CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO: Rejection is the Story of My Life…
When I first shared with some close friends that my next blog entry was going to be called “Rejection is the story of my life” a common reaction was something like:
“Is that really true? I mean, you have friends. People care about you. I’m sure you often feel rejected but is it really your defining experience?”
Well actually, if I had to name the defining Aspergers experience, rejection might very well be at the top of the list. It’s obviously not a nice thing to talk about, but neither does it help to pretend it isn’t there. The fact that even my closest friends can’t really believe it goes to show how hard it is to see. Most of the time the struggle is completely invisible. If it’s visible at all the phrase ‘tip of the iceberg’ doesn’t do it justice!
(FYI: the tip of an iceberg represents roughly 10.7% of the total volume depending on the salinity of the water – I’m sure you all wanted to know that!)
The best way I’ve found to try and explain this is in terms of the constant message I get from the world around me: “What’s wrong with you?”
The frequency at which I hear this message is directly proportional to how freely I express myself. From my earliest memory the consequences for ‘being myself’ ranged from social exclusion to clashes with authority. This was a powerful form of negative reinforcement and I quickly learned to censor all my feelings and actions – only allowing myself to express those which would lead to a favourable reaction from the people around me.
(FYI: My earliest memory is of my efforts to ‘figure out’ how to play with the other kids in kindergarten – age 3).
Whenever I do something too unexpected, whenever I’m too abrupt, too direct, too interested, too disengaged… too anything… Whenever my actions are judged ‘inappropriate’ (or just plain weird)… the message may be subtle, but it’s always very clear… it’s my fault. I didn’t follow the ‘rules’. In other words, my actions were too far outside the standard range of commonly acceptable behaviour and I therefore brought the negative reaction upon myself.
This is especially true when it comes to relationships and I have therefore learned to become very good at making sure I do everything I possibly can to make sure people respond favourably to me. Everyone does this to a degree. We all self-censor when impulses are not ‘appropriate’ for a given situation. The difference with me is that I’ve learned (the hard way) that I need to censor/filter virtually everything at all times. The minute I don’t the reaction is inevitable… “What’s wrong with you?”
Well something I’ve come to a much deeper understanding of recently, is that relationships are a two way street. If someone doesn’t want to accommodate me there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. Forever going out of my way to accommodate the other person is not a friendship. The minute I run out of energy, the minute I need help, the minute I need to actually receive instead of constantly giving… everything falls apart. Of course it does! It was never a genuine friendship. It was me moulding myself to be what someone else could ‘handle’.
Unfortunately it’s really difficult to find a middle ground. The fact is that most people can’t handle me. I’m just too ‘unexpected’ for them and they don’t know what to do. If I become all cynical and stop making an effort to fit in and demand that people ‘accept me as I am’ then I will surely ostracise myself completely. Yet I need to somehow find a way to break my lifelong habit of seamlessly fitting in.
There have been so many instances (several as recently as this year!) where even what seem like close friendships break down the minute I make even the smallest request for reciprocity. I guess those people were never really my friends to begin with. Perhaps you can see my dilemma tho. Which relationships do I test? Am I willing to risk losing those closest to me for the sake of building a genuinely reciprocal friendship? I know the answer must be yes, but that doesn’t make the reality any easier.
It’s kind of ironic, but I’m so good at ‘being a good friend’ that it means I don’t really have any…
9 thoughts on “Rejection is the story of my life: “What’s wrong with you?””
Love your honesty. Wish the feeling of rejection could be changed for you … You are not alone though, so many of us relate to feeling like others think we’re getting it wrong somehow
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Rejection is a really common theme among Aspies. And I do agree that it’s not always visible. Mostly because we Aspies are not vocal about our feelings as NTs. So the narrative from our side is pretty much non-existent.
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I’ve always dealt with rejections, at school, work, even guys I’ve dated. And I’ve also tried to be like everyone else so I’d be accepted. However, you kind of forget who you really are in the process, and the rejection is inevitable anyway. Plus it takes so much energy having to pretend all the time, that you end up dreading being around people. Nowadays, I’m just myself. Take it or leave it.
I’m bipolar and might be Aspie too. I burn lots of energy trying to be appropriate. I can only do one or 2 social activity a week. I need lots of alone time. To recover. I try to see people because I think it’s good for me. Thanks for your openness.
First of all thank you so much for explaining so much about yourself. Out of everything I’ve read watched or discussed with professionals this has been the best education!!! I’ve been married for 35 years. My marriage is breaking down I’ve spent years trying to uncover the problem and find a solution. After years of research I’ve come to the conclusion my husband is an Aspie. Getting back to the topic of rejection every one gets rejected or “feels” rejected and it’s extremely painful for most. Ive done some reserch on why? This is the best way I can put it, millions of years ago a human’s best chance of survival is within a group. If the human is ostracised it usually meant certain death. This feeling is encoded in our dna (metaphorically speaking). It maybe that Aspies feel this feeling way more strongly that others that can deal with rejection with more resilience. Maybe Aspies take it more personally than others do, due to their programming ie rejection during childhood. It’s very difficult to overcome childhood programming. Also, something I understand about Aspies is they have what has been termed as mind blindness. So when feeling rejected with what seems to be a lack of resiprosity may not be the full story. Maybe the person doing the rejecting has felt rejected or a lack of resiprosity by the Aspie at some point but the Aspie is unaware of it. For example, my husband mixed up his alarm time and woke me up unnecessarily at 5.30am. He needed to be up for 6.30am. I didn’t need to be up at any particular time, 8.30am would have been ideal. He thundered around, lights on etc and was still late for his 7.30am appointment. He was upset that I didn’t seem eternally greatful for the cup of tea he brought me at 5.45am oblivious to my annoyance at being woken up so early and this is just the tip of my tired and exasperated iceberg.
Does it help or hinder to tell others whom you are interacting with, especially if they are new to you, that you are an aspie? I would guess that the reactions would vary depending on how familar they are with Aspergers and how willing they are to accomodate aspie traits. I really do appreciate your video series. Thanks.
Big hug for you. My son has Aspergers and I love his quirky personality. Just an awesome guy. I don’t understand why people don’t see what I do. You just need to listen and some times have little patience at least for me. Birthdays are the worst no friends for a party. So now he just declines to do anything. He’ Going to be 17 September 17th2019 any suggestions please
Hey, Paul! Your channel is brilliant.
I just wanted to say that if people are attracted to you because of your dreadlocks then this is extremely shallow. No wonder they leave you afterwards, if the relationships you form are so superficial. This is predictable and this is exactly what I wanted to avoid pretty much my whole life. It’s just like when people are attracted to money of rich people. As soon as rich people lose money people are not attracted to them anymore and relationships fall apart. And I always knew that this sucks for the rich people.
You see that there are a lot people who are all about creating a good first impression. I am not one of them and I don’t want to be like that.
Good bye, Alexander.