First off, I don't really know if this is the place for me (in terms of posting in a forums). I was diagnosed with autism at a very young age and I'm now 18. The whole subject of it makes me feel weird and even when writing this I feel a mix of strong emotions with my hands shaking. The reason I'm writing this post is recently I have felt alienated and feel like I'm not happy myself from a 3rd person perspective. I have had this throughout my life but it keeps coming and going at certain times and the older I become the more I learn about how I behave and socialize. If I take a step back and look at my thoughts throughout life on self confidence and self identity I'm so damn confused.
I have some cool friends and around them I feel like a cool person I'd like to meet but when I carry on with daily life (talking to people in public, making new friends, etc) I feel like a weirdo and idiot. To cut to the chase, the main reason I'm asking for advice on this matter is because of my progress within martial arts. I have been doing martial arts for around a year and a half and I'm lucky to have some really nice and influential people in my class. I do have to note that they are all older than me and the youngest being 21. I idolize my teacher and want to be like him so much. When I go to my class my personality completely shifts (it feels like it does) and I become more timid and shy. Even my voice feels higher. When I say something to my teacher I feel like an idiot no matter what it was because I look up to him so much I want him to be impressed.
An example of this strange behavior, the reason why I'm addressing it and writing this post, about 4 hours ago I had my class. We were doing a sparing/demonstration type lesson in which you would test your stance and core movements to block a simple punch in different ways. Whether I'm throwing the punches or receiving them I'm doing them in a timid fashion and occasionally will retract my arms and legs when I should be holding position. (which is not good! I honestly think it's due to low self esteem in that environment!). Anyway I don't want to bore you with more martial art stories, the desired result is to be less shy when practicing in that environment.
My martial arts class is just a small snippet of what life can feel like most of the time, me being an idiot. For the first time in my life I feel like I want to be a cool person who can offer a lot of personality and charisma. I've destined to try and develop my character more over this year and I want to start by asking you readers, how can I become more confident and charismatic? Even after writing this up I feel like not sending it but at the same time I want to find a solution.
Sorry to write so much,
If this is not a suitable place to ask these questions please tell me.
I'd also like to mention, don't worry if you don't relate to my age or interests or even current situation. Any kind of advice would be highly appreciated! Just someone else's opinion on it would help.
Sounds like you are overthinking it all personally. I'm not trying to be rude, just seeing things from my perspective.
I have quite a few friends, and I do come across as a bit "weird", admittedly. I'm a massive goofball, and I don't worry about it. From what I can tell, that's actually helped me in quite a few social situations. Some people must like it, I dunno.
NAS61575 said:For the first time in my life I feel like I want to be a cool person who can offer a lot of personality and charisma.
Who says you aren't already? Have you thought about that? Seems like you aren't doing too badly.
I was diagnosed far later than you, but after I was diagnosed I started second guessing myself as a person. I realised I was who I was, and autism didn't change that.
Confident, and charismatic is one thing, genuine and true to yourself is more important. Everyone struggles around new people, regardless of whether they are autistic or not. I have "NT" friends who always worry if they have said the "right", or "wrong" things when they meet people.
Just carry on being yourself. It's easier, and you will have friends who like you for being you.
As for the martial arts stuff, just keep practicing. It's not a normal thing for people to be throwing punches and kicks at you. It takes time to get used to. It's nothing to do with being shy, it's to do with practice.
NAS61575 said:If this is not a suitable place to ask these questions please tell me.
We have threads about all sorts here, even biscuits. That thread is a personal favourite........!
Hmmm, there's a lot to understand and unload here. But, kudos to you for being brave enough to share!
One of the core factors you have to understand here is how the concept of "confidence" differs between an autistic / neurodivergent (ND) mindset and a normal / neurotypical (NT) mindset.
Autistics tend to base confidence on past experience. For example: they ask "have I done this before?" If not, then their linear thinking tends to be, "well then, I have no business feeling confident attempting it."
This compares to a NT mindset. You have to remember that being an NT means your entire being rests on your self identity, which is established through social meaning and social interaction. As a gross exaggeration, NT's are predominantly social creatures, whereas ND's are more linear creatures. A NT will base their confidence on the type of person they want to portray themselves as - both to the group dynamics (i.e. other people) as well as their own sense of self identity. Their confidence is not primarily based on previous experience. As such, a NT can approach an entirely new challenge and not be daunted by their lack of experience, but rather they can feel self secure in the irrational belief that "I can blag this!" (it also explains how inconsistent they can be in their behaviours - as their self image is constantly shifting in response to social currents, and who they want to be seen as in a particular social scenario... not being based on past experience (aka. a consistent self-narrative) as a ND would likely do).
It's actually quite common for those on the spectrum to practice martial arts. After all, you've got a whole new world of strange new customs, strange new language and strange new body sensations etc to become immersed in (making it your stereotypical 'special subject'). Likewise, practising the same repeat katas / movements again-and-again - literally thousands of times - is very appealing to the autistic mindset. So good on you for getting involved in something worthwhile! After all, there are so many benefits: increased bodily awareness (something autsitics are usually bad at, so need practice), improved social skills / integration (albeit sometimes more slowly) within a social group, improved fitness, better self discipline, a better ability to protect oneself etc etc.
Long story short: if you're autistic, then our 'confidence' often comes through simply accumulating hours of experience. So, you'll have to acknowledge your discomfort / feelings, promise yourself to get stuck in anyway (being happy to make mistakes along the way), and simply gain the hours of practice. One day, you'll look back and realised you're fitter, have made comrades / friends, and gained a valuable skills-set.
It's all related to the Fourth Rule of Being Autistic: "As an individual with autism, it's greatly unfair that you will undoubtedly feel more pain, suffering and discomfort (through the act of having to live in a predominantly neurotypical social landscape). However, if you want to succeed at your own life, you will undoubtedly have to build a better personal relationship to distress / suffering / discomfort."
You've done well to make that crucial and ever-daunting first step. Now, all you have to do is clock up the hours.
Try and think of it like a new gi uniform: at first, when you first wear it, it feels scratchy, stiff and uncomfortable. However, after hours-and-hours of sweat, practice, toil and perseverance, it comes to feel like one of the most comfortable and familiar items of clothing you'll ever own!
Just like martial practice, there are no short cuts. You simply have to put in the time and effort.
Thank you for the response. I think you are right, I'm just overthinking social situations and 'trying to fit in' then using that against myself.
When you said you had 'NT' friends what does that mean? I don't know anything about autism apart from the ways it affects my life and the fact I have high functioning. Half of me still rejects that I have autism. I know it's really stupid saying this on a forums about autism but I honestly I'm in a sense of denial around the whole subject. The older I get the more I push it away, even now I'd only discuss it on the internet with strangers and never face to face with anyone. I know it's dumb.
Have you ever had low self esteem in your life? If so how did you fix it? Was it just being yourself and letting the time come? Or was there other methods. Please I will try anything just to feel better about myself. I can't stop looking at myself as trash or a failure. It's got better since I was younger but it stills makes me feel unhappy.
And for the martial arts, you are right. Practice is everything. That is my new goal, to grow a backbone hahahahha.
Again, thank you for your response, I respect that. You've helped me open my eyes to see more clearly, definitely about the martial arts.
Wow thank you for the response. Not going to lie, I don't know anything about the neurological side of autism. I've never heard of the terms NT or ND before but I can understand your explanation.
You have helped reassure me that it's lack of experience which is affecting my martial arts, not something I can't control, thank you. I love my martial arts and like you say, I love the feeling of practicing something a million times until it's engraved in a natural way. As I said I've only done martial arts for a year and a half now so I'm definitely lacking experience in the field of sparring and demonstration. Now, after reading your response, I know and see this as normal which makes me less anxious about the future of my progress.
In my style of martial arts it's all about imposing your structure upon your opponent which leads them to break stance or move back. It's also known as (Chinese translation) 'stealing your opponent's house'. This means it's close combat and you're very close to the opponent's face and always within reach. I just need to practice and feel more comfortable being that close. You seem familiar with the customs of Japanese martial arts, do you/have you ever done a style yourself? (Just interested don't worry if you don't want to share.)
Anyway thanks a lot for the explanation and I will crack on with practicing ;).
NAS61575 said:Please I will try anything just to feel better about myself
There are two things you would seemingly need to do then, with genuine effort...
1) go easy on yourself! (i.e. forgive yourself, trust yourself, stop criticizing yourself, be relaxed with yourself, practice self compassion etc).
2) stop using a NT standard to measure yourself against. Once you become more comfortable with being autistic, you'll relax more in realising that simply as a matter of fairness, you'll need to measure yourself with autistic standards, and not NT standards.*
* NT = 'neurotypical'. It essentially denotes someone who has a neurological basis within the average norm. It means a 'normal' person. It's our word for Muggles!
There's an analogy I use for autism. It's like being born a cat who lives in a world of dogs. We're surrounded by doggy family, doggy friends, and doggy professionals. They try and teach us their doggy techniques, their doggy behaviours, and doggy strategies - trying to get us to roll over, bark and fetch. To some degree, we can pull this off. Yet in their never-ending onslaught of attempts, these dogs fail to recognise a simple, fundamental truth - that despite our best and most genuine of efforts, until the day we die we will always be a cat.
So, go easy on yourself; stop trying to think how bad of a dog you are, and instead try to find how great of a cat you are!
Yeah, I practiced a couple of styles for several years (a long time ago).
Like you say, it's just experience you need to clock up - allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable along the way. It's like the old analogy of a white belt. You get it when you first start, and through years of practice it becomes worn and dirtied, until one day you realise it's black! Likewise, gaining confidence is a day-by-day process, whereby if done right you won't even notice you're much more confident - until one day you realise, "oh crikey! years ago I would have been petrified of doing that!"
Indeed, that is the core underlying principle of martial practice - self improvement. In comparison to deeper, inner learning, the punches, locks, holds, throw and kicks are all child's play.
As an autistic individual, you will have unique advantages and disadvantages. For example, as you say, you feel uncomfortable making eye contact and being in close physical proximity. But I learned to use my lack of eye contact as an advantage - as I developed 'listening' skills, instead of principally relying on my vision as NT's typically do.
It's all about exploring what does - and does not - work for you. It's about creating a better understanding and relationship with yourself, from which you can go out and explore the world. That applies to both martial practice and exploring autism.
I'm going to try do the points you mentioned. Funny enough they are the two things I struggle the most with but I'm going to step down and relax. Also that's a great analogy hahahaha. This insight has really helped, thanks. I feel better already, like there's a bright side which I've been ignoring.
Evan said:self improvement. In comparison to deeper, inner learning, the punches, locks, holds, throw and kicks are all child's play.
This is so damn true. Very wise words which didn't even cross my mind until you noted them. Now I'm wondering, my teacher didn't just get there through physical performance, there was a lot of mentality involved, the kind which you have talked about. Determination and hard work will slowly over time compliment self improvement.
Yes I think my increased touch sensitivity definitely helps my with the 'listening skills' you were talking about. It makes it a lot easier to feel the opponent and predict movement. It also helps a lot with self awareness and evasion. I agree everyone has advantages and disadvantages and it's important to notice both.
Thank you again for another great post. I'm going to take what you have said here and use it to improve my ideas of my martial arts development.