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The Danger of the “I did it, why can’t you?” Attitude

There’s a lot of good in being positive and uplifting when it comes to other people in your life. Hard work is something which should always be celebrated, but the question is when you see someone’s ‘hard work’ as ‘not trying hard enough.’ You may think this because you were always told as a child ‘you can do anything as long as you work your ass off’ but that isn’t true. There’s no use arguing it, because it is simply not true for many, many people.

And it’s not a universal truth, if the fact is it’s not true for everyone.

My strengths and weaknesses belong to me and nobody else.

Same goes for you.

And all the people you know who you may or may not use as ‘proof’ that the person saying they can’t do it is just ‘making excuses.’

There’s an inherent and often overlooked trouble with saying, “I did it and so can you” or “you’re just not trying hard enough” to someone you personally know — and even worse to one you don’t well or at all. This danger comes in the form of how you end up making them feel as a person, because you’re seeing their reasons as excuses, no matter how legitimate the reasons are.

It’s here I am going to tell you something I would like you to truly take the time and consider.

I have a lot of reasons why I can do something or why I can’t. Pushing me to do something before I can handle it doesn’t make me appreciate you or your efforts to help; it makes me resent you and get angry and push you back harder than you’re pushing me.

Behavior of this sort will set me back; it will not help me grow or move forward. It is harmful to someone who truly can’t move at a pace the world requires. I am incapable of moving at the pace others think I should. It’s not that I won’t, it’s that I physically and emotionally can’t.

Nobody, and I do mean nobody, knows me better than I know myself. And no matter how much I know you or how well you think you know a person, you should reconsider whether you have the right to sit in judgment of another for not living their life how you think they should.

Face it, the facts are that your strengths and weaknesses are not those of another person. Just because you can climb a mountain doesn’t mean I can or even want to. Run a marathon, exercise, work yourself to death in an ever growing effort to make sure you’re not seen as a loser…that’s good on you. But nobody has the right to tell someone else they ‘aren’t trying hard enough’ because you don’t know everything about them, even when you think you do.

Physically, I look fine. By looking at me you don’t know I have autism, but you also don’t know that a car accident years ago took my ability to stand for more than 30 minutes without my left leg going numb and my body collapsing beneath me, after which I will limp for a week. So no, I can’t just ‘get a job doing what I used to’ and yes, people have suggested just those types of unhelpful things.

Emotionally, I’m half my age. Physically, I’m older in many ways and younger in others. Logically/mentally, I’m about on par, and all this causes trouble for me. Logically I know that texting someone I like all day is not a good idea; emotionally, I can’t help myself. When I try to stop myself from doing it, other things start to affect my ability to process and handle the things around me, until I say everything I want or need to say. When I get angry or upset and am trying to hold back, I will start to shake and my hands will freeze, my whole body will cool down instantly because all my heat is racing to my heart, and I can’t hide it. I go silent because I’m fuming and I’m trying to control it, and the fact is, I can’t. Telling me to stop or quit is a waste of time.

Everyone in the world can tell me I just need to take a few deep breaths, but it doesn’t work that way, and nobody has any right to say otherwise. And if someone is annoyed by my behavior, can you imagine how I feel? Over and over, I tell my brain, I can’t act like this. This isn’t adult behavior. Be good, be good, be good.

Yet it still keeps happening because parts of my brain are not lined up in their growth and development with other sections.

I ‘self-stimulate’ in many ways. Tap my feet, shake my legs, lick and nip at people I’m close to, rub my face against soft things, can’t sleep without a blanket over me and covering my feet, need firm touch and hate when things softly brush any part of my body, ‘typing’ words my brain gets stuck on with my fingers during a conversation, play with my hair (up and down out of it’s bun), chew on my hair (although less than I used to), rub and twist my hands together, twirl like a ballerina while walking, walk on my tip toes, jump over cracks in the sidewalk, listen to the same new song over and over for hours on repeat…all stims, all impulses, all things I can’t control without feeling even more out of control than I already do.

So many times once I became an ‘adult’ thanks to my age of eighteen, all I heard was how I was failing because I wasn’t trying hard enough. But, truth was, I was trying as hard as I knew how, but I wasn’t coping. I didn’t know how; I had so much growing up to do thanks to something I was unaware of it, and the world in its inherent unfairness didn’t notice.

And before anyone suggest I think life is fair, no. I am aware, with every fiber of my being, that life isn’t fair.

But people can be. People can be kind and compassionate and realize we are all fighting our own battles. People can realize we don’t all come from the same environments, and we’re all fighting our own demons, and we’re not all the same, so therefore we cannot all DO the same.

So, the next time you see someone struggling, ask yourself:

Are they coping? Are they truly not trying, or do they just not know any better?

Or perhaps, are they not capable of doing what I did?

Do I have something I can give them, other than criticism? A kind word, a kind gesture, a smile given without expecting one in return, a moment in which they will remember someone didn’t look down on them even though they could?

Because in the end, words and actions have the power to impact others, whether we want them to or not. And we all have the power to make someone feel good even if we don’t agree with our perception of their decisions and choices and behavior.

And you’re going to get farther with kind words and actions than you are with vitriol and contempt for those who are different than yourself.

Every single person you come across who struggles will appreciate it, I promise.

With love,

<3 Violet

authors with autism, autism and writing, living with autism

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