Like many autistic individuals, I was a completely terrified adolescent with zero self-esteem. This meant that any abilities I had or potential skills I could have learned were restricted by the discomfort I felt in being myself. I was so preoccupied with wondering why I was different, why I didn’t fit in, and trying to make myself “normal”, that I was not able to appreciate my strengths (I didn’t even know I had any!).
Combine this with my experience of school where I was known as The Person Who Did Not Speak and who no one (apart from the bullies) paid any attention to, my strengths were not visible to anyone else either.
Consequently, I never really recognised my strengths and certainly never utilised them.
It was not until much later in my life that I started to realise that being different was not all negative. When I was young, I saw being different as being purely negative and I was extremely uncomfortable with who I was. It was only once I became comfortable with myself – many years later – that I was able to recognise that there were many good qualities in my character.
This leads me to the point that: in order for a person to best utilise their potential, they have to first recognise what it is. They have to recognise what they are good at. If a person is very unhappy with themselves, then they will probably not be able to think about any of that. Their headspace is consumed with comparing themselves to other people and feeling inferior.
So how can an autistic person best achieve their potential?