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
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
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
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
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
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
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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home page to view the full range of autism fact sheets at www.autism-help.org
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read personal stories by adults with Asperger's syndrome.