Autistic people can often struggle with confidence, or rather a lack of it. This can impact on their daily lives and challenge their most basic relationships. There are a lot of non-autistic people who also struggle with their confidence, and there are autistic people who have no issues being confident. But what is it specifically that can damage the confidence of autistic people?
One of the main reasons autistic people often have a lack of confidence is that they feel out of place in the world around them. It would be expected that if someone were to fly to a new country, where they knew nothing of the language or culture, that they might lack confidence. Autistic people often feel as if they are in a strange, foreign land when they go out and interact with non autistic people. It`s hard for someone to be confident if they are unsure from one minute to the next if they are saying or doing something wrong. People with autism might be confident inside, but have no clue how to show this. Not knowing what to do or say in social situations can mask someone`s ability; they might be full of ideas, and smart things to say,but just not know how or when to say them.
Autistic people can be made to feel insecure about their own abilities as well, and this can affect their confidence. This could stem from them being non-verbal. Non-verbal people are often treated as if they do not understand what is going on around them – and this may be true for some – but lots do understand, and can think, and understand just as well as anyone else. But due to their inability to vocalize they are treated as if they do not understand. This can dent their confidence, and make them feel both embarrassed about not being able to communicate verbally, and insecure about the level of their own ability.
In the same vain autistic people can be undermined by those around them; made to feel as if their different way of understanding, and looking at the world is somehow wrong. As if they can not trust their own feelings, and beliefs in the things around them. It`s hard for someone to have confidence in themselves if the world around them is telling them that something as basic as how they feel is wrong.
Autistic people also sometimes struggle as they know their own limits, or at least know that in some situations they have limits. This can dent their confidence when it comes to trying new things – applying for a job, for example. They might worry about the levels of social interaction, getting to and from the job, and how they will adjust to a new routine. Therefore, whether they actually feel confident to do the job almost gets pushed to the side.
Poor confidence can be a direct result of finding it hard to fit in to the world. It can also stem from being put down, and made to feel different. Or it might just be a natural part of someone`s make-up. But how will this lack of confidence impact on autistic people, and what can they do about it? The next two articles in this series will look at these things.