“You just don’t want to.”

Ariane wrote a post that I didn’t feel I could respond to adequately in a comment, so I thought I’d write a post in response.

Perhaps the single most harmful thing I’ve ever internalized was, “You just don’t want to.”

As in, “You could talk fine yesterday, so I know you can talk well when you want to. You just don’t want to.”

As in, “Well, two weeks ago, you had more homework than you had this week and you finished it all fine, so I know you can get work done when you want to. You just don’t want to.”

As in, “You were fine at your birthday party, so I know you can behave at parties when you want to. You just don’t want to.”

And so on, and so forth.

See, what those people didn’t realize was that the circumstances were different. Yesterday, we weren’t talking about how kids bullied me. Two weeks ago, all my homework was in classes that send out email reminders. At my birthday party, we didn’t go to sensory hell that is Chuck E Cheese.

But I’ve internalized that message of I-just-don’t-want-to. And, for me, it works as a thought-terminating cliche that poisons most aspects of my life.

  • Rather than seek help for my problem staying organized, I assumed I just didn’t want to stay organized, and that on some level I enjoyed the moments where I’d realize the assignment was due today about when the prof asked for them to be handed in or the getting up at 3AM to pound out an assignment when I had classes from 8AM till 9PM that day and was going to have a hard time staying awake through them all.
  • Rather than seek help for my handwriting issues or find some alternative to handwriting, I assumed that I just didn’t care enough to write neatly, and that on some level I enjoyed looking at the strange scribbled hieroglyphics in my notebook and trying to figure out what they meant, minus a Rosetta Stone.

And so on, and so forth.

I’ve internalized many other harmful things growing up (lazy, unathletic, stupid, intentionally rude, etc), but this one is the most insidious and the most difficult to combat. Because I can point to the workload I take on as proof I’m not lazy. I can point to martial arts as proof I’m not unathletic. I can point to the fact that someone once told me to stop apologizing for existing as proof I’m not intentionally rude. But how do I prove to myself that I don’t want to fail, even as I fail at something over and over again?

But thing is, right now, I know I don’t want to fail. I get giddy and bounce around with joy every time I figure out something else that helps me be a little more the independent, successful adult. The most recent being a laundry sorter that sorts dirty clothes for me (a work of genius, that invention). But in the heat of the moment, when I’m beating myself up over burning a sauce I was making again or forgetting that important work document again or what have you? I don’t remember that. I remember “You did it last week, so why can’t you today?” and “You can do it when you want to.”

“You just don’t want to.”

12 thoughts on ““You just don’t want to.”

  1. autisticook says:

    We could write a dictionary of ableist phrases.

    My parents are wonderful, loving people, but they heard they had to “simply try harder” all their lives. So they passed it on. Literally the first thing they said to me when hearing about me wanting to get diagnosed was “But what good will that do? You can’t use it as an excuse to stop trying. We’ve always had to work for it.”

    All of us. Caught up in our perfectionism. In our fear of can’t. The “you can do it when you want to” becomes the routine, the familiar, what we know best. And we berate ourselves constantly, trying to impose some control. It’s a form of self-harm.

    (Your laundry sorter sounds genius. I need to know more).

    • ischemgeek says:

      Try harder is another one, yeah.

      I haven’t thought of negative self talk as self harm before. Interesting thought. I’ll have to think on that one some more – it seems to come from a similar place to some degree, at least.

      (Laundry sorter is a wheeled trolly with cloth bins in it – mine has 4, which works perfectly because I sort my laundry dark colors, light colors, whites and towels, but you can get them with 3-5. Stick it wherever you habitually get changed and throw your dirty clothes in the appropriate bins. Bins are sized so that when the bin is full, you have exactly one load of laundry. It works like a charm, and I can always tell when I need to do laundry. :D)

  2. I grew up with both “your problem is that you think too much” coupled with “if you set your mind to it, you can do anything.” Neither proved true.
    It has taken me well into middle age to find any degree of relief from the negative self talk and even so I still fall easily into it, I just know now not to believe it. When that tape starts playing I listen to it for awhile and then remind myself that it’s like an annoying person talking loudly on the subway. Annoying, but I don’t have to hang onto every word. And I definitely do not have to believe it. It’s tough though and something I continually find myself battling.

    I so covet that laundry sorter!

    • ischemgeek says:

      I’ll have to try the “treat it as an annoying person on public transit” approach sometime. Right now, I self-snark at my own self-snark, which is better than beating myself up over something out of my control, but if I’m beating myself up for beating myself up, I’m still beating myself up. Not ideal.

  3. bjforshaw says:

    Oh gods, so much THIS. I don’t even know how much baggage I carry in terms of internalized beliefs similar to this one. And that was growing up in a pretty supportive environment. It’s only all these years later I’m starting to realize how much harm it caused in terms of self-esteem and self-confidence, how it’s one factor in my anxiety and depression.

    • ischemgeek says:

      Yeah, it’s a huge part of why I used to engage in very destructive self-injury… and it’s a huge part of why any perceived failure hits me like a punch in the gut… cuz when you’ve internalized that any failure on your part is due to insufficient will to succeed, it’s always your fault even when it’s not… and it’s hard to deal with feeling ‘this is all my fault’ over stuff, but worse is when you’re gaslighting yourself about what your feelings about stuff is. Argh. Hard to articulate better than that, but hope it makes sense.

      • autisticook says:

        *sympathy shudder*

        You’ve articulated it well enough.

        It’s why privately, I admitted to myself that if I wouldn’t be able to convince the therapists to give me a diagnosis, it would all go back to being my fault and that was a terrifying idea. Not that autism is an excuse for anything. But I’ve dealt long enough with everything being my own fault. It’s not working.

  4. invisibleautistic/Robin says:

    “Give it time. You’ll get it.” If I knew the person well, I would counter with lots of detailed questions no NT would ever think to ask (“then should I hold my right hand at a 45 degree angle with my palm facing toward the left side?” “How much pressure should I put on my foot to be able to kick and keep my balance?”) and when they had no clue I would say “I am on my own figuring this out aren’t I?” They usually agree with me lol. It’s like a lot of people don’t know how to say that they can’t help you, so they assure you instead that with time and practice, you’ll be ok. *facepalm

    • ischemgeek says:

      If I can relate it to other stuff I know, I’ll relate it to those things. “So, is it like X but with Y instead and in stance Z?” “Erm… yes, but those changes are so different it’s a different move.” “Oh, of course. I’m just talking about body motion.” “Yes.”

      Otherwise, I flail about with extremely detailed questions trying to build a base that I can connect everything else to.

      • invisibleautistic/Robin says:

        Ah, I see what you mean! Yeah, with me, if I don’t know what kind of question I want to ask, I also flail about. So when I hear, “You need to ask more questions” I don’t understand what this means. It’s some kind of code-speak for….for what, I have no idea! It’s like when people say, “Don’t worry, you can be honest with me.”

        And then, when I do ask the question or am honest with them, it’s like they can’t handle the truth, and they retract their statement and say, “Oh, that’s not what you should be asking” or they get mad. SIGH!

      • autisticook says:

        I treat the remark “You can be honest with me” as an outright lie. ALWAYS. The only people who appreciate my honesty are the people who start by being honest about something themselves. That’s my litmus test.

      • ischemgeek says:

        “You can be honest with me” puts me in mind of the internet meme with Admiral Ackbar: “It’s a trap!”

        Cuz the vast majority of people who say they want you to be honest don’t. Especially not if you’re discussing some interpersonal conflict or emotional topic.

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