I’m not shy — I’m autistic.

Everyone called me the shy girl when I was little — teachers, family, friends, doctors, strangers, etc. I always felt angry about this because the definition of shy did not fit my experience.

Shy means being reserved or having or showing nervousness or timidity in the company of other people.

Now that I’m older, more experienced and know how to articulate my childhood experiences better, I know that I was being defined via a neurotypical/non-autistic narrative.

Autistic socializing traits

Through a neurotypical/non-autistic narrative, social traits of autism look like

  • no eye contact
  • awkwardness
  • lack of empathy
  • disinterest in most topics
  • general socializing deficits

But it’s more a problem of struggling with social awareness —

  • What does my face look like?
  • Why is their face like that? Maybe mine should look like that, too.
  • Is my body an acceptable look right now for this conversation, or are they thinking the position of my legs say something different from what I’m actually saying with words?

And a lack of knowing what to do when the conversation changes. I know the rules in conversations, but everything goes kaput if the conversation shifts in a way that I didn’t rehearse in my head beforehand.

Unmasking my autism, I can’t put up with social rules anymore

Talking to non-autistic people is so exhausting, so I don’t do it much anymore. In social situations, I find myself incapable of masking anymore and coming across as a non-autistic member of society. I don’t know how to pass as neurotypical anymore or how to hide the fact that I don’t find eye contact important at all.

I wish it were normal — that I could go anywhere and socialize the way that makes sense for my neurotype without being judged, dismissed, patronized or perceived as rude and inauthentic.

It’s ironic that I have to pretend to be non-autistic in order to be viewed as genuine.

I’m not shy because I don’t want to interact with people, either — I have just found that forcing myself to communicate verbally is exhausting beyond measure and that my energy is better spent elsewhere.

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