If you start frowning and exagerratingly sniffing the air in a group of people, most of them will sooner or later start sensing a foul smell. Still the odour can be pleasant. There can even be no odour to begin with. People will prefer to rely on their peers than on their own judgement.
This is – in a way – understandable. People have a fundamental desire to fit in. In the very beginning of mankind fitting in was what helped humanity to survive. One person alone could not survive the challenges that he or she was facing. One needed the support of others, a community. And if a person wants to be accepted by the community, that person has to fit in. The person has to acquire the way of thinking and the way of doing things that is approved by the community. If the individual refuses to subordinate to the majority, the community will ostracize them because they represent a threat, a crack in otherwise homogenous structure that may potentially fall apart. And in ancient times being outcasted by community equaled death. The fear of not fitting in was therefore a lifesaver. Sadly we inherited it from our ancestors, even though it is no longer serving its purpose. Moreover, it has become obsolete and something that prevents people to be true to their own identity.
As an aspie (click here) I have difficulties understanding that way of thinking. I understand the concept as I explained above, but I cannot act accordingly. I don’t mind standing out. In my teenage years it was a sort of mixture between a desire to blend in and be accepted, and the need to express my own identity. Of course I wanted to be accepted by my peers, but trying to fit in made me feel as a fraud, as if I was betraying my true self. I felt different and alienated. Oddly enough, I was perfectly happy with that. I felt better standing out rather than compromising my identity. If recognizing and affirming yourself results in being a social pariah, then this is a small sacrifice to make after all, considering the gain and the loss. If I conformed to accepted behavior without contemplating it by myself first with a single goal to be accepted by the crowd, I would feel as a sell-out.
With adulthood my desire to fit in had not become any stronger. It even lessened, if anything. I still endure my deal of hardship but the older I get the less I care about standing alone. If I had fit in, I would disappear. With learning my diagnosis I finally understood their reasons behind such stance. I thought it was an aspie thing. It turned out it was not. At least not by default.
Having Asperger’s can be great or it can be an enormous burden. There are elements of both in each individual’s life, but in the end it all comes down to how a person decides to look at it. I could have chosen the self-pity option. I could proclaim myself as a disabled person, being unable to achieve any goals that I might have previously set for myself. Or I could see my Asperger’s as an opportunity to see, feel, consider things differently, as something to be proud of – despite the hardship it may bring. Needless to say, I chose the latter option. I myself am enough for me. I do not seek validation of others. I am well aware that my way of doing things is often frowned upon by society, but I could not care less.
But there are a lot of aspies who act differently. They are the ones who skillfully blend in. It surprised me that they were, of all people, the ones who are the most prepared to follow the crowd. If the crowd said “jump”, they would already be landing. When the first one stated an opinion, the others grabbed it willingly, without giving it the benefit of a doubt. Even NT people are not so eager to fit in the herd as are some aspies. I could not understand that. Why are they so willing to denounce their uniqueness, their superpower? My guess is, that they were being told for a prolonged period of time, that they have to fit in if they want to lead at least close to normal lives. They were being rehabilitated from the start. They received their diagnosis, learned about all the pitfalls of Asperger’s and were indoctrinated into thinking that having Asperger’s is a huge disability that is best dealt with if it is hidden. If you are an aspie but can pass for NT, than you are fully rehabilitated. To those aspies, hearing the words:”You don’t look autistic. Are you sure you have Asperger’s” are the ultimate win. The ultimate success of their rehabilitation.
I do not see my Asperger’s as a disadvantage, let alone a disability. I did briefly in the past, until I realized that no one will benefit from that view. What message would I be sending to other aspies if I pretended I was NT or if I would wallow in self-pity? And not just adult aspies, but young children and teenagers who are at this very moment trying to come to terms with their own condition. Do I want them to see themselves as underprivileged just because of who they are? Do I want them to think there are obstacles in front of them that they are unable to overcome? Do I really want to send that kind of message or set that kind of example? No. I do not.
It is nothing wrong with fitting in if that is what you feel. But it is very wrong to try to blend in with others just for the sake of it. Sometimes fitting in can be a lifesaver. But at other times this can be the very thing to kill an individual. Even if a person wants to fit in, there is still a possibility they will not be able to do it. When this is a case, standing out is a lifesaver. If you can’t fit in, stand out. This is what any Asperger’s Syndrome treatment should be aimed at. It is nothing wrong with being your true self. And that is the message that I want to send.