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  • Saskia Müller

Learning to Unmask

Are you afraid of unmasking your neurodivergent traits to the world, because you fear that you won’t be accepted?


In case you don’t know, unmasking is when neurodivergent people stop hiding their differences and start boldly showing the world who they are. Many neurodivergent people mask their differences at a subconscious level, out of fear that they won’t be accepted because of them.


As an autistic adult who also has ADHD, I know how you may be feeling.

Building the courage to share my neurodivergent traits with the world was so scary at first. It wasn’t easy for me at all, and it took me taking a lot of baby steps before I felt more comfortable with it.


Not everyone liked the unmasked me, and I had to decide that that was going to be okay with me. Because, after 20 years of masking, I decided that I’d much rather be rejected for my authenticity than continue to be praised for being something that never felt true to me.

In this blog post, I’m going to explain why there’s nothing to lose in unmasking, and everything to gain. By reading this post, I hope that you’ll feel empowered to begin fearlessly unmasking and stop fearing rejection.


ONLY UNMASK WHEN IT’S SAFE TO DO SO.

But first, I do want to address something else that I feel is very important. As wonderful as it would be for all neurodivergent folks to freely unmask, this isn’t always safe or practical. For example, something as innocent as stimming can be seen as a threat, because people don’t understand it. Sometimes, this results in the harm, and even death of autistic people, particularly through bullying and police brutality.


Unmask, but only do so when you know you’re in a safe environment where your safety, well-being, and employment won’t be threatened. It’s very shitty that we have to consider this, but unfortunately, it’s our current reality. This is especially true for all neurodivergent BIPOC, whose differences are wrongly seen as a greater threat just because of the color of their skin.


Please, always make sure that you are in a safe place to unmask. Unfortunately, I know that this limits a lot of different types of environments for some of you. Focus on unmasking in all of your safe spaces, and be proud of yourself for that. After all, you’re just doing your best in a world that wasn’t built for you.


YOU’LL HAVE LOST NOTHING, BECAUSE YOU ONLY DESERVE PEOPLE WHO ACCEPT YOU FOR YOUR UNMASKED, AUTHENTIC SELF.

When you consider it like this, the idea of unmasking doesn’t seem so scary. If you’re feeling trapped because you’re not expressing your authentic self, but you’re afraid that you won’t be accepted for it, it makes no sense to care how people will receive you for it.

Why? Because, why would you want to spend time with people who don’t like you anyway? Why would you even want to waste your time being somebody that isn’t true to who you are? Life is short, and it’s way too short to spend sacrificing authenticity for approval.


That’s not to say that you shouldn’t validate whatever fears you have, because you definitely should. Your feelings always deserve your validation. Allow yourself to fully feel whatever fears you have about unmasking, but don’t let those fears stop you from unmasking.


When I think about unmasking, I like thinking about it like minimalism. Minimalism is about living with less, and only surrounding yourself with things you truly love. While much of the focus on minimalism has been on living with less stuff, minimalism applies to people, too.

Therefore, by fiercely unmasking like the bad ass mother fucker that you are, you’re automatically applying minimalism to your life. Why? Because when you unmask, the people who won’t accept the unmasked you typically leave the picture pretty quickly.


And guess what? This only leaves plenty of available space in your life for all the awesome people who will. Pretty fucking sweet, right? This brings me to my next point…


REMEMBER THAT THE UNMASKED YOU WILL NEVER BE TOO MUCH FOR THE RIGHT PEOPLE.

You can never ever be too much for the right people. If anyone ever tells you that you’re too much, they aren’t your people.


Your people are out there somewhere, trust me. You don’t need to waste time getting down about all the people who think you’re too much. The people who think you’re too much only leave you more space to find the ones who will accept all of your bad ass, neurodivergent self.


As I began unmasking, a couple of my old friends thought I was too much. Funny enough, the things about me that they thought were ‘too much’ are the same things that the people in my life now love about me.


Always remember this: That one thing that someone doesn’t like about you could be the exact same thing that the right people will love about you.


Burlesque artist and entrepreneur Dita Von Teese said it like this:

“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be someone who hates peaches.”


… AND THAT UNMASKING WILL ATTRACT THOSE PEOPLE INTO YOUR LIFE.

When we’re bold enough to show our unmasked, authentic selves to the world, the Universe rewards us by attracting the right people into our lives who accept all of who we are.

Think about it like this. You probably wouldn’t become friends with someone else who is constantly masked, because they never gave you the chance to see them for who they truly are.


In the same way, you probably won’t attract your ideal people into your life, because you’re not giving them a chance to see the real you.


Remember this – if they can’t see you, they’ll never accept you, because you never gave them the chance to see you in the first place.


It’s scary to show the world our unmasked selves, especially when the world isn’t always accepting of our differences. However, it’s not nearly as scary as continuing to live our lives hiding and fearing that we’ll never be accepted.


Some people won’t accept you, but the right people always will. That’s why it’s up to you to give them that opportunity! You may just be pleasantly surprised by the responses you get. Even if people don’t accept you, you can view their rejection as the cost of admission that will lead you to your people. It might take you a while to find them, so be patient. Remember, good things are always worth waiting for.


CONCLUSION

I hope that I’ve helped you see that you don’t need to fear rejection in unmasking. I know that unmasking isn’t always easy, and sometimes the rejection that comes with it can feel pretty painful.


But remember, we hold the power inside of ourselves to change the way that we view that rejection.


Here are a few questions that you can use to reframe any rejection that comes your way:

  • Is the pain that I feel for being rejected for my authentic self greater than the pain I’ve felt for not feeling seen for my authentic self?

  • How can I use this rejection to focus on more of what makes me happy?

  • How can I use this experience to not feel so hurt by rejection in the future?

  • If I think I’m awesome, why do I care so much about other people who don’t think I’m awesome?

Now, I want to challenge you to unmask in at least one small way, and practice not caring what people think. It can be as simple as not forcing uncomfortable eye contact or responding honestly when people ask how you are. Pick one thing, and just do it, completely unattached to what the outcome will be.

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