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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

Not Liking People as an Autistic Adult

I was taught that the “right” thing to do was to like and love everyone. I was told that Christ instructed us to love others and take care of them.


Trouble was, there were many people I didn’t like.


I used to think there was something wrong with me. That my heart was somehow born a little blacker.


I thought the marker of being a “good” person was how much you could genuinely like and love someone, regardless of who they were. Phrases such as “hate the sin” and “love the sinner” resonated through my head.


Now that I’m in my 30’s and no longer prescribe to religious teachings, I think I was spot on to not like some people. People come with varying life experiences, behaviors, personal histories, personality traits, and more. Some people are deeply unsafe or unhealthy for us to be around. They are harmful or hurtful.


Sometimes it’s not as severe, and it’s just that our personalities don’t align with someone else’s.


It is ok to not like them. It is ok to not want to be around them.


Autistic art therapist Jackie Schuld shares an illustration of a un upset person
"Not a Fan" Illustration by Jackie Schuld

This does not mean we are judging them as more or less than us. It simply means we recognize who we want around us and when someone doesn’t align with us. Not liking someone can actually be a sign that we know who we are, our boundaries, and what people and environments nourish us… as well as those that do not.


If there is someone I do not like, I would never be cruel to them. I simply do not form a friendship and keep my distance. I let them live their life as I live mine.


As a late-identified autistic, I also see the topic of “not liking people” with new understanding.


I have limited energetic capacity. I also deeply enjoy connection with other people. I therefor must be very picky about who I spend my time with. I only have so much energy to socialize, so I want it to be with people I really enjoy.


Second, social conversations can be exhausting because I am evaluating myself to make sure I stay within social norms. Social norms such as proper turn taking and not monopolizing or interrupting. I also have to make sure my random topics and questions aren’t too out there for people. Yes, this gets easier with people who know me well or who are fellow autistics, but it still takes energy.


When I encounter someone who demands something more from me socially, it is an immediate red flag. It’s already enough energy for me to hold a neurotypical conversation. I don’t want to expend extra energy.


For example, I was introduced to a woman with a very fragile ego. Within the first 20 minutes of the conversation, it was clear she needed constant validation and reassurance. I knew immediately that being around her would be exhausting. She would constantly need me to provide that level of validation, regardless of whether I felt that way or not. Everything in my being said, “Run.” It’s ok I did not like her. My intuition knew this was not a person who was a good fit for me.


Third, I’ve always struggled socially. Now that I know I’m autistic, it makes sense why. As a child I always felt intensely different, but still wished I could fit in. I struggled to be understood, belong, connect, and more. This continued into adulthood as I struggled to maintain relationships. Throughout my life, I’ve relied on harmful behaviors to try and make friends (people pleasing, lying, hiding my feelings, etc.). I’ve also tolerated behaviors that were detrimental to me.


Learning I was autistic helped me see these experiences with new eyes. It also provided the impetus to start doing things differently. The one upside to so many hurtful social experiences is that I can now recognize harmful behavior almost instantly. My intuition is highly attuned. It’s like I pick up on it subconsciously before it even reaches a conscious level.


This is something I try to honor now. For example, with the woman that needed constant validation, I intentionally did not develop a friendship. I still hope she finds connection and belonging with people who are good fits for her, but I know that is not me.


And that is ok.

 

Thank you for reading. If you’d like to read more, sign up for my FUNletter. If you would like to explore your autistic identity with an autistic therapist, you can learn more about my therapy services here.

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