We all know the saying, “Opinions are like Assholes.” But are they really? I mean theoretically we are nothing but opinions.
I am glad to report, smitten actually, that I am a confident person with strong convictions based on rigorous studies of spiritual truths. And that I recognize my convictions are still only opinions based on outside influences, inner recollections and scaffolding of prior experiences and conclusions. Nothing I am is based on nothing. Everything I am is based on everything. There isn’t a part of me that hasn’t been fashioned in someway by the universe—whether that be societal fluctuating norms or biological fluctuating hormones. I am a product of conditioning. I am a product of my surroundings. I am a product of previous product.
I wasn’t so keen, in regards to my sense of self and confidence, a few years back. In fact, in 2012 I was downright awful in my behaviors. The main difference between who I am today and who I was some three-plus years ago is the prior me was pretty ego-swollen and easily triggered by others’ words and actions. Fortunately I have released a lot of ego-gunk. Back in the day (2012) someone, who had a social network page, copied a full article of mine asking her audience for feedback. The post of mine she shared was the (now infamous) Ten Traits of a Female with Aspergers.
Ironically, my springboard to reaching tens of thousands of others on the spectrum was also the diving platform into my frivolous folly of character. I was extremely triggered when I saw this person had copied my very personal words and was sharing them, several pages worth, without first consulting me. I figured it was a tactic for her to gain a larger audience and achieve more likes. Eventually…Well, let me be totally honest—within seconds of me finding her posted words—I freaked out! I was new to blogging then, and new to being in the public eye. I responded to my fear and outrage by posting in an autistic support group (I had created) about the situation, asking for people to inform the page owner to “take my words down immediately!”
I hadn’t thought out the consequences of my request at all. I was blinded by that panic most of us on the autistic spectrum know too well. Unfortunately, it turns out that this poor page owner was bombarded with comments about what she had done. Needless to say, I felt absolutely terrible. Had I known the outcome, I never would have done such a thing. In the end the page owner was so humiliated she shut down her whole page. Damage done. I apologized, and still take full responsibility for my rash and hurtful actions.
Fast forward to today, and that experience in and of itself was enough for me to learn about the power of words. Currently, I take every effort to be the best role model I can be. Conversing with thousands and thousands of people, particularly autistics, has taught me to release much of my self, my opinions, and my need to be right, or even sort of right. In truth, it’s much better for me to hear others’ differing opinions than a lot of matching agreement. Differing viewpoints help me expand and grow, and look into new approaches to life. Agreement, though it generally feels soft and welcoming, typically does little more than enforce my own reality—a reality that I continually attempt to tear down as to not become closed-minded, judgmental, dogmatic or opinionated.
I realized a ways back that I just couldn’t be much help to anyone, if the focus was on my feelings and me. It’s not about me. However, with all this learning I created a type of bubble-wrap approach, in that I swung from the far extreme spectrum of taking everything personally to the other outer region of taking nothing personally, and at the same time trying not to offend or hurt anyone with my words. Now this ability/attribute, to be very cautious in my words, has come in handy, and proven beneficial. Indeed, I have been able to converse with multitudes with heartfelt support without letting ME get in the way. Yet, just as there came a time to eliminate full-throttle ego, now is my time to disrobe this vintage bubble-wrap approach.
You see, the problem with walking through life trying to bubble-wrap all my words in soft cushy please-don’t-get-hurt-by-what-I say is that I suck out all my reserves and become depleted in the process. It requires so much energy and brain power to constantly be hyper aware of possibly offending that it becomes counter productive, in that I end up hurting myself in an attempt to perceivably not hurt any one else. Remarkable undertaking indeed, considering I’ve likely only offended four or five people (that I know of) out of over 300,000 in the past 48 months.
I recently started recognizing this bubble-wrap tactic after a very specific incident last week. Another social network page owner posted a meme (poster with words) about neurotypicals (NT) (people with typical brains that aren’t autistic.) For the most part, I have stopped using ‘NT’ all together, as (in my opinion) NT is creating further separation between autistics and non-autistics, and is becoming a derogatory statement in some circles. Yes, the meme was a joke, and yes it came from good intentions, but still it shook me to the core, and brought up my strong opinions: my convictions.
At that point, I went through a huge process of evaluating the concept of opinion verses conviction, finding the more I dissected the concepts the more they were alike than different; and that it seemed all opinions are opinions, regardless of foundation. I settled in then, to a discourse in my brain. One that lasted seconds but seemed years. I came to the conclusion that as an individual with unique characteristics and value/self-worth that I have a right to my opinions and in a sense owe it to myself to stand by my convictions. I recognized I had no trouble withholding my everyday more common little opinions, but that convictions seemed to come from a more important moral standing. Such ideals as: show kindness, don’t knowingly put anyone down, accept responsibility for actions, don’t cause intentional harm, and so forth, are my barometer for life. (Pointing fingers, laying blame, hairstyles, people’s weight, income, stardom, etc. are not.)
In seeing this meme, openly poking fun at Neurotypicals, (regardless of the well-meaning intention), something clicked inside of me. I thought: “I wish to stand by my convictions. It’s time.”
On hearing this, I then released offense, anger and similar reactive feelings and wrote kindly to the page owner, with the pure intention of stating an opinion. I recognized it was only my opinion and didn’t attach anything to the outcome. I didn’t even go back to read a response, because I’d already forgotten who it was and what page it was, because that didn’t matter in the end.
This was a HUGE thing for me, stating my conviction. So much so, that I brought it up in therapy. My therapist informed me (her opinion) that she was proud that I stated my conviction but that I didn’t need to add the buffer “just my two-cents” at the end. That indeed this addition served to minimize my own conviction, sense of self-worth and the right to speak my mind.
Many self-realizations followed suit: I used ‘just’ a lot in my everyday speech and writing. I justified my statements a lot. In fact, I bubble-wrapped almost everything I said! From telling my children to do chores, “Please do this… because… and it would mean a lot to me” to apologizing for having an opinion! We discussed this some more. But I knew, without a doubt, that if I stopped bubble-wrapping, people would get hurt. This scared me.
One of my strongest convictions is not to intentionally hurt someone. So was stating any opinion feasibly hurting someone? YES! Why? Because people’s egos get hurt if someone counters their reality. But is that my responsibility to continue to buffer my words to not accidentally threaten someone else’s reality. NO!
The only thing within my control is how I respond to others and their opinions.
I then realized that through the years: I mistook a person’s response to my words as somehow MY FAULT!
Well, as luck would have it, another person shared another NT poster, meant as a joke and to raise awareness. And so, given opportunity, I stated my conviction in just a few sentences without buffering—in other words I left off the bubble-wrap. What happened after that doesn’t matter. I spoke my truth with no intention of ill-will and no attachment to the outcome whatsoever.
“I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR HOW SOMEONE RESPONDS TO MY CONVICTIONS. BEING HUMAN I HAVE OPINIONS. WHEN ANOTHER IS OFFENDED BY MY CONVICTIONS THAT IS THEIR STUFF, THEIR RIGHT AND NONE OF MY BUSINESS.” ~ Sam
Please ignore ‘convinctions’ error in link. Dyslexia strikes again. And no way to change link name 🙂 I kind of like the sound of convinctions, though.