Week 1: One True Yes and One True No
Can this simple method for finding our true self work?
Last week I made a pledge to practice unmasking by following these simple guidelines: every week I must say one true yes and one true no. These must be purely for me, to make my life easier or more pleasant or more comfortable.
Aka NOT people-pleasing.
NOT changing myself to accommodate others.
The hope/wisdom here is that doing this for long enough would help a person find a more authentic version of themselves. I imagine this challenge could be worthwhile for many people, but it is especially appealing to me as a recently diagnosed autistic person who has just discovered the terrible prevalence of their own masking.
So please join me, if it feels like it could be useful. Each week I will choose a new yes and a new no, and share about them here.
What would your YES be this week?
How about your NO?
Yes to sunrise Jan 1st
Readers, I did it. I got up to watch the sunrise on January 1st.
🎉 🎉 🎉 🎉 🎉 🎉 🎉 🎉 🎉
Okay, so I chose a spot from whence I couldn't actually see the sunrise but apart from that it was perfect.
Since the spirit of this experiment is self-acceptance and discovery, within a broader self-esteem boosting project, you can bet your bottom dollar that I am still claiming this as a MASSIVE win.
Because I made a decision and stuck to it. The fact that I Jezzed it a touch doesn't impact that.
I sat at Peregrin Point (a perfect spot for sunset, note to self) and listened to birdsong and traffic and felt hopeful for a new year of actually doing the things that make me happy.
To succeed in my quest, I had to know one important and slightly uninspiring truth about myself: I can't do things without accountability. (I did this quiz, to find this out, if you're interested.)
And so to set myself up for success I made a plan with a pal who also wanted to see the sunrise. She kindly offered to call me as she made her brew and voila! I was up and making a nice thing happen for myself.
🎉 🎉 🎉 🥳 🥳 🥳 🐩 🐩 🐩
After scrabbling around to find an actual view of the east, I accepted my fate and found a spot to watch the light arrive in the south while drinking an oaty mocha.
I actually didn't realise I had missed out so much until my pal sent me her sunrise picture. I just thought maybe there was no proper sunrise today.
Life without 'common sense' can be very forgiving.
No to group visit
The NOs are a trickier animal. Especially when it is in your nature already to resist everything.
I don't want to unnecessarily limit myself and thus stay in my comfort zone forever. (Don't I?)
It seems a NO needs a little more interrogation. I want to be kind to myself, but I don't want to miss out on my whole life. (Or do I? Gosh, this is hard.)
But, listen. In spite of my chronic uncertainty I managed to do a no.
A good friend couple of ours planned to visit. And a different friend who knows them suggested they could all come at the same time. At first I went along with this idea.
“That would be so lovely!”
Then I realised I actually didn't like the idea at all. It was, in fact, drawing a fairly significant NO from me. Anxiety in my stomach as I thought of where everyone would sleep.
But, wanting to seem (well, be) easygoing and welcoming and fun (like Stacey from Gavin and Stacey) I went along with the idea.
[NB: I just spent 30 minutes searching for a Stacey gif but there aren't any because she mainly just smiles at everyone. Which is wonderful. But why is that my dream persona?]
But the truth is, at this point, at least, I am not easygoing and fun like Stacey from Gavin and Stacey. And thus pretending to be is exhausting. Especially now I don't drink.
So I said, um. No.
Well, rather, I expressed that I would prefer them to visit individually so I could get more time with them and we could all have a proper bed. And they were fine with that.
Do I feel more like myself as a result of this yes and this no?
But I feel a little more in control of my life, and I haven't invited any dread into my future life, and that seems positive.
Notes on ideas of the self
I am starting to believe that those of us diagnosed as autistic and alarmed by our 'masking' may simply be naturally enlightened enough to realise that we aren't being our true selves in a way that many people possibly don't register.
I'll write more about this, but listening to spiritual teachers discuss the self, I feel simultaneously less ‘disabled’ for being weirded out by seemingly endless string of different selves for whatever occasion and more excited about discovering the core being at the centre of it all.
So, yes, what even is a self?
Gotta love this ever-questioning mind.
I mean, seriously, I HAVE TO LOVE IT. Because what else can I do with it? I tried fighting it, and it almost killed me.
So, brain, if you're listening (And you always are.) I love you.
Join me! Tell me your YES/NO.
ICYMI: I am asking people to consider filling out this survey. I explained why in an earlier post. Here’s a video with more info.
Invitation to fill out a survey: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/75JFYY8
If you like my writing and doodling (and can afford it), then join my elite crew of PAID subscribers. You will get sporadic chapters of my upcoming novel, When the Earth Could Breathe, access to private posts and chats, and you can comment on pieces, too.
Polite Robot is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
And if that’s not for you, then please join my quest to help autistic people live better, by sharing this newsletter. 😻
You can connect with the Autistic community on Twitter. If you have a question, use #ActuallyAutistic or #AskingAutistics (or both). You can also visit The Autism Self Advocacy Network and the Autistic Not Weird Facebook page and website.
Chelsey Flood is the author of Infinite Sky and Nightwanderers, and a senior lecturer in creative writing at UWE University. She writes about freedom, addiction, nature and love at Beautiful Hangover, and autism and self-compassion at Polite Robot. She is also working on a new YA novel.