One thing that many autistic people have had to learn is boundaries. This is something that doesn’t come naturally to us. No, it’s not that we don’t want to learn, it’s not about our upbringing and it’s not us trying to be difficult or annoying.
Boundaries, just like with the so called “neurotypical social norms”, the “social rules”, as well as simple social cues, is something that has to be TAUGHT to us.
As an autistic person, I would constantly say YES to things I didn’t want to do, would go places that caused sensory overload, hung out with people who were toxic for me or I got a bad vibe from. I even said YES to someone who didn’t truly love me and kept wanting to change me to be someone I’m not.
On the other hand, without realizing it I have also crossed boundaries with people only to find out later on due to them not coming out and telling me. Subtle hints, implying, and dropping body language hints mean NOTHING to autistic people because we don’t know them and understand how they work. I feel bad about it when I find out, and feel worse off about it when I find out either down the road or from someone else.
As time went on, I had to learn how to understand boundaries. I remember when I was first on social media I learned that you don’t constantly re add someone if they remove you or keep adding them as a friend if they reject you. I also learned that you don’t add their friends or people you don’t know or haven’t spoken to. I also had to learn that you don’t obsessively call someone non stop and if they don’t answer, it doesn’t mean that they are dead. Those are some of the boundaries that I take responsibility for on my doing. I wasn’t doing this to be annoying, I was doing this because I didn’t know better at the time.
I also had to learn how to set my own healthy boundaries. I learned that lack of boundaries can make you come off as someone who has low self esteem but someone who is an easy target. And let me tell you, setting boundaries has changed my life.
Here are some of the boundaries that I’ve set as an autistic person:
- Hangouts MUST be PLANNED and NOT interfere with my routines. Routines for me are important and I don’t like them to be disrupted.
- With new people, I like to be the one to approach first rather than them approach me. I’m someone who likes to watch people from a distance, feel them out and see what kind of vibe I get from them before I approach them either by myself or with a safe person.
- When it comes to hangouts with friends, I like either 1:1, small group, or people I am familiar with. If it’s unfamiliar people, I like to know who will be there and a little bit about them first, so that way I can mentally prepare for who I will be meeting.
- I also need a safe space or a room to go to when I need to recharge at family functions or when I am at a friend’s house or I go for a walk alone.
- I don’t like anything unplanned or something out of routine.
- Before I start in a room at work, I like to feel out the room and what’s going on before being quick to jump in right away.
- When I have too much change, or when there is change I need to be alone to process it.
I learned that setting boundaries is okay. There are more boundaries that I have set for myself but this is a small list of it.
I am 31 years old and I’m from Courtice, ON Canada. I am an autistic person and graduated college from the Early Childhood Education Program. I’m studying Russian and hope to visit Russia when it becomes safe again. My hobbies include going to the gym, running weightlifting, reading, swimming, yoga, hiking, meditation, knitting, cooking, and learning new things. I also love traveling and I am a huge cat person.