Don’t Sell Yourself Short

What value do you offer the world?

A bold question and one many of us would probably answer meagerly. I’m not sure many of us think in terms of the value we offer to others, let alone the world.

We were invited to ring in the New Year (east coast New Year’s because none of us can stay up that late 😂) with a group of parents we’ve known since our kids were born. Two of the families teen/tween children joined us. Our kids didn’t, but wish they had.

It was fun getting the kids to talk and share with us — what gifts they got, how school was going, driving, and what colleges they were thinking about (for the older ones). The kids have typically opted out of getting together when we gather, because, well, they’re kids, and at their age it often feels like they’d rather do anything else than hang out with us (their annoying, boring, basic parents). I get it.

We moved on to have dinner and again, the kids surprised me by being willing to eat with the adults and not off at their own separate table. Great conversation continued. We talked about weather, school, the news (we had a great discussion on drugs and the dangers and the kids were educating us!), and then one parent asked for each person to share a highlight from 2022, and something they’re looking forward to in 2023.

The kids really engaged and talked about their highlights – making new friends, adjusting to a new school; and things they were looking forward to – trips/family vacations, and the Taylor Swift concert (how did they ever get tickets?). 😊

We moved on to other areas of interest and gaming and online play came up. As a parent gaming can sometimes feel like a blessing (something fun that occupies their time), and a curse (will they ever stop playing that games?). We (the parents) wanted to hear firsthand from the kids their take on this — what games they play, what’s good about gaming, what isn’t, etc. One of the older boys (16) shared how he’d gotten into monetizing gaming. His parents seemed surprised so we all had questions — what was he doing, how did it work, how was he getting new business, etc.. He shared his interest in designing and figured out how to make gaming skins and logos for different players. He was doing this work at a low cost with no actual money being traded (other players would pay him by putting money into a game (for extended time, lives, tools/weapons/ etc.) so there was value), but nothing that would ever show up in his bank account.

I saw how he downplayed his work, that it was ‘just a hobby’ and thought he wasn’t that good. I had questions — how many people had he done work for? Approximately 100 was his answer. Was he getting repeat customers? He was. His work clearly had value, and while his community was small, he was doing good work. I shared this with him and shared with him that I thought he might be minimizing the good work he was doing. I could see I made him uncomfortable but assured him that feeling this way by what I’d just said was normal. “We aren’t often told we offer things of value. We think ‘why would anyone want this?’ Or ‘there’s many others out there much better than I am at this.’” And while there might be others out there that are more experienced it doesn’t take away from what you have to offer. I finished by saying, “Being humble is a good trait, but don’t do it to your detriment. Don’t sell yourself short. Even as adults we do this. Whether it’s creating gaming skins and logos for your friends online, or anything else that helps, provides, or supports others has value. I wish someone had told me this when I was younger.” The table was quiet. He gave a nod of acknowledgement. Other parents chimed in supporting him and his efforts, and then we moved onto other things.

In life we too often sell ourselves short. We aren’t anything special, right? Others are better at, smarter than, or more experienced than us, right? Wrong. Others miss out on what value we bring when we minimize our gifts — which can come in the form of knowledge, emotional support, finances, creativity, and beyond.

What value do you bring to the world? How are you helping your child not to sell themselves short?

The Power of You

What makes you or your child unique?

My youngest son and I were discussing the power of self-awareness, advocacy and accepting (even embracing) who you are. Only allow others to treat you how you want to be treated. Don’t think because you have autism that you are any less valuable or that people should treat you any other way than kind and respectful. My son and I talked about the power everyone possesses when they know who they are, and share it with others.

In our world, us neurotypicals (NTs) — not on the autism spectrum — spend much of our life trying to ‘fit it’ in whatever form that takes. Part of what my son benefits from in being on the autism spectrum is that he is unaware of the social norms and pressures peers try to place on each other. He is who he is, and when a peer tries to place a pressure on him, he either ignores it or is confused by it (which typically leads to a discussion at home as to why something happened or why someone acted the way that they did). An example, my son was friends with a girl and liked her for who she was. He wasn’t concerned that she was overweight or that she was a bit ‘louder’ than her peers. He thought she was funny and kind and she seemed very much to like him for him. One of his classmates decided to ‘target’ my son and his friend making a heart shape with his hands and continuing to do so after they had asked him to stop. My son said, “I don’t understand why he was making the heart shape. He acted like I was supposed to be mad about it, but it just really annoyed me. He wouldn’t stop doing it.” I took a guess at what might be going on, “Relationships make many people, particularly us neurotypicals, uncomfortable, and when we see people showing an interest in each other easily, without effort, it can evoke emotions in us — discomfort — either we’re jealous because we like that person and are embarrassed we didn’t act sooner, or we feel pressure to be in a relationship and don’t know how to go about it, or we feel there’s something wrong with who you like and even though that’s that person’s issue they try to put their discomfort on us.” He thought about it for a minute and said, “Well, it still annoyed me.” To which I responded, “Next time, tell them it annoys you. Ask them why they are directing their discomfort at you? I bet anything it will stop them in their tracks, because they likely don’t even realize that’s what they are doing.” This seemed to satisfy my son for the time being.

Being yourself isn’t always easy. Especially when you are young and you get messages from TV, the Internet, movies and peers about how you are ‘supposed’ to act. If you don’t have someone telling you you’re better off just being yourself (and that oh, by the way, most people will find it refreshing and even attractive) you can easily form opinions about how you should act and not be yourself. I’d hate to have that happen to either of my sons, I’m glad my youngest is challenged in being anything other than himself. He’s an inspiration to his brother, my husband and I, his teachers and many of his peers.

How is your child unique? And how are you helping them embrace who they are?

I will be off the next few weeks with Easter and then Spring Break, but will return later in April.

You’re a Good Friend

How many good friends do you have?

My youngest son and I continue to read our new favorite book, The Asperkid’s Secret Book of Social Rules: The Handbook of Not-So-Obvious Social Guidelines for Tweens and Teens with Asperger Syndrome by Jennifer Cooke O’Toole. What I love about this book is how much of this information benefits people on the spectrum and those of us who aren’t.

My son and I are now in the part of the book that is about friendship — what makes a good friend and how to go about cultivating a friendship. As I read the chapter I was struck by how much I would have benefitted from someone telling me this information when I was my son’s age about what makes a good friend. When I was young, I didn’t think about friendships in layers per se, but did understand I had different friends — some were kind, some were kind when they felt like it, some could be trusted, others couldn’t, etc. In the book, it spells out characteristics a good friend has. Some of the basics: Smiles when they see you, likes some of the same things you do, shares some of the same opinions, invites you to hang out. And others that are more advanced and truly define a good friend: stands up for you (even if you’re not there), stops you if you put yourself down, listens, sees talents in you that you hadn’t noticed, likes you for exactly who you are. There are many more characteristics she names, but you get the picture, she is shining a light on what a true and worthwhile friend is.

After reading this I reflected on my own childhood friends. I had some friends that had some of these characteristics, but don’t think I had any ‘true’ friends until I was college-age. As I’ve grown older, I’ve sought out, cared for and worked to develop healthy and meaningful friendships vs. giving equal care and time across all friends regardless to what they bring to the relationship. I wondered how I might have invested my time differently with people earlier in life if I had had this information. I thought what the author said was so valuable I grabbed my older son and said, “I need to read this to you.” He has friends much like I did in middle school — some are nice, some are nice when they feel like, some can be trusted, and others cannot. After reading with both my boys I felt like I had given them a path to know how to spot a good friend and better spend their time with people who will value them and their friendship and reciprocate in kind.

Friendship can be a tricky thing to navigate, especially if you don’t understand what a good friend ‘looks’ like. I’m grateful I’ve had an opportunity to enlighten my kids (and remind myself) about what a good friend truly is.

How are you teaching your child to spot (and make) a good friend?