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I’ve been really enjoying my new job – in a way I didn’t know was possible! The team is good, but the best bit is the work itself. I never thought I’d find a job that really fitted my intellect. As an Aspie, with chronic social-skill failure and lack of confidence, I got stuck in a loop of taking crappy low-paid customer service roles that made my brain feel like it might as well go on permanent vacation. And the stress levels were horrendous! Now that I have FINALLY found an interesting role in finance, I am starting to get excited about the future again.

Of course, my career choices weren’t just based on the Asperger’s. As many women will know first hand, I also felt it sensible to put my husband’s career first (as he was the higher earner), and focus my efforts on child raising, housework, and all that other valuable yet often underappreciated and mind numbing stuff.

Now, part-timer and relative newbie though I am (at the grand old age of 36) I am starting to get ideas. Ideas like “hey, I could actually finish that CIMA course!” and “maybe I could bring in a decent wage” and my personal favourite, “I’m actually good at something despite having Asperger’s!”.

So, how does this relate to the title of my post today?

The truth is I’d almost given up on having a career. I took time out for child rearing, and when I was ready to get back into an office I struggled so much. It was hard to find something that matched my hours. It was hard to find something that matched my skills and experience. But I kept looking because it was important to me to try. The interviews were as painful as you’d expect for someone like me, and the failures were demotivating. And all along, I wasn’t even sure if it would work out well for me, even if I could get a job.

So, in summary, if you’ve written something off that you were hoping to achieve, maybe it’s time to revisit that, and give yourself another chance. We only get one life.

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Following on from my last post’s sluggish determination, I write to you now from the other side. My energy levels are better. I can eat normal food again. My mood is better. But when I look back I can see how annoyed I was with my body – I felt it had let me down.

At yoga, we have been focusing on “ahimsa” these last few weeks. The principle of doing no harm – not only to others, but also to ourselves. It got me thinking about a trait which I believe is common to those with Asperger’s, and many others as well. We get cross with our limitations. We are saddened by our own selves. If we’re not careful, we can learn to hate ourselves.

I went to a wedding last weekend, and met lots of people I knew as well as a few new faces. For an Aspie, this is hard work. For a pregnant Aspie who has to stay sober, it proved to be rather painful. For about 12 hours I was trying to enjoy myself, make small talk, follow conversations, dance, and generally look like someone who fitted in at the party. All the while, a little nagging voice was making me doubt my every move and word. I wasn’t happy with my hair, my dress, or my shoes. I felt dowdy and frumpy with my bump and low heels, next to countless glamorous and willowy, confident women. I got stuck when I tried to talk to people. I had to take a few breaks, where I sat alone in the bar hoping no one would notice me and think “what’s that weirdo doing?”.

What an utter waste of a party.

My other half had good fun but I think he was a bit worried about me too.

So, I have not been very kind to myself these last few weeks. I have been sad because of my changing shape, and yes, I know carrying a baby is a wondrous and miraculous thing but I really do miss my waist.

Even so, I don’t want to turn into the person I used to be. The one who was too scared to talk to anyone. The one who cried herself to sleep most nights wondering why she was such a failure as a human being.

I must refocus on ahimsa. Happiness does not exclusively come from being a size 8 party animal, despite what popular culture tells us.

Do you fall into the negativity trap?

I erred over the title of this. It was a close call between ‘competence’ and ‘confidence’ but really, the former is more important and it better reflects my feelings at this time. I have been wavering. I have been worrying.

I had a job interview. The description sounded good, I felt I had the right stuff, and I don’t think I did too badly at the interview despite feeling as though my heart and lungs were going to bust out of my ribcage. It has now been several days and there is no news. I am almost certain I didn’t get it. This is sad, and yet it is also a relief, because my success would have meant more scary situations and more stress. Could I really do what I claimed I could? Could I really cope with all that?

It’s all horseshit really. Of course I could. I have qualifications and a CV full of job history that says, “Of course you could!” And yet, here I am in my mid-thirties, wavering. Feeling like I’ve dodged a bullet somehow by not getting hired. I am a wimp, but I’ve been a wimp for a long time now and I’m not sure it will ever leave me.

Every qualification, every challenge met, every compliment… nothing changes me. In my heart, when I’m not scared about anything, I know I am competent. But it is so easy to doubt. It’s so easy to question everything. “Can I do this? Is this really right for me? Should I be making other plans? Should I give up and just be a housewife?”

Now I am wavering over my assertion in the second sentence. Is competence really more important than confidence? How does one get by without them both? Can I just decide one day to be confident in my abilities?

Merde. Life is hard.

I haven’t read the book this blog title is based on. Maybe I should.

As it is, I’m the type of person who has to look away if I see someone I know in the distance coming towards me. Only when they’re very close is it OK to look up, put on a surprised smile and say “Hi!”.

What’s the alternative? Staring at them for 100 feet? Shouting at the top of my voice (which isn’t very loud anyway)? Greeting them with a nod only to greet them again when they’re in vocal range? No – I look away or pretend to be using my phone. I also hope it doesn’t happen too often.

The social toll of freelancing

With that in mind you may wonder how I cope making friends and getting along in business. The life of a freelancer isn’t always suited to the socially challenged. Sometimes I have to meet new or prospective clients and impress them with my work. I’ve even been known to attend networking events*.

*Not the dirty handshake events where you run around like you’re speed dating. More relaxed, sociable types of networking event. But yes, still painful and awkward.

Indirect contact

I am not famous for my sales pitch but the quality of my work has been remarked upon and appreciated several times now, so I know it’s not a fluke. Previous clients have mostly come through friends or friends of friends. Word of (someone else’s) mouth is my sales force. My best clients have been agencies who I can develop an ongoing relationship with. They get to know my skills and shield me from the flux of end clients.

Nonetheless I am sometimes in unknown territory, pitching to someone I don’t know or arranging to meet someone who happened to find me online and thought they might like to work with me.

These events are a big deal for me, and yet for countless non-Aspie’s they’re an almost daily occurrence, just business as normal. And if they can do it, why not me?

I’ve had some good client meetings and some bad ones. Likewise with telephone calls. I know I can work well and get along with the people I’m working for and with. The biggest barrier is not that I’m on the Autsim spectrum but that I lack confidence!

So, what’s my best tip for approaching these situations? Remember times when you succeeded. My second best tip is, if it goes wrong, get over it and move on! Beating yourself up is pointless. Encouraging yourself will lead to achievement.

Psst! If you’d like to socialise in a way that is more about having fun than furthering your career, try this!