TALKING ABOUT MYSELF DOESN'T MEAN I'M NOT INTERESTED IN OTHER PEOPLE
Whenever people notice that a large percentage of my sentences include the words “I”, “me” and “my”, I receive a selection of certain questions. Many have (correctly) guessed that I have autism during those moments, and may look at that either positively or negatively.
What affects me most of all though, is when it’s incorrectly said that I’m egotistical about myself, and that I don’t have any care or interest in regards to all I come across in my life. Those misbeliefs of the person who I am upsets me a lot, because I genuinely do care about other people. I also don’t at all feel that I am more important or superior to anyone else. The mere thought of me having those personality traits is already making me feel terrible things about myself as I’m writing this.
The real reason for me talking about my own emotions, situations and life in general is quite different from the misconceptions given in the previous paragraph. In truth I find it very difficult to understand and interpret feelings and situations that I don’t see and feel for myself. It makes things more difficult given that I’m also unable to interpret facial expressions, body language and the countless number and layers of emotions.
Due to me not being very skilled in those areas, it is much easier for me to talk about myself more so than of other people (even if they are a person of whom I am very close to).
Talking about myself is a comfortable topic because I experience all of my own feelings and situations without having to interpret body language. In life we also know far more about the person who stands in our own shoes than we do of any other. So when we have any kind of difficulty with communicating, the comforting and familiar topic of ourself is a great way to bluff out those difficulties. Yet there are many skilled people who catch me out whenever I do this.
Despite accepting that this is a part of my autism that this is a major challenge in my life, I still want to try (as hard as possible) to improve my conversation skills, as well as to learn everything that I possibly can about emotions. In addition to learning how to manage my feelings of anxiety, these are the main areas and goals that I’m working towards in my therapy. Together therapists and myself are doing everything possible to enable this part of my life to be easier, and we’re making considerable progress that I’m very pleased about.
Something of which I am finding extremely challenging is learning all of the facial expressions. I just cannot seem to see expressions on people’s faces, even when my therapists tell me that they are very exaggerated and basic. Indeed, until very recently I believed that facial expressions only existed in cartoons and didn’t truly exist in the real world and on real people. Also, whenever I drew pictures of people in art class, teachers would query as to why they always had no expressions on their faces.
So even though that all means that I most probably will never be able to recognise facial expressions, I can still practice other ways of understanding people’s emotions and situations (because I do care about other people and have interest in them). Currently I’m learning how to verbally ask people about their feelings when I’m unable to read them with body language.
On a few occasions (though not too frequently) I have been told things like “Well, isn’t it obvious that I would feel this way?”. However something else that I’m learning is to not feel uncomfortable about both informing people with words and positively accepting that this part of life is a learning process.
So, by practicing all of these things, I’m successfully making progress towards being able to bluff out my difficulties with conversation in a way that is different from just talking about myself all of the time. In regards to achieving this I’m not only hopeful, but I’m feeling certain that I will grasp this within the next decade at the latest.