Why I Care What People Think Of Me

I hate the idea that someone out there hates me. I hate even thinking that al-Qaeda hates me. I think if they got to know me, they wouldn’t hate me.
— Pam Beesly, The Office

I want to preface this with a vow to readers that has been in place since the beginning of this blog and even earlier. I have always sworn to be truthful about myself, even if that means looking bad for it. I don’t think that you can learn anything about my mind or the minds of my peers if barriers are up. With that said, let me act on that vow.

There is a belief in western culture that living your life without regard for the opinions of others is an ideal to be celebrated. One is considered bold and stronger for it. After all, they are free to live without worry that they might offend others. To live without fear of judgement is to truly live as yourself.

I am not that person. I am not that person even remotely. I am someone who lives with a profound insecurity about the reactions I draw from others. When I offend people, I am even more horrified by me than they are. The same thing happens when I anger or hurt them. Barring rare circumstances, I would do anything to make people happy.

This is, I concede, not an appealing trait to admit. It makes me sound weak and like a lapdog. That’s not completely true. I do have principles I stand for. I am forever going to be devoted to the cause of equality for all. I’m particularly active in the disability rights movement, a natural cause due to my own status. These are principles I won’t yield on.

However, I’m saddened to concede just how willing I’ve found myself to try and give ground just to avoid an argument. There are limits of course, but I have heard myself concede points I shouldn’t have conceded. I’ve let myself be a worse person than I believe myself to be in moments like these.

Why? Well it begins with the simple fact that when you’re autistic, you’re trained by society to doubt your brain. Your mental patterns aren’t correct by the outside world’s definition. If the way you act is deemed unsuitable by others, it’s a minimal leap to doubting your own opinions.

Furthermore, I’m a former bullying victim, as I’ve often noted. That experience left me feeling deeply insecure. Avoiding conflict is vital to me. I don’t want to be back in that place which is all too easy to do in modern society. Some thrive on conflict, to be fair. I’m not at one.

All the same, I do find myself in conflicts. Most of these I don’t really care about. If a bunch of people jump in my twitter feed and harass me, I’m going to be upset but it isn’t personal. It’s when I find myself in arguments, usually stemming from misspeaking, with friends or people that I don’t know or respect that I get bothered. After all, these are people whose opinions I value. If they think ill of me, then I feel ashamed.

So what I usually try to do in these cases is try to defuse things. If I truly did misspeak, then it can end fast with an explanation unless I make further errors. But if there truly is a disagreement, that’s when I try to defuse with tactics like being polite. This tactic tends to start by conceding points I do truly agree with. Eventually, I may go a step or two too far, just out of ignorance but usually out of insecurity.

Again, this all goes back to the insecurity that I can’t escape. Admitting I seek approval from the outside world isn’t a good look. I’m supposed to be stronger than that and I’m not. I can’t help this trait either. To those who would argue I need to be stronger, I stress that I’m a product of my life.

And I am working on it. I know my weaknesses and I’m tackling them head on. This is one that I’m slowly learning how to confront. Works like this are how I do so. I’m learning to be stronger in arguments too. I know that my opinions are valid. In time, I think others will see that.

Every weakness I face is one I can fight back on. It just takes work

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