21 September, 2009

Not knowing how to be good

It's hard for me to tell the difference between being a doormat and being a good person. Obviously, I am not God so I am not going to be entirely successful at being a good person, ever, but as I try I become closer to God. Or I would, if I understood what it actually meant to be a good person.

First of all, like a lot of "special needs" kids, I grew up feeling bad about needing things that other people didn't need. I felt like an inconvenience. Also, when people rejected me, or got mad at me, I equated that (often correctly) with my unusual ways of relating to people and my poor judgment, but I also saw my differences/challenges as bad, in a moral sense. I thought that cutting down on them would somehow be a moral act.

This has led to some really strange habits. For example, I have two really nice, not at all challenging to answer, YouTube messages that people sent me about my AS videos. They would probably appreciate an answer. But I haven't answered them. This is because I had a lot of trouble, when I was younger, with being an obsessive friend. When I really liked someone, I wanted to hang out with them all the time, or talk to them a lot online if that wasn't an option. This sometimes led to the person being annoyed or angry. Even when it didn't lead to that, it did lead to me being hurt when the person waited a long time to respond to my email, didn't make an extra effort to eat lunch with me, etc. As I got older, I didn't just feel hurt, I felt guilty and angry at myself for being hurt, because it wasn't ordinary to feel that way.

Also, I was confused by people who didn't immediately respond to emails. I didn't think it was hard to respond to my emails. I remember being annoyed, and thinking that other people must have really slow brains if it actually took them a lot of time to answer an email.

But at the same time, this was how most people were. So I made myself feel the same way. Even though I used to be a person who sincerely didn't understand how answering an email could be a difficult task, I have now trained myself to feel vaguely anxious when I get an email, and to "save it for later" as if it's some big challenge, and end up putting it off for a long time. (When I say "email," I also mean comments on message boards, and YouTube messages, and Facebook wall posts--you get the idea.)

So now I take a long time to reply to messages, which is a more ordinary thing to do, but also probably a worse thing to do in an absolute sense, because when a friend emails me, they would probably enjoy a reply, and when a person asks me a question about AS, the answer is probably important to them. So I am actually making life a little bit worse for the other person, by making them wait for something that would make them happier.

A habit I have that's even worse is making fun of people, invading their personal space, and interrupting them. I originally approached socialization from a very rule-based perspective, and didn't understand why people who were obviously more successful than I was were actually more thoughtless and hurtful than I was; I thought the rules for socializing with people were trying not to hurt them, and trying to think about their feelings. This didn't seem to work, so I started to imitate the negative as well as the positive behaviors of successful normal people.

I'm not saying that I never jokingly insulted people before, but I now experience this weird compulsion to do rude things like take people's food without asking, make affectionate but unflattering comments about the way they look, or interrupt what they're saying. I don't think I even realized how bad I feel about this until I wrote it out. It is another example of something I think of as a "right" thing to do, which is actually morally wrong, because it makes people feel hurt, unimportant, or unsafe.

This isn't actually what I intended to write about, but I got distracted by something else. I guess I'll have to write about the other thing later. The point I have turned out to be making with this post is: as I have tried to become more normal, and beaten myself up for things I did that weren't normal, I have actually started doing things that I really should be beating myself up for more, if I'm judging myself in terms of being kind and making the world a better place, instead of in terms of being normal.

I'm not saying I haven't changed for the better in other ways, but in some ways, I have definitely changed for the worse because the goal I've been working towards is normalcy instead of goodness, and not all of normalcy is good.


  1. I used to respond to e-mails really promptly, and be confused when people took forever to respond, too. I just wanted to talk to people as much as possible, and didn't understand when people I liked didn't want to talk to me as much. I think that's the natural response if you actually appreciate people and don't take them for granted, but it's funny - most people don't like being pressured, and it often seems like a desire to keep in touch is like pressure. I've been on both sides of that.

  2. Yeah, I guess that's true that it can feel pressuring. There have only been one or two occasions where I've felt pressured by how much someone wanted to talk to me, though.

    I am trying to change back to my old self. I answered my YouTube messages and now I'm going to answer my email from my grandmother.

  3. I like your post. I agree 100%. I used to do that waiting to email or trying not to seem interested but I just stopped doing it because it's rubbish. If I want to email someone or reply back quickly or talk to someone because I like them, well damn it I am going to. If they feel weird about it they can just be up front with me and tell me and if they don't have the guts to do that then I guess it is their problem.

    It's really interesting to me, that even though I never knew I had AS until know I did the exact same thing where I would just try to be nice to everyone since it was the morally right thing to do and I felt good about it because that meant I was a good person. I also noticed that the more popular people were not always nice, they were sometimes mean and I never "got" that at all. I just couldn't understand why I was always nice and a morally good person and nobody liked me. ugh.

    Well those days are over, I am going to be myself waaaay more often and it will probably come off as rude but who cares. My turn to be selfish. Being a good person shouldn't come at the cost of yourself. And the fact is I"m not a rude person, just some of the things I say are perceived as rude the "normal" people. Well I say let it be there problem.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I didn't know you had a blog until I clicked on your name. I promise I wasn't copying you or anything really weird and freaky.