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Being yourself - How to act around other people

By Matthias · Jun 15, 2020 ·
How to be yourself and why it's good advice. Learn the difference between adapting versus masking and how to act in social situations.
  1. INTRODUCTION
    Having a good self-esteem will make it much easier to be yourself. If you haven't already, you may wish to read the following guide before proceeding: Knowing Yourself - How to improve your self-esteem

    PERSON VS BEHAVIOR
    Before continuing, it’s important to know the difference between who you are as a person and your actions which are secondary to who you are as a person. Your personality, belief system, values, strengths, weakness, preferences, and desires make up who you are as a person. Your behavior, communication style, coping styles, and other ways you act are secondary to who you are as a person. These may change depending on the situation. For example, someone may act serious at work and silly around kids, speak formally at work and informally around friends, or communicate assertively with family and passively at work.

    WHAT IS MEANS TO BE YOURSELF
    The best advice is to BE YOURSELF. Act in accordance with your personality, belief system, and values while also ADAPTING your behavior to the social situation. If you don’t be yourself, people won’t know your true self and your friends won’t really like you (they’ll only like the person you pretend to be) so you may still feel alone even if you have friends.

    Trust is an important part of relationships. If someone discovers your dishonesty (pretending to be someone you’re not is deceitful), they may stop talking to you because they don't trust you.

    If you don’t adapt your behavior based on the situation, people will likely get annoyed with it (their annoyance is with your behavior – not you as a person) but if it happens enough, you may be seen as aloof or stubborn which are characteristics most people don’t value.

    ADAPTING
    Adapting means adjusting your behavior based on what’s expected or socially acceptable
    . Everyone adapts their behavior based on the situation. Work wouldn’t be productive if everyone just did whatever they wanted. It’s often necessary to get a job, keep a job, get along with others, and avoid getting into trouble. Politicians who didn’t act like they’re interested when listening to their constituents even when they couldn’t care less wouldn’t be popular and would struggle to get elected. Sales agents who didn’t act friendly and smile even when they were sad would risk losing their job.

    EXAMPLES OF ADAPTING
    1. Looking between someone’s eyes to cope with anxiety (common in social anxiety disorder)
    2. Smiling at work even when you’re unhappy
    3. Engaging in small talk when appropriate even if you don’t like it
    4. Chewing gum instead of your clothes
    5. Avoiding bad habits and other behavior that annoys people
    The above behaviors are adaptations because they have nothing to do with who you are as a person.

    MASKING
    Masking means hiding your true self
    . Masking is often based on SHAME or FEAR. Some people mask, or hide, their true self because they’re worried other people might think they’re weird. Other people worry something bad might happen to them if other people find out they’re not exactly like everyone else. It may be rooted in a person’s belief that he is fundamentally different than other people which has been shown to result in distrust, suspiciousness, and fear of those perceived as different.

    While it’s sometimes beneficial to occasionally hide flaws or avoid expressing unpopular opinions, especially around strangers, it can become a big problem when a person makes a continuous effort to avoid saying or doing anything that might expose his true self or cause someone to think he’s different. Thinking about whether someone will judge you before you speak or act causes anxiety and doing this repeatedly throughout the day is exhausting. Stress caused by repeatedly masking perceived differences alters brain function which makes it even harder to maintain.

    HOW TO STOP MASKING
    Frequent masking may be due to anxiety or a low self-esteem. If you haven't already, you may benefit by reading the following guides:
    Why social interactions are stressful
    Knowing Yourself - How to improve your self-esteem

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