Rachel Worsley | 18/09/2023
Masking, or camouflaging, is a common behavior among many autistic individuals in the workplace and other social settings. It involves concealing one's autistic traits, such as stimming, sensory sensitivities, or social differences, to fit in or conform to social norms. However, masking can be exhausting and detrimental to mental health over time. If you want to stop masking in the workplace, here are some steps to consider:
- Self-awareness: Recognize that you are masking and that it can be harmful to your well-being. Understanding your masking behaviors is the first step to change.
- Know your rights: Familiarize yourself with workplace accommodations and legal protections for autistic individuals in your country (e.g., the Americans with Disabilities Act in the U.S.). Understanding your rights can provide you with confidence in advocating for yourself.
- Start gradually: You don't have to stop masking all at once. Begin by allowing yourself to be more authentic in small, safe ways. For example, you can experiment with wearing sensory-friendly clothing or allowing yourself to stim subtly.
- Talk to a trusted colleague: If you have a close colleague who you trust, consider discussing your autism and your desire to stop masking with them. They may be supportive and help create a more inclusive environment.
- Engage in self-advocacy: If you need specific accommodations or adjustments to make the workplace more comfortable for you, don't hesitate to request them from your supervisor or HR department. These accommodations might include a quiet workspace, flexible hours, or assistance with social interactions.
- Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries to protect your well-being. Communicate to colleagues when you need alone time or when sensory sensitivities are overwhelming.
- Educate your employer: Consider educating your employer and colleagues about autism if you feel comfortable doing so. Providing information can foster understanding and promote a more inclusive workplace culture.
- Seek support: Reach out to autism support groups or networks, both within and outside your workplace. Connecting with others who share your experiences can provide valuable advice and emotional support.
- Practice self-care: Focus on self-care to manage stress and anxiety. This might include mindfulness exercises, regular breaks, and seeking therapy or counseling if necessary.
- Find a mentor: If possible, seek out a mentor who can offer guidance and support in navigating the workplace as an autistic individual. They can share their experiences and help you develop strategies for success.
- Embrace your strengths: Recognize and celebrate your unique strengths as an autistic individual. Autistic traits can be assets in certain roles, such as attention to detail, creativity, and problem-solving skills.
- Give yourself time: Changing masking behaviors can be a gradual process, and it's okay to take your time. Be patient with yourself as you work toward greater authenticity.
Remember that it's essential to prioritize your well-being and mental health in the workplace. Stopping masking can be liberating and lead to a more fulfilling work experience, but it may also involve challenges and adjustments. Seek support, advocate for your needs, and focus on creating a work environment that allows you to be your authentic self.
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