“Be true to yourself! Be who you are! Be fabulous!”
So often we here mantras like “Be yourself,” “Let Your freak flag fly,” and “Be true to you.” I have always liked these sayings, but I couldn’t always embrace their true meaning.
It’s so simple to recite these sayings.
I often tell my daughters to just be themselves. But, do I really follow my own advice? The simple answer would be no, but it’s really not a concrete no. During my childhood years, my parents were consistently telling me to be more normal so I often felt awkward, weird, and ashamed. I desperately wanted my parents’ approval and affection. I somehow knew that being myself was not who or what my parents wanted. They didn’t accept my socially awkward behavior.
I was often made fun of by my own father.
He called me out for being too shy and too weird. He never understood why I didn’t want to be the center of attention. He would purposely tell restaurants it was my birthday just so he could watch me cry and shutter with embarrassment. I never wanted to have that type of attention.
My mother was much more concerned with appearances.
She didn’t want me to act, dress or appear different from other people. I remember one particular time when I was in college and came home for the weekend. Back then, I embraced the grunge lifestyle and dressed in black Dr. Martens with tights and baby doll dresses. I wasn’t the only one. Numerous young women in my generation did exactly the same thing. Unfortunately, for me, this type of attire horrified my mother who just wanted me to be “normal.” She told me to walk behind her on this particular weekend. She said she didn’t want to be associated with me if I was going to look like a freak.
The fact is I never was normal or typical.
The truth is, I’m not supposed to be normal. I was born to buck conventional rules of normalcy. I was born to see the world through a different lens. It took me decades to realize that there is no such thing as normal. My autism diagnosis, in my mid-thirties, was a relief. It was like welcoming an old friend into my kitchen for coffee.
Many people see a diagnosis of autism as negative. Others see it as a hindrance to living a fulfilling life. For me, it allowed me to actually, “be myself.” There is a reason I didn’t act like all the other kids on the playground. There is a reason high school was one of the most socially exhausting periods of my life. There is also a reason why my parents were abusive and neglectful…they didn’t want me to be myself. They refused to see my uniqueness. They could not appreciate my view of life.
I spent my early years desperately trying to blend into society.
I copied what all the other women my age were doing and wearing. I thought that even if I couldn’t act normal, maybe I could look the part. I bought the right purses, tried all the latest fashion trends and I even tried to follow the right kind of diet fads. None of these things made me happy. None of these things made me feel normal.
It wasn’t until my own autism diagnosis that I realized I should stop trying to be like everyone else. I needed to be me. I needed to embrace my autistic side and stop trying to fit into a mold that wasn’t made for me. I want acceptance being true to myself. And that’s fabulous!
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