A recent cloth shopping experience
I have been on my autism journey for about eight years now, and learning to unmask more and more over that whole time. Even when I didn’t have a word for it yet, I was still starting to explore this idea of just being more myself, allowing myself to not fit into neurotypical expectations (how I would now describe it is “performing neurotypicality”).
Even though I’ve been doing this for quite a long time, and I’m very heavily unmasked at this point throughout my life, I’m still finding new ways that I’ve been masking without even realizing it. And I’d like to share one of those new realizations with you.
A little background is that I absolutely despise clothes shopping, cannot stand it. There are so many sensory things that are wrong with it. The fluorescent lights, the changing clothes, I barely can stand changing clothes twice a day in my own home, nevermind lots of clothes changes in a row where most of those clothes that I put on are going to have sensory issues in one way or another.
So it’s very, very rare for me to go clothes shopping, but every once in a great, great while (once a year or maybe once every few years), I’ll feel both like I kind of need to fill in a couple of gaps in my wardrobe and I actually feel like I could manage that.
I had one of those moments recently and decided to take advantage of some end of season clearance sales, and so I went to the store and… Here’s something that happens to me every time I go clothes shopping. I don’t think about it the rest of my life, but when I’m in the store I spend a lot of time trying to find things that aren’t blue.
I keep picking out the blue things, and then I realize that everything in my arms is blue, and I need to find clothes that aren’t blue, because most of my wardrobe is blue, and all of the clothes that I’ve picked out now are blue (or a lot of them anyway). And there’s this voice in my head that says that I need to have a multicolored wardrobe, and I experience that over and over, many times even consciously.
What’s wrong with blue?
Yet this time, I heard that voice in my head saying I need to pick out other colors, and I questioned it. I was like, “Why? Why do I need to have other colors? What is frickin’ wrong with having lots of blue in my wardrobe? What if I had only blue in my wardrobe?” I don’t actually want only blue, I do like other colors, but what would be wrong with only blue? There’s nothing wrong with having a color that I like and am comfortable with.
It’s not just clothes, you see. My chair is blue, my walls are blue. I painted these walls when I moved into this office, there’s seven different shades of blue, increasingly dark as you go down. My pillows are blue, my… There’s so much blue in my life. When I get to pick out an item that I’m buying, and if there’s a blue option: I will almost always buy the blue one. Blue is calming to my nervous system. It relaxes me.
Green is close, I love green as well, but it’s not as “ah”. I do also have a lot of green because it’s close to that, it’s the next closest. I love purple. There’s lots of colors that I like, pretty much every color except for red. Red really ramps up my nervous system. I have a really strong visceral reaction to the red end of the spectrum, and it actually gives me headaches when I look at it too much. Blue is the opposite of red for me (also on the opposite end of the spectrum). I have the opposite reaction to it. It soothes me, it calms me down.
I decided when I moved in here that I was going to make this room, and my whole house, work for me and be comfortable for me. Not for some theoretical guests. I don’t almost ever have guests, so why would I spend all of my time making things comfortable for these theoretical guests which almost never show up? (And when they do it’s two people and those two people know me and like me for who I am, so they don’t care.)
If my house meets some idealized standard of… I don’t even know what. All I know is that I like
the way that I’ve set up my environment and my wardrobe.
When I was in that clothes shop, picking out blue things, this time I let myself pick out blue and I was just like, “I could be the lady who likes blue! It doesn’t matter. I strongly suspect that there’s no one else in the world who is nitpicking the colors that I’m wearing nearly as much as I am, and complaining about my adherence to one particular common color.”
It’s interesting because that voice in my head that says I need to have a variety of colors has ramped up a little bit since I started making these YouTube videos, because all of a sudden I have lasting evidence of my wardrobe choices and you’ll see that there’s a lot of blue in them. At this point, once I realized that I was probably the only person who was spending this much time fretting about my limited range of color choices: I stopped fretting. I just let myself pick out blue things and I came home with mostly blue.
This time I didn’t get on my own case about it. I didn’t fret about it or sweat about it, and I didn’t buy things that aren’t blue just in order to have things that aren’t blue that I generally don’t end up wearing. So it’ll save me money in the long run, and I’ll be happier in the long run, and if I wear a lot of blue in these videos (or coaching, or just in life), I’m happy with that. I’m totally okay with that.
If there are people who aren’t, I’m okay with that too. You get to have your own opinions.
Yeah, so that’s just another way I realized that I’ve been masking and don’t need to anymore. Once I realized that, I’ve done enough unmasking work that at this point all I needed was the realization of “oh, that’s another thing I’ve been masking” for it to just drop away and be like, “I don’t need to do that anymore.”
I felt that freedom of another layer of masking dropping away. It was great.
Okay, so that’s the story that I wanted to share with you. I hope you find all sorts of ways that you can let go of expectations that genuinely don’t affect you (either now or ever), and let yourself be more comfortable with what you actually like and what actually works for you. If you want to write a couple of examples in the comments, that would be great, I’d love to hear that. Okay. I hope you have a neurowonderful day. Take care.