About a year ago, I was given some excellent advice from someone. The advice was that if you are in a relationship with a person, and they make you choose between them or your pet cat, you should keep the cat.
While I’ve never had to choose between a person or a cat, I think it’s a great metaphor for life. To me, this means that you shouldn’t sacrifice anything that is important to you for someone who doesn’t appreciate it. It also means you shouldn’t sacrifice a valuable companion, who is already in your life, for someone else.
Here is some other advice that I would like to share with people who might need it. I’ve had to learn some of this advice the hard way, and it would be nicer to help others learn some of this stuff the easy way.
- Don’t sacrifice yourself for other people’s approval. Sometimes people might sacrifice their own comfort or best interests in order to fit in with other people. People, especially young teenagers, might start wearing clothes that they don’t feel comfortable or happy wearing. They might do this in order to fit in with other people or to hide who they really are in fear of rejection. I’ve learned that it doesn’t help anyone to do this. If someone doesn’t like you for who you are and you feel like you have to change yourself to fit in with a person or a group of people, they’re likely people you don’t need in your life. If you actually start being yourself, even though it means some people might not like you, it allows you to be more genuine and form real friendships. It might inspire other people to be true to themselves as well.
- Don’t be ashamed of your challenges. Challenges are part of being human, and there are other people who are going through the same stuff as you. When I was younger, it was so nice to learn, as an autistic person, that there were other people who also struggled with socializing. Also, through social groups, I’ve made some friends. I have ADHD as well, and in meeting and making friends who also had ADHD, it bonded us together even more because we understood each other. We would high-five each other in the hallways at school and shout “High five for ADHD!”
- Embrace your interests. Your interests make you who you are. Don’t be ashamed of them, even if they’re seen as “dorky” or unconventional. They’re a unique part of you and they should be embraced. When I was younger, my special interest was Minecraft. It was a game that provided comfort and entertainment, and I would talk about it all the time. However, at the same time, I’ve had to learn that not everyone shares that same interest and not to be offended.
- If you like someone but they don’t put in the energy to be your friend or they’re often mean to you or disrespect you, they’re probably not real friends. I experienced this when I was young when there were two girls in my elementary school classroom who pretended to be my friends but they were mean to me and manipulated me into doing things for them. A true friendship goes both ways, and even if there are mistakes, a friendship should feel good most of the time.
- Don’t be ashamed of your challenges. Don’t feel like you have to hide them from people to make friends. The real friends are the friends who you can be yourself around.
- Wearing makeup does not equal low self worth. I know some people believe that makeup is anti-feminist or that it’s just for other people’s (namely men’s) approval, but that shouldn’t be the case. I like wearing eye makeup and lip color, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like how I look without makeup. I see it as just another way of expressing myself and my style. I think it’s far more liberating to say that if you want to wear makeup, go for it, but if you don’t, then don’t wear makeup. Also, plenty of men and non-binary people wear makeup, not just women.
- Perseverance isn’t just powering through the extremely difficult stuff. If you try to climb Mount Everest with no mountain climbing skills, that’s unreasonable perseverance. However, perseverance also applies to some of the smaller, more reasonable things in life, such as folding the laundry. When I was younger (around seven years old or so) it would take me days to fold my clean laundry because I always got distracted and bored. As a young kid with ADHD, getting through the small stuff like folding clothes was difficult because the act of repeatedly folding clothes wasn’t engaging, and I got distracted easily. Clean laundry would sit in the basket for days, ready to be folded. However, when I learned how to fold the laundry through practice, and I learned how to stay focused while doing so, the task went by much more quickly. Earlier this week, I folded my laundry while listening to music so I didn’t get bored and it took about five minutes, tops.
- Enforce and respect your own boundaries. I expanded on this in one of my other blog posts. I had a huge revelation that made me realize that I’d spent my time accommodating people way too much and needed to speak up for myself more. It was a big eye opener for me when I learned that I didn’t have to preserve other people’s feelings if it meant sacrificing my own needs and comfort.
- Last but not least, if you are in a relationship and you have to choose between that person or your pet cat, keep the cat.
I hope that this advice helps and, even if it’s not directly applicable to you, I hope you learn something from it. These are some of the lessons that I’ve had to learn through my life, and I intend to write about these, and more, in my next book about being an autistic teenager.