A matter of perception : Theirs vs Mine (The Autistic One) 

I am always quite fascinated at how people in real life perceive me. When I hear how they feel about me I automatically assess whether I hold that same view. I internalise it and analyse it. So here are a few perceptions that others have of me ….and what I think. 

1. That I am Jolly

Yes that was the word used to describe me. It’s not a word you hear much unless you’re a Pirate aficionado and then it’s usually in connection with someone called Roger!. 

I associate being Jolly with laughter, belly laughs and being a jocular fun loving individual. That’s not how I see myself. I have a sense of humour that’s very dry, cynical, based on puns and snappy one liners. It’s more “Yes Prime Minister” than “Benny Hill” and it’s one perception that I just can’t see. Sure I can make people laugh but am I that funny and in that way ?. 

2. That I am helpful

This perception is, I believe, down to good masking. It’s down to me actively making myself available to help others. But I wouldn’t say it’s who I was. I wouldn’t list it amongst my qualities (if I knew what they were) but it’s how others see me. It’s more about taking responsibility and trying to make sense out of order. It’s The Autistic loathing of chaos bringing my helpful self to the fore. It’s having to get something sorted because I fear the consequences if it is not. So, if I am helpful, I’m not doing it altruistically but rather through a sense of self-preservation. 

3. That I’m a nice guy 

No, I’ve no idea what that means either. I’ve had it said to me and I’m not sure against what standard I’m being measured. Are there degrees of niceness ?. 

Is this linked to the Jolly, helpful person (or is that Jolly helpful) that I supposedly am ?. I certainly wasn’t the nice guy that got the girl growing up, although perhaps you have to be sexy for that and I am the least sexy thing in the universe. I’ve seen inanimate objects that ooze raw sexuality when placed next to me!. 

I’m still not sure what it means to be nice so my perception of that is dictated by my not being sure what it is I’m supposed to be. 

4. That I am intelligent

Excuse the laughter coming from the corner, it’s my IQ reading a joke book entitled “The 1000 funniest intelligence jokes” and realising there’s a picture of me on the very first page!. 

Intelligence is, again, hard to measure. Leave aside IQ tests which may well appeal to certain brain structures more than others and once more it can be hard to accurately measure intelligence. 

And what is it anyway ?. Is it knowing stuff ?. Is it knowing specific stuff ?. Is it measured by educational achievement ?. If I know lots about Tax but nothing about Biology does that still make me intelligent; but only in a certain field ?. Are we talking about general intelligence encompassing several fields or more of an expertise in a specific subject ?. 

The trouble is, I feel, that describing yourself as intelligent is just setting yourself up for a fall. The moment you tell someone becomes the moment you know everything. Or are supposed to. People look at you expectantly as they prepare for you to give forth your wisdom. And when you don’t know you crash and burn. 

I don’t see myself as intelligent. Yes I’m Autistic. Yes my diagnosis is Aspergers. Yes I’m supposed to be “high functioning” (an undesirable and divisive label if ever there was one) but that doesn’t mean I know stuff. Or useful stuff. 

Being described as intelligent makes me uncomfortable. Because I don’t know how I’m being measured. Is it against friends, colleagues, family, Einstein ??. I don’t see myself as intelligent because I think that involves a certain amount of ego and I’m not sure I have enough ego to protect me when describing myself as such brings me crashing back to earth!. I’m certainly not intelligent in educational terms, no degree, struggles with A and O levels and has never passed a Mathematical test in my life!. 

It’s a real conundrum. 

Do I know stuff ?. Yes, but so does everybody else. Is the stuff I know somehow more intellectual or highbrow that what other people know ?. Does it have more value ?. Is it worth more ?. 

In some ways I think I’m really quite stupid. I don’t know practical stuff and bits about Egyptology are rarely useful in the world of Tax or in washing the dishes. I can’t change a plug, change a tyre or cook a meal involving more than two ingredients. I don’t have practical intelligence. 

So there we are, four ways in which people’s perception of me widely differ from my own. 

Which is right is, of course, a matter of opinion and perhaps the truth, in all cases, lies somewhere in between. 

But it is interesting to know how people see ourselves and compare it with the view we hold ourselves. I wonder how many times we are actually in a perception harmony with others ?. 

Are you ?. 

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