Caring for others makes us human. It provides us with connection.
I write essays because I want to connect with others. I want my unique experiences and viewpoints to provide clarity, understanding, resonance, insight, or other beneficial results for people. I also want to uplift the body of work on the topics that I care about - such as mental health and autism.
I care about the comments that people write to me. I care about the unique experiences they share in relation to what I wrote and the insights they return to me.
And yet, caring too much can be detrimental.
Sometimes people write comments to present their disharmony with my writing. Their experience is the very opposite that I hope to provide.
For example, I’ve had individuals tell me that my essays are misrepresenting or harming the autism field since they do not accurately portray the negative and deleterious aspects of autism. I’ve had other individuals comment that the autistic experiences I write about are also experienced by neurotypicals.
These comments often miss the point of my essays. I know to engage with them will be fruitless, and yet I care.
It does not feel good to be misunderstood. I want my points to be clear and accepted.
However, humanity is a unique bunch of people, and I cannot control how others respond. I cannot write a single essay that will make sense and resonate with everyone who reads it.
I need to accept this reality.
I need to accept that criticism will come.
I want to care enough that I maintain connection with those who I’m trying to reach. I also don’t want to care so much that I am deterred by the missed connections and negative feedback.
My chosen form is to not respond to comments where I feel a conversation is necessary to have a fruitful outcome. I have limited time and I want to focus my writing on where it will have the most impact - not on arguing with a single individual.
And yet I fear that if I do not respond, the individual will escalate and retaliate in some fashion. This is likely due to my experiences as a woman in a culture of patriarchy and misogyny. To reject or ignore a man can elicit verbal and physical violence. The majority of negative comments I receive are from men.
So I am also contending with navigating the world as a woman, where I must negotiate and hypothesize my safety.
Again, I want to care enough that I maintain my safety, but not so much that it cripples my life.
I want to live in the middle. To pour my energy into what is good. I want to siphon the energy wasted on caring about disconnected comments into honoring my boundaries.
I want to honor my humanity by recognizing I cannot be everything to everyone. And to honor my humanity by admitting it is messy to operate in the middle. But it’s a fight worth having.
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