Autism, PDD-NOS & Asperger's fact sheets | Self-confidence and the social game
Fact sheet on adults with Asperger's syndrome, self-confidence and the social game
 
 

SELF-CONFIDENCE & THE SOCIAL GAME

It is impossible to understate the importance of self-confidence in this world. Self confidence is invaluable in at least three aspects of life:

• attracting partners

• dealing with people in general

• personal well being.

 

Lessons from the animal kingdom

Self confidence is a huge biological factor in animal mating rituals. Animals within a single sex of a species will compete amongst themselves by challenging each other in various ways to determine who dominates and submits to who. The end result of this is the "pecking order".

 

Being high in a pecking order involves having few leaders and tends to increase "alpha partner" neurotransmitters that make an animal much more confident. Being low in a pecking order involves having many leaders and tends to cause more stress which decreases confidence and also shortens an animal's life.

 

Being confident is hard to fake since being bold tends to attract negative attention from the competition and may lead to fights. The opposite sex are attracted to the most confident since confidence is a key indicator of being the best of the competition.

 

Since the opposite sex are attracted to the most confident and therefore successful within the pecking order, the offspring tend to get better DNA, and the species benefits.

 

A females hormonal cycles make her more aggressive during the time that she is ready to mate, adding yet another confidence test in the case of a male. A male will tend to have these hormones most of the time, forcing a female to be much more selective.

 

In species such as ours where the offspring are nurtured and raised by at least one parent, strength of character, generosity and sensitivity are huge factors in attractiveness.

 

In species such as ours where raising offspring is a two parent job, compatibility and loyalty are also huge factors in attractiveness since the parents may be in each others company for quite some time.

 

These rules seem to apply even when people are avoiding having children or only interested in casual sex. It simply appears to be so instinctive to non-autistic people that they don't even think about it.

 

Pecking orders and social games

Most human endeavors and behaviors that are not related to survival are probably related to climbing the pecking order so that the individual can build self-confidence and become more attractive. Clubs and sports are examples of social hierarchies that are often designed for the purpose of having a pecking order that can be challenged.

Financial success, popularity and charity are often also social status games, though sometimes they have more to do with survival.

Non-autistic people often believe something largely on the basis of how confidently it has been said. This is a powerful rule. None of the famous leaders or despots of the world would have gotten as far as they did without having consistently displayed an air of rock solid self-belief.

People often do things in personal interaction that are designed to test or demolish a person's confidence or challenge the pecking order.

People also often use an attack on people's confidence to communicate dissatisfaction. If the message isn't communicated properly, the situation can escalate.

People often resort to telling a white lie or a "hint" rather than a truth which may appear to be an attack on someone's confidence. Considering this to be nice is probably a good idea.

The concept of equality (or equity) that autistic people seem to hold so dearly often simply doesn't exist in non-autistic people, despite platitudes to the contrary.

Presenting an air of confidence while assertively avoiding conflict can be a good strategy for surviving social situations generally. Presenting an air of confidence while assertively deflecting challenges can be a good strategy for thriving in some social situations.

Initiating and winning challenges is a difficult thing for non-autistic peoples to do, and is usually a recipe for disaster for autism spectrum people.

 

To initiate a challenge and not win is to lose. Since it is far too easy to be seen as initiating a challenge when trying to negotiate serious issues with other people, it is very important to make sure the other person knows that you're trying to negotiate rather than challenge.

 

Small talk and body language help to avoid many potential conflicts which may come about according to these rules by communicating the basics about where people are coming from.

 

Self-confidence in and of itself enhances a persons ability to function effectively.
o To interact with people you like, it is often necessary to be part of a social hierarchy with people you don't like.
o There are men in this world who have no claim to any form of social status and whose confidence comes directly from being able to pull women.

 

Self-esteem and self-confidence

The difference between self esteem and self-confidence is subtle yet significant.

 

Self-confidence is what you have when you believe that you can survive the situation you are in satisfactorily.

 

:Self-esteem is what you have when you believe that your life is valuable and worth respecting.


Where does the autism spectrum mind fit into all of this? Perhaps we are stuck in "survival mode". Perhaps we are capable of finding fulfillment in things other than sex and relationships. Perhaps we are trying to play the social status game by developing passions to share with others.

 

Understanding the social status game

Just as in strategy games, the social status game has complex strategy, or unwritten rules which all stem from the simple idea that every player is out to win the game according to a specific measurement of success defined and limited by relatively simple written rules.

 

In the social status game, the measurement and limitations seem to be part of sexual selection. To win in the game, one must mate as often as possible with appropriate partner/s. The implication of this is that one must BE the best possible mating partner that they can be as often as possible. In turn, one must perpetually be displaying examples of these characteristics.

 

There are many examples of how these basic rules and goals end up translating into life's unwritten rules.


Attractive people are nice to be close to and associated with and are therefore clean and otherwise physically attractive to appropriate partners.

 

By being accepted by friends who are fellow competitors in the social status game, one gets to practice and display strength of character, loyalty, and other characteristics required to be accepted rather than dominated by such people.

 

By helping others "less fortunate", one displays generosity. If done appropriately, this displays sensitivity.

 

By having a good income and by being independent, one displays the ability to support a family.

 

By having a better education and better marketable skills, one has access to better income opportunities.

 

By being good at sports and by being able to resolve conflicts without losing face, one displays the ability to defend a family.

 

By putting others slightly above or equal in the pecking order down, rank can be gained when swapping places in the pecking order. Done correctly, this should look like "helping someone less fortunate" or "resolving conflict without losing face" otherwise, this can look like bullying, which it often is, and backfire.

 

By finding and maintaining an "image" and manner that appropriately reflects ones personality, one helps potential partners determine compatibility.

 

By being subtle and discreet about your goals in this game and not promiscuous, one displays the characteristics required to remain loyal in long term child rearing relationships.

 

Since equality/equivalence only ever exists between people who haven't determined who dominates in the pecking order, "difficult" children and other inferiors are always trying to assert leadership and the remedy is to show them who's boss. When this doesn't work, they have a disorder or an attitude problem.

 

By being inventive and creative in such a way that the world becomes a better place, one almost by necessity has to worry less about personal gain and the social status game and ends up displaying only some of the characteristics of good mating partners and perhaps eccentricity, arrogance, mind blindness and lack of situational awareness.

 

By going into un-necessary detail on any given subject, one fools with the plot mode picture building process, displays a lack of connection with their conversation partner and appears to be self absorbed.

 

By playing with friends and losing, one gets a chance to learn from their mistakes, develop the characteristics of good mating partners and "mature". Therefore, over-reacting is missing the point of play.
o By playing with friends and winning, one gets a chance to prove ones value in their friends development. Therefore, playing too competitively and lording it over the loser is inappropriate.

 

By having friends that are not at the same maturity level as one's self, one does not contribute and benefit constructively from the relationship, therefore one has to "move on".

 

By being a happy person generally, one displays comfort with ones place in the world, an ability to survive difficult situations and a readiness to mate.

 

By being popular with, and "acquiring" potential partners, one has achieved the primary goal of the social status game, and therefore has little need to build further status. The object now becomes to put the characteristics displayed into effect.

 

Since most children will grow up to marry and have children of their own, "development" is about accomplishing this goal and "maturity" is a measure of success.

 

By truthfully telling someone exactly what the rules or their purposes are, one has to admit to being a player in a game designed to weed out the weakest, and therefore to be working only in one's best interest.

 

Ways to maintain self esteem

Learn to laugh at yourself, and to recognize your mistakes, apologize and just move on can save many a bad situation.

 

The single best way to reinforce self-esteem is to know where to go to be safe from making mistakes that have ongoing consequences, and to know that you can get there. These can be places, behaviors, or frames of mind.

 

Having a reliable visualized understanding of the environment you are in that you can fall back on in times of distress can help a great deal to pacify overwhelming negative thoughts, and help you plan ways out of bad situations.

 

If your failures keep haunting you, knowing that you have learned as much as you can from them can help that stop. Non-autistic people learn from experience this way anyway, so worrying excessively about possible future failure is probably overkill.

 

Faking self-esteem can have its merits. It means that you will be less of a target for social predators, and this means your self-esteem has more time to rebuild naturally

A person who is supremely confident has no need to prove oneself and therefore has no need for ego. A person who is supremely confident settles conflicts so that every party wins as much as possible and therefore has no need for aggression. A person who is supremely confident has little to be scared of and therefore displays their more positive emotions rather than their negative ones.

 

There are also some thoughts about emotions in relation to maintaining one's self esteem. It is necessary to let some negative emotions "radiate". If you don't permit yourself to do this sometimes, things can reach a boiling point and explode inappropriately.

 

Although autistic people seem to be incapable of reading the emotions of others, the emotions they express are VERY readable by others. The confusion others have in reading those emotions are in the fact that the emotions often don't make sense.

 

Fear and anger are emotions that are communicated across species, and between autistic and non autistic people. They are "reliable emotions".

This autism fact sheet is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation and is adapted from an article called A Survival Guide for People Living on the Autism Spectrum. Click here to read the full publication at WikiBooks.

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