Many people are still nervous about getting back into the world after the pandemic. If you're on the spectrum, you may be especially apprehensive about resuming social activities, which were already exhausting before we go out of the habit of masking (both literally and metaphorically!)
A 2020 study explored the self-esteem in autistic folx, reporting three key findings:
If that sounds true for you, too, here are some quick tips to grow in your confidence and seize the day in 2023.
One of the biggest quests for many individuals battling low self-esteem and confidence is discovering their true strengths. But fear not, for identifying your strengths is akin to unlocking powerful abilities in a video game—essential for leveling up your self-confidence.
Here are some tips to help you on your virtual self-discovery journey:
If you find yourself unsure of your strengths, turn to your trusted allies. Compile a list of NPCs (Non-Player Characters) in your life—family members, teachers, friends, anyone you hold dear—and seek their insights. Ask them to share the strengths they perceive in you and provide examples of times when you've showcased those strengths.
Embark on a week-long adventure and reflect upon the five activities you enjoy most. Write them down and ponder why you find them captivating. For example:
"I run a gaming blog where I regularly update it with my opinions, short stories, and interesting finds from the gaming world. I set aside dedicated time each week to write and curate content, and then I promote my posts on social media, linking back to my website."
In this case, it's clear that this individual enjoys organization, staying up-to-date with gaming trends, and working independently. Identifying the activities you naturally gravitate towards can serve as a treasure map to uncover your hidden strengths and skills.
Once you gather feedback from various sources, look for recurring themes or character traits that multiple people have highlighted. Take a moment to ask yourself the same questions and compare your answers. The skills that are frequently mentioned will likely be your most potent strengths.
Choose Your Boss Battles Wisely
Confidence can sometimes feel like an intense boss battle. When things are going well, you gain momentum, and the challenges become easier. However, hitting a roadblock can significantly decrease your confidence—especially for us gamers who tend to overanalyze every blow to our self-esteem.
To avoid retreating to the safety of our cozy inns, it's essential to initiate your confidence-building quest early on. Start by gaining momentum through a series of smaller quests that resemble the more significant challenges. For instance, if you freeze up in crowded areas, begin with short meetings where the number of familiar faces outweighs those unknown.
Alternatively, it's completely justified to skip a potentially perilous event if you believe it will cause more harm in the long run. But before you decide to use the "my dog ate my motivation" excuse, consider whether you're truly avoiding it to protect yourself or if it's simply the jitters getting the better of you.
Acquire New Skills
If you wish to level up your confidence, you must venture outside your comfort zone. Confidence is essentially belief in our own skills and abilities. That's why embarking on a quest to learn new things can greatly enhance your self-assurance. Whether it's joining a guild or picking up a new hobby, seek activities that challenge your current abilities and push your boundaries.
While the array of options may initially seem overwhelming (and you might even choose the wrong one at first), once you find something that captivates you, the benefits will become apparent almost immediately. As you engage with others in these new adventures, you'll improve your communication skills and interact in situations where words aren't the sole currency.
It's worth noting that every new skill comes with a learning curve. At certain points, it might feel like a challenging level. But don't let that discourage you, as quitting during those pivotal moments can cause you to drop even further and lead to a dangerous "I'm not good enough" mindset. I know it's easier said than done, but fear not! We have more tips to help you on your journey.
Replenish Health with Community and Role Models
Having comrades, mentors, and members in your guild who understand your gaming perspective can provide invaluable support and boost your self-confidence. You might also seek inspiration from renowned individuals who are neurodivergent, learning how they've achieved success by embracing their unique abilities. For instance, actor Daniel Radcliffe has dyspraxia, activist Greta Thunberg has autism spectrum disorder, and Olympic gymnast Simone Biles has ADHD.
Unlock New Opportunities
Part of venturing into uncharted territories is saying "yes" to quests and challenges you normally wouldn't undertake. When you build confidence by sticking to what you're comfortable with, it can easily become fragile and hinder your growth. Embracing new opportunities can unlock valuable experiences, broaden your perspectives, and develop more substantial confidence.
At the same time, you mustn't overwhelm yourself by accepting every quest that comes your way. Learning to say "no" when necessary allows you to make room for commitments that truly improve your life and well-being.
While your comfort zone may seem like a safe haven, it's not always in your best interest to stay there for too long. Comfort zones offer respite, but they also come with two significant risks to our confidence that aren't worth the relaxation:
By embracing new opportunities, you can avoid these risks and gain valuable experiences that develop your confidence across a wide range of scenarios. You'll soon realize that the novelty can become comfortable in itself, expanding your comfort zone into uncharted territories.
On the flip side, confidence can plummet if we constantly find ourselves being led by others, afraid to express our alternative views and blending into the crowd. Learning to say "no" in moderation becomes a powerful tool as it reclaims our autonomy.
Accepting Game Over Moments
As you venture into new levels and build your confidence, you'll inevitably encounter failure. However, the beautiful thing about failure is that it presents opportunities to learn from your mistakes and grow stronger.
When you encounter an obstacle or something doesn't go as planned, resist the urge to retreat to your comfort zone. In many confidence-building techniques, people say you should view missteps as learning opportunities rather than failures. While it's tempting to believe there's a lesson in everything, sometimes giving your all only to fall short is a matter of luck. Pushing yourself excessively due to such misfortunes can set false expectations.
That being said, it doesn't mean failure should be avoided at all costs. On the contrary, attempting to repress or avoid acknowledging awkward incidents only prolongs our lingering thoughts. The key is to strike a balance. Accept that failure is a natural part of life, where winning and losing coexist on a spectrum - rather than ‘pass’ or ‘fail,’ consider giving yourself a grade. There’s a lot of room between 0 and 100, and you may find that living in the middle is much more manageable.
Upgrade Your HP: Take Care of Your Body
You've probably heard countless times how physical health impacts overall well-being. But if you're anything like me, you tend to forget the things you "should" do. So it's crucial to develop strategies to remember and overcome any sensory issues or barriers you may face.
Finding practical habits and activities to incorporate into your daily routine will amaze you with the boost in confidence and overall wellness.
Granted, most self-care efforts can be lengthy and dull. However, as autistic individuals often find solace in routines, we're also more likely to sustain these activities once we overcome the typical challenges, such as restricted eating or sleep difficulties.
Moreover, eating and exercising release endorphins that provide temporary confidence boosts, making them ideal to incorporate into your routine before attempting other activities on this list.
Unlock Achievements: Celebrate Every Win
Confidence undoubtedly stems from success. However, for many autistic individuals, successful experiences can feel few and far between. Over time, this can diminish our belief in our abilities and achievements—a domino effect that significantly impacts our confidence.
To reclaim your reason to stand tall, it's crucial to recognize that success doesn't have to be rare. Share, discuss, and remember three things you’re proud of accomplishing each day. These achievements can range from monumental feats, like conquering Mount Everest, to seemingly minor tasks, like remembering to water a plant. It's not about the scale of the achievement; it’s the realization of what you can and do accomplish that boosts confidence.
On the subject of recording your wins, try to document them in a book or journal. Few things compare to the ego boost of flipping through the pages and realizing you've filled an entire book with your greatness!
Ultimately, success breeds confidence. Embrace failure as a catalyst for growth, and celebrate every achievement that comes your way. As you progress, take a moment to reflect on how far you've come and bask in the glory of your journey.
Contrary to popular sayings like "fake it 'til you make it" or "dress for the job you want," true confidence stems from being entirely content with who you are. This is especially vital within the autism community, where suppressing one's identity through “masking” is all too common. So, my final piece of advice is simple: be yourself.
Seek ways to challenge yourself, identify commitments that boost your confidence, and help you achieve your goals. Also, develop habits that prioritize your health and well-being, embrace failure as a stepping stone, and celebrate each success as a testament to your progress.
At Level Up Coaching & Consulting, LLC, we provide ADHD and neurodiversity coaching tailored to empower queer, neurodivergent individuals who face overwhelm, anxiety, and uncertainty. Our mission is to help you cultivate personal agency, confidence, and fulfillment in your life.
Connect with us today, and embark on a transformative journey to unlock your true potential!
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