Masking

sorting it out, or trying to: random musings


I am reading more on my autism forums and blogs about masking. It has been confusing me a lot!

I am reading declarations from people swearing they will no longer be masking. They will stim in public, they will be their autistic authentic selves at all times and in all ways, loudly and proudly. “throw off the mask!”

wait a minute… really? I understand that masking is done to gain social acceptance… that it is done to ‘fit in’… things like wearing things that are the same as everybody else at the office, wearing ( for women) specific styles of makeup and doing hair and nails in conventional ways to be seen as ‘normal’ and become socially acceptable… forcing oneself to be careful to have manners and try not hurt anybody’s feelings, to respond in kind if asked to participate in social gatherings, group activities, etc etc. Many of these things are very difficult for autistic folks, and seem to be harder for us than those with neurotypical selves. Have I got it all wrong?

I suspect that a good many people who are not autistic struggle with doing all of these things and with “playing the social game” as well.
Why else would there be all the cartoons and comments about wanting to get home behind closed doors and take off your work persona along with the office clothes or uniform, slipping into comfy clothing or PJs all of that. ????????

At age 68 I have very many habits deeply ingrained. I have had a very difficult time sorting out my own “masking” which I am assured by others is being unhealthy and somehow morally untrue to my autistic self hidden deep inside. I can’t find that me.
I did ” play the game” (and mostly failed anyway) when I needed to and I dropped most of that once I left the world of the office behind.
Late in high school I did try to use makeup, wear appealing clothing, spend hours doing my hair – at least off and on. My attempts failed, and I went back to wearing cowboy boots and jeans for the most part, and spending more time with my horse than with people.

Things changed mostly around 21 years old when I had a boyfriend who pressured me to be more fashionable, to do things a certain way, to wear certain things, to change my basic self to make him more satisfied with me as a partner who brought admiration and social status to him by looking or acting certain ways.
Of course these were HIS ideas of who I should be. Being trained since infancy to appease and perform for praise and to avoid anger and punishment, I worked very hard at it all. I had chosen the wrong partner.


Subsequent marriage and then later divorce from that man, and a load of good counseling on making healthy choices and learning to be self assertive, that all went away. It took years !
I had spent so much time trying to please others I did not have a clue about who I was or what I wanted.

I gradually found myself, and married somebody completely different. My partner of 40 years supported me in being the ‘real’ me right from the start.
I stopped dressing to please others and began to wear clothing that was comfortable and didn’t hurt. I have not owned a pair of high heels in 40 years. My feet are so grateful!
I stopped doing my hair and makeup and stopped worrying about the latest fashions.
I found something that suited me.
I stopped going to social things and started finding delight in nature. In essence I found myself. Years ago.
It took quite a while to realize that I had developed confidence in my own choices of how to appear and how to behave in any given situation.

How much of ‘masking’ is due to our lack of self confidence, our lack of self knowledge and self understanding in the rush to fit in and please others? I wonder if this is just one more thing I had to be taught because my autistic rigid thinking did not let me see alternatives until somebody else pointed them out?

After thinking it all over, I suspect I don’t have much masking left in me.
I have no desire to openly stim in the ways that I did as a child. I have changed and adapted stims over all these years of life. Why should I go back to awkward and difficult behavior that caused me to be even more socially isolated? Don’t all people grow and change and adapt? Why is that so wrong?

I have no desire to aggressively proclaim myself as “different” and wear yet another “social uniform” representing another group of angry people seeking attention by “in your face” attitudes.

The strident calls of “unmasking” and demanding to be accepted no matter how far afield a person dresses, behaves, or self decorates, etc do not mesh.

Human nature is attracted to those who are similar and rejects those who are radically different (in most cases).

I have no gripe with the way anybody else wants to represent themselves, but if I walk into a formal situation wearing a diver’s wet suit instead of traditional formal dress, should I be offended if people avoid me and look at me askance? My reading of some of these loud opinions on the forums is that I should be angry not to be accepted as myself no matter how I present myself. Really? I think that might be a tad unrealistic.

Maybe I misunderstand it all. In any case it is only my observations and construct from my own
” old lady ” perspective.

I speak for nobody but myself in my limited understanding of so much of the world.

Anger and strident behavior do not seem to me to be likely social attractants.

One side of the group autistic mouth proclaims and demands and the other side laments lack of friendship, finding few who willingly interact and respond.
Do what is right for you.

2 thoughts on “Masking

  1. This makes perfect sense to me and it’s something I’ve wanted to shout into the void for so long. Pride gets us nowhere in the end. Find your middle ground and stick with it—we still have to live in this world. Thank you for another timely and spot on article.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, actually you pretty much speak for me on this issue as well, especially when you write “How much of ‘masking’ is due to our lack of self confidence, our lack of self knowledge and self understanding…?”

    Being someone other than my authentic self has always been too problematic for me to try it for long…..but I was constantly moving from town to town and job to job and, as an artist, a I kinda get a “pass”, anyway. In spite of continually being an outsider and often looked down upon for my naive honesty, it seems I’ve generally been lucky enough to somehow have a basically sturdy ego and intelligent enough to critique Their world and come up feeling that I’d rather be an outsider than run with the herd.
    There’s a Scorsese film that illustrates what I’m trying to describe beautifully, THE INNOCENTS.” Come to think of it, I just watched this a day or two before I discovered I’m autistic…. interesting…. Beautiful, if heartrending, film. Available on DVD from your library.

    Liked by 2 people

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