This is something I've always puzzled over... even back as a child. Yet, I've only recently begun to get curious as to whether it's an autistic thing, or just me. So, who better to ask than you wonderfully resourceful individuals?!
It concerns the idea of 'me'. Constantly looking out at NT's, it's always struck me as odd the complete, utter and rigid faith they have in their own sense of self. They say such things as:
"I'm a right character me!"
"I'm a good person."
"I deserve more... I deserve that promotion / marriage / expensive car etc"
"I want a baby"
"I'm confident / intelligent / switched on / funny etc"
For me, individuals are all things at some point in their ever-fluctuating lives. But for NT's they seem to feel whatever they're saying or self-identifying with as absolute, irrefutable concrete 'truth'. They seem to posses a sense of self and inner confidence that I both fear and envy.
A good example of this is their names. I of course have a name. But, whilst I use the name 'Evan' for forms and social interaction, it's never felt like 'me'. To me, it's an label used for convenience, but I don't feel attached to it. Yet discussing this with friends, the topic came up because of one transgendered person who changed their first name, so I asked if the cis-gendered NT's would ever consider the same. They seemed completely aghast and affronted by the idea of changing their first names. Several of them admitted to disliking their given name, but said "... but it's still me!" They disliked the name that was randomly assigned to them decades ago by a complete stranger (i.e. their parents they had only just met after being born), yet still saw that name as intrinsically 'them'. To me, that seemed strange. Personally, the name of 'Evan' is considered like a piece of clothing... a superficial layer. There's no significant attachment to my name. I honestly have no idea what my 'real' name is (maybe that's just the Buddhist in me talking).
Another thing that undermined this 'dissociation' of mine concerns being diagnosed as autistic. I really had no clue. Nearly four decades had passed on this sweet earth without my having the slightest inkling that I was autistic. So, receiving the diagnosis came as a devastating and utterly unexpected blow. Whilst I'm (slowly) coming to terms with that now, the longer-term negative effect is that it's completely undermined my sense of 'self' - of any assuredness or confidence in my own resources, traits or being. After all, who can be that stupid and naïve to have absolutely no idea they're autistic?! How can I claim any sense of self-ownership about any aspect of me when I didn't even know something so utterly profound? (and now, with hindsight and education, seems so blatantly obvious)
Ultimately, I don't know what my character is. I'm bemused by who I am. I don't trust my self identity. I question and double-guess everything I do. My real motivations make me suspicious of myself. I don't have any idea as to what my self worth is... what I inherently 'deserve'. I can't tell you (like others seem to) just what sort of person I'm attracted to. I have no ambitions or goals that I'm aware of (other than my habitual stress-evasion).
I am a complete mystery to myself.
So, I thought I'd check in with you fine guys n gals to see if anyone else experiences this 'schism'?
Do you know who you are?...
I'm a stranger inhabiting someone else's body.
I'm a bad dream of myself.
I'm a figment of someone else's imagination.
Seriously... I don't really know what it is to have a sense of self. I have a feeling it may be an artificial construct invented by NTs.
(Martian, I suspect me and thee may inhabit very similar internal landscapes)
I suppose, Evan, a lot depends on the kind of life you've been able to make for yourself as an autistic person. How well you've weathered the storms and come through to make what feels like a satisfying and fulfilling life for yourself. Some people can find their niche early on, work away in it, carve a successful and rewarding career doing what they love and enjoy - whatever it might be. So much of a sense of 'self' is bound up in that, I think.
I didn't do well at school, in any regard. When I left, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I didn't have any special talents (or I hadn't noticed any at the time) or skills. I didn't have any qualifications, either - and wasn't particularly interested at that time in trying to get some. I was glad to get away from education and be able to go out and earn some money. I took whatever unskilled job I could find - going from job to job to job for the next twelve years. During that whole time, I felt - for want of a better word - lost. Adrift in a life that made no sense to me. At 28, I finally managed to scrape into university. It was, and remains, the single most important thing I've ever done in my life. It reoriented me. It didn't so much change the way I looked at the world but gave credence to it and refined it. Validated it. It enabled me, too, to develop the confidence to think for myself for the first time. Afterwards, to the disappointment of all around me (except, bless them, my parents, who never stopped me from doing what I wanted to do), I 'dropped out' of the mainstream. I rejected the career path (teaching or the Civil Service were the main paths I could have taken) and went instead to work in a wholefood shop - an environment that was the encapsulation of everything I felt in my head and my heart. I downsized my life, got rid of my car, became vegan, went hunt sabbing and road protesting. For the first time in my life, I was mixing with people who had the same view of life that I did: artists, musicians, writers, college drop-outs, anarchists, intellectuals, radicals. Square pegs, as I'd always felt myself to be. At last, I felt like I'd found something I fitted into.
At around this time, I started to have some successes at last with writing (the only thing I'd really ever wanted to do since about 6 or 7). I won some minor competitions, had some stuff published, did readings and started to get a small following. The world seemed to be opening up for me. At last, I was getting respect from others for doing something that I'd discovered I was good at. I worked away at it - very much, of course, as a spare time activity: very few writers can make a decent living out of their work. The ones we all hear about are very, very rare. For every J K Rowling, there are hundreds of thousands - more likely millions - who barely get by. It's a very precarious thing to go into, and no one ever goes into it primarily to make money. If they do, they usually end up extremely disappointed. You have to be dogged, and never give up, because you are going to experience the frustration of failure (however you want to think of it) much more than in just about any other field. And it's harder now than ever. I've published some poetry, a few short stories, one novel. I've had some short stage pieces performed. But I have nothing to show for it in financial terms. Not even, really, in 'name' terms. But I keep plugging away - perhaps with a little more disillusionment than I had before, and it accumulates over the years. But it's never too late, as they love to say...
Maybe I'm looking at it the wrong way, of course, and defining 'success' and 'failure' in terms of how society generally, and NTs in particular, would define it. I'm not a writer who works at a day job. I'm a day job worker who writes in my spare time. I'd love to be able to make enough of a living from it - however meagre - to manage on that income alone. That would be my dream. I personally know of two writers who have managed to live that dream - spending all day doing the thing they love, encouraged along by their success and the respect they've garnered. That would be my ideal life. That would truly give me a proper sense of 'self'. An identity, if you like. Maybe it's sad and unfortunate that I can't seem to find it in any other way. But there it is.
Meantime, at least I'm doing a job that brings many rewards. Not money. But some satisfaction. Seeing someone smile, hearing them laugh, encouraging them to achieve something against enormous odds. They're reward enough. And I suppose those things are a reflection of the 'self' I project. They're responses that I've brought about in some way.
It still doesn't enable me, though, to be able to answer your question. Not completely. Not with any real conviction.
It only depends on what kind of life you've had if you subscribe to the nt theory that your worth is measured by how much money you earn or your achievements etc, which as an autistic person, I've never bought into, not ever, it actually seems insane to me.
Yes... I was kind of making that point by saying it depends on how you define it.
I sort of understood that, in a way, but couldn't quite work out if you subscribed to it or if you thought there were any alternative ways of finding the meaning of life, in ones own life. It's probably just me, sometimes (often) I don't take enough time to really understand what somebody has said (I think that's the ADHD) I'll read it again and I'm sure it will be perfectly clear :)
You know what Martian Tom, you seem just the sort of person I reckon it would be worthwhile taking for a coffee and hearing your lifestory.
I suspect that you and me have similar threads throughout this life.