Who Changed?

I did write this originally for our Facebook page. However, I felt so strongly about this I needed to post it here too.

This last week and a half I’ve had so many questions and heard so many things, it’s been intense. So, I figured we’d address the “elephant” in the room and put some things into perspective. This could get a little long, but please read it because I think it says a lot about us, our culture and society as well as our perceptions.

This could even be classified as Em’s own personal “social” experiment if you’d like. She’s been asking us for over a year to allow us to let her dye her hair black. She didn’t feel like she was taken “seriously” as a blonde. She felt like she was lost in the crowd and never heard. And sadly, I think she’s proven to herself through this change how right she may have been.

I’ve heard she’s changed. I’ve had people tell me that they are worried about her. I’ve heard she’s not the same sweet girl she used to be, that she’s gotten very vicious and sarcastic and her humor and style has become very dark. The whole reality is though, she really hasn’t changed as much as people seem to think. The changes are so minute they shouldn’t have made a difference but they did because suddenly people’s perceptions of her changed and they started paying closer attention to her.

1. Her sense of humor has always had some dark, twisted and somewhat sadistic undertones. It’s just more noticeable now that people are listening and watching her.

2. She’s still just as sarcastic as she was before. And the witty comebacks that seem vicious at times have been there far longer than people caught. She grasped sarcasm and embraced it fully. Sometimes we have to reign her in but part of her autism is learning social boundaries. And she is still working on that.

3. She isn’t changing into some girl who wears only black and starting to wear a leather jacket. She’s had that jacket and wore it for well over a year. Dark colors are her chosen colors on average but she loves bright colors too. It depends on the day, just like anyone else. However, once she dyed her hair, she wasn’t just a “cute” girl in a leather jacket. She has this image of a “tough” girl in a leather jacket.

4. People used to look past her so never realized she muttered under her breath and talks to herself. Sometimes she does it to remember key information or answer a question that she’s not 100% sure she’s got right. Sometimes it’s also to remind herself to use her coping skills. She’s always done it, but now she stands out to others.

5. She still has the same hopes, dreams, fears and insecurities. The difference is now people perceive a confidence in her versus a timidness. There is a slight change in that but that was more about her tired of being a “wallflower” ignored. And it’s more frustration and calculated “confidence” versus a true confidence. Fake it until you make it kind of thing. And that was actually starting before she dyed her hair. As people NOTICED her that fueled the idea of being heard.

6. She still has a deep love of nature, animals, and justice. Her three passions.

7. Sensory issues are still issues that she deals with daily.

People think she has changed. She hasn’t changed. What’s changed is that people now notice her and she stands out. She doesn’t fade into that cute little wallflower. She’s shocked them into to noticing her.

Before, she was this cute and timid blonde who faded into her surroundings, even when she was screaming out for people to notice her. Now, she’s perceived as this fierce and fearless girl who doesn’t care what others think.

And the crux of the matter comes down to she’s both. She’s timid in how she feels inside. She’s trying to embrace and push herself into society. And when she did so before, her voice was lost in the crowd. Now, this tough gal persona, helps her voice be actually heard ~ for better or worse. She does care what people think. She wants people to realize she’s there. She wants people to reach out to her.

Yet, this isn’t something just limited to Emelie. How often do we as a society ignore the timid and meek looking individuals? We run over them with our own ideas and thoughts and squelch their voices. Yet, those who look like “trouble” is brewing or fierce and ready for a fight we listen to and even steer clear of them. They have a voice and it very often gets heard.

Look around you. There are many of both sides of Emelie out there. They both deserve to have their voice heard and be taken seriously. They are two sides of the same coin. And they very often are feeling lost and changing the hair color or shocking people around them shouldn’t be the solution. We need to draw them into the fold and make sure they feel loved being who they are.

~  Jenn ~

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3 thoughts on “Who Changed?

  1. Thank you for sharing this! I definitely needed to read it today. I have the same “issue” with my daughter. She has ADHD, Anxiety Disorder, Depression and is a recovering self harmer. Just last year she still had longer hair, couldn’t wear makeup yet, and while she was always drawn to dark colors, she wore more of a variety I guess. Never anything too girly, but not all black all the time. Because of her anxiety and depression and because she was bullied and picked on, she was always the girl that sat in the corner alone drawing. She had no friends, and she felt that even teachers just passed her over in favor of the “happier” students. In the last year she has made great strides and is working to come out of her shell. She is drawn to mostly band t shirts, has a black leather jacket (which she too has had for a year,) likes biker style boots and recently got a very short hairstyle that is nearly shaved on one side. She is the same sarcastic, witty, intelligent, funny yet insecure, unsure and scared girl she has always been. But people are telling me lately how much she has changed! Why? Because she shaved half her head? Because she likes eyeliner and red lipstick? (she would like black lipstick but I have to draw the line there lol.) I just look at them and smile but I wonder how they could have never known her before. A hairstyle makes people look at her? It makes her stand out? She hasn’t changed. Not really. She’s learning to be a bit more confident is all. She’s learning that she is worthy. She’s making friends. Yes, in those ways she is changing, but she’s pretty much the same person she’s been – just a bit older.
    It’s something that has really been on my mind lately – how society perceives us. How we are seen differently when something changes with our looks – particularly when they make a bolder statement.
    It’s a bit sad though, because as a self harmer, people look at her with her band t shirts and “extreme” haircut, and her scars and they judge. It breaks my heart. They don’t know her. They don’t know the kind, sympathetic, caring, beautiful girl she is. And they don’t know that she hasn’t really “changed” at all.
    I think you are right though. Society notices those who stand out in some way – whether it be clothes or hair. Kids who have been virtually invisible can make a change and suddenly people see them for the first time.
    Congratulations to your daughter for wanting to be heard!! You are so right – there are many sides to all people and each side deserves to be heard and taken seriously!!

    1. Well, I’m glad you’re here and that these words helped you.

      Em too started by shaving part of her head *the pink* and then a few weeks later, we allowed her to dye her hair black and cut it shorter. Em also has been a self-harmer in the past.

      Em loves to game. She loves to draw. She loves to act and yet everyone acts so shocked to learn that she has confidence issues or is sarcastic or whatnot. Like you said, you wonder just how well these people really knew our children in the first place.

      The journey is so similar for many people and yet so different. At least there are people out there that get it. ❤

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