One element to life that can be full of struggle is how we see ourselves. We watch others stride into a room, shoulders back, looking like they are ready to take on the world. We see others give presentations without a stutter, flirt effortlessly, take charge during a group project. How do they have the confidence?
For starters, it is important to remember that everyone has challenges. Some of us have anxiety, depression, autism, OCD, body-image issues, health struggles, family conflict, etc. That person you see and envy for how confident they appear might have gotten to that point after therapy, proper medication, removing themselves from a bad situation-- or they could be faking it! The adage “fake it ‘til you make it,” works for a lot of people. They walk into a situation looking on the outside completely put together, but on the inside, they are panicking as much as the rest of us. However, that will not work for everyone, and the goal is to be as confident inside as you appear on the outside. How do we get to that point?
You are not broken, wrong, a burden, or less than for not liking yourself or not having confidence. Life can get better. Here are some tips :)
- One aspect of autism that is very common is anxiety. For people without anxiety, finding confidence is probably a shorter road. That does not mean that it is impossible for us who do, just that working on figuring out strategies that work for assuaging your anxiety should take priority. Exercise (walking, lifting weights, running), sensory (weighted blanket, play-dough, fidget toys), and taking a break in a quiet and safe place are all things to keep in mind when you find yourself ramping up.
- Commonly tied to anxiety is depression. Making sure you are connected to a therapist or a safe person who you can talk through this with is important.
- Set goals for yourself. Make sure they are achievable! Having a list of five or less goals for every week/month and being able to check them off will give you a sense of accomplishment. Continue this for a while and you may start to see the worth in yourself that others see.
- Surround yourself with good people. This can be a very hard thing to do. When we get comfortable with someone, it can be difficult to see when they are toxic to our mental health. Do they support you, help you out without expecting anything in return? Do they ask you to hang out? Do they talk to you when they don’t need anything from you? Are they positive about your challenges and listen to you when you need to rant? If these are not true, then they may be hurting you.
- Acknowledge your achievements, no matter how small. Oftentimes we forget to take note of everything we do. It is okay to celebrate the things you accomplish! Did you finish an assignment, go for that walk, or get the grade you wanted? Celebrate for yourself, and don’t compare your progress to someone else’s. It is hard not to, but happiness never comes from comparing yourself to others. Only jealousy, self-hate, or pride and egoism.
- Recognize that having a “diagnosis” or being different does not make you “less than” anyone else. Maybe you have autism. So do a lot of people, quite a few of them very successful. While autism may come with anxiety and social challenges, it also packs in several strengths too. An article about Anthony Hopkins states that “as with many with forms of ASD, individuals with Asperger’s often exhibit remarkable rote memory skills and tend to be focused on a few very narrow interests. In Hopkins’ case, these traits have proven to be advantageous.”(Quote taken from https://www.autismkey.com/anthony-hopkins-autism-aspergers-diagnosis/)
Life is a journey, and there are hurdles along the way. That does not mean that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Keep working, keep trying, and find what your interests are. As always, Totally Social ASD is here to help provide services or connect you to others who have the services you need. Further, if you are struggling with depression or mental health, please reach out to someone. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255, open 24/7 for chat/call. You are loved, even if sometimes it may not feel like it.
Written by: Katy Evans