Mixed Messages

When I was young, I received constant messages that I didn’t belong. I was weird, and I said things others didn’t understand, largely because I was making intuitive leaps that they couldn’t follow, or because I was working off of detailed information they didn’t have. I didn’t grasp that at the time, of course. I mean, I was a little kid and they were grownups — of course grownups would know more than I did! But when it came to my interests, they often didn’t. They weren’t the ones spending long afternoons reading the encyclopedia, after all.

Perhaps because of things like this, I also began receiving messages that I was gifted. I was praised for being very smart, and for picking things up faster than other kids did. I was admonished for getting impatient with other people, and told that not everyone could learn as quickly as I did, or remember as much, or connect as many dots. Essentially, I was told that I couldn’t expect everyone else to keep up with me.

So I started trying to incorporate this perspective into my understanding of the world. Instead of assuming other people had all of the knowledge I did, I would share some of what I knew as part of making my point. For this, I was called a know-it-all. When someone asked me if a math test had been easy, I would say it had been easy for me but I didn’t know how it was for other people. For this, I was told I was conceited and that I shouldn’t act superior.

I’m sure I did come off as pedantic at times, especially before I learned how to moderate the level of detail I included in conversation. Most of the time I was just excited to talk about something cool I had learned. And I know lots of people saw me as aloof, maybe even condescending, but the truth was I felt anything but superior. There was still that constant drumbeat of judgment, telling me I was weird and wrong and no one could understand me. But trying to acknowledge that I wasn’t like other kids never seemed to help, so I learned to stop even hinting that I was anything special.

BUT.

All through my life, right up to today, when I try to generalize from my own experiences to suggest what other people might need or want or enjoy…I am told that I’m an exception, that most people are not like me. This happened just a couple of weeks ago, and it’s happened my entire adult life. If I act like I’m different, I’m being egotistical. But if I assume I’m the same, I have unrealistic expectations of other people.

Has anyone else out there experienced these kinds of mixed messages?

26 thoughts on “Mixed Messages

  1. yes, those mixed messages. To be clear, I don’t think you are a ‘know it all’. I’ve never thought that… But I think that you are a thoughtful thinker, who can see her way around a an idea strand that may be in knotted in places, and confusing to me, and so I enjoy talking over ‘confusing’ or thorny ideas with you; it’s refreshing.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Oh yes, and yes, and yes, und so veiter…
    If I was reading Engels, Maupassant, Stancu, Darwin etc, I was told to go play with the kids outside. When the kids outside didn’t want to play with me because I was clumsy, slow and uninterested, I was told to go back in and read my books.
    When my parents sent me to an electronics club, they sent me back because electronics didn’t interest me, except for classifying the resistors and condensers based on their colour coding rings, which fascinated me…
    I decided to don’t care anymore if I get the looks because I love Twinkies for the sound of their name, not especially their taste 🤓
    Or, after being expected to do my best for my last Uni degree, when I went to tell them that I finished first, they told me to keep my head down, because others have other talents than academic…
    And when the person mentioned one of those “other” talents, I respectfully noticed that the person was doing so “well” because I decided to step back from doing that “thing”, on the person’s behalf.
    Yeah, I feel sometimes like Dash from The Incredibles, who was told to run a bit slower in order to secure a second place 🤓

    Liked by 5 people

  3. I spent my schooldays being praised by the adults for my high level of academic achievement and treated with contempt by the other children for the same reason. One one hand, I was very proud of these achievements, but on the other hand, the way that I was treated by the other children has led to lifelong feelings of inadequacy.

    I didn’t brag or boast about my success to others as I knew that it would make me unpopular, but our school was very competitive and exam results were posted publicly, so I couldn’t keep it secret.

    It was a strange feeling to be simultaneously lauded and despised and this has led to me having consistent issues surrounding my identity. No-one knew that I was autistic then, they just thought that I was weird!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, same here! I didn’t brag, either, but I would be praised openly by teachers (and sometimes our grades were public knowledge, too). There seemed no good way to respond to such praise, so I usually just looked embarrassed and kind of minimized my achievements.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Reblogged this on the silent wave and commented:
    This. This whole post. I didn’t belong, either. I wasn’t wanted anywhere. I may not be a pro at reading body language, but I could read enough to know that I wasn’t normal, and I wasn’t included. Rejection hurts. Feeling odd, when you’re only being you, hurts too. I can very much relate to this whole piece. Absolutely brilliant!! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I had similar experiences. I learned to be quiet because I realized no one shared my musical interests. All anyone around me ever wanted to talk about was sports, and I just could care less about football. But I I got the opposite: I was always chastised for being too slow. When I learned to ask more questions, then I was bullied because I asked questions about details that were irrelevant to people with average IQ or who preferred to problem solve it as they went along.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. But now I really want to know if this is culturally related. I spent two of my meaningful years in Taiwan, in a classroom that was essentially a dictatorship (guess it had to be if you had to manage 45-50 students). Most of the time, you weren’t allowed to talk and you weren’t allowed to ask questions in class.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yep, I was still ostracized. Peers were neutral or positive toward me, unless they had to kiss up to someone higher up, but my whole life, there was always some authority figure who absolutely hated me. (Recently, a manager.)

        Liked by 1 person

  6. To some I’m invisible to others I’m intimidating. On the whole I don’t exist…..that is as a person but rather in the eyes of others as a stereotype… and I never was any form of stereotype as a younger person so am not likely to conform to those imposed upon me as a visual label obscuring my actual being. It is that visual … an older/old woman… not a person but a cartoon cutout image projected upon my * being* my inner self that is more alive and acutely aware than many a mind sleeping within an active young casing/body.

    Whilst NTs minds drop off as they age it is said that autistic older minds are still actively growing…. yet not recognised…. lost within minds structured to view through unthought-out lenses.

    I see the same social dynamics operating in the autistic communities as exist in non-autistic and in some ways that is so even with some much older autistics…. the social image… appropriation of NT social dynamics and value systems.

    It would be very interesting to investigate autistic group dynamics…. they do exist….

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I’ve always felt different albeit in a different kind of way than what you described. Different interests aside, I’ve always felt that I am not as bright as the rest of others, slow and a bit clumsy. Being an introvert and the fact that I don’t talk as much further gives the impression that I’m dumb and boring. Maybe that’s why instead of being blunt and frank, I’m very careful with my words because I know words can hurt.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve always been careful with my words for the same reason (or if not always, at least since a very young age, when I learned how words can hurt, too). I think that when we are less verbal, people really do underestimate us — plus anyone who takes time to think things through, or who needs extra time to process spoken language, is looked down upon. It seems like there’s a very narrow window of “acceptability” in the mainstream world, and anyone outside of it is treated badly.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. This post articulated something for me that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I never understood at school why other people thought I was something out of the ordinary. And the strange thing is, I can see the exact same thing happening as an adult at work. So I would like to thank you for articulating this for me so I don’t repeat the same mistakes I did then!

    Liked by 2 people

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