Low self-esteem is a legacy of my experience growing up without a diagnosis. I have to battle against these feelings on a regular basis. Because feelings of self-loathing are never far from the surface, little things that people say, or even losing at a game of Badminton, can make me feel very upset. Life with Asperger’s can be very confusing. It can be hard to know if someone likes me, and I can’t read other minds so it is impossible to know if I have crossed boundaries and unwittingly hurt someone’s feelings. I want to be nice and kind. I want to make others happy, but I worry that I might unwittingly offend them by saying something stupid. I obsessively go over the days events in my head; it causes extreme anguish when I think I might no longer be on good terms with someone. They might reassure me that everything is fine, but I know that NAPS (Non-Autistic-People) excel at sugar coating and making things out to be better than they are. This knowledge can make me distrust what NAPs say. This results in either obsessive reassurance seeking (did I hurt your feelings? Are you alright?), or, if I can’t broach the subject with them, I will silently brood and worry that they won’t like me.
Trying to heal low self-esteem is a slow and perilous process, fraught with set-backs. My psyche feels very fragile. My newly developed confidence has not yet developed a strong outer carapace – it is prone to cracking under the slightest strain.
Low self-esteem is not an inevitable consequence of having Asperger’s. Given timely diagnosis and appropriate early support, a person can develop self confidence and a healthy level of acceptance. Unfortunately late diagnosis (or even worse, no diagnosis at all) can severely erode a person’s self-confidence. It can take a very long time to undo past hurts and rejection.