If I had a £1 coin for every time I’ve been called boring, I’d have a pretty decent amount — not a ludicrous amount, but enough for some new books at least. Admittedly, a fair part of what’s lead to me being called boring (including by some of my closest friends) has been my general preferment of reading over people, but what I didn’t realise for a long time growing up was that a lot of what made me ‘boring’ in the eyes of those neurotypicals around me was actually due to my Asperger’s, and the way in which my Asperger’s was in conflict with how society is set up to promote certain social activities.
Being called boring no longer bothers me, but in this post I thought I’d identify why I used to get called it so often, and how my ‘boring’ behaviour also pertains to my Asperger’s in some unexpected ways. This is really an exercise in exploring just how central my Asperger’s is to my personality. Some people don’t like to think of themselves as defined by their ASD, and that’s perfectly understandable, but I am of the belief that my Asperger’s is absolutely a core part of who I am, and in this list you’ll be able to see some of the many ways it affects me.
A lot of people with Asperger’s often speak in monotone. I definitely did this as a child, though it stopped when I was about seven years old. I think speaking in monotone goes hand in hand with more generally how I struggled to express emotion, which often made the people around me think that I was ungrateful or not passionate about anything (I talk more about the difficulty in expressing emotions in my post here). I wasn’t constantly monotone, just like I wasn’t always unable to express emotional reactions. At home, I was far more expressive than I was in public. I think this can be explained with the idea that for those on the spectrum, going out in public places, especially ones which are unfamiliar, involves a great deal of stimulation, and so my brain just couldn’t handle processing all of that information, and still manage to put on a ‘normal’ voice. In a way, it’s like masking — even now, when I’m too overstimulated, the mask slips (see here for more on masking) and I stop making facial expressions. It’s as though facial expressions and intonation are extra add-on computer programs which have to run on top of the main program, but when the main program is struggling to keep up with the basic processing required for ‘surviving’ a social situation, then all of the add-ons are entirely forgotten.
Anxiety and low-self confidence.
Anxiety and my Asperger’s have always gone hand-in-hand. This has definitely contributed to the perception that I’m boring. Low self-confidence has in the past meant that I’m reluctant to try new things, and my anxiety means I prefer the predictable to the point where to other people it borders on mundane. I also need constant reassurance when I’m doing a task to feel comfortable doing it, and a lot of supervised practice before I’m confident doing it alone, so often I prefer to let other people do the things I’m not familiar with. In science lessons at school, I often preferred theory lessons over times when we would do practical experiments, which seemed backwards to everybody else, but I preferred theory because practicals involved group discussions, and everybody moving around, and this disorganisation made me feel anxious. Even now, I still find quite regimented lessons less tiring than those which are more varied — simply because copying from the textbook, even if it’s dull, involves a lot less noise and unregulated commotion.
A trait which quite a lot of people on the spectrum have is that we can enjoy repetitive behaviours, and that we can therefore sometimes have a much higher tolerance to repetition than neurotypicals when it comes to performing specific tasks. For example, I heard one story of a girl who loved making origami foxes. She made hundreds and hundreds of these tiny paper animals, and where as anyone else might have gotten bored of doing the same task over and over again, she never even found her focus slipping. This can be a real strength for aspies, as it allows us to focus on tasks other people would get bored of. However it does mean that neurotypicals will sometimes find us strange for not sharing their boredom, and be surprised when we say we don’t mind doing a menial task over and over again because it’s interesting to us.
Routine is essential for a lot of those with ASD, and similar to how we can have a higher tolerance for repetitive activities as mentioned above, some of us just aren’t as sensitive to the need for variety as some neurotypicals are. There are still times when we seek out variety in our lives, and we can certainly be impulsive, but we often prioritise a feeling of security over any potential benefits of changing routine, which neurotypicals can often misinterpret as simply being rigid and static. My friends were always bewildered that I never felt a need to ‘rebel’ — but change was just not something I seemed to crave in the same way they did.
Aspies have a tendency to develop special interests, or hyper-fixations, which we devote hours and hours of attention to, and we often have a desire to talk exclusively about that topic for hours on end. (Note: hyper-fixations are sometimes also called ‘obsessions’, however there are a lot of negative connotations to this word, and so a lot of aspies prefer to use ‘special interests’ when talking about their fascinations, and reserve the term ‘obsession’ for when a hyper-fixation becomes problematic, i.e. it develops to the point where it hampers daily functioning.) In general, hyper-fixations are not a bad thing — they can provide intense fulfilment for the aspie engaging in them, and if you have the patience to listen to an aspie info-dumping, it can often be a very rewarding experience, both for you and the aspie. However, our tendency to want to talk exclusively about our interests can sometimes mean we are repetitive to other people, and, due to our lack of innate social awareness, we often don’t pick up on how a topic that is so fascinating to us is not at all interesting to the person we’re talking to, who’s probably already heard this information a dozen times already. In my case, the topic of my special interest as a child was dinosaurs, and although I eventually grew out of that long-term fixation and since then have entered into a number of intense but more short-lived special interests, I am well aware I must have been extremely tiresome at times. I’ve always been grateful to my parents for having the patience to nonetheless engage with me and to encourage my passions.
Hypersensitivity to noise
This is a trait of a lot of people with ASD, and it usually leads one to seek out very quiet places, like libraries. This often means you’re not hanging out with your loud friends, or going to parties, because these places are inaccessible to you because they are simply not worth the overstimulation, or are physically painful to be in. Hence you become the stay-at-home one, the boring one, who doesn’t go out as often. For me, most of my friends prefer to hang out and study in the noisy Sixth-Form Centre during free periods, but because it’s so busy I can rarely be in there for more than an hour a day or I will find myself massively overstimulated and tired by the end of the school day. This has meant that some of my friends complain that they never see me in school, but I’m lucky enough that most of them appreciate that it’s not a choice to avoid them, the Sixth-Form Centre is just not somewhere I can comfortably stay for prolonged times. Even with noise cancelling headphones which allows us to enter those noisy spaces, an aspie may often still feel somewhat excluded, because in order to most efficiently block out the noise, we also have to block out conversation, which is why I generally prefer to use regular headphones and just have music to ground me (I’m a big fan of the one-ear-in, one-ear-out method), rather than full noise-cancelling headphones which mean I can’t properly hear my friends when I’m with them, and which subsequently makes me less talkative and engaged.
Feeling alienated from your peers
All of the above can contribute to feelings of isolation from people my age, which can just reinforce a cycle. If you don’t have many friends, it can be hard to make friends, and so this labels you as the loner, who is quiet and reserved, and again: boring. In my case, this hasn’t happened so much. I have a close group of friends. But nonetheless, occasionally my lack of innate social skills due to my Asperger’s means I can still sometimes find it difficult to relate to my peers, and so I don’t always want to do all the things that they do, which makes me seem ‘boring’ when the reality is it’s just difficult for me to navigate conversation with them, so I’d rather avoid it.
In conclusion, there are a lot of ways in which my Asperger’s shapes my personality. My Asperger’s is me — it’s the way my brain is wired. And sometimes, I know that I am boring. But I think what matters is that because of my diagnosis, I know that sometimes when people claim I’m boring, or that there’s something wrong with me, I know that it isn’t me that they’re taking issue with, it’s my Asperger’s. My Asperger’s is an explanation for why I don’t like noisy parties, and why people sometimes find me boring. And it’s made my life much easier to have that — not as an excuse, and I certainly don’t use my Asperger’s like a scapegoat — but it’s an explanation to satisfy my own mind; context which I can use to make sense of my world and people’s reactions to me.
Thanks for reading, I hope this was a helpful insight into some aspie behaviours. If this has been in any way informative to you, please like, comment, or share on social media, and follow this blog for more similar content.