Sometimes people say rather hurtful things to me, and I’m sure others, with the best of intentions. They’re trying to give advice and really believe they’re saying something helpful, and somehow just don’t understand how hurtful it can be to hear them. Many of them can be generally classified as exhortations to just try harder.
All we need to do is just put in more effort, or take these classes, or see that type of therapist, or avoid those foods, and if we just worked at it, we’d be fine!
Thing is, it always seems like it carries the implication that I must not be working at things already, and it definitely carries the implication that I’m not working hard enough. It also implies that whatever it is they are encouraging me to fix can be fixed, so the fact that my aspie-ness is showing is somehow my fault. As “helpful advice” goes, I find it insulting and hurtful and not helpful at all. Especially because that particular brand of advice almost never comes when I’ve actually asked for advice. It seems to reside almost entirely in the realm of unsolicited advice, from people who think they know what’s wrong with me better than I do.
Here’s the deal. I do work. I work hard. But I don’t necessarily work hard at the things people think I should work hard at. I work hard to be able to walk up to an associate in a store to ask for help. I work hard to remember to reciprocate social questions. I work hard to deal with my sensory issues. I work hard to increase my mobility so I don’t hide in my house away from the world all the time. I work hard to talk to people I don’t know.
I do not work hard to hide my stimming, even in public. I only sort of work hard to hide my awkwardness in social situations. I do not push myself to keep my ASD hidden away, as though it’s somehow shameful or wrong. Yeah, I will apologize and try to improve if I am unintentionally rude or make a legitimate social slip, but I will not apologize for being strange or quirky or sensitive or twitchy or any number of other things that make me odd, but are not actually wrong.
“Trying harder” will not make my social awkwardness go away. “Trying harder” will not magically let me learn all the social protocols I have yet to learn. “Trying harder” will not cure my sensory issues. I already try damned hard.
I refuse to “try harder” to pass for normal. I pass or I don’t pass. I won’t apologize for who and what I am.
All of which means that “just try harder” is both useless and insulting, and not something I should have to hear from anyone. I can appreciate someone trying to be helpful (sort of) but please pay attention to the sorts of things you say, and what they may sound like from the other side.