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EA upbringing, AS and self perception...

(6 Posts)
INeedSomeHelpWithThis Sat 30-Apr-16 23:01:44

I've posted on here before, under a different NN, about my poor self image, low self esteem and poor self confidence.

I've detailed some of the things my mother said about me on here before which is where all this stems from.

Essentially, she told me no one would ever want/love/marry me for sins from biting my nails at primary school, to mashing my potatoes into my gravy, to not being pretty enough, or dressing conventionally, or being slim enough, or being too intelligent, or because my waist/wrists/ankles were too small and made the rest of me look bigger... In fact, every aspect of me, everything about this human being that made me Me was at fault.

I couldn't tell you a single thing she liked, or even tolerated, about me.

It's resulted in me having a very poor sense of self. Because everything about me is wrong. I have spent a great many years feeling guilty for having children, I married someone who didn't love me, became involved in a series of abusive relationships, unable to form friendships, I've underachieved academically and professionally... all because I've spent my entire life feeling guilty for taking up space on the planet when I had no right to be here because I was just offensive to everyone else. I've carried around a huge sense of 'shame' my whole life, just for being me.

This is compounded by the fact it appears I have AS. I've recently been referred for an assessment. This means that I've just accepted everything my parents said, unquestioningly and that I not only have the difficulties with forming relationships that people with AS have, but with the added bonus of being told by the only people that should love me that couldn't be loved. I met someone else who had a diagnosis and she just assumed I already knew that I was. She said it was obvious. Even my son has said he thinks I am.

I've spent the last 6 months or so trying to get to know myself and understand myself within this new context. I've read a lot around AS now, particularly how it affects women, and I sit reading it laughing and crying at the same time. It's like someone has written all these books just about me. People I've never met telling me exactly what the world looks like and how it all seems/feels like to me.

I'm single. I've been mostly single since my exH and I separated 3.5 years ago. I've had a couple of short relationships, but ended both of them because they didn't meet my needs. One of the big benefits of AS is that I've never understood the, "but I love him" nonsense. I'll give someone a chance, but once that switch is flicked off, there's no chance of flicking it on again. Apparently, Aspies are very good at burning bridges. I am.

But I don't want to be single forever. I don't want to be unloved forever. I am doing a lot of work on myself to try and improve my sense of self. And I can see that I've made huge improvements. I now understand that my mother's issue with me was to do with her issues rather than because there was something inherently wrong with me. Even if it were just that she was unable to cope with a child with AS. I don't see AS as a 'fault' or a 'flaw'.

I no longer feel that a lot of me, my personality, my lifestyle, is an impediment to me having a relationship. If someone can't cope with my 'quirks', then I'm not the right woman for them and they're not the right man for me.

There is one aspect that I am really struggling with though, and that's my physical appearance. Because I feel that's not a subjective thing. My mother told me I was unattractive, not good enough and detailed all my faults regularly. It means I'm acutely aware of my unattractive physical qualities, from head to toe, and feel hugely conscious of them all the time. They are real. I can see them. And they are many. I don't know how anyone else could not be equally repulsed/offended by them. I don't know how a man could be attracted to/love me in spite of these without feeling he deserved better, and that's certainly been my experience so far. I can see when a woman is attractive/beautiful and I can see that's not me. I don't know how love happens then.

I can see around me that other women are not 'perfect' and have relationships. But, by my mother's logic, those women are not loved (although she never applied it to anyone else, only to me). I'm sure that cannot be the case.

I am currently a size 12/14 and have a pretty much hourglass figure. But my body is generally 'flabbier' than I would like and other things I can't quite bring myself to type. I don't think I look too bad, but I don't have what is accepted as being a 'nice figure'. But I'm losing weight and toning up to improve this. I've found an exercise that is perfect for me. I love it and if I could I would give up work and devote myself to it 7 days a week! As it is, I do it 2-3 times a week and have been since February. I can see/feel the difference. I'm never going to be 'slim'. My frame suits a bit of weight, so I will always be 'curvy'. Men generally don't find me attractive, but some people have said that they do and I just don't see it. But I never get chatted up and no one ever asks me out. I've been asked out twice since my ex and I separated, not including all the married men who seemed to think I was fair game.

I know I can look ok in clothes. I'm not really interested in hair and make up. I get my hair cut/coloured so it looks ok, but I don't style it. I don't really feel the need to wear makeup. And people generally assume I'm younger than I am. But it feels like a facade. Under it all, I look like I've been lazily moulded out of raw dough. Surely no man is going to look at that and feel anything other than repulsion. I tried to believe that confidence is what men find attractive, but a couple of years ago, I was confidently naked with a man and he commented on the fact that he couldn't believe I was as confident as I was. I don't think it was a compliment as much as a comment on the fact that he was surprised I was that confident when I looked as I did. I gave up on trying to feel confident/sexy/attractive after that.

I don't really know what I'm asking really. I have a notebook that I'm writing things down in to try and change my internal voice. At the moment, I don't have any positives to repeat regarding my appearance and I know that none of you know what I look like, but I think I really want to know how and why you can be loved when you're not 'all that'. People have said before that you can't explain 'chemistry' and it's not to do with 'looks' or anything. But I don't understand it. I can't make it make sense. I need to understand that. Either that, or I want to be told that my mother was right and these things do make me unloveable. That way I can stop dwelling on it and move on.

Porpoises Sun 01-May-16 00:29:53

Sorry you have been through that sad

<quote> I get my hair cut/coloured so it looks ok, but I don't style it. I don't really feel the need to wear makeup. And people generally assume I'm younger than I am. But it feels like a facade. Under it all, I look like I've been lazily moulded out of raw dough.</quote>

What is it that feels like a facade? Which part is the facade and which part is the underneath?

I can't see you, but it sounds incredibly likely that you're perfectly normal looking and pretty. Whatever you looked like, your mother would find things to criticise. It's because of her need to find fault, not because of any fault within you. Evidenced by the fact that some of the criticisms are completely bizarre - ive never heard anyone think that a small waist or slim wrists and ankles are unattractive, quite the opposite. She was obviously not giving a calm unbiased assessment of your looks.

But of course it's hard to see yourself clearly when you have been repeatedly criticised for some 'flaw'. What's barely noticeable to others, or something they see as neutral, becomes a source of anxiety and despair.

<quote> I can see around me that other women are not 'perfect' and have relationships. But, by my mother's logic, those women are not loved (although she never applied it to anyone else, only to me). I'm sure that cannot be the case. </quote>

I think you have the answer here. They can be loved without being perfect, and so can you. The issue now is how to overcome years of conditioning and come to believe that on an emotional level, rather than just understanding it logically.

INeedSomeHelpWithThis Sun 01-May-16 00:47:28

Thank you, Porpoises

Yes, you're right. It is that I need to believe it on an emotional level and not just understand it on an intellectual one. That's what I'm struggling with. I can't internalise it. That's why I'm trying to write things down so that when the negative self talk starts, I have something I can replace it with. but I feel I need to 'get' it and believe it for it to work.

The facade hmm. Well it is that I have seen photos of myself at a recent event and I thought I looked ok. But it's not true. The clothes that were hiding the body underneath, so that when I look ok, it's unrepresentative of what I look like underneath it all. I'm just not someone, underneath it all, that men want to be seen with. They want to feel they can do better than someone like me. .

Although I'm not looking/ready at the moment, I'm wary about having another relationship for the very fact that, once they really 'see' me, it doesn't last.

I'm not desperate, I'm quite happy on my own. But it would be nice to be loved one day. I just don't know how that happens.

NotnowNigel Sun 01-May-16 01:01:16

I'm just not someone, underneath it all, that men want to be seen with. They want to feel they can do better than someone like me.

If I knew a man who thought like this, I'd think he was a twat. It's so superficial!

A happy relationship is not about being seen with a person, or doing 'better' (than what? by whose standard?). A happy relationship is getting on, having a laugh, trusting your partner, being able to turn to them in times of trouble. Nothing to do with how you look really!

Also, have you actually seen most men lately? They're not all perfect physical specimens either!

Why don't you try joining something? A group that does an interest you have? Or a good dating agency?

Also have you had any counselling for low self esteem? Might help.

INeedSomeHelpWithThis Sun 01-May-16 06:37:08

Nigel I have a friend who gets really cross with me when I say that, too. I know it sounds terribly superficial. But it's been my experience.

As an adult (20 onwards) I have had 4 relationships.

Relationship 1: Approx 4 years long. Cheated on me when I was pregnant because he didn't like the fact I was "getting fat". Spent a lot of the time before I became pregnant telling me I was "too fat". This was during my worst period for being affected by my mother's words when I had fantasies about slicing parts of myself away. Never complimented me. I just accepted it. My mother was just relieved someone wanted me and was very cross with me when it ended that I'd failed to keep him. I ended up homeless with a baby because she refused to help me as I'd brought it on myself by not being good enough.

Relationship 2: Approx 12 years long. Married. Relationship was quite verbally/financially abusive. He didn't ever tell me directly that I was too fat (there were many other ways in which I was inadequate), but he used to criticise women who were smaller than me for being fat. He was very overweight but felt that was ok to comment because it's ok for men to be overweight as it's less important what they look like. He spent much of our time together trying to 'improve' me and make me into a 'better' woman. He didn't introduce me to his friends for 2 years because he was embarrassed about what they'd think of me. He walked 6-8 feet in front of me so that people wouldn't automatically realise we were together. He cheated on me at the end (not throughout). Didn't fancy me or love me. The whole thing was a disaster really. But my mother told me I was lucky that anyone would have me now that I had a child and not to rock the boat. So I didn't.

Relationship 3: Approx 10 months. Told me often I could stand to lose some weight. Also told me that it wouldn't affect how he felt about me, but was also still active on online amongst other things. Told me often how beautiful his exes had been. Very much liked me as a person, but was very obviously less attracted to me physically. Realised he wasn't as exclusive as he'd said.

Relationship 4: Got on really well. Just clicked. He was a year older than me. For the first time ever, it felt like I had met someone decent who really liked me. No red flags, no great declarations, just a real sense of contentment. Until he told me he had really wanted someone younger and I realised he was checking out younger women everywhere we went. I ended it after 5 months and he was with someone 11 years younger within 3 weeks. He's still with her (a year on)

After Relationship 2, there were also the odd dates here and there because I did online dating for a while.

I have a main hobby. It's really social. I go on holidays, weekends away, nights out, days out, meals... with people I've met through this group. Male and female. I've been part of other hobbies/interest groups over past few years and I've, again, met lots of people. Through these I met the one of the men who asked me out, I'm good friends now with him. I don't have the time/money/capacity to do anything else. I've been propositioned/hit on by a few married men, but I don't count them.

I've clearly got on and been able to have a laugh with these men and, at least with the first two, we were together for long enough to be able to lean on each other for support. But it wasn't enough. I wasn't enough.

I get told by my female friends that I'm attractive. I get told by men 30 years older than me that I'm attractive. I get ignored by men around my own age and just older. I've largely just accepted I'm invisible to them. But it's not a phenomenon I've realised since hitting 40, it's never really been any different.

So I've concluded that I'm just not someone who men find attractive, because even the ones who've liked me enough to go out with me, haven't liked me enough.

And I know that men aren't perfect specimens either, that's what's so frustrating. None of the men I've dated have been perfect. Or even 'good looking' in most cases. But that hasn't seem to make any difference.

My friend seems to think that I'm causing it now with my negative self talk. Which is why I'm looking for positive things I can tell myself instead!

Urgh. I just need to accept it really and stop holding out hope for it ever being any different. It just makes me really sad. That's all.

Porpoises Sun 01-May-16 11:27:43

It is that I need to believe it on an emotional level and not just understand it on an intellectual one. That's what I'm struggling with. I can't internalise it. That's why I'm trying to write things down so that when the negative self talk starts, I have something I can replace it with. but I feel I need to 'get' it and believe it for it to work.

I'm struggling with a similar problem, but more about not feeling like I'm a decent / good enough person, rather than my looks. I don't know the full answer, but what you are doing does help. Make sure that you are talking to yourself in a kind, empathetic, internal voice. Also know that it's always okay to feel what ever you feel. When I felt ashamed, I used to say ' don't feel ashamed, that's stupid/ridiculous' - which is just another criticism. Now I say to myself - "It's okay to feel ashamed of this, and completely understandable given your past. I'm sorry that you feel that way. The thing that you're feeling ashamed of isn't shameful, you've done nothing wrong, you're fine. But I sympathise with how you feel." Validating the feeling means it often then moves on naturally to sympathy/sadness for myself, or anger that I have to experience this, and then can dissipate.

I also found Brene Brown's talks and book on vulnerability quite helpful, because part of the problem was struggling to show my feelings and fears underneath to others.

I'm just not someone, underneath it all, that men want to be seen with. They want to feel they can do better than someone like me. .

Not to invalidate how you feel, which is completely understandable given your past, but to add to your challenges of negative thoughts - the logic of this doesn't add up. If men did only care about what they look like when seen with you, then
it's how you look with clothes on that would matter most, because you're not going to parties naked!

Your previous partners sound horrible. I don't think they are representative of men as a whole.

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