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The problem with being Perceived as Successful

Love me or hate me for this blog but there is something I need to explain as someone who is a successful autistic adult with two jobs, the success comes at a price. The price is people often wrongly assume I can't be that autistic when I am that successful.

I am 33 years of age and my success has only really come in the last 2 years since I was diagnosed. Maybe it is because for 31 years I was perceived as odd, disruptive and quirky. I was an easy target for colleagues to metaphorically throw under a bus.

Since I have been diagnosed I get these things called understanding and reasonable adjustments to help me succeed. However, I still have to work unbelievably bloody hard every single day often to the detriment of my mental well being.

I want to be successful. Who doesn't? The problem is until now I have had all the brains, the work ethic, the extra responsibility bestowed upon me to make other people money but never the trust to run a team or being taken seriously with any ideas I have. The only time I was ever taken seriously was when my superiors were in the firing line and they needed a job doing and it doing well. The absolute worst advice I have ever been given is 'you have to fake it to make it' what stupid advice. My mum always said 'cheats never prosper' and she is right.

I know if someone gives me something to do I will succeed in whatever it is. It is something in me where I will not fail. The key things to success are:

  1. Ignore the haters

  2. Work hard

  3. Persevere

  4. Believe in yourself

I am really hard on myself. Nothing I do is ever good enough and I like it when I get praised for things on the odd occasion because it means I am on the right track.

The problem with this success is it comes at a price.

The price is people's perception when you reveal you have a disability such as Autism. It is one of disbelief. This is the problem. The problem is because people then do not perceive you as someone who needs much support. How can you when you are so successful? I am only successful though because of the support. Autism isn't something that can be fixed it is something I have to learn to live with, with help and support.

I am really lucky I have a manager who knows me, knows my weaknesses, knows my strengths, is honest with me and also believes in me. Certainly more than I believe myself. In fact it is not just my manager but I have somehow managed to build a team of good people around me in the past 12 months from not just my team but the Sales and Marketing teams because I do put myself out there and am happy to talk to anyone who wants to talk to me. Heck I am happy to just talk to anyone who will listen. I even persist with the one word people, you know the people who you know you have nothing in common with but you persevere like an annoying fly in the room just to let them know you are there.

I find that because I am successful at my job, I find it hard to ask for help. People don't see the late nights I put in. They have not seen the trial and error, the bullying I endured throughout life both in school and as an adult, the guard I have built and the constant reminders I give myself to not let it down.

There may come a time in the future where I have to sit in a different area of the office because it is becoming a bit busy with a growing team. However, it has been made clear to me that the option is in my hands and everything can be looked at. I have been assured it is flexible. You may wonder why I would not just move, thing is I have good people around me and as I sit opposite my manager I can quietly tell him when things are not going my way and he can support me through it. My goal this year was to ask for help when I needed it and not feel guilty. I have a management team around me from the Group director to my manager who are all open, all talk to me and in turn it makes it easy for me to talk to them.

Communication is a 2 way thing but a lot of employers and I can say this from experience, a lot of stuff is on their terms and conversations are not 2 way. What I love about my employer is the communication they use such as:

  1. Yes I can make time in my schedule to discuss, how much time do you think you will need and I will arrange a meeting

  2. We are flexible we will work with you

  3. How is it we can help you through that

  4. What support do you need

  5. I always have time for you

  6. If that is what you want to do lets see if we can structure some time as we know ad hoc does not work for you

  7. How do you feel about that?

  8. You can lower your bar if you need to, to take the pressure off

  9. Let's work on your time management

For the first time in a very long time I feel comfortable in my employment. I am surrounded with really good people for 7 hours a day and it is nice. However, and this is probably the most difficult thing for Neurodiverse people to understand, just because I am successful my support does not change or stop. I am not being favored and nor are other autistic people who are successful. We have just found the support needs that work for us that allow us to do our jobs and perform just as well as our neurotypical counterparts.

Now if you are sitting there thinking it is not fair or why do they get 'special treatment' when they are doing better than me. Well reasonable adjustments are what I like to call a leveler. They give me a chance to actually succeed in something I like. Would you race a physically disabled person in a wheelchair and tell them not to use it because last time they beat you in a race with it?



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