They’re two of my favorite polysyllabic words: multipotentiality and neurodiversity. These two terms have come to represent core elements of my identity in the past few years of my life, although I struggled to embrace each of them at first.
When I discovered that I was a multipotentialite, I finally had the language to describe my diverse interests and how I wanted to integrate them into my life. It felt liberating and empowering, but at the same time, it was difficult to grapple with the idea that I might not have The One Career™ that we’re often encouraged to pursue throughout our lives.
A couple of years after I discovered the language of multipotentiality and came to embrace how it reflected my identity, pursuits, and goals, I went through the arduous process of seeking an autism diagnosis as a young adult. When I ultimately did obtain my diagnosis, at the age of 21, it was slightly overwhelming to absorb and come to terms with, even though I had been fairly confident in my autistic identity for over a year before receiving an official diagnosis.
If I’m being honest, I’m still hesitant to initially identify myself as autistic in most professional or social contexts. Even as an autistic self-advocate, I only share my identity in situations where I think that it will benefit my relationship with someone or allow me to better support another neurodivergent individual. I have shared my identity with neurodivergent students and clients on a few occasions, and I have seen the real difference that it makes for facilitating their openness and authenticity in our interactions.
I have come to realize that, as I build strong relationships with people and establish myself as a skilled professional in each of my roles, sharing my autistic identity is one small action I can take to help dismantle the stereotypes and harmful views that hinder the success and happiness of the autistic community.
Self-knowledge is empowerment
The enhanced self-understanding—and self-compassion—that came with discovering my autistic identity has ultimately been empowering and informs the way I approach my life. As we recently observed Autism Awareness Month in April in the United States, I want to take the opportunity to celebrate some of the strengths and empowering aspects of my autistic identity, and how they overlap with multipotentiality in my life.
This is certainly not to say that being autistic, in any of its diverse presentations, doesn’t involve plenty of hurdles and challenges, which exist and manifest in different ways for every autistic individual. As the social model of disability reflects, society is not structured in a way that is conducive to neurodivergent individuals’ success. Even the process of initially getting a diagnosis can be fraught, particularly for women, nonbinary individuals, and people of color.
A common saying in the autism community is, If you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person. Since each autistic individual has unique interests, passions, skills, difficulties, and barriers to success, I will focus on my own experience rather than attempting to generalize. At the same time, I suspect that some of these points of overlap are present in other neurodivergent or autistic multipotentialites’ lives as well!
Many valuable resources focus on raising awareness about the struggles and challenges that come with being neurodivergent and how to cope with them. But it tends to be more difficult to find articles about the positive and joyful aspects of neurodivergence. I have come to recognize that many of my autistic traits overlap with the characteristics that make me a multipotentialite.
There are three overarching attributes that make up a significant part of my self-identity as an autistic multipotentialite, and each of them enriches my life and contributes to making me who I am. I want to celebrate these parts of my identity, as a way of encouraging other multipotentialites and neurodivergent individuals to practice loving and respecting their authentic selves:
1. Embracing “special interests”
One of the clear points of overlap between my identities as a multipotentialite and an autistic person involves what can be characterized as special interests or unique passions.
When I was younger I felt self-conscious about the intensity of my excitement about some subjects or activities, because I didn’t see anyone else responding to them in the same way. When I started learning my first instruments, they absorbed my attention and prompted the passion for music that is still at the center of my personal and professional life. As I have come to understand myself better and embrace my natural interests—and their intensity—I have found that special interests can be an authentic source of joy and exploration.
Multipotentialites also experience the excitement of special interests in each new hobby, interest, or career opportunity we discover and pursue. As an autistic multipotentialite, my interests and passions are powerful and intense, and I have learned to embrace that and make space and time for it in my life. In particular, understanding my identity helped me to be intentional about the balance of my interests and passions in my career, education, and hobbies in my schedule. This balance enables me to thrive in different areas, while not feeling deprived of my natural inclinations to explore new areas.
I am always happy to come across examples of other autistic people sharing and celebrating their special interests, and in a similar way I love to see multipotentialites sharing their passion for their diverse hobbies, interests, and career pursuits.
2. The joy of defying stereotypes
There are plenty of stereotypes about autistic people, and the autism community constantly pushes back against misconceptions and harmful viewpoints about autism. The autism community is diverse, and every autistic person has unique characteristics and experiences.
When I first got my diagnosis, I felt like I didn’t fit into the autistic community, based on perspectives and misconceptions that I had unintentionally internalized about how autistic people think or act. In reality, there is no single way to “seem” autistic or “look” autistic. Defying stereotypes about autism—and embracing being autistic in my own way—has become a joyful part of my everyday life.
Multipotentialites also face stereotypes, particularly in professional environments, based on our diverse work experiences, variety of interests, or apparently unrelated career moves. Common misconceptions about multipotentiality can lead people to assume we’re flaky, indecisive, or unable to commit to one path. But multipotentialites are certainly not “jacks of all trades, masters of none.” In reality, our unique combinations of experiences make us forces to be reckoned with.
There is something incredibly rewarding and empowering about actively defying derogatory stereotypes in daily life. One of the joys of multipotentiality and neurodivergence for me is rooted in the hope of being a trailblazer, role model, or simply an active supporter of other individuals who will defy stereotypes—through what they do and how they do it.
3. Celebrating what makes our minds unique
As an autistic person and multipotentialite, I have found that my diverse interests, and the way my brain works, provides me with a unique perspective and approach to everything I do.
By combining many of my intersecting multipotentialite interests into a multifaceted career, I currently work as an instrumental lessons instructor and freelance writer, while pursuing my master’s degree focused on music production and media scoring. During my first semester of my master’s program, I found that I absolutely love mix engineering. It integrates the highly detail-oriented aspects of how my mind works with the creative and artistic considerations that are always present in creating or communicating through music. At the same time, I love to teach instrumental music lessons and collaborate with other musicians as a producer, because I thrive in one-on-one interactions that support creative exploration and growth. And, my decision-making is always informed by applying my undergrad background in existentialist philosophy! It feels like I have finally discovered a blend of careers and projects that completely align with my brain wiring, and to recognize and understand why has been exciting and empowering.
While it can be challenging at first, embracing what makes us, and our minds, distinctive can promote self-empowerment and authentic joy in our lives. It has taken me a long time (basically, my entire life so far) to really understand and embrace my brain and what makes it uniquely mine. But, by honoring how my brain works and intentionally seeking to understand what combination of activities allow me to thrive, I have been able to build a foundational balance that I am confident will enable me to thrive personally and professionally for years to come.
Has being aware of your multipotentiality provided you with new insights about yourself or empowered your decision making? If you identify as neurodivergent, how does that aspect of your identity guide how you approach your life?
Doing/being/exploring ALL THE THINGS is easier with a community!
Did you know we have a private community of hundreds of multipotentialites from around the world? We support each other, share advice and cheer each other on as we building lives and career around ALL our passions.
Learn more about the Puttyverse and get notified next time we open the doors: