Discover more from OK Doomer
There's Nothing Wrong with You.
You're just different.
Yesterday, the internet told me I should talk to strangers. It said it would be great for my mental health. If I disagree, there’s something wrong with me. I have a mental health problem. I should see a therapist.
I should pretend to enjoy small talk.
Maybe you get it.
For most of your life, everyone has made you the villain. You don’t know why. You spend a large part of your day trying to make everyone around you happy, but it doesn’t work. It’s never enough.
Instead, they laugh at you. They call you rude, negative, or boring. They tell you to accept yourself. Then they reject you. They tell you to believe in yourself. Then they doubt you. They judge you. They exclude you. Everywhere you go, they make you feel lazy, dumb, or weird.
You’re allowed to play a supporting role in everyone else’s story.
You never get your own.
If you prefer to spend time alone, you’re antisocial. If you prefer to work from home, you’re dragging down the economy. If you stand up for yourself, you should back down and apologize. You’re too controversial. The things everyone else does to relax are normal and healthy. The things you find relaxing are abnormal and unhealthy. You should stop doing them. All that advice floating around out there? It’s for everyone else—not you.
Here’s the truth: There’s nothing wrong with you.
You have a different mind.
I spent the last five years writing a book about this, and I didn’t even know it.
The last couple of years have been a crash course in hypocritical social expectations. Now more than ever, the idea of “normal” seems to override everyone’s better judgment. We’re getting assaulted daily with articles imploring us to do things we don’t find comfortable, natural, or even safe.
It gets especially bad during certain times of year, like when we’re supposed to be engaging in activities that fuel the economy.
Our colleagues talk about being lonely. They invite us out, then they scoff at us when we ask for accommodations. They refuse. They say we’re paranoid. They say we need help. Neurotypical people talk about the epidemic of loneliness plaguing society now. They don’t get it. This is a them problem.
It’s not an us problem.
For some of us, the last couple of years have brought immense relief. It gave us a reprieve from the tyranny of normal.
We don’t want to go back to pointless social obligations.
We want to be left alone.
We’re doing just fine.
We’ve always felt alone. We’ve always felt excluded. We’ve always felt ignored. We dealt with it. Now we’re supposed to put ourselves at risk, to help neurotypical people feel less down? I’m just wondering, what are they going to do to make us feel more safe and welcome when we try?
If people want us to participate in society and contribute to the economy (we already are), they have to make an effort to understand us. They have to listen more. They have to stop pretending to be allies. They have to stop getting angry every time we ask for simple changes (like clean the air).
Let’s start with something simple. There’s a landfill of advice online about smiling. Everyone thinks making yourself smile more boosts your mood. No, not always. If you have a different mind, forced smiling doesn’t help. A lot of us do it simply to accommodate everyone else. For us, hiding in a dark quiet place feels good. Shutting out all the loud noise and bright lights feels good.
The world doesn’t let us sit in the dark.
They call it pouting.
They say talking with strangers should make us feel good. It doesn’t. We’ve tried over and over. It makes us tired. For us, talking doesn’t come easy. It comes with a bunch of unspoken rules. These days, it poses a threat to our health. We try. We learn the rules, but our friends and relatives break them all the time. They interrupt us. They talk over us. They repeat what we just said, as if it were their idea. When we accidentally break these rules, nobody cuts us any slack.
They scold us.
If you have a different mind, the last thing you probably want is some stranger forcing you into a game of small talk. It might make them feel good. For you, it’s going to deplete the last little bit of energy you have left.
Who needs that?
They tell us to ask for favors, as if the world is standing by and wants us to succeed. It doesn’t work that way for us.
We get yelled at.
If we want something, we can’t just ask for it.
We can’t schmooze our way through life. We earn everything. We fight for everything. We have to outperform everyone else by such a wide margin, they feel guilty for not treating us as equals. If we want something a little extra, we have to show someone how helping us benefits them.
When a normal person accomplishes something, it inspires everyone around them. When we achieve something, the opposite happens. It inspires envy and jealousy. We get accused of cheating. More often than not, the world doesn’t want to help us. It’s waiting for us to make a tiny mistake. It’s waiting for us to do something wrong. It can’t wait to punish us.
A lot of us simply do our absolute best work. We cross our fingers that our bosses and colleagues eventually acknowledge it.
Here’s the thing:
We’re not going to get anywhere by playing their game.
We can’t make the world like us.
We have to practice the art of being unlikable. We have to learn it’s okay to disappoint everyone’s social expectations. If someone calls us quiet or shy, that’s not an invitation to open up — not for us. We’ll just be the quiet ones. We’ll be the good listeners. We’ll be the “mysterious” types.
If we need something, we’ll just say it. We won’t deal in favors. If we want to help someone, we’ll help them.
We won’t ask for anything in return.
If someone wants to help us, they can help us.
We can reserve our smiles for the times when we’re actually happy. We can reserve our life stories for the ones who earn it. If we study a topic and learn a lot about it, we’ll share it with the ones who really care.
We can think before we say something. We don’t have to fill every minute with small talk. We can have real conversations about real things. If someone tries to impose some social rule on us, we can say no thanks.
We can anticipate being misunderstood.
We don’t have to play the influence game. If someone doesn’t like us, then they can just not like us. We don’t need a bunch of little tricks to change their mind. We can leave them alone.
We can move on.
We can focus on our skills. We can let other people network their way into fancy jobs. The neurotypical people say, “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.” For us, it’s definitely what we know.
It’s what we can do.
Those of us on the spectrum will probably never feel the warm glow of total acceptance or unconditional love from neurotypical people. It’s fine. We have books. We have interests and hobbies.
We can find a purpose.
We have pets.
You can care about people without needing their constant approval. You can respect them. That’s what I focus on.
Here’s something I’ve learned:
It doesn’t matter if someone likes you or not. It doesn’t matter if you command confidence the minute you walk into a room. It doesn’t matter if you can tell wicked jokes and funny stories. Some of my best friends could do all of that, and it got them nowhere. Some of the biggest extroverts I’ve known have wound up broke, alone, and miserable.
You don’t have to be charming.
Be honest, whenever possible. Show everyone consideration and respect, at least at first. Try to help people when they ask for it. If you can’t help them, just say it. All of that runs deeper than popularity contests.
The people you care about see that.
They remember it.
If someone’s sad or angry, you can’t put them in a better mood. You can just be the one who listens.
They might never accept you, but you can accept them.
That doesn’t mean you have to smile at them. It doesn’t mean you have to give them superficial compliments. For us, giving someone time to themselves is one of the nicest things you can do for them.
It’s not like I go around thinking this all the time. Sometimes, I forget. I get frustrated and angry. I lose myself. When that happens, I remember all this.
I find a cool dark place. I remind myself.
There’s nothing wrong with you.
You’re just different.