I was looking through my laptop recently at blog posts I’ve written but never published, and I came upon something I wrote about identity. It was written just a week or two after my autism diagnosis and, as a result, is confusing and somewhat depressing, but the message I wanted to convey is there so I thought I’d rewrite it with a somewhat more uplifting tone.
Identity is incredibly important in today’s society. It’s heavily regarded to shape who we are as human beings and often decides where we fit in on the social ladder. If you are unable to list or categorize parts of yourself that society deems important (even though you may not), you are considered weird or thought of as ‘going against the norm’.
Questions about sexuality, for example, come up in daily conversations – especially among teenagers and young adults.
Trying to fit my sexuality into a label was something I battled with since before I was even a teenager. Over the past several years, I have given myself many labels that haven’t quite fit due to the overbearing pressure from peers to have some way of explaining myself when the topic about sexuality was brought up. Even now, when I’ve become comfortable without a label for this part of my identity, I sometimes force myself into a box when other people ask in order to avoid long explanations that may be inappropriate or are too long for certain conversations.
However, it isn’t just for the benefit of others that we label ourselves. How we identify ourselves and the labels we fit into can have a massive effect on how secure someone feels within themselves and their self-esteem levels. It can be the difference between feeling like an outsider, like someone who doesn’t belong anywhere, to knowing that you’re included in society and that you have a place within certain communities as a result of the labels you give yourself.
For some people, finding out a piece of their identity can feel like they’ve found an answer to questions they’ve been asking themselves for years. It can be the tool that enables someone to understand themselves better, and can also provide clarity which makes others understand them more as a result, too.
My autism diagnosis was a lot like this. A lot of people ask me why I bothered with the diagnosis when I’d gone for so many years without it. From an outsider’s view they could look at my life now and from before the diagnosis, and the differences between the time periods would be miniscule. The amount of support I receive in an educational environment and in my personal life haven’t necessarily increased or improved. However, having this identity/label has made me feel a lot more secure in myself as well as providing a reason for the things I do that I had always viewed as different or weird, and giving an explanation as to why I find some things so difficult. It also provided the same thing for those around me who know me, which is definitely a bonus as they tend to understand me better now than they did before.
Ultimately though, is it really society’s right to dictate how we do and don’t identify ourselves? Should our identities be forced upon us in order to please other people or people on the whole, or instead be left for us to decide without the pressure of our peers?
I’d be very interested in knowing what you all think about this topic, so let me know.
Until next time,