As an adult with ADHD, it is easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. So, you may sometimes think…
- “Why is ‘this’ so hard for me when it is so easy for everyone else?”
- “Why can’t I do ‘this’ like everyone else?”
- “I can never do anything right.”
It is typical for adults with ADHD to go through the Six Stages of Coping and feel some amount of grief, anger and resentment over a late life diagnosis.
It is normal.
The danger is staying stuck in this place and not moving beyond these feeling.
Reframing Your Thoughts
When you can get to the place of being able to acknowledge and accept your ADHD you will have a greater capacity to creatively engineer your life to work for you.
Part of the journey to this place of acceptance is being able to reframe your thoughts so they sound more like…
- “I have some challenges in part because of my ADHD.”
- “So, I’ll need to figure out what to do in those challenging areas of my life. I might need to adopt workarounds, delegate or just drop the task all together.”
- “Everyone operates differently, and that is ok.”
- “And I am really good at…” (See more on this below.)
Reframing your thoughts in this way is probably easier said than done! It will take some work. And you may need the help of a coach and /or therapist to do this.
Ignoring your feelings won’t make them go away. They will continue to pop at the worst times and get in your way. I bet you knew that!
Do Your Challenges Define You?
You’ve probably heard of the people below.
- Richard Branson, owner of the Virgin Group
- Katherine Ellison, author
- Jim Carrey, comedian and actor
- David Neeleman, owner of JetBlue
- Solange Knowles, singer, songwriter and model
- Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinkos
Yes, they all have ADHD.
Did you ever hear anyone say of David Neeleman, “Sure, he owns an airline, but that is not such a big deal because he can’t even keep his own calendar straight or pay his electrical bills on time.”
Have your heard anyone say of Katherine Ellison, “So she won a Pulitzer! What about that careless reporting mistake she made in the story about the high profile trial case she was covering. She was even sued.”
No, of course people don’t often frame the challenges or mistakes of famous people this way. So, aren’t you curious why you heap shame and blame on yourself for having challenges and making mistakes, but you give people like those above a pass?
Yes, you and I need to keep a calendar and pay our own bills. And, of course, we also want to keep our mistakes to a minimum. We may not have the option to delegate everything that is a challenge.
But what if you stopped defining yourself by your ADHD, and instead viewed your ADHD related challenges as, well, challenges? How might you approach your challenges differently?
Acknowledge Your Strengths
Of course, you want to manage your ADHD so the challenging symptoms don’t get in the way of accomplishing what you want.
As is true for many of us, your default may be, though, to focus on “fixing” your weaknesses.
But a critical piece of the puzzle to managing your ADHD is to also focus on your strengths. Because, of course, it is easier to do anything when you are using what comes naturally to you. And, as Drs Edward M. Hallowell and John J. Ratey, authors of Driven to Distraction and Delivered from Distraction point out:
The best way to change a life of frustration into a life of mastery is by developing talents and strengths not just shoring up weaknesses.
To focus on your strengths
- Acknowledge and own them. Is your strength using a particular skill, thinking creatively / outside the box, being compassionate, being tenacious, operating well in a crisis, etc.?
- Use them in your various roles and activities, including, of course, your career.
- Cultivate them to help you reach your dreams.
Your habit may be to focus on trying to fix your weaknesses to the exclusion of acknowledging your strengths. If this is the case for you, you are missing opportunities to help you reach your goals.
Celebrate Your Successes
The same is true of celebrating your successes. Acknowledging and celebrating your successes will help you realize your potential because you will…
- see that you are capable of reaching your goals, and this will help you persist when you have challenges, some related to your ADHD.
- build the confidence your need to set goals that may seem a stretch.
- fulfill your esteem needs, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which is an important ingredient in being able reach your potential.
- honor your progress, not just the final product, and continue even when the task seems overwhelming.
- be more productive as you use your successes in the above ways.
This may not come easy for you.
ADHD and Celebrating
Rather than feeling like celebrating, you may feel let down after a small or big accomplishment. This is typical for adults with ADHD as the stimulus of the “chase” is gone.
If this is true for you, the key is be intentional and create a plan to celebrate. Here are some tips to help you:
- Track your success and post them where you can see them as reminders.
- Give yourself a break and don’t work on your goals for a day!
- Plan to do something you rarely do, but really enjoy.
- Talk about your success on social media or, if it is more your speed, share with a friend in private.
- Buy yourself a “treat.” Make sure the treat is in alignment with your other goals. So, if you are trying to save money, you don’t want to spend a lot of money…
What other ways can you think to celebrate?
The Bottom Line
You are not just your ADHD or your weaknesses…
Use some of the above ways to remind yourself that, really, you are ok, even through you have challenges.