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Am I too old to be self-conscious?

Misty Avich

I prefer not to be referred to as autistic
V.I.P Member
All my adult life so far I have been very easily embarrassed, self-conscious, and conscientious of what people think of me, especially when out in public. I don't like being judged, stared at, scrutinized, etc. it's just a fear of mine. I have social anxiety, which isn't just something you can switch off like a light and "just not care" when subconsciously you do care and you can't help it.

I was chatting to an (NT) aunt tonight, telling her how I worry about what people think of me, even strangers, and she lectured that I'm "too old" to care what others think, and that she no longer cares what people think. But she's in her 60s, while I'm only in my early 30s. I thought it was quite normal to care what others think, and some of us feel more self-conscious than others. I didn't know that once you hit 30 you have to grow out of caring. I do care. When people are judging me I can feel it. Although I am not shy in the same way I was when I was a teenager, I do worry if I look weird or whatever, and I don't want to look weird. Surely there aren't many people in their 30s who don't care what others think, especially among NTs.

I don't like people saying I'm too old for something, as I feel like they're implying that I'm childish and immature and that I should just grow up. But I don't think it's childish or immature to care what people think when you're out in public. Do you?
 

Aspychata

Serenity waves, beachy vibes
V.I.P Member
I just don't have time to worry about others. I have raised a child, held jobs, been in relationships. That tells me l have it going on. So no, l don't worry about what others are or aren't thinking. And l feel they are entitled to their opinion. About everyone, and everything. At most, l try to understand why others think the way they do.
 

Rodafina

Hopefully Human
Staff member
V.I.P Member
I have social anxiety, which isn't just something you can switch off like a light and "just not care" when subconsciously you do care and you can't help it.
No, one can't "switch it off," but with a concerted effort, one can learn ways in which to make these feelings less distressing and less impactful in their lives.

I think your aunt could have been saying that with more life experience we can learn to accept ourselves more and gain a different perspective of ourselves than we had when we were younger. For example, as we age, many of us realize and learn that we are not really on other people's radar as much as we may think.
 

AuAL

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
“At age 20, we worry about what other people think of us. At age 40, we don’t care what they think of us. At age 60, we discover they haven’t been thinking of us at all.”
~Ann Landers
 

Misty Avich

I prefer not to be referred to as autistic
V.I.P Member
. And l feel they are entitled to their opinion. About everyone, and everything. At most, l try to understand why others think the way they do.
I've learnt on autism sites that, as an Aspie, I'm not entitled to my opinions, because it's "wrong" to judge someone who "isn't harming anyone" and that "us spectrumers should know better than to judge".

So many contradictions...
 

Misty Avich

I prefer not to be referred to as autistic
V.I.P Member
“At age 20, we worry about what other people think of us. At age 40, we don’t care what they think of us. At age 60, we discover they haven’t been thinking of us at all.”
~Ann Landers

Well, they obviously do, otherwise why do we have so many people staring at us in public and discussing loudly which gender we are? At least that's what happened with me. Which then made me feel self-conscious about the way I look - which I guess I'm "too old" to worry about.

I guess this isn't really an appropriate topic to discuss with Aspies, as the majority of Aspies (people on the spectrum) have the gift of not caring what others think of them and just happily and freely sway their arms or rock in public with the carefree attitude "well if they judge then it's their problem". I envy you.

(Note: I don't stim like that in public or even when not in public, as I just don't have that symptom. If I do stim it's either socially acceptable or unnoticeable).
 

AuAL

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
@Misty Avich, for most of my life I was bedevilled with self-doubt. The search for external validation drove my actions, my career, my relationships - my emotional and mental stability depended on it. I had very low self-esteem with no intrinsic feelings of self-worth. Then I discovered I was autistic. I was not defective, just different. I am now working (and it is very hard, slow work) on realising that I don’t need someone else to tell me I am OK, that I am doing well, that I have worth, that I can live my life as I choose. (Let alone that I deserve to be happy.) It is a journey. (But I am now apparently below threshold for psychological intervention.)
 

Neonatal RRT

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
I am in my late 50's. Straight up, most people care what others think of them. It's just a matter of having the wisdom and selectivity of whom you chose to care about. There are people in your life that it actually matters, and then there are the rest, the people you will never meet again (strangers, etc.). So, when I say, "I don't care what people think.", it's typically in reference to people that, frankly, don't matter to me, which happens to be most people.

Another variable is your inner circle of people. There are people on the forums that for one reason or another are surrounded by toxic, insecure personalities that are mentally and/or physically abusive. I am sure we've all read those threads and posts. Obviously, the abuser's modus operandi is to make themselves feel better by bringing other people down. Sad, when you step back and examine it, but if you are on the receiving end of it, it totally sucks. It is no wonder that the side of effect of this mental abuse is being insecure and having feelings that you are somehow "less than". It's psychologically destructive and can last a lifetime. It's cruel and evil at its core.

Perhaps a way to approach this situation would be to consider the source of your potential anxiety and self-consciousness. In other words, ask yourself, "Is this person actually important enough for me to care?" If not, have the courage to be yourself. If they want to be inconsiderate, insecure, abusive jerks, quietly acknowledge this to yourself and whatever they say, you just have to consider the source and let it go. They don't matter.
 

Misty Avich

I prefer not to be referred to as autistic
V.I.P Member
Well it just seems I haven't quite reached the "don't care what people think" stage in my life yet. I understand people over 50 becoming less self-conscious as they get older. But I see it as a sense of pride and desire of social acceptance.

When I was a child (around ages 8-16) I was very unaware of other people thought, and would yell out things that others thought of as embarrassing. I was often lectured and criticised by others about it, and it wasn't until around age 16-17 that I realised people do judge, which was why I was lectured into not being so embarrassing over the years.
Although I was self-conscious in my 20s, I was still impulsive in public sometimes, and others would say "think before you react, as some of your actions will make people look at you and think you're an idiot" or "why are you wearing a scarf in this weather? People will think you're a looney!" ('this weather' meaning not hot but not like freezing cold but still chilly). Or "don't keep touching your hair or face, it makes people look." So I beared all this in mind and figured that strangers judge other strangers by their appearance and actions and so if you want to fit in and not show yourself up then you must follow these guidelines. The guidelines were exhausting to remember but now they've become part of my subconscious and I just automatically worry and fret about other people judging me.

Ann Landers is a boring old biddy.
~Ned Flanders (The Simpsons)
 

Rodafina

Hopefully Human
Staff member
V.I.P Member
I guess this isn't really an appropriate topic to discuss with Aspies, as the majority of Aspies (people on the spectrum) have the gift of not caring what others think of them and just happily and freely sway their arms or rock in public with the carefree attitude "well if they judge then it's their problem".
Misty, please spend more time reading and really taking in other people's posts in other threads and you will see how incredibly painful it has been for some of us to endure the idea of what others think of us. It is very hard work for some of us to be brave enough to decide to finally give our own selves a chance in the world because we have been made to feel so afraid and so ashamed of simply existing in the world.

Do not take away the struggles of many many people with autism who have worked to overcome the extreme shame and embarrassment of living in a world that has made them feel odd, weird, dejected, invalidated, and sometimes much worse.

When people on this forum say something like, "I will be myself and not care what others think," it is not an autistic "gift" of not caring. It is a show of great strength, bravery and faith in oneself for anyone who is willing to put their true face in the world despite what others may think of them. It does not come easy and those that can do it have worked very hard for it.

You can be one of those people.
 

Misty Avich

I prefer not to be referred to as autistic
V.I.P Member
Misty, please spend more time reading and really taking in other people's posts and you will see how incredibly painful it has been for some of us to endure the idea of what others think of us. It is very hard work for some of us to be brave enough to decide to finally give our own selves a chance in the world because we have been made to feel so afraid and so ashamed of simply existing in the world.

Do not take away the struggles of many many people with autism who have worked to overcome the extreme shame and embarrassment of living in a world that has made them feel odd, weird, dejected, invalidated, and sometimes much worse.
I'm not invalidating anyone's feelings but it just seems this way when many Aspies tell me I should be like them and not care what people think. Maybe in 10 years time I might have changed, but I'm still at that stage many of you were once at, where you hate the feeling of being judged, and just feeling accepted even in a place full of strangers is just important to you.
It does not come easy and those that can do it have worked very hard for it.
Exactly. It is not easy and is usually something that degenerates as you age (I don't mean degenerate as a bad thing, but a good thing). But you were all once like me so you must know how painful it is for me right now. I have agoraphobia because I just can't bear to be judged, so I very seldom go out in public any more. I've also faced bad experiences with strangers in public so has made me fear being a target. Nobody wants to be a target, surely?
 

Levitator

Well-Known Member
All my adult life so far I have been very easily embarrassed, self-conscious, and conscientious of what people think of me, especially when out in public. I don't like being judged, stared at, scrutinized, etc. it's just a fear of mine. I have social anxiety, which isn't just something you can switch off like a light and "just not care" when subconsciously you do care and you can't help it.

I was chatting to an (NT) aunt tonight, telling her how I worry about what people think of me, even strangers, and she lectured that I'm "too old" to care what others think, and that she no longer cares what people think. But she's in her 60s, while I'm only in my early 30s. I thought it was quite normal to care what others think, and some of us feel more self-conscious than others. I didn't know that once you hit 30 you have to grow out of caring. I do care. When people are judging me I can feel it. Although I am not shy in the same way I was when I was a teenager, I do worry if I look weird or whatever, and I don't want to look weird. Surely there aren't many people in their 30s who don't care what others think, especially among NTs.

I don't like people saying I'm too old for something, as I feel like they're implying that I'm childish and immature and that I should just grow up. But I don't think it's childish or immature to care what people think when you're out in public. Do you?
I've said it before. I don't care what individual people think of me. That's how you wind up a fashion slave, or an imitator of someone else. What I do care about is having to live in a spiritual hole without anybody else. That does bother me. And then having to deal with the prospect of winding up on the street, or without food, and without a job. Those are consequences of that, but they're not even as bad as feeling alone in the world. Life is more than food and raiment.

lol... more than food and rain man....
 

Neonatal RRT

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
When people on this forum say something like, "I will be myself and not care what others think," it is not an autistic "gift" of not caring. It is a show of great strength, bravery and faith in oneself for anyone who is willing to put their true face in the world despite what others may think of them. It does not come easy and those that can do it have worked very hard for it.

You can be one of those people.
^^This^^. Courage and bravery is being afraid, and doing it anyways.
 

Misty Avich

I prefer not to be referred to as autistic
V.I.P Member
Well I'm not the most courageous or bravest person in the world. I can't even get pregnant because of my stupid wimpiness. God I'm useless.
 

Levitator

Well-Known Member
I've said it before. I don't care what individual people think of me. That's how you wind up a fashion slave, or an imitator of someone else. What I do care about is having to live in a spiritual hole without anybody else. That does bother me. And then having to deal with the prospect of winding up on the street, or without food, and without a job. Those are consequences of that, but they're not even as bad as feeling alone in the world. Life is more than food and raiment.

lol... more than food and rain man....
And no, you're not too old. If you feel alone, you're alone, and you have a right to ask what it is that people are seeing when they look at you. It feels vain, awkward, silly, regressive. But I think it's totally justified, because if anything, I'm more alienated and alone than your typical teenager. It's just a fact. If you want to pivot the perspective a little, imagine that I'm a panhandler on the street asking how he got that way. It's a different kind of ugly, and you realize both perspectives are looked down upon unfairly. Or maybe all three, since the teenager deserves lots of sympathy, too.
 

Misty Avich

I prefer not to be referred to as autistic
V.I.P Member
I wouldn't ask someone why they're staring, because I doubt they'd happily tell me. They'd probably just swiftly walk away thinking I'm more nuts than I look. But I would like to ask them why they're staring and why my gender matters to them so much. Maybe I should wear a tattoo on my forehead that says "I AM A WOMAN!" just so people can relax and get on with their day.
 

Judge

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
I was chatting to an (NT) aunt tonight, telling her how I worry about what people think of me, even strangers, and she lectured that I'm "too old" to care what others think, and that she no longer cares what people think. But she's in her 60s, while I'm only in my early 30s.

* Self-reliance
* Self-Confidence
* Willing to take risks to succeed
* Have no debts
* Capitalized
* Retired with no employer to depend on
* No one within my real-life social orbit I depend upon or they depend on me (living in relative isolation)

Under such circumstances there's nothing left for me to truly be self-conscious over. Which for many just happen to all tie into one common denominator: old age. I certainly wasn't there at your present age. At a time where I had to work to survive. When what people thought of me might have mattered depending on the circumstances.
 
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Misty Avich

I prefer not to be referred to as autistic
V.I.P Member
* Self-reliance
* Self-Confidence
* Willing to take risks to succeed
* Have no debts
* Capitalized
* Retired with no employer to depend on
* No one within my real-life social orbit I depend upon or they depend on me (living in relative isolation)

Under such circumstances there's nothing left for me to truly be self-conscious over. Which for many just happen to all tie into one common denominator: old age. I certainly wasn't there at your present age. At a time where I had to work to survive. When what people thought of me might have mattered depending on the circumstances.
That's what I thought. I didn't think 33 was too old to be self-conscious or care what others think. I wish my aunt hadn't said that.
 

Levitator

Well-Known Member
People only stare at me if I attempt to be outgoing (telling a joke, etc), which is why I rarely do it. I've tried to do it more, and I get bewildered looks, and it winds up a strong deterrent. It puts you back in your snail shell, and now you're non-existent to people. Two flavors of lousy.
 

Misty Avich

I prefer not to be referred to as autistic
V.I.P Member
I like to be invisible when in public, unless I know somebody of course, or if someone wants to make smalltalk or whatever. But that's all friendliness and makes me feel at ease. It's when people stare like they disapprove or are judging me that makes me feel uncomfortable. Also I've had girls randomly laughing at me. One time I was in a restaurant and there were these two girls on the table next to me that I was facing. Behind me was just a brick wall. My husband had got up to order our meals, while I just sat sipping my drink and minding my own business. Then something made me look up at the girls, even though I hadn't really noticed them at first, and I could tell they seemed to be snickering and looking at me. They can't have been looking at anything behind me, as there was just a brick wall there, so it was obvious that they were laughing at me. For what reason I do not know, as I wasn't doing anything funny. I was in my 20s then and the girls looked around the same age as me (not teenagers or kids). I don't dress bizarrely or look unkempt, and I don't do unusual things like stand on my head.

Also I remember a time when I was 17 (which probably was what started this all off) when I was sitting in the cinema with my first boyfriend (also 17). We and this other young teenage couple were the only ones in the row of seats we were sitting in. He has his arm around me as we watched the movie. But I noticed the other couple kept giggling at us, even though they were boyfriend and girlfriend doing the same thing we were doing (on a date at the movies on a Saturday, a very normal activity for any couples especially teenagers). I wasn't sure why they were laughing at us, as we weren't doing anything other than sitting watching a movie like everyone else. Sure he had his arm around me but the kids laughing also had their arms around each other so it wasn't like they were embarrassed or anything.

I just get mad that strangers care enough about other strangers to actually pay to see a movie only to sit and giggle at other people who aren't even doing anything remotely weird or funny. Surely the movie is funnier than a normal couple sitting in your row doing a normal activity. Apparently not. I must have this big neon sign attached to me that makes everyone notice me and laugh at me.
 

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