autism and self esteem

‘Self Esteem – Confidence in one’s own worth or abilities. Self respect’

Today I want to talk about autism and self esteem. I believe that having good self esteem is essential to happiness. Without confidence in ourself we lack resilience and the ability to cope with the challenges of life.

As an autistic woman I’ve struggled with self esteem issues all my life. The mistakes I’ve made have been amplified and there have been times when I’ve felt unable to find even one positive thing to like about myself. This is incredibly painful and difficult to live with.

When you feel different and can’t seem to grasp the basics of human interaction life is hard. It’s important for me to recognise that these challenges are caused by being autistic, a neurological difference which is not my fault. When I’m feeling confident enough to truly believe the above then I am able to walk tall, work on my difficulties and appreciate my strengths.

I’m optimistic that as children being diagnosed with autism are better understood and accepted their self esteem issues will be lessened. This will lead to less mental health issues in the autistic population, greater achievements and a society which is positive about the significant strengths we have to offer.

How to increase your self esteem;

If you suffer with low self esteem you can work on this issue. Aiming for higher self esteem and better wellbeing.

Write a list of all the wonderful things about you. I’m confident that you’re awesome, you just can’t see it yet. Start with a list. Perhaps you’re really good at organising, or knowledgeable about your special interest. You might be caring, generous, or funny. Whatever your strengths really focus in on them and write them down in a list. If you struggle with this perhaps ask a friend or family member to help get you started. Then keep the list safe and refer back to it whenever you need a self esteem boost.

Challenge negative thoughts. My brain is really good at finding fault. If I make a social mistake it tells me I’m unlikable and unable to maintain friendships. If I have a meltdown it tells me I’m unbearable to be around. If I fail to complete a task due to executive functioning issues it tells me I’m useless. These thoughts are negative and faulty.

So I take the thought, and I analyse it, is it really true? Can I find evidence that discredits the faulty thought? I made a social mistake, it happens, I’m autistic. Actually I can find examples of times when social encounters went really well, and friends who enjoy my company,  and these experiences are valid and prove that I’m likeable and able to maintain friendships.

Distract from negativity. If I’m in a really dark place and I can’t challenge the negativity then I go to my happy places. For me that’s time with my family, lego building, a cinema trip. I usually find that once I’ve done something I enjoy I’m feeling more positive.

Make good life choices. Making good life choices leads to feeling good about one’s self. For me that’s eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep and rest, doing regular yoga, not smoking (a battle I’ve been fighting for most of my adult life), and spending my time on positive endeavours.

Achieve. I am currently doing one day a week training as a teaching assistant in a school. At the end of my training day I feel like I’ve achieved, I’m learning a new skill and I’ve helped children to learn and achieve their best. This boosts my self esteem. On my other days I try to be productive as I find that productivity leads to good self esteem.

If you struggle with self esteem issues I hope you can work on them and feel better about yourself.