Experiences with autistic perfectionism
Updated: Sep 1, 2020
I briefly wrote about "autistic perfectionism" last week on a whim, and I want to expand on that slightly with my own experiences since I think it's an interesting subject to think about.
Speaking personally, I couldn't tell you if I've always been a perfectionist or if how I was raised has something to do with it--maybe it's both. What I do know for certain is that autism has absolutely influenced my perfectionism.
I mentioned in the last post that many autistic people I know have to script out their conversations or go off of a "template" of sorts for interactions, and I would say that I fall into a soft version of that camp myself. While I don't use templates of interaction or anything like that, I definitely think a lot about what I want to say and how I want to say it if I know I'm going into an interaction.
I think you can see where this and perfectionism conflict.
There have been many, many times where in hindsight I feel extremely embarrassed to have interacted with someone because I feel like--or worse, know for a fact that--I came off weirdly, badly, or poorly spoken. And while that's a feeling neurotypical people can certainly relate to themselves (we all have those moments with people in our lives where we do really embarrassing things, don't we?) I feel pretty comfortable saying that neurotypical people generally don't have those moments in nearly every interaction.
That doesn't even get into the many conversations I've failed to have in the first place because my desire to not look silly and come off "perfect" prevented me from interacting at all. I've had plenty of those moments too. And even if I get past that particular inhibition, there have been times in those interactions where I effectively shut down. (This happened when I set up my college bank account, and it was a mess and a half I still think about a year and a half later.) And even then I have to grapple with the fact that all of this is fundamentally irrational--and I know it's irrational--but that no matter how hard I work on it I will always struggle to interact with other people, and that's intensely distressing. And so on, and so on.
All of this I hope illustrates just some the challenges that come with being autistic and having perfectionism for a trait.