Thursday, November 2, 2017

Autism Answer: Why Did I Say That?

Okay, we've all had those moments. Someone says something and we reply in a way we aren't too proud of. Or we find ourselves in a social situation without the right amount of coffee, maybe we're foggy headed or anxious, or both, and we do something we later (or immediately) regret. Some of us have this happen more often than others, but it happens to all of us.

We say something, or we don't say something, or we do something, and we spend the next (insert far longer time than we want to admit here) embarrassed or mad at ourselves. All the other things we KNOW we could have/should have done or said haughtily prance around in our brains! Overwhelming numbers of far more appropriate possibilities on display, only proving to ourselves that we KNOW better and should have DONE better!

We've all been there. We've all done this. We know it's relatable. Yet, when it happens, it still feels alone and yucky. Many of us still can't help but think: "Ya, but only I would do it that bad and say something that ridiculous in that type of situation this often."

Now, we all have our way of dealing with this sort of common "oops" moment.

When I was young, I just chose to use it as further proof that I am stupid and that I accidentally hurt or offend people with my stupid-ness and so I should just stay quiet. That was, ummmmm, unhelpful.

So now, I always remind myself to have fun imagining what people thought of me and my response. Rather than flog myself with imagining the horrible things they are thinking, rather than drown myself in only the possibility of me being stupid and accidentally cruel, I have fun. I'm kind to myself and to the other players involved.

For me, the best way to keep it fun and not turn it into an uncomfortable worrying about what they thought, is to remember that I actually have no idea. So I might as well make up all kinds of fun scenarios and possibilities! Also, people are mostly kind. Often they aren't bothering to think about how stupid I am because they are kinder than that. Also, they aren't really spending much time thinking about me anyway.

Once I have gotten the embarrassed feelings out of the way I have room to think about why I said what I said. There is always a why. Sure, I know better. Sure, I can do better. But in the moment I chose something even I don't like. Why?

Most of the time when I do this I simply see a challenge of mine that is still there. An issue I'm working on, no big deal really. We all have challenges. (Socially I am uncomfortable when I know my words and actions will reflect on a loved one, when I am volunteering at my son's school* or working for my sister or talking to a producer about my mom, etc., and often my nervousness about messing up will end up being the reason I do. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.)

*In fact, this post was born out of my experiences volunteering to work the concession stand at last month's highschool football home game while I mentally prepare for my turn volunteering at tomorrow's home game. :D 

But sometimes when I think about why I said or did the uncomfortable thing, I'll have a surprising epiphany about myself! An awkward moment where I say or do something I know was weird or unfair or inappropriate will reveal something about myself to me that I may not have known. These are magnificent moments, overflowing with potential for discovery! I exlore new ideas and become purposefully changed and more aware.

My best friend has anxiety issues and social encounters that go a little "wrong" can burrow in her brain and cause chaos in her thoughts for weeks. When she can't quite figure out how to stop perseverating over the issue she'll call me, knowing that I'm good for a laugh at least.

She knows how I solve that problem - by using my imagination much like she is, but by making the imaginings fun and kind - and she likes to tease me playfully for it. But she also appreciates it when I help by inventing stories for her. I know her well enough to make the stories fun and believable. But, at the end of the day, it's not that my trick works for her the way it works for me. In my friend's case, she's laughing and chatting about an issue with her best friend. A friend that doesn't attack anyone but prefers instead to invent kindness and good intentions all around. THAT'S what helps her.

I encourage you to have fun with your "Why did I say that?" moments, too! Perhaps inventing thoughtful stories in your head and then using the moment for self-discovery, as I do, will be fun for you. Perhaps calling a friend and talking it out is what will best work to keep you happy and confident.

Or do you have a fun tip you want to share with us? We have all been there! So there must be a neverending number of ways to healthily deal with this sort of "Oops!" moment. My favorite tips are the ones that step us into a kind, open minded, story-filled headspace.

And I know that's your favoirte type of tip, too.
Or maybe I imagined that....
tee hee!

Let's go out into the world and risk awkward social encounters so that we can imagine kind and fun possibliites about how they were recieved and understood!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook) 

Me and my youngest son at a football home game.