Every year, I vow to lose weight, and I don’t do it. Or to find love, which I now have. Or to do more self-care, which is a noble goal, and I am improving. But what of this year?? This resolution has to last a decade, so it must be big and bold and worthy of ten years of hard work.
It must be a shortcoming worthy of this type of dedication.
Only one word big enough came to mind as a 40 year old woman: authenticity. But how does one embrace true authenticity? Especially in a culture that truly despises it? That culture is somewhat responsible for authenticity’s extinction.
I have been examining the challenge over the last few days, and these are my thoughts. Authenticity begins with attempts to unmask and be autistic where possible, but this is only the bare beginning.
True authenticity isn’t just being your autistic self, your liberal self, or your constructed-identity self: it is being your whole self– beyond the labels or the descriptors. It is being who you truly are and sharing what you truly think and and feel. It is doing so at the risk of being unpopular, even with the people who claim to truly love you.
The sad truth is that despite the connections allowed by social media, we are less ourselves than ever. It does not surprise me that the new millennia birthed The Rise of ABA. Getting us all to behave and look the same through reinforcement is the torturous reflection of society today.
There, I said it.
Today’s social media culture divides us into groups: conservative, liberal, autism moms, autistic people, LGBTQ+ people and allies, religious folk often against LGBTQ values, etc. The groups create a sense of belonging and identity, but they also keep a close eye on us. We must conform to our groups– OR ELSE.
What is this elusive “or else”? We could be unfriended or blocked or reported on social media. We could have our offending posts shared around Facebook to groups fully intent on destroying us. Or, in some ways the most sinister– we could be slandered and abandoned by those who claimed to love and support us.
Joseph McCarthy was a conservative politician who targeted Communists for political, financial, and social ruin. What made him especially dangerous, however, was that he also targeted both political enemies and those against his bullying in general as being Communists– effectively ruining them.
Social media has spawned a ready McCarthyism across the left AND the right, the conservative AND the liberal. The activist AND the anti-activist. I and some of the people I love most have been victims of it. And it hurts, especially as someone who spent my entire childhood being routinely excluded. It is tempting to be inauthentic and fit in. But this is not what what I want for myself or those I love.
Sometimes I learn something and choose internally to make a change. Not through bullying or spamming or exclusion, but by gently being lead to examine my blindspots and biases. I am not talking about this. That is how we grow. Authenticity doesn’t mean rigidity. Hearts are moved and that is how we evolve– if we are lucky.
I am talking about being dropped or reported by people claiming to be friends because we disagree once. I am talking about the sheer number of people on land and online, who have tried to destroy me for not conforming exactly to their ideas or party line. Before, my habit was to slink away, conform, or disappear.
A 2020 Resolution
I vow to try my hardest to be myself.
To say no when I mean no. To be honest even when unpopular. To worry more about who I am than about what you think.
I vow to find the strength to speak my truth even if my page has .5 out of 5 stars or saying no costs me my job. I vow to support others, whom I care for, who do the same even if the social media machine destroys them.
I vow to share memes that I truly connect with, not just the socially approved memes of my groups and networks. I vow to speak up when the ends don’t justify the means. I choose to be afflicted rather than comfortable.
When asked to break a child both on and off the clock at my job or in my life, I will refuse and explain why as gently as I can. I will offer alternatives. I will walk away if I must. I will only support causes I truly believe in– not those that have become popular with my kind.
I will be a Zorro and not an Avenger when my conscience calls me to be.
If I am forced to walk alone, I will do it with my head held high.
I, like each of you, was born to be no one but me. It is the one thing I truly do better than anyone else.
So here’s to a new era, one of authenticity over popularity, of holding others accountable through words and laws, of telling the truth and taking the consequences.
And yes, of doing self care when this all becomes too painful. I will be a Revolutionary in the Era of the Social US. I will strive to be only me.
May peace, prosperity, love, and joy find each of you in the new year and decade to come!
- The Great Behavior Fallacy: Why The New York Times Is Wrong To Think That ABA Can Treat Autism — January 13, 2020
- A 2020 Resolution to Unmask and Live Unapologetically and Authentically — January 1, 2020
- On Autistic Facial Expression and Being A Woman — October 5, 2019