In talking to those with HFA and AS, I’ve found that a large number of them, since learning to put on the “socially acceptable” mask to hinder their being ostracized, find it difficult to remove that mask and show the true self to others.
Growing up, we’re told that “honesty is the best policy”. Aspies are naturally honest, to an extreme. We’re supposed to be honest with our parents, teachers, friends, etc. We aren’t told, however, that if our “honesty” is even slightly offensive, then we should either not express it, “sugar coat” it, or tell a “white lie”. The extreme honesty of someone with a high functioning form of autism often earns them the distasteful comments of the person that is offended, as well as others around them.
As children, we’re told to stop doing our quirky little things and act normal. We’re ridiculed for things that we just do. Sometimes, these quirky little things are the things that calm us down when we are stressed out in overwhelming social situations. Suppressing this often bottles up the frustration and confusion.
Rejected, ridiculed, taunted, bullied, and shamed into putting this mask on, we wear it because we don’t want to die. The fear of taking this mask off can be more intense than words can describe. It is truly frightening. We fear removing the mask out of our intense fear of rejection. Even some of the people closest to us haven’t really seen us, the Aspie or HFA us. The questions come a mile a minute.
“Will this person still stick around if they see how weird I really am?”
“Will this be a repeat of what happened last time? I was really hurt by it.”
“How will I…..?”
“What will I do…..?”
Fill in the blanks with your own personal horrors.
I’ve gotten to a point in my life and my journey with Asperger Syndrome where I don’t wear a mask so much. I’ve found a balance. I behave in an “appropriate” way when at school, at work, and around people I don’t know. I am absolutely myself with all the crazy and weird when I’m with my family and friends.
Yes, I’ve lost friends here and there because I was too weird or because I didn’t open up enough. They didn’t like my honesty, I didn’t do the things that they wanted me to because I wasn’t interested, or I unknowingly offended them.
Yes, I probably cried about it then, but I’m not apologizing now. I can’t get back the friends that I lost, and I don’t need to. Someone that cannot accept me as I am, as Allie the Aspie, shouldn’t expect to be a big part of my life. In fact, my friends really do appreciate that I’m going to “give it to them straight”. And they like my quirks.
And one thing that most people with high functioning forms of autism don’t understand is that NT people are more like us than they know. They wear masks. They have quirks. They fear rejection .
My advice: if someone is important enough to you to start asking the questions about “what if I show my Aspie side to them?” Show them, even if it’s just a little bit at a time. Not everyone is the bully from when you were in school or the nasty co-worker that seemed to have it out for you. More people will understand if you talk to them about it. And if someone isn’t understanding and hurts you, they’re not worth your tears. If someone sticks around, take the friendship and run with it.