Of course, feeling like you are the only one that _________ (fill in the blank) can also leave you feeling misunderstood and alone.
As an adult with ADHD you may sometimes feel this way about having ADHD.
If you feel this way, you know when you are connected to others (friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances) who “get and accept you,” you just feel better, right?
But have you thought about the importance of your connections in being able to reach your potential, your goals and, ultimately, your dreams?
Are you connected to people the way you want?
The Importance of Positive Connections
We know a primary reason for maintaining positive connections is its importance to our overall well-being. We need family and friends to sustain us.
In fact, Dr. Edward Hallowell, a renowned ADHD expert, considers friends to be so important for adults with ADHD that he includes “making sure you keep up regular contact with a few good friends” on his list of Seven Habits of Highly Effective ADHD Adults.
A second (and related) reason is that maintaining positive connections will also help you succeed in reaching your goals, like…
- training for and completing a race.
- running a successful business.
- effectively managing your department.
- completing your major projects.
- being a good parent and partner.
This might already make intuitive sense to you. Because when you feel better you have more energy to devote to your goals, right?
We can also look to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs1 to help us understand why this is true.
According to Maslow, before we can effectively accomplish our higher needs / goals we need to fulfill our lower needs.
1. Biological and Physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc.
2. Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability, etc.
3. Social Needs – Belongingness and Love, – work group, family, affection, relationships, etc.
4. Esteem needs – self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, managerial responsibility, etc.
5. Self-Actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.
So, while positive connections to others helps us to fulfill our social needs of belonging and love, they are also necessary to achieving our goals and realizing our potential.
What If Making Connections Is Hard?
But what if, like other adults with ADHD, you struggle with making positive connections with others?
Does this mean you won’t be able achieve professional mastery or personal growth if your social needs are not fully met?!
No, I don’t think so…
It is definitely not that black and white.
Rather, I think that when our social needs are met, we will have an easier time reaching our other goals.
Is It My ADHD?
If this is one of your challenges, obviously there could be many reasons.
Here are some possible reasons related to your ADHD.
- You may feel so overwhelmed by all that you currently have on your plate that you decided you can’t put the necessary energy into making and sustaining connections.
- Perhaps, your ADHD symptoms, like impulsiveness, inattentiveness, not getting places on time, etc. get in the way of sustaining your relationships. Maybe you don’t think you can change. So, you give up trying to to connect with others because you “know” it will not work out.
- It could be that your history of “screwing up” makes your fearful, especially if you don’t think you can change. So, you don’t bother. You hide.
- Maybe you’re not afraid in social situations, but just uncomfortable. It is no fun to feel ill at ease, so you decide to limit your social interactions.
- In the end, it may feel like it just takes too much effort to attend to your relationships and be the person that you want to be. So you stop trying.
If you have not worked on maintaining your relationships, are there other reasons I have not listed above?
What Can I Do?
If you want to keep connected with important people in your life and create new connections, you can, really.
Yes, it will probably be a little messy and uncomfortable learning how to make these changes.
Here are some steps you can take.
- First, acknowledge and honor (as much as you can) what works best for you. If you prefer 1-1 quieter conversations, create opportunities for these. Invite a colleague or friend to go out for coffee. Seek out a person to talk to at a larger social or business gathering, rather than joining a large group.
- Also, consider whether you are connecting with the “right” people. How do the people currently in your life contribute to your well-being? Where you have a choice do you need to seek out people who are a better fit?
- Are there people in your life that fulfill certain needs, but fall short in other ways and disappoint you? Probably. Is it possible you are wanting them to live up to unrealistic expectations that even you could not meet? If so, maybe it is time to give these people a little leeway so you can accept and enjoy them as they are, shortcomings and all.
- Want people to understand you better? If you feel safe enough with close friends and family, explain your challenges (and how your are working to address them). Even ask for their help.
- If you are looking to meet more people, find a group (social, religious, professional, Meetup etc.) that interest you.
- Ask someone you would like to know better to join you in an activity you already enjoy.
- And, of course, if you need help in figuring out how to do any of the above, get the support of a professional or through some other means.
What else can you do to maintain and improve your connections?