Masking is a common occurrence in autism. Masking is when the autistic individual has one outward appearance, while internally they are experiencing something completely different. For example, if someone was to ask an autist how they are doing, chances are that they will say “good” while feeling negative or neutral emotions. This doesn’t mean that an autistic person is being deceitful, but rather they are trying to fit in.
Autists mask for a variety of reasons, such as:
1. Fear of judgement
If an autist displays negative emotions in public, they might be afraid that others will judge them or make false assumptions about their character. This fear is also fueled by the fact that autists are more likely to be victims of crimes, including sexual assault. Not only are they afraid of judgement on a personal level, but also on a professional level. This is because an employer might assume that someone who constantly displays negative emotions or has trouble getting along with others isn’t capable of doing their job properly.
2. Low self-esteem
Some autists have low self esteem and may feel that there is something wrong with them. For this reason, they hide their true personalities; because if the real them were exposed, people wouldn’t like them and might even bully or reject them.
3. Fear of confronting others
Some autists don’t like it when people get mad at them or are upset with them. They might be afraid that the other person doesn’t love them anymore, so they try to avoid conflict by putting on a mask and being someone who they are not.
4. Fear of being misunderstood
The autistic mind perceives things in unique ways that are often misinterpreted by neurotypicals. For this reason, autists are afraid that if they were to say how they really feel, the other person might think that they are being rude or condescending.
5. Lack of self confidence
Autists have a hard time deciding whether or not something is “true” or “right.” This can lead to low self-esteem and self confidence.
6. Social anxiety
Autists are often nervous around others because they feel that they might do or say something wrong, which might lead to someone judging them. Since autists think negatively about themselves, this fear is usually based on reality.
7. Fear of being ostracized or abandoned by loved ones
Sometimes autists get upset with themselves for not being able to act the way they are “supposed” to. Because of this, they might believe that others will reject or abandon them if they were to be themselves. This leads to them putting on an act so that people won’t get mad at them or leave them.
8. Problems identifying emotions in others
The autistic mind can have a hard time reading people’s emotions. Since autists don’t know how to react when other people are mad, sad, etc., they might get the wrong idea and believe that the person doesn’t like them anymore. To avoid this, autists will act happy even if they aren’t because that is what they think the other person wants to see.
9. To fit in
Autists are often nervous around people, but they will sometimes act extra happy or extra hyper when in groups because it makes others feel more comfortable around them. When being with a group of people, autists might attach themselves to someone else so that they have an “anchor” and don’t feel so alone.
10. To avoid being compared to others
When autists are among a group of people, they will often compare themselves to their surroundings in order to determine where they stand. Autists might also believe that other people have it easier than them, so they will try to fit in with everyone else even if that means suppressing who they really are.
11. To fit the mold of their culture
Just like neurotypicals, autists can act differently depending on where they live and what kind of environment they are in. Autists might act extra happy or extra hyper around people because it is more acceptable in their society or the way to interact with others.
12. To avoid being bullied or harassed
Since autists are often seen as different, they might be bullied for acting differently than neurotypicals. Autists know this, and will put on an act to make themselves look like everyone else so that they won’t get picked on.
13. To resolve conflict
Autists might try to avoid conflict with people because they don’t know how to handle it. They might just let other people walk all over them and suppress any feelings that they have so that the other person doesn’t get mad at them.
14. To feel validated
Autists often feel like they don’t matter, which leads to a circular pattern of exclusion and validation. For example, if an autistic person is excluded by a group, they might try to become part of the group again so that they can feel like they matter.
15. To gain independence
Autists often want to be independent and do things themselves without relying on other people for help. However, doing this requires the person to know what they are doing and if something goes wrong, the autistic person might feel like a complete failure.
16. To avoid an overload
Autists can easily be overloaded with information (i.e. too much going on at once). If someone is being loud, jumping around, etc., an autist might just suppress their feelings and act happy so that they don’t have to deal with what’s going on.
17. To escape reality
For many autists, the real world is scary and overwhelming. They might find it easier to just retreat into their imagination where they feel safe. By doing this, autists can make up anything without getting judged or compared to others.
18. To be in control
Autists can sometimes feel like they are being controlled by the people around them, so they will try to take control in any way that they can. This might result in an autistic person acting unusually happy or hyper when talking to other people.
19. To avoid disappointing others
Autists often want to avoid disappointing other people because they are afraid of hurting other people’s feelings. They might act perfectly normal around the other person so that they won’t get in trouble, even if it means lying or keeping secrets.
20. Out of habit
Autists sometimes act out of habit rather than responding to how they really feel. For example, an autistic person might be accustomed to saying “ok” when other people ask them if they are okay, even if they aren’t doing well.