Welcome to ADHD Crash Course! Today we're going to talk about a subject that may or may not even be on your radar as someone with ADHD; the subject of rebuilding trust in ourselves.
What do I mean by that? What I mean is that oftentimes with ADHD, the trust that we have in ourselves erodes over time, especially if we've had ADHD that is undiagnosed and unsupported.
A lot of us have had enough failures, enough frustrations, or enough occasions that we've let ourselves down or let others down, that we just stopped trusting in us. What does that lack of trust look like for us?
Sometimes it's that we're not trusting ourselves to be able to complete something, stay with something, be reliable, and sometimes that we're not even trusting our preferences, our opinions, or even our needs.
So, I'm going to talk about three things that we can do right now to start rebuilding that relationship with us.
#1: Know You
Know Your Brain
That includes knowing your brain. Know what you like, know what you don't like. Know what's easy for you and know what's difficult for you. Every person on the planet has strengths and weaknesses, and we're not any exception. Knowing yourself, knowing your strengths, knowing your weaknesses matters because even something like ADHD shows up really differently between individuals.
Knowing yourself and knowing your brain is not just "Oh, I have ADHD", end of story. In learning about my brain, I know that I have difficulties with working memory and inattention, especially when it comes to visual triggers. Someone else might recognize that their biggest areas of struggle have to do with impulsivity and emotional regulation.
There are definitely commonalities with our brain types, so there are things that we will probably share with a lot of people who have ADHD, but becoming an expert on your brain, your personal experience of ADHD, how it shows up, and how you can support yourself, is key in building trust in yourself.
For me, recognizing that I have these working memory issues (and not expecting it to be different) is a really big part of why I can trust myself to get things done and show up in the world the way I want to. I'm not expecting myself and my brain to be different tomorrow. It's not going to be. I know that if I want to be able to rely on myself, I have to use strategies. I'm going to be using a planner religiously to remember what's going on in my life. I'm not going to expect that if my loved one, or a client, or someone tells me something that I'm going to be holding that in my brain without jotting a note or having some system for how I'm going to remember that.
Sometimes I do remember things, random things, but I can't rely on that, so I'm not going to hinge my trust in myself on a crapshoot. Will I remember, will I not remember? I can assume I won't remember because that has consistently been a struggle for me and I'm honest about that.
Another thing that this honesty and self-awareness does for us, is that it helps us adjust everyone's expectations. We shift out of this story that everything's our fault, that we're broken, that we're not okay, that every dropped ball is about us and our ADHD.
Know Your Boundaries
I see this very often when people are not yet experts on their brains. They don't know how to support themselves and set realistic expectations and encourage those in their lives to set realistic expectations or set up boundaries.
Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about. It's not uncommon at all for me to work with someone who has a difficult time judging time, prioritizing, and sequencing. These are all executive functioning skills and because these skills are not yet supported for them, they're often in a pattern of taking on way too many things, way too many responsibilities in their home and at work.
They're not in the habit of setting boundaries because they're not recognizing when something's unreasonable for them (or for anyone). So, they're not able to delegate and slide things off their plates appropriately, or set a limit and say, "I can't do that, that's not reasonable for the time span I have".
What ends up happening is that they, invariably, end up "dropping the balls" because they can't meet this expectation that was never really realistic in the first place. This could be their own expectation, their employer's, their partner's, or their children's, but since they're not yet supporting themselves, asking for what they need, giving themselves what they need, setting their boundaries for what's reasonable and possible for them, this is the story they believe.
This is the story the people around them believe. This was me forever. I didn't ask for help, not because I didn't think I deserved help, but because it was too complicated to figure out how to get help. Now that I understand my brain a lot better, I'm able to say, "Oh yeah, I'm not going to be doing that. I'm not able to do that. If you'd like that done, this is what I need you to do". I'm able to set very clear boundaries for the people in my life because I understand myself better.
Know Your Preferences
Getting to know yourself is not just about knowing your abilities, knowing your strengths, knowing your needs. Getting to know yourself is also about getting to know your preferences and trusting them. Let go of the idea that you "should" like things, that you "should" have certain things, that you "should" be a certain way.
If you don't like watching movies because it's difficult for you to sit still, who says you have to like watching movies? If you don't like going to parties because you feel very overloaded sensory-wise, just accept that you don't like parties. There's plenty of other ways you can connect with people.
I see this come up a lot with parenting. A lot of the women I work with are very critical of themselves as mothers and they have these ideas in their head of what a good mom "should" like, prefer, enjoy. I've got to be real with you. I didn't really love the baby phase. I actually don't think most of my kids liked the baby phase, either. They were angry little elves.
I would have older women stop me in the grocery store and they would say, "Oh, just hang on to every moment, one day, you're just going to wish you were right back here". At the time, I didn't understand that these women had been sleeping more than two hours at a time for decades. They were refreshed. Now they had a different perspective; they were able to complete tasks like taking a shower or using the bathroom.
But, of course, that didn't occur to me at the time. I just thought "something is wrong with me". Probably a lot of people can relate to that feeling because we don't trust our feelings, our preferences, our abilities, or our experiences. We're looking outside of ourselves for this message that we're okay and that we're just fine the way we are.
That's awesome to get that message in your environment, but that message has to start with you. That you're believing you're okay, just as you are.
#2 Focus on What You Can Control
The second way we can build trust in ourselves is to focus on the things that we can actually control. This is a hard one, this is a hard one for a lot of us. Sometimes it's hard to know what those things are, but we really need to focus in on, "Hey, is this something that I can control? can't control?"
I can't control things like my working memory. Having that understanding lets me use my energy for the things that I can control, like using strategies, creating strategies. Now, I can control something like finishing my husband sentences. I'm not saying it's easy, but that is within the realm of my control. It's really hard though, sometimes it takes him a long time to finish a sentence.
So, reminding ourselves of that when we're approaching problems, when we're approaching commitments, when we're approaching our lives, helps us focus in on what we can control. In doing that, you do build trust in yourself. You're not setting yourself up for failure by focusing your energy on the things that you don't have control over. You can be more consistent when you're focusing in on the things that you actually influence.
#3 Be Aware of People Pleasing
Third, become aware of people-pleasing, and I say become aware, because I don't think that it's realistic for us to completely divorce ourselves from the opinions of other people, from the connection with other people. There's no way that you're going to live in a society and not be impacted by that, but for a lot of people with ADHD, we've developed this habit of "hustling".
We're masking, it's often referred to, just trying to read the room and see what's expected. It's this hyper vigilant approach of judging the opinions of other people and meeting the expectations of other people that sometimes really undermines taking care of ourselves or honoring what we need.
If we want to show up more consistently for ourselves, if we want to build trust in ourselves, it is important that we recognize when we're making decisions out of the desire to please other people versus good decisions for us. If you make decisions out of the desire to appease others, it can very often backfire because you might resent that commitment, you might have less energy/ time/resources to dedicate to the things that really do align with what you want for rour life and what you value.
I'm sure I could do an entire episode just on people-pleasing, (maybe I will) and strategies for that. But, for now, just recognizing that this is something that works against us trusting ourselves is going to be good enough. That brings me to the end of the episode today, three ways that we can rebuild trust in ourselves. It's a process, but it's really worth spending some energy on it. It has a humongous impact on how you show up in the world.
Interested in learning more about my group coaching program, Embrace Your Brain? Considering 1:1 coaching or have other questions for me? Please feel free to contact me here.
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