end like a fairy tale. People will misunderstand. Society still stigmatizes autistic people.
But you now know who you are. You have a tribe of people who understand you (hint: join us at the Thrive with Aspergers/Autism community). And you can move into the next stage of growth: examining your options. More on that in the future.
Helpful Additional Reading/Resources
I Think I Might Be Autistic, by Cynthia Kim.
The Nine Degrees of Autism, by Phylip Wylie, Wenn B. Lawson, and Luke Beardon
Self Diagnosis and Self Identification – (WrongPlanet discussion thread)
Adult Diagnosis — a series of posts by Cynthia Kim, Apergian woman documenting her own journey and offering help to others
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