Several years ago I remember reading a New Yorker piece by one of the Autism Pop Culture kids--John Elder Robison maybe? Whoever he was, he said something about having had to create his personality from scratch, instead of naturally having one. And I was like, "yeah totally this is such a good description of what ASD is like! I can relate to this better than anything else I've ever read!"
Whereas now I'm kind of like...seriously?
It's weird to say this because a few years ago I don't think there was anything I hated more than people saying, "Just be yourself," or, "Just act however you feel." But that's what I try to do now.
Obviously there are areas in which this totally doesn't work--of course there are things I have a lot of anxiety about, or can't learn how to do with any ease, and there's definitely an element of forcing myself to do things or trying to imitate how someone else would do them. But there's a difference between consciously going against your nature, or trying to play make-believe with yourself, in order to deal with something, and just playing a part all the time. I think there were some times when people would say, "Just be yourself," in a way that was super disrespectful of who I am; it was like, "Don't react to things in a way that I wouldn't react to them, because to me your reactions look unnatural." But the fact that I used to find "Just be yourself" to be the most ridiculous thing for anyone to say to me, ever, is now kind of hard for me to relate to.
Like 14 months ago, I made this post called I'm a fake person, and in the process of writing it--well, I knew everything that was in it, but actually writing it down made me incredibly depressed. There was just this fact inside me all the time, that I was fake, and I just tried to avoid thinking about it. But now I just don't feel like that thing is there anymore. (The trans aspect of that post is really weird. I think at that time I actually thought that being trans would make me happier than being cis, but that it just wouldn't be practical for me to transition...but now I, like, actually feel like a girl, in an uncomplicated way, which has never been the case before. So maybe feeling "I'm not a girl," for me, was just a way of feeling something else that I don't have to feel anymore, but I don't know.)
I'm not trying to say that everything is baller and in fact some stuff is much, much worse since I stopped being a fake person, but I do prefer life this way. And I know I'm not going very much into detail about what being "real" or not having a made-up personality means to me, but it's complicated and it may not even look that different superficially. It just feels incredibly different inside.
Anyway, where I was going with this was probably toward the idea of people being empty or being nothing or having nothing to them, because they're different or because they can't do the things other people can do. I think it's really important to acknowledge the difference between having a self that's not socially acceptable, and actually really not having a self at all. Even if your self does have to change or fake or learn a lot of things, or even if it never is accepted by other people, it does really exist.
It's also important to acknowledge the human being/human doing divide, i.e. the difference between not being able to do something, and not being something. For example, if you can't talk on the phone, and then, through scripting and imitating other people, you become able to talk on the phone--your old self wasn't a nothing that has been replaced by an improved, fake self that can talk on the phone. Your old self was just someone who couldn't talk on the phone.