I have had this feeling of being “behind” for as long as I can remember. Societal expectations can exacerbate this, which I feel autistic people can particularly struggle with the weight of.

Within my culture (being from a South Asian background), there tend to be expectations such as being married and having a full-time job by the age of 20, things that I found were rather incompatible with me as an autistic person.

I often fall into the habit of comparing myself to neurotypical people, no matter how much I aim to rationalise the fact we have different needs. Not much comes naturally to me and as a result, much of daily life is a struggle. This can increase the feeling that I’m a failure.

I didn’t go to university. I secured my first paid job at the age of 22, and have only had jobs in the form of short-term contracts because that’s all I’ve been comfortable with taking on. Even though I know my capacity is somewhat limited and I would struggle with taking on any more than I am, it’s hard to escape that feeling of not being good enough.

I passed my driving test at 20, after two years of lessons. I bought my first car at 21, three years after starting lessons. My younger brother passed his test at 19, after 1.5 years of lessons and bought his first car two weeks later. The contrast has tended to make me feel very inadequate, not helped by the comparisons that have often been made. That sense of “he can do it, why can’t you?” without considering the nuances of why not. I don’t see judging me as particularly motivating, either.

Feelings of envy also creep in. At school, I remember groups of classmates being very pally and friendly with each other (or so it seemed from the outside), and I did not find anything resembling that until I was 24.

There’s a fine line between “I wish I could do that” and “I know I physically can’t, nor do I want to do that” which often gets missed, even by me. I’m trying to work things out at a pace I’m comfortable with. We can take longer to learn societal rules, and place importance on understanding why people do things a certain way.

Once I’m able to be a lot kinder to myself, these feelings will hopefully subside, but I know they are prone to coming up every now and again.

Silhouetted photo of a person pushing a huge round object up an increasingly steep slope, against a blue background.
Person pushing a huge round object up a slope. Source: Pixabay.