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ADHD & Imposter Syndrome: Do You Still Feel You?
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can sometimes cause struggles. For one, you may receive judgment from people regarding your condition and the things they believe you can and cannot do because of it.
Sometimes, I feel a sense of shame when people who I don't personally know learn that I have ADHD. 🥺 It’s because in many cases, their idea of ADHD doesn't paint the complete picture of what I am experiencing. Frequently, their ADHD Misconceptions are limited to a young child who is very energetic and cannot stay still. But, that’s not even the tip of the iceberg.
My fear of being judged sometimes makes me mask my ADHD symptoms. On a level, doing this helps me gain enough confidence that people will like me even though I have ADHD. Many adults with ADHD frequently have experiences related to this: they tend to make personal sacrifices for social acceptance. We mask our symptoms and establish another identity that we desperately want others to see.
There are also times when we doubt ourselves about what we can do because of ADHD. We may try to hide our talents or achievements because people may not recognize our capability and support our success.
These internal feelings of being “not good enough” or “not as capable as what others think,” are under what experts call Imposter Syndrome (or Impostor Syndrome).
Clinical psychologists suggest that many people with ADHD also experience imposter syndrome as they struggle to fit in with the general public.
How about you? After learning about your ADHD diagnosis, do you still feel like yourself? Or do you feel like a fraud hiding in someone else's personality?
What Does Impostor Syndrome Mean?
Imposter Syndrome is a psychological term first coined by Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978. This condition is defined as a collection of feelings experienced by individuals who doubt their accomplishments, despite being included in the list of high-achieving people.
Many adults with ADHD compare themselves with others when it comes to their performance. 😭 This can cause a lot of pressure and make them feel like they don't deserve what they have achieved. Their external environment may not support their ADHD diagnosis, which might contribute to their negative self-image, feelings of being an impostor, and feelings that they are pretending to be someone they are not.
As a result of having imposter syndrome, the person with ADHD may limit himself to a box full of negative thoughts and give up having aspirational pursuits. This, however, is concerning.
For one, Imposter syndrome can be exhausting because you need to think of many everyday roles that you wear to fit into people's perceptions of you. Moreover, it can make you stop feeling your true identity and develop a negative self-image.
Imagine being someone with ADHD who also developed impostor syndrome. Even though you can finish a particular task at the deadline set or even in advance, you know what it cost you. Your boss and colleagues or teachers and classmates see you as a capable person, but they don’t see you pulling all-nighters and exerting extra effort to “keep up”. Hence, you might develop the feeling that you are not what they think you to be.
What we need to understand is that we can be ourselves and follow our personal goals without feeling like a fraud.
Is Imposter Syndrome Beneficial To ADHD?
Several experts claim that it is sometimes beneficial for people to have impostor syndrome. One study even noted that imposter thoughts do not impede work capabilities and that it can result in better interpersonal skills.
Come to think of it, the fear of not being good enough can drive us to do better, achieve our goals, and be successful despite our neurodivergent brain. 😉 Others also say that the feeling of not being deserving of praise and success can ignite the need to strive for more.
Truly, having ADHD and Imposter Syndrome requires a person to work harder than most. Still, remember that we need to learn how to maintain balance in our life 💪 in order not to be affected by our impostor thoughts.
It can be beneficial to manage our emotions well because it will help us think clearly if our next steps can produce greater results and achievements.
The struggles you feel while presenting yourself to the general public can be difficult, but make it a point to challenge your fears from time to time. Don't let it control you. Have the confidence to manage your abilities well, so that negativity won't get in the way of what you are capable of. It's better to learn the necessary skills to cope with ADHD and Imposter Syndrome together, even if it means exerting more effort.
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The Negative Part Of Imposter Syndrome
At this point, you may be wondering whether imposter syndrome is a good thing or not. The answer is more complicated as this syndrome cannot be totally good or totally bad. Even if sometimes there are benefits to having ADHD and Impostor Syndrome, there will still be negativities related to it.
After all, even people who have no ADHD reported that they experience stress because of imposter syndrome. The struggles they feel can be overwhelming and cause a great deal of stress in their lives. The shame they struggle with might even recur each time they recognize that they are not the person many people believe them to be.
Another possible negative outcome of having impostor syndrome is that you might feel like you are not good at anything and that your accomplishments don't belong to you. 😭 You may feel uncomfortable and alienated if people compliment you or recognize your work. You might feel like you are a fraud even though there's a talent or an untapped brilliance within you. When this happens, some adults with ADHD might stop feeling motivated.
If you have ADHD and Impostor Syndrome, it’s crucial to learn how to cope with these feelings and not let them keep you from achieving what you deserve. It would be best to find someone you can talk to.
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome and Showing the Real You
The need to overcome "imposter syndrome" is usually dependent on how these traits affect your mental health and ability to achieve things. Case in point: if imposter syndrome only results in increased alertness and anxiety from time to time, there might be no need to address it.
But, if the direct result of imposter syndrome prevents you from believing that you should achieve success and happiness, then it certainly is concerning.
Masking ADHD traits to the point that you don't know yourself anymore is, of course, a sign of another problem, and it requires a more profound intervention.
Also, people with ADHD who struggle to manage their emotions might not be able to handle low self-esteem that they feel about themselves. They can have innate intelligence and abilities, and can do hard work, but they may stay hidden in plain sight because they have an ADHD diagnosis. They might likewise be afraid of the expectations of so many people. So, they compensate by working so much harder and pushing themselves to their limit.
One of the smartest things to do when overcoming imposter syndrome is to let people realize that even though you have signs and symptoms of ADHD, you can achieve success.
Addressing the problem head-on 🙌 can help you overcome anxiety and the feeling of being a fraud brought by the imposter syndrome. Tell them that the neurodivergent brain of an ADHD person doesn't just perceive simple ideas and solutions. Instead, a person with an ADHD brain can make things happen by producing out-of-the-box solutions to problems. Having ADHD doesn't mean that your ideas and effort are less valuable.
Through continuous support from the people around you and me as your ADHD coach, we can achieve our goals together without the need to hide our ADHD traits and symptoms. Together, we can deal with the benefits and disadvantages of having ADHD and imposter syndrome more wisely.
If you have a relationship partner that you trust 💏 , tell them what you are feeling and try to make them understand what you are going through in life. If there's no one to talk to, have your therapist schedule an appointment with you and discuss which strategies can be helpful.
Remember that you will always have your ADHD as part of you, and it's something that needs to be taken care of. It doesn't mean that the struggles you face are made smaller because there is a medical condition behind it. With the right help, you can overcome impostor syndrome and live a "normal" life. 🙌
ADHD and Imposter Syndrome: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What is Imposter Syndrome, and does it only happen to people with ADHD?
Generally, Imposter Syndrome is believing that you are less competent than how others see you. It can happen to anyone, but experts say many people with ADHD also struggle with Imposter Syndrome because of how they work to “keep up” with the general public.
Is Imposter Syndrome bad? Does it have benefits?
Imposter Syndrome has both good and bad sides. Positively, it can make you work hard to achieve your goals. Negatively, it can affect your mental health, increasing your stress and anxiety. Moreover, it can make you feel like you don’t deserve the recognition that other people give you.
How can people with ADHD overcome Imposter Syndrome?
If the Imposter Syndrome does not result in anything else other than increased alertness and anxiety from time to time, there might be no need to address it. However, if it already affects your quality of life, you may need to talk to your therapist or ADHD coach to come up with helpful strategies.