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E47. Why It's Hard to Ask For Help When You Have ADHD


Donae 0:01

Welcome to ADHD crash course, and today we're going to talk about asking for help, and why it is very difficult sometimes for ADHD brains to ask for help.

There's a couple reasons that I'm going to talk about here. It's not just that we don't think we deserve the help or need the help, although sometimes it's definitely a factor.

Sometimes it can be tricky to figure out what we need, how to ask for it, or how to break a task down to get the help that we need, just because there's a huge executive functioning skill demand in order to do that. I work with a lot of business owners, and one piece of advice they often get is that they need to delegate, which is absolutely good advice. It's not bad advice. The problem is, like it is with so many things with ADHD, how do you execute that?

How do you execute that when delegation in itself is a tricky task? Now let's say that you are a business owner, and you're being told you need to delegate. Well, the first thing you probably have to do is to take stock of where your time is going, how much time different tasks are taking you, etc. You need an accurate read of how much time you have and how much time things take.

That's already difficult for many of us, we are not necessarily noticing or remembering tuning into time in our days. The first part of delegating is observing and recording your time, figuring out what you're working with. When I first started working, I was doing all of my own social media posts and a lot of the visual art end of my work.

I enjoyed it, right? It was not that I didn't like doing this work, but when I looked at my time and how inefficient I was in doing that work, it really made sense to delegate that. It was hard for me to determine that in the first place, because I didn't have the best feel for time.

The second reason that it was difficult for me- things like this can be difficult for people with ADHD- is that it is full of other executive functioning skills, not just managing time. In order for me to delegate any part of the sequence, I have to be able to sequence it.

I often do these podcast episodes, and then from that material, the transcripts for the website are made and the social media posts or a quote is pulled out. Just looking at that whole workflow requires sequencing, organizing, and prioritizing. It's actually ironic that in order to have less demand on these executive functioning skills, you need these skills to delegate.

Another reason that delegation is hard, and definitely hard in the example that I'm giving you, is that when you delegate you don't get to really forget something. You don't get to totally send it off. You can't just trust that it gets done. Usually it is a part of something that you are ultimately responsible for.

You still have to track these things, manage these things, keep these things in your mind. That can be a burden when it's out of sight, out of mind, into what often I've had to do: create a system for keeping track of things. I track that I have done my part, and I'm waiting on somebody else to do their part.

These systems are really not how my brain automatically works, it's really not even what I prefer. If I don't have something like that, I'm either forgetting or carrying around this undone thing in my head, and it's taking my bandwidth, it's robbing me of energy or focus on other things. Even though it might seem like an extra step, entering in my calendar when I expect to hear back from somebody I've delegated something to can help me to not have to think about that.

Also, it helps to have a safeguard so that if it gets dropped on there, it doesn't get dropped for me. Another big obstacle when it comes to asking for help or delegating things, is the perception that we, "should be doing these things, all of these things, by ourselves." There's a lot to unpack with this one, I don't even know where to begin there.

There's so much to this. A lot of us deal with some rejection sensitivity that makes us more vulnerable to this perception of not doing it good enough, of not being productive enough. We might deal with some time blindness, which also can make us vulnerable to really unrealistic expectations.

Then of course, we might have some avoiding behaviors when we feel overwhelmed and our standards are so high for ourselves. We do find ourselves procrastinating, or not using our time, the way we'd like to use our time.

If you do feel like you should be getting certain things done, and that's why you don't want to delegate, just stay curious with yourself and figure out where that "should" comes from. Does it come from the fact that you used to be able to do this and now you can't? If that's so, did something change?

Were you able to do it before because you weren't married, didn't have kids, were able to hyper focus on work, and now that's less likely? Were you working in a different setting that was much more conducive to you being productive? Is this "should" coming from someone else?

Oftentimes "shoulds" do. Is it coming from an employer, a parent, or a partner? These expectations may not be appropriate or fitting for where you are and what you're able to do. Staying curious in finding out where that "should" originates and challenging it can really help you prioritize and get a more fair read on where you are and what you need.

Another thing that can complicate asking for help delegating is that it requires us thinking of our future selves often to do this well, right? We can definitely reactively delegate. This happens when we just hit a wall, and we can't do anymore. Maybe you're exploding on your family, maybe you are calling out sick to work, or whatever's going on, it's a crisis zone.

Then you have to send things off of your schedule on to somebody else's. Doing this more proactively instead of reactively is an important part of taking care of ourselves, setting boundaries, and setting ourselves up for success. If you are thinking about your future self, even if you aren't capable of doing all the things in your home and taking care of all the things yourself today or this week, maybe that's not the best strategy for future you to be doing all of the things when getting help and support is possible.

Wrapping up, delegating and asking for help is a really important life skill for all of us, not just those of us with ADHD. The added complexity with ADHD is asking for the help might be more challenging for us. Whether it's in my own life or somebody I'm working with, I frame this as a skill, being able to ask for help.

Being able to delegate in a proactive way, is a skill. I think when we break down the components of it, you can see that it's a skill. It's a skill made up of lots of executive functioning skills. It's not just asking for the help. The request that's challenging, although sometimes that's challenging too, is knowing what you need, organizing what you need. It is communicating and tracking what you need. This may not come naturally to us. It may not be particularly easy, but it's definitely a life skill worth working on, practicing, and getting comfortable with.


Thank you so much for joining me today. I have a couple of things to announce. Number one is really short notice because I am going to be doing this webinar the day that this podcast publishes.

If you're listening to this later, you may not be able to join us live, but I will make the replay available on my website, This webinar is going to be on ADHD and sensory strategies. I have a free training on my website, but this one is a live webinar. I get a lot of questions about this topic.

We're opening it up for questions and answers where people can have the training, but also bring their questions to the webinar. One more piece of news is that my group coaching program, "Embrace Your Brain" is opening up again in September. Registration will open for the waitlist members for the first couple of days, and then we'll open to the general public. Waitlist members also get a special discount.

If that's something that you're interested in, jump on the waitlist. You're not obligated, but it will put you in the loop when the registration opens up. I will include that link in the show notes as well. That's all for today, and see you next week.


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