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ADHD Doesn’t Define You: The Importance of Finding Yourself

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

Finding out you have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) doesn't mean your life is over. Instead, it helps explain why we find adapting and living up to social norms so hard. When we, as people with ADHD, understand this, we can do more than live to survive in a world not designed for how our brains work—we can find happiness living our authentic selves. Who are we, though? Who is the authentic you? So many of us live with Imposter Syndrome and Rejection Sensitivity, facets of ADHD that often leads to fear, confusion about who we are, and emotional turmoil. These issues’ roots can be traced to our struggles to fit in, the absence of critical self-reflection skills, and a history of harsh criticism. Because of how our neurodevelopmental struggles affect us (the average child with ADHD is 2 to 3 years behind their peers in cognitive functions.), from a young age, we've spent a lifetime wearing the masks that we thought we had to, draining our mental energy in vain attempts to assimilate. Rarely did we have a proper understanding of who we really are. We struggled with unfair criticism, impatience, and, often, abuse. We learned who we were supposed to be, who we should be, and how different we were. We never learned how to understand ourselves for our own merits critically. We only learned that we could never live up to the expectations of those around us and seemed to be only judged for our inadequacies.

Understanding we have ADHD brings to light our struggles and these detrimental behaviors from those around us. But considering that, how do we unearth our true selves from beneath the layers of negativity, shame, and guilt? Well, to be blunt, it’s not easy. The journey to self-discovery is complex, often requiring external help and time. It involves unlearning years of trauma, developing a system to understand our strengths, weaknesses, and the impact of ADHD on our lives, and recognizing our motivations. The path toward self-understanding is not straightforward, but it's crucial. Once embarked upon, we can find the truth about ourselves, leading to authentic self-realization and paving the path to happiness.

Align with Your Values and Utilize Your Strengths

The first stride in self-discovery is understanding the bedrock of our identity - our Values. These innate convictions, utterly separate from societal expectations, form our unique framework and fundamentally define our unique selves. These are not things that we think we should be. They are who we are and who we want to be.

Complementing these are our Strengths, the unique attributes each individual with ADHD is gifted with. These abilities, be it creativity, problem-solving, or out-of-the-box thinking, can fuel immense achievement and fulfillment when properly channeled. Identifying and integrating these strengths into our daily lives is integral to successfully living with ADHD.

By doing so, we construct a foundation for genuine success rooted in our authentic selves rather than conforming to ill-fitting societal standards. This process beautifully mirrors the foundational principle of transforming chaos into order.

Base Your Standards on Your Capabilities

Many of us have been told that we “should” be good at something and that we “should” do this to be successful. However, we must learn that our success benchmarks must be personalized based on our unique values and capabilities rather than society's generic expectations. ADHD can be a wildcard, affecting each person differently. Thus, our standards must be flexible, adaptable, and forgiving enough to cater to the natural ebbs and flows of ADHD. This does not mean settling for less. Instead, it's about achieving more in a way that respects and accommodates our unique ADHD traits.

Learn from Failures

Life is full of lessons, each mistake serving as a stepping stone towards self-understanding. As men living with ADHD, our journey is often more challenging, but with a mindset of learning and growth, every difficulty can become a valuable asset. Every failure and mistake is an opportunity to learn from, enhance our skills, adjust strategies, and understand ourselves more.

Yet, it can be challenging to learn from our missteps. Too often, we've been shamed for our failures and have them treated as major issues by those around us and society. Living in a world designed around neurotypical mindsets, our neurodevelopmental hurdles as children made it hard to learn from our mistakes in the way others expected. Many didn't grasp our unique way of thinking, leading to frustration when we didn't quickly master what they deemed as basic skills. These societal expectations are particularly damaging for those of us who are neurodivergent, instilling a fear of making mistakes, avoiding risks, and shying away from challenges. Ultimately, this hinders our growth and limits our potential for success.

Mitigate, Delegate, or Eliminate Weaknesses

One of the secrets to living well with ADHD lies in creating systems that help mitigate, delegate, or eliminate weaknesses. If we have an aversion to doing things for whatever reason, such as fearing failure, we often procrastinate horribly. We often need help with specific tasks requiring sustained attention, a tedious routine, time management, or things we do not believe we are good at.

By identifying these areas and designing strategies to handle them, we can free up mental energy to focus on what we excel at and enjoy. This could be anything from asking a friend to help us with something, talking to our bosses about having someone else do those tasks, or hiring someone to do the work we don’t want to do. When it comes to ADHD, we do not have the same executive functions as neurotypical people do, and this means that we often have to have external tools to stay on task, measure time, or give ourselves external rewards for accomplishing the work we want to do.

INCUP: Your ADHD Motivation

It's essential to recognize that different motivations drive individuals with ADHD compared to neurotypical individuals. Dr. William Dodson has emphasized that in ADHD, motivation frequently arises from INCUP, an acronym for Interesting and Novel Challenges with an Urgency that resonates with our Passions.

By redefining our understanding of self-motivation, we can turn seemingly impossible tasks into attainable challenges. This is achieved by leveraging the power of novelty and personal interest. Such alignment satisfies the ADHD brain's desire for stimulation, which is instrumental in overcoming habitual procrastination, a common issue for those with ADHD.

If we discover methods to stimulate ourselves with enjoyable challenges, impose reasonable deadlines, or initiate competitive environments, we can devise a productive approach to progress and attain success.

The Role of Professionals and Lifestyle Changes

Navigating ADHD successfully means enlisting the support of psychiatrists, therapists, and coaches. These professionals can provide you with medications, therapeutic techniques, tools, and processes to help manage your ADHD symptoms effectively. Many people with ADHD often deal with trauma in their lives, so working with ADHD and Trauma-informed therapists has to be a big part of our overall management plan. We must work with people who are informed on ADHD, so make that a criterion for who you choose to get help from. Not all doctors, even psychiatrists and therapists, are informed about ADHD; how it affects people, and their ignorance and bias can cause more harm than good.

Making significant lifestyle changes that promote optimal brain health are equally vital. This can include maintaining a healthy, sustainable diet, ensuring regular physical activity, practicing mindfulness, getting quality sleep, building a positive social circle, and reducing stress. Each of these elements contributes to the overall wellness of an individual with ADHD. It’s important to understand that if you struggle to put these things in place, working with a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, an ADHD life coach like myself, or online support groups can provide much of the framework you need to maintain these habits.

In Conclusion

Remember, the journey with ADHD is not a linear one. There will be setbacks and detours which do not define your worth or potential. Your strength lies in your ability to adapt, your courage to persist, and your will to transform chaos into order, weaknesses into strengths, and challenges into opportunities.

When you combine all these elements and remain true to your core values, you can find your authenticity. For men with ADHD, managing our lives needs to be defined differently – it is about progress, not perfection; it's about being resilient in the face of adversity and learning to create order from the inherent chaos of ADHD. By adhering to your strengths and following your passions, you are not merely surviving with ADHD but thriving, leaving a unique mark on your chosen path. You are not alone. Thank you for being here with us.

If you're ready to go on this journey, click the button below for a free consultation today!

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