To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
When you are young and traits that are part of who you are receive negative reactions from people- especially from parents and teachers- it can very quickly erode your sense of confidence and well-being. This, in turn, creates a perfect storm for self-loathing and depression. MKelter, Invisible Strings
Would you agree with me with a variation on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote?
“To be yourself in a world that doesn’t understand autism is one of the greatest challenges and accomplisments”
As M. Kelter states, feeling different and struggling in a society that is, in many respects, still ignorant about the strengths and challenges of autism, can lead to low levels of confidence and self-esteem.
If you’re tired of feeling down about yourself, please pay attention to these 7 tips for building self-confidence.
I gleaned many of these tips directly from adults on the autism spectrum.
7 Tips for Building Confidence as a Neurodiverse Person
1. Recognize the Difference Between Self-Esteem and Self Confidence
About Psychology defines self-esteem:
In psychology, the term self-esteem is used to describe a person’s overall sense of self-worth or personal value. Self-esteem is often seen as a personality trait, which means that it tends to be stable and enduring. Self-esteem can involve a variety of beliefs about the self, such as the appraisal of one’s own appearance, beliefs, emotions, and behaviors.
When you grow up feeling different, and having difficulty performing at school, socially, or on the job, it’s easy to transfer those struggles to negative thoughts and feelings into negative core beliefs about who you are as a person.
The drawing below shows how attention deficit disorder struggles can lead to low-self esteem in adults. (image sourced from Mastering Your Adult ADHD.) In the same way, autistic/Aspergers neurological differences can lead to low self-esteem in Aspergers/autism adults.
I point out the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence because we need to realize that, if we reject our core essence of personhood, we’ll have a very hard time building self-confidence.
Cynthia Kim shared a number of very helpful confidence building tips for building both self-acceptance and self-confidence in her article, Acceptance As Well-Being Practice. I’m sharing them in the tips that follow.
She likened these tips to building a bridge to self-acceptance, each tip building on the next.
2. Develop Self-Knowledge
Cynthia talks about the challenge of trying to devise endless explanations for why she had to try so hard, yet struggle so much to deal with social skills and communication.
Perhaps you’ve wondered as well why you’ve had such a hard time that your peers or co-workers seemed to do as second nature.
Getting a formal diagnosis brought Cynthia peace of mind, as she finally now knew why she was different.
3. Develop Positive and Realistic Self Acceptance with a New Reference Group
Your reference group is the social group that you get your ideas and standards from, particularly the ideas and thoughts about autism.
Cynthia Kim writes:
From other adults on the spectrum, I began to learn coping strategies and about the concept of neurodiversity. I learned about supports and accommodations, the social model of disability and why it’s important to presume competence. I learned that it was okay to struggle with things that come naturally to typical adults, that there was no shame in finding socializing difficult, that my autistic traits can be a source of strength.
4. Observe a Positive Online Reference Group
Autism Brainstorm Kathleen Tehrani started this group on Google Plus.
AUTISM BRAINSTORM COMMUNITY on G+ provides a platform for individuals on the spectrum, advocates and experts to share with one another as a collaborative community. This provides the opportunity for all of these groups to empower one another….helping to improve life for people on the autism spectrum.
Wrong Planet (sometimes referred to by its URL, wrongplanet.net) is an online community for individuals with autism and Asperger syndrome. The site was started in 2004 by Dan Grover and Alex Plank and includes a chatroom, a large forum, a dating section, and articles describing how to deal with daily issues.
Check out the following Aspergers/autism bloggers:
Yes, That Too
Loud Mute Radio
Renee Salas at SRSalas
Stephen at Adults with Autism
Shawna at Thoughts of an Introverted Matriarch
Gavin Bollard at Life with Aspergers
Bob Yamtich at BobYamtich.com
There are many more. But read and reach out to these Aspergers/autism bloggers.
Here’s what Cynthia said happened when she started reading blogs like this:
It was only when I discovered the blogs of autistic adults that I began to see my adult self reflected in the experiences of other people on the spectrum. Perhaps, again, it was my literal-minded approach that left me feeling grim after my initial research. The books I’d read made it sound like all autistic adults were lonely, unemployed, and depressed.
In reality, I discovered autistic adults who were happily married and unemployed, single parents with full-time jobs, college students with no interest in dating, business owners who were intentionally childless–every variation of adulthood imaginable, just like nonautistic adults.
5. Connect with a Positive Reference Group
Find ways to connect with other Aspergers autism people. Join the online communities of Autism Brainstorm and Wrong Planet.
Or look for other Facebook Aspergers/autism groups where you can connect with others.
Bob Yamtich, in the podcast episode about Improving Communication, shared how helpful the autism/Aspergers support groups were to him after he learned about his Aspergers diagnosis later in life.
Check out autism/Aspergers support group in your area and join one.
6. Celebrate Your Strengths and Accept Your Challenges
Recognize the positive aspects of the autism spectrum.
Focus on your own personal strengths.
Here’s an article I wrote on 6 Best Free Strength Test Sites to help you start thinking about your strengths.
Please try this experiment for the next 30 days.
When you wake up in the morning, think about one positive aspect about yourself.
When you go to bed in the evening, think about one personal victory or accomplishment from the day, no matter how small you think it is.
Re-focusing our minds and paying attention to strengths and positive accomplishments can shift our thought patterns over time.
7. Form New Personal Mantras
We’re always thinking to ourselves and about ourselves.
Unfortunately, we’re not always aware of what we may be thinking about ourselves.
And if we’ve developed negative core beliefs about ourself, the thoughts are going to be slanted toward attacking instead of valuing ourselves.
Check out Amy Sequenzia’s article, called I Define Myself for an honoring, self-empowering set of statements.
Spend time reading the blogs listed above and write positive statements you read on their blogs. If you feel some of their statements will help, write a short statement to form your own personal mantra.
My friend, Violet, recently wrote her own personal mantra: “Life is hard: I’m doing the best I can.”
Here’s one of Amy’s personal mantras:
I am who I am and if I cannot value myself, nobody else will. Besides, I don’t know how to not be me. Would you know how to not be you just because a neuromajority does not like or understand you?
Cynthia Kim, Acceptance as a Well Being Practice
Amy Sequenzia, I Define Myself
M. Kelter, Autism and Depression: managing self-hatred (Aspergers/ASD)
Brian Tracy Resource (Affiliate Link)
I’ve been reading and applying Brian Tracy’s material since (I hate to admit it) approximately 1992.
That’s why I trust and promote his materials.
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