Balancing Self-Acceptance and Motivation for Change

An adult autistic internet friend wrote about her suspicion that she and I owned some of our differences, particularly my greater self-acceptance, on the differences between our mothers. She had felt rejection from her mother on the basis of her autistic characteristics, whereas I had felt nothing but acceptance in my natal family. She asked what I thought of her theory, and I responded:

I think you're right. The downside of it is that I never had your impetus to succeed in various ways. I think my life has been much more at the mercy of alternating perseveration(s) and inertia than yours has. Not that you haven't had to struggle with inertia or with the near-mania of perseveration. But the point I'm trying to make is that at least you seem to have had a fairly clear understanding that there was a choice, there was something to struggle for, that there was a real world out there and that you could (with great difficulty) make a place for yourself there. You had "devils" (some of them loosed by your mother!) chasing you into "real life."

As a result, you have been a wife, a mother, a teacher, and those are all wonderful things to be. (They can be awful, too. But not in your case.) You have been much more a participant, I think, giving much more back to the world than I have. I'm not "putting myself down" here, by the way. Simply making observations. (Trusting you will understand that, I won't bother to write out the list of "Jane's good points," which would take much too long. ;-) )

It's been comparatively easy, I think, for me (as compared with many autistics) to "give up on" things that it's hard to achieve while accepting one's autistic self. Why was it comparatively easier for me? Because I am more self-accepting, and therefore more easily content with a life that excludes much of what makes an NT feel okay about her/his life.

Hmmmm. Have we discovered the roots of what seems to some people my most puzzling trait? To wit: my total, complete, 100 percent lack of competitive spirit. Nothing to prove, so no interest in "winning." If I were less self-accepting, maybe I'd have gone on to become the crusading social-change lawyer predicted for me as a teen on the basis of my "intelligence."

The following day, I added:

Today I realized my meaning might be more clear if I added:

If "the world" (especially your peers) and your mother both tell you you are deficient, not up to their standards, and you believe them, then you have lots of motivation for learning how to make yourself able to "pass" as "okay" at least some of the time.

But if you start out (as I did) with a family that tells you you're just fine and warns you that the world is seriously flawed, then when "the world" rejects you, you (or at least I) tend to think, "Well, there's something wrong with the world all right." And meanwhile, your self-esteem remains intact.

Additional advantages I had: My parents (and their friends) had a vision of the world shaped by Quakerism. They saw it as a major problem in the world that people tend to under-value and disrespect others, espcially those who are seen as "different." So I was "prepped" to understand rejection (of me) as a form of social neurosis rather than a true valuation of my worth.

It helped that my parents and their friends were accepting of my "little professor" ways and my preference for talking with them rather than with age peers.

Plus, my family moved every two years while I was growing up. Being perpetually new (or almost new) provided an adequate excuse for why I never made friends, never put down roots, never knew anyone's name, and in general lived in my world instead of my peers' world.