Self-love is radical, especially if society constantly dislikes how you exist, wants to change the way you exist, and even uses your neurotype to promote fear of science. It is hard to love yourself when other people are much less likely to accept you. It is hard to love yourself when people openly tell you that disabled people are a burden.
It is hard to love yourself when you don’t see representative autistic characters in the media, only many “autistic-coded” characters whom people don’t believe could be autistic. Because, well, they’re people just like them, right? How could they be autistic? Meanwhile, non-autistic white cisgender male actors play autistic characters with no or little input from autistic people. These autistic characters are often created only from the outsider non-autistic perspective, and it shows.
Expectations of neurotypical society are so high that they are impossible to attain without accommodations and support. This is why we have to lower our expectations exponentially for ourselves, which can erode self-esteem and fuel self-doubt, especially when comparing ourselves to other people’s lives (not something I recommend doing). It is especially important that autistic people understand that society isn’t set up for us, and that we must lower our expectations only because neurotypical people do not care enough to accommodate and support us, or sometimes do not believe we need support.
But we do.
What neurotypical people automatically expect us to do
- Communicate all of our thoughts verbally within 5 seconds
- Make eye contact
- Understand implicit social intentions
- Communicate through implicit social intentions
- Pretend we’re not in sensory pain
We pay a tax for being our autistic selves, a tax that has no monetary or tangible value to non-autistic people. A tax they do not witness.
The Autism Tax
- We pay for not masking with neurotypical judgment and subtle dislike.
- We pay for being who we are through lack of understanding, and lack of trust or respect by others.
- We pay for being our autistic selves by being passively excluded from social spaces.
- We pay for being autistic by getting shut out and approached less by neurotypicals.
We pay for being ourselves. We pay in neurotypical’s judgments, misinterpretations, and assumptions. We pay with social currency. We pay with infantilization.
We pay with our autonomy. We pay in invisible neurotypical bias– something that many of us can spot within minutes, and a neurotypical person can rationalize away within seconds with plausible deniability.
It is hard to love and accept yourself when people are implicitly or explicitly telling you not to be yourself, when people think neurodivergent and disabled lives are inherently worth less. When neurotypical people think autistic body language is a threat.
Our own self-love is inherently more radical than abled neurotypical’s. It’s noteworthy. It’s an exception to the current statistics. The next time I hear someone say that autistic people are “egocentric,” I will tell them that I wish more of us were. Because honestly, we could use all the self-affirmation and validation that we can get. We need it. It’s been taken from many of us, through gaslighting, normalization, bullying, and invalidation.
Let’s self-validate. Let’s self-accept. Let’s love ourselves even though many people in this world won’t love us. It’s autistic survival.