Autism Insights, My Journey

The Importance of Flexing One’s Social Muscle Enough!

My Cautionary Tale

As tempting as it is to stay curled up in our own safe worlds, away from what’s overwhelming and chaotic outside; and limiting socializing to what’s necessary or what we feel is the safest it’s not always the best route to becoming comfortable in social situations. At least this is the alarming awareness I’ve come to conclude about interacting in the outside world and feeling comfortable in it. Which is especially pertinent if you are like me- an introvert and Autistic individual- then having exposure to these types of environments is more than just feeling comfortable and knowing how to interact in them; but also comes down to being able to cope with them without feeling totally overwhelmed. An experience I learned only comes from actually being in them regularly enough.

The Alarming Awareness:

Is that while learning how to navigate has never been a natural skill for me, and getting out there to work on it is still not easy; it without me even realizing it has made interacting slightly easier and therefore when I haven’t been out as much it’s gotten harder. At least this is what I realized having taken the time to recuperate from constant interaction and afforded the space to be out there less that these types of situations while overwhelming in daily life were helpful in cultivating that awareness and learning to adapt to them.

Why…

Continually and often intentionally working on my social interaction skills while working gave me the chance to become comfortable in different situations and being in them also made it easier for me to not get totally overwhelmed. Also without having the exposure to those experiences it’s been harder to feel comfortable in bigger groups or noises settings without getting overwhelmed. Something I didn’t realize until much later; but a worth while one to consider when making next steps.

To help you understand: think of it like training for a marathon or keeping up a fitness regiment; as soon as training is over and you feel deserving of a break in your routine there’s the temptation to take it totally easy and train a little less (which is okay) until the next fitness event. Believing that the muscles used during training will remain at the same point as they were while training most likely is a good way to avoid using them but won’t help you come marathon day. It’s a similar experience for me, only instead of training to run a marathon; it’s training to be comfortable interacting in different situations and building the ability to cope better with them.

My Plan Going Forward (and in the New Year):

  • Is to work on gaining back and improving how to become better able to cope with different social situations and environments so that they don’t become overwhelmed completely. And yes, perhaps this means trying to connect a little less online and more in person but this is a step I’ve recognized that will be better for myself in the end.
  • It may also mean stepping outside of my comfort zone and enlisting some familiar strategies to help me in the early stages of this personal experiment.
  • Staying better connected with Offline friends
  • Making plans more regularly or finding my own ways to get out of the house and flex my social muscles.

All which might be challenging and take some extra motivation, but I’m hoping will be helpful in the longer run.

Keep moving forward, but remember to be gentle too:

Kylie

Feature Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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