Words Like Swords

I told a guy he talked too much. He became quiet after that.

Being diagnosed with Asperger syndrome causes people to scrutinize your every move. What you lack becomes more interesting than what you achieve. I’ve learned to accept all comments about my performance with a grain of salt. At the same time, a performer is nothing without an audience.

My religion course at BYU-Idaho consisted of little more than open discussion. Most people would not share their opinion publicly. Others were almost hostile. No one could speak his or her mind without upsetting a select few. One particular man stood out to me as being long winded. His opinions were nothing revolutionary and he would take a long time to make just one point. It must have been the Fates who put him in my peer discussion group.

Once in a while the teacher would leave us to our own devices. We would be required to talk for one hour with our assigned group and provide the names of those in attendance for the grade. This particular group session happened to be the last one of the semester on the last day of class. Most of these sessions are slow with hardly anyone contributing. I took it upon myself to be group leader to get the conversation rolling. I should have just kept my mouth shut.

The talkative guy took a good five minutes to say one thing. Nobody responded to what he said. They just smiled and nodded. Another person got a few words in before the talkative guy started on a new spiel. Fearing he would dominate the whole hour I said to him, “Excuse me. Brevity is not your strong suit.”

I didn’t mean to be mean. If given a moment I would have explained what I meant. However, one of the hostile people in the group spoke up. I was instantly accused of being insensitive and controlling. He also gave a few comments that were vicious and not completely related to the topic at hand. He finished with a defense for the talkative guy by saying he can talk as much as he wants to. I didn’t reply. Neither did the talkative guy.

No one knew each other in that group talk. We all left for the winter break with little ado. No friends were made.

Everybody is a Critic

I’ve received a good amount of negative feedback in my time. A teacher yelled at me in front of the class once. A group of students would often ridicule my clothing. It seems schools are more proving grounds than houses of learning.

You learn words in school that carry on throughout your whole life. Stupid. Ugly. Weird. I never took much thought for each individual criticism, but they all taught me the one thing I needed to know; whether or not people liked me.

I didn’t know I was diagnosed with ADD as a child until I was in high school. No one ever brought it up. Things like that are not usually discussed openly until something goes wrong. The label of ADD can be used as either an observation or a criticism. It all depends on what people prefer.

Measuring Up

I was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome in my early twenties. The diagnosis came as a result of seeking answers. Why am I different? Why do people treat me the way they do? Just so you know it was my family asking these questions for me. I didn’t care about such stuff. I liked myself the way I was.

My parents wished to modify my behavior (or at least the results). They wanted to see improvement and a psychological analysis seemed like a good place to start. The Asperger’s diagnosis is supposed to be my first step to “recovery.” I still don’t see the problem.

People need to tell you what they don’t like about you. They will often dance around the subject hoping you will get the hint. How would you know you weren’t good enough unless someone openly expressed their disappointment in you to your face?

The Trick

I know what you’re thinking. How can more criticism be a good thing? The truth is criticism is neither good nor bad. It is solely opinion which has as much power as you give it. Do you value the opinion of a stranger? Does what your parents think matter to you? Our lives are filled with attempts of impressing those with opinions we deem of highest importance. What does it give us in return?

The answer is to find a balance. We have two voices that matter to us: the inner voice and the outer one. What we think of ourselves counts, but so do the people we regard. I work hard to make my father proud. I live well to make my mother happy. All the while I never sacrifice what matters to me personally.

What you think matters. What other people think matters to them. Nothing will change until someone speaks up. Years ago a man at a talent show performed who couldn’t carry a tune. The people in charge of the event had him leave the stage to give more time to the band performing after him. He was allowed one song while the band got to play as much as they wanted. He was so upset afterwards. People were trying to console him. I walked up to him and said, “Cowboy up.” Some guy cheered when I said this and raised his hand for a high-five. This guy thought I was trying to be snarky. I waved his hand away. The performer talked to me about how he was feeling. I didn’t think all of his frustrations were justified, but I listened to them all while everyone else eventually left. We both came to the conclusion that everyone is a critic, but it’s still good to have an audience.


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