What do you think about the following statements?
I am dyslexic.
I am autistic.
I am a loser.
I am Italian.
I am married.
I wholeheartedly disagree with the first three because they declare a term can describe who you are as a person. Nothing could be further from the truth.
As for all 5 statements, they describe what you have decided is most important about you and what should be the headline as you decide what you can and cannot do in relationship to the rest of the world.
I was having a conversation with a client yesterday who has made a habit of shutting down every teachable moment by declaring, “Well I have Asperger’s.”
"Are you telling me you can’t learn and grow?”
“No, but it’s hard.”
“Great! We can work with hard. Working with CAN’T is more difficult.”
As you know, I have multiple disabilities, but not a one of them tells you who I am. If you think you know me because I share a label such as ADHD or Dyslexia and you begin making assumptions, that’s called stereotyping.
It’s human to do so because we like to know and be certain of things. It’s also a tremendous barrier between you and me because once you decide you’re right about me, it becomes my work to prove otherwise. Not an easy task.
Many years ago I was at a networking event. I was speaking with a gentleman who asked, “Do you consider yourself an expert?”
"I consider myself human.”
This is my highest recommendation to you if you struggle to incorporate a diagnosis into your sense of identity.
It’s easier to connect with others when you realize you’re both human as opposed to, “You don’t have what I have so you couldn’t understand.”
So slam the door in their face.
Not being able to relate to one experience doesn’t disqualify them from being able to relate to others. Get over yourself. I’ve observed that much of the isolation experienced by those with disabilities is self-imposed (much, not all).
The much I’m referring too is the stream of bullshit running between your ears that assigns difference to everyone you see. "That person can walk and I can’t, I’d probably be a burden to him so I won’t even introduce myself.” Follow me?
Carrying that conversation around in which you make up someone else’s mind for them is a detriment to your identity and your life. Instead of building relationships and a support system you spend a disproportionate amount of time disqualifying people from participation in your life.
What if, starting now, you live from the answers to these questions?
1) As a human being and nothing more, what do I have in common with everyone else?
2) Of the experiences we all share, how would I begin a friendly conversation about one of them?
3) What could I say to another human being to help them be seen by me as someone who gets it?
Seriously think about these questions, then hit reply and share your answers with me.
The client with Asperger’s I mentioned earlier is a member of my group program and has an exciting career opportunity open to him because he’s opened himself up to improving his communication skills. It’s amazing to play a role in transformations like this.
Thanks for being you,
P.S. I’m going to begin creating audio (podcast) and video versions of these articles which I’ll share on my website.