Mastery

Pretend You Don’t Have ADHD

ADHD

Sometimes I wish that I could follow a non-ADHD person around for a day – just to see how they do life.

Haven’t you ever wondered how the so-called “normal” people do it?

I can spend a whole day, frenetically doing a bunch of this and a whole lot of that. I try to be mindful of what I am doing, while I am doing it. I feel like I am pretty efficient, for the most part. But I’m sure if I hung out with a neurotypical, their day would look a lot different than mine.

But would it be better?

I’m thinking of asking someone if I can shadow them for a day. But how do you approach a request like that?

“Hey, can I follow you around for a while? Just go about your business and pretend I’m not there. You be the lion, I’ll be the camera woman. I just want to know what a normal day looks like in your wilderness.”

It’s creepy and weird, so perhaps I won’t.

This idea came to me the other day. I am a member of a task force in my community, whose focus is on promoting education about ADHD and enhancing resources for those who live with it. Every October, we put on a community event in honor of ADHD Awareness Month. This year, our theme is going to be “Getting Inside the ADHD Mind” – with a focus on creating a better understanding of what it’s like to have ADHD, designed especially for those live with an ADDer.

I would like to engineer the reverse of that. What’s it like to not have ADD? Do people without ADHD have only one thought at a time? When faced with a big list, do they automatically know what to focus on first or do they have to think hard about it? Are they naturally organized and on time, or does it take effort?

Think about this for a few minutes. What would it be like to NOT have ADHD?

I’ve been contemplating this. I can’t come up with a conclusive answer, obviously. I can’t live in someone else’s head. I’m stuck with my own. But this is the conclusion I’ve come to, based on nothing more than a thought experiment.

Without ADHD, I’d still be me. I can see that certain parts of my life are definitely affected by the fact that I have it, but I can’t say that my struggles would go away if my brain was wired differently. Perhaps I would just have different struggles. Perhaps you would too.

Being organized, focused, and on time would no doubt be easier. But I don’t think I’d necessarily be happier, more successful, or fulfilled. I imagine it this way:

 

People who wear glasses might feel that some things in their lives would be easier if they didn’t need to wear glasses. No doubt, that’s why laser surgery has become a popular procedure. I don’t wear glasses, but I can imagine it’s a pain-in-the-butt to have to rely on them, and there would be times when it’s extremely inconvenient to depend on them.

But take away the need to wear glasses – how much better would life become? I mean, after the initial novelty wears off?

This is what I think:

Life without ADHD would have its own struggles. Having ADHD can certainly make a lot of things harder, but it doesn’t necessarily make life harder. Living with ADHD, successfully, can mean that it’s no more inconvenient than relying on a pair of glasses for reading or driving.

It really is that simple. As I’ve talked about many times before, there are many ways in which ADHD can actually benefit our lives, especially when we know how to use it to our advantage. The difference between being overcoming ADHD struggles, and being overcome by them, comes down to whether or not you find ways to make it work for you.

Read through the archives of this blog – I’ve outline dozens of ways that you can make ADHD work for you. If you’d like to find more unique ways to manage your ADHD, shoot me off an email and we’ll talk about it. And don’t forget to sign up for more free tips delivered straight to your in box in the signup sheet below.

Creativity

The Curiosity Prescription for ADHD

 

It may have killed the cat, but for your ADD – curiosity might just be your biggest asset.

ADDers are highly distractible and we consider this a bad thing. It’s not. Not totally, anyway. Ned Hallowell illuminates the positive side of distractibility: it’s just a manifestation of “turbocharged curiosity”.

“Turbocharged curiosity” is the thing that makes us creative. It fuels innovation. It’s a pre-cursor to effective problem-solving. Improvements in products, services or systems only come about because somebody got curious about how things could be better. Curiosity, in many ways, makes the world a better place.

At the same time, it lends to distractions. We get distracted because we are curious – about more things than we can possibly pay attention to at one time. So we vacillate from one thing to another, satiating inquisitiveness but sabotaging productivity and efficiency in the process.

We can’t filter or shut off our curiosity just because it’s not productive. But curiosity can actually be productive, if you use it to your advantage. ADD is unlike most other disorders in this respect. Its traits can actually help you when you employ them deliberately, with awareness and intention.

Think about it. Much of our dysfunction exists only because we were not aware ADD in action until it was too late. We didn’t see ourselves getting distracted when we were supposed to be working. We failed to notice we were talking too much when we should have been listening. We didn’t see ourselves get sucked into the maelstrom of doing “just-one-more-thing”, when we should have been heading out the door – like, ten minutes ago!

How do these things happen right beneath our noses? How is it that we are always off-task, inattentive or late? And more importantly, how do we change these patterns? Curiosity discovers solutions, and not always the obvious ones.

Reverse-engineering the problem, it asks:

  • What made me do x, y, or z?
  • What was going through my mind when I said/did/felt that?
  • What was my intention? What got in between my intention and my actions?

The best thing you can do for your ADD mind is to get curious about how your ADD mind works. You experience the world, in fact – your entire life – through your mind. That makes your mind the most fascinating place in this universe.

The more you ask yourself curious questions, the more apparent solutions will become.

Olivia was someone who, despite her best intentions, could not get her workspace organized. Every once in a while she would blitz it, doing a massive clear-out of the collected debris and carefully organizing the rest into piles categorized by urgency and priority.

It never lasted more than a week. Truth be told, there was nothing wrong with the systems she developed to get herself organized, except for one thing: she never used them.

Then, she got curious. She asked herself some pretty investigative questions. Like – why did she think she needed to get organized in the first place? What were her magical beliefs about organization and what it might do for her? What was her pursuit of getting organized “costing” her, compared the costs of things staying just as they were? And if organization really was so important, why didn’t she use the systems she created?

In the end, it turned out that organization wasn’t as big of a priority as she initially thought. Olivia was good at what she did (graphic design) and the state of her workspace, while inconvenient and sometimes inefficient, did not stop her from doing her job well. She thought she should be better-organized because it was an obscure ideal she held, rather than an integral part of her job. Curiosity helped her let it go.

Adam had the exact same problem. However, when Adam got curious, he noticed something completely different. Adam had the ability to keep his workspace organized and efficient at times, apart from when he was interrupted in the middle of a task. Being the Managing Director of a small organization – these interruptions tended to happen a lot, which meant his desktop would frequently be in a disarray of half-completed tasks. If he had not got curious about this dilemma, he would have continued to assert new strategies for “filing and filtering” his workspace, rather than dealing with the real issue at hand – the constant interruptions.

Same problem, but different people with different solutions. Common sense says “This is the best way to do it”. Curiosity asks “What’s my best way of doing it?”

Distractibility may be caused by insatiable curiosity, but if you use that insatiable curiosity to manage your distractions, you have effectively turned your ADD inside out and used its strengths against its own deficits.

And while it may have killed the cat, curiosity just might have saved it too.

Mindset

What Does Acceptance Look Like?

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know I talk a lot about acceptance, especially the importance of accepting your ADD/ADHD. But what does acceptance look like? More importantly, why is it even important?

Acceptance is a vague word. Dictionary.com offers a couple of definitions of this word, but for the purpose of this post, the first definition is important.

“The act of taking or receiving something offered”.

The act of taking or receiving something offered? Taking or receiving ADD? How exactly does a person go about taking or receiving ADD?

Let’s face it, you don’t exactly have a choice. You have to take AND receive ADD because you can’t give it back. As much as you would like to…

Perhaps it is easier to explain what acceptance is not. It’s not self-deprecation. It’s not beating yourself up. It’s not making excuses and it’s certainly not trying to be something you’re not!

Acceptance does look a little something like this…

“I know by now that I need to plan my day in advance if I hope to get anything done. My ADHD makes me think I “wing it”, even though that seldom works out. Sometimes it does and those times are so good, I wish it could always be like that. But if I don’t plan, there’s a better chance my day won’t go as well as it could. Sometimes, I’m overly optimistic – which can be a good thing, in some situations. But I am learning to become more realistically-optimistic when it comes to planning my day!”

What did you notice there? An objective analysis, rather than negativity or unrealistic positivity. An examination of all angles. A focus on learning. An awareness of how the self operates in tandem with ADHD. An endorsement of both strengths and challenges. A spirit of acceptance with a commitment to ongoing work at positive change.

What you didn’t notice was criticism or judgement. Not of the self or the ADD that goes along with it.

Why is this important? Because ADD is a defiant bugger. The angrier you get at it, the more it will act out. Have you ever had an argument with a difficult person? The more you engage in the argument, the more difficult they become? That’s your ADD – acting out, because it feels misunderstood.

Sometimes, in order to manage life better, you first need to change the dynamic in your relationship with your ADHD.

Some of you out there are struggling with the realities of living with ADD. I’d like to ask the rest of you to share your stories of personal growth and self-acceptance, so that we can reach out and help our tribe members who are struggling! Please share in the comments below.

(P.S. I’ve heard from some readers that they’re often afraid of commenting, for fear that they won’t be able to express themselves the way they’d like to come across. Here at The Art of ADD we promote a spirit of acceptance that allows you to say whatever is in your heart, however you are able to say it – so go ahead and say it!)

Mindset

A Perfect Letter to Your Critics

Dear Perfect Person,

I feel the need to write and explain myself because I think you may have gotten the wrong idea about me.

When you walked into my house today, you saw a disaster zone – stuff scattered all over, finger-printed walls and dust proliferating in the far corners of the floor. You saw counters littered with homeless debris, old dishes and clothing displaced like refugees from their rightful homes.

You didn’t see how many times I cleaned up this week, only to have my work undone by some other disruptive demand.

I know this shocks you, Perfect Person, because I’ve been to your home and seen with my own eyes just how perfect your home is. Everything in its place, including the dust – which lives not on your house but in your garden – where it should be.

When I interrupted you today (each time), I sensed your disgust at my utter lack of manners. You don’t interrupt, Perfect Person, but I am sorry that I can’t contain myself as well as you do. I just get excited when our conversation inspires new ideas in me.

You don’t know how many times I wanted to interrupt you, but held myself back – even though what I had to say was really good. How is it that you are always so stoic and controlled in your conversation? Where’s your enthusiasm?

And another thing – when you asked me if I’d gotten around to doing that thing you asked, your disappointment was palpable. I know it was very important to you. I really do want to be someone you can rely on.

But everyone in my life has something to ask of me – something that is very important to them. I don’t want to disappoint any of them, so what should I do, Perfect Person? I say “yes” to everyone. I’ve tried to say no, but I can see the distrust in their eyes when I do. I see it in your eyes, Perfect Person. When I admit the things I haven’t done, you don’t see the things I have.

When I’m late, I can tell how annoyed you are, Perfect Person. I don’t know how you manage to get everywhere on time, looking perfect and having it all-together. How can you possibly manage it EVERY TIME, hey Perfect Person? Maybe you don’t have enough to do, maybe you should be busier, maybe you should quit being so damn punctual, PERFECT PERSON!

By the way, back to the whole conversation thing… I know it annoys you when I go off on a tangent about something. I see your eyes glaze over. If you stayed tuned for just for a minute longer, you’d see the association I am trying to draw out is not only completely relevant, but also – very, very interesting!

*sigh*

Can I ask you something, Perfect Person?

How come you always blame me for not listening when you’re talking trite small- talk? I may waffle a bit, but why should I listen to your boring stories when you don’t listen to my long-winded ones?

And one last thing…

Yes, Perfect Person, I am scattered. I am disorganized, and waffly and forgetful and dithery. I am restless, and irritable, and sometimes – a bit emotionally unstable. I’ll admit to all these things.

Why is it that these things are so easy to point out in me, just because someone diagnosed me with ADD? If I take you to a psychiatrist, and he diagnoses your insensitive, arrogant, puritanical, anal, holier-than-thou finger-pointing as “Hypocriticalitis”…

Can I take YOU to task on all those things, the way you repeatedly blame me for my symptoms?

Good. I’m glad we talked and got this all figured out, Perfect Person. I certainly feel a lot better. Thank you for “listening”.

Now get out of my head, so I can start imagining what all the other people in my life are thinking about me too.

Sincerely,

Sensitive About ADD

 

Nine times out of ten, the critic who scorns you most for being scattered is you. That’s who this letter is really for, just to be clear. “Perfect Person” is just a figment of your imagination, just as anyone who pretends to be perfect is a figment of their own imagination.

Stop imagining what other people think about you and your ADHD, and get working on what you think about it.

How many times in day do you notice all the things you didn’t get done, instead of the things you did finish?

When you look at your home or your office – how often do you notice the clutter but fail to acknowledge all the other things you do on a regular basis just to maintain it?

If your ADD flares during a conversation with a friend or a new acquaintance, how much of your “post-mortem” focuses on repetitively replaying the silly things you said, rather than the meaningful and successful parts of the encounter?

How frequently do you focus on what sucks about you, but COMPLETELY IGNORE WHAT IS AWESOME!?

You gotta wake up, friend. The only person you can never get away from is you.

So if you want more from yourself, you’d better start with being a little bit kinder.

Please share this with anyone who needs a wake-up-call to their awesomeness.

And have an awesome day.

Mindset

13 Interrogation Tactics for a Confidence Break-Through (and why you deserve it)

IF YOUR CONFIDENCE HAS EVER BEEN AT ROCK BOTTOM, THEN MAYBE IT IS TIME TO HOLD THAT SELF-DOUBT ACCOUNTABLE FOR WHAT IT DOES TO YOUR LIFE…

The room is dark and damp, the lights are bright and oppressive. Self-loathing is in the interrogation room, charged with the crime of ruining your life. It says:

I don’t deserve to feel good about myself.

I have had so many failures and made so many mistakes, there is nothing in my life to feel good about. No matter how hard I try, I let people down. I let myself down. There is nothing about me to feel confident about. I don’t deserve it. I’m not good enough. 

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am i to be brilliant,

Gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

 

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking

So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

 

It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone.

And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously

Give other people the permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,

Our presence automatically liberates others.” 

                                                                                                   

Says the good cop, quoting Marianne Williamson.

Nice try. Sweet, poetic, moving words but they didn’t break through to your self-loathing whose conviction in its righteousness is inpenetrable. It won’t budge, won’t confess its sins.

Enter the bad cop.

He has only one question for self-loathing and its kind of a rhetorical one at that.

 

“Who the hell do you think you are?”

 

You can tell by the tone he’s not looking for existential prose.

He’s stating a pivotal truth.

 

You don’t deserve to feel bad about yourself.

 

Your self-loathing doesn’t buy that. It has plenty of bonafide reasons to believe it has every right to be there. Failures from your past, experiences that shaped your lack of confidence and criticisms from important people whose opinions really mattered at the time.

But the bad cop doesn’t give up just yet. He’s got plenty of staying power, just like your self-defeat. He challenges you with these concepts:

 1. You are human.

We all make mistakes. Everyone knows that. Nowhere in the book of life does it indicate a cut off point which divides the worthy from the unworthy. Fifty mistakes and you’re a-okay, 75 and you’re a loser? Its not in the rule book – go ahead and check.

2. Your life is a miracle.

I don’t care what you believe about the origin of the universe and mankind, the fact that you are alive is a miracle. The plight that one single sperm goes through to force itself through the millions of others, through hazardous and hostile environmental conditions, to penetrate the egg and form the union that made you – is a miracle.

To loathe “that you” is pure irreverence to the majesty and miracle of life.

3. You’re not here for you. 

You weren’t born to serve only your own purpose. If that were the case, you would have manifested as a virus or a parasite. You are here to make a difference, no matter how small it may seem, to the world and the people in it. Confidence in your worth opens the door to making that difference in a bigger way. Self-doubt keeps you locked in the closet.

 

4. You’re wasting time.

I’ve got some terrible news for you – you’re dying.

Every day we live, we are all dying. Its not a reason to get depressed. Its a valid and paramount reason to not waste a single minute of this life. This life that we have already established is a complete miracle.

If being small and self-oppressive serves in any way to make the most of your life, then go ahead and keeping on despising yourself. But most of the time, self-reproach stops you from doing valid and important things with your life.

 5. Your critics are human too.

The voices who have influenced your low opinion of yourself belong to people who have a multitude of their own sins. Casting stones may be one way of protecting themselves but it doesn’t mean that they have chosen the best self-defense strategy. Psychological offence is not the best defense, its the best demise of everyone involved.

6. Your inner critic doesn’t know everything.

If you are so wrong about everything, if you are such a failure and incompetent – why would that inner voice who tells you so be given so much undoubted authority? If you are incompetent, then isn’t it possible that inner critic is also incompetent?

7. You don’t know what you don’t know.

Lack of self-worth is usually a rigid, over-generalized belief that serves to feed itself by focusing on all the mistakes you have made in your life and your perceived inadequacies. No one with a strong conviction sets out to prove themselves wrong. How this translates in real life is that you never notice, or very frequently overlook or discount anything you have done that proves your worth and capability.

Self-doubt is a bias, a prejudice.

8. You aren’t omnipresent.

There is nothing about you that is always the same, all of the time. Its human nature to define the present and predict the future based on past experiences. But you are never exactly the same as you were the moment before. You are always capable of being different.

9. You aren’t omnipotent either.

You were designed to be flawed and make mistakes. Perfection is reserved for God, the Higher Power or Universe – however you choose to see it. Our flaws and mistakes are what challenge us to grow in spirit and determination. Which leads to the next point…

10. You’re stagnating.

You were made for growth and development. Hating yourself doesn’t help you grow. It keeps you oppressed.

11. You are in grave danger.

The voice of self-doubt usually grows as a protective mechanism to keep you from risking vulnerability and potential humiliation. What it also does is it exposes you to the risk of terminal disappointment. When you make it to 80+ years of age (God-willing) and you review the movie that was your life, you will rue all the things you never did or gave of yourself because you were filled with doubt.

You may also regret some lengths you went to in order to protect your fragile ego.

12. You’re setting a bad example.

If you are a member of any society (my apologies to cave-dwelling hermits who probably wouldn’t be reading this anyway), you are always influencing and affecting other people. Whether you mean to or not, feeling bad about yourself – to the extent that you don’t value who you are as being – says to others that there are particular standards that define worth. If those standards define you, they must define them.

Your self-reproach could inadvertently teach someone else to dislike themselves as well.

13. Your incapacitating humility is conceited and selfish.

Whoa, I can’t believe I really said that out loud.

Low blow, eh? I’m a bit nervous now, but let me explain. I have been locked in mental closet of rumination and self-reproach for many years, and now I am free I can say with experience I recognize its narcissism.

Worthlessness always has some roots in comparison. Its pretty conceited to think that your faults are so much worse than anyone else’s. Its arrogant to believe that the voice of self-doubt has more validity than any other possible opinion. Its selfish to hold yourself back from being your true self because of greed.

Greed? Yes, greed – indulging your own need for self-preservation while denying the world its right to benefit from the miracle of your unique contribution to it.

 

At the start of this series of gaining confidence as an ADDer, I told you I want to do everything I can to help you grow that confidence.

I didn’t say I was going to be nice about it.

If my hypothetical “bad cop” seemed a bit harsh, I can assure you that it wasn’t done sensationally or without good reason.

I know, intimately, what it is like to feel worthless and incompetent. I also know a lot about human psychology. Enough to know that the voice that feeds self-doubt is not kind or soothing. That voice is harsh, mean and just plain cruel.

That kind of voice does not respond to sweet and supportive words of encouragement like the beautiful sonnet from Marianne Williamson. It responds to a voice that lambastes it.

Fight fire with fire. So I have been cruel to be kind.

Please know this, as you finish reading this installment…

My “bad cop” was not talking to you. He was talking to the self-doubt that is interloping your psyche. If you want to start feeling more confident in yourself from this moment, the one thing you can do is make this differentiation.

That voice is not you. It’s just an opinion.

And opinions can be changed.

Mindset

The First (And Most Important) Step in Getting Your Act Together

It sucks when you really want to do something and you just can’t do it.

It sucks even more when you know you can, but for whatever reason, it seems you can’t get your sh*t together and get it done.

If only I could get organized, then I could get this project done.

If only I knew where to start, then I could get this business up and running.

If only I would pay more attention to what I am doing, I wouldn’t lose everything I own.

If only I’d start remembering to do the important stuff, my bank account wouldn’t have gone overdrawn again for the third time this year.

 If only I’d get it together, I could really go for my dreams. I could live the life I want. I could stop living on the edge of greatness and become the person I really want to be and know I could be.

Why can’t I just get it together?

Have you been there? Cryptic words written on long-gone but not forgotten report cards echoing through your memory… “Would do well to pay attention.” “Must try harder.” Reminiscent of troubles that have repeated themselves throughout your life’s timeline…

Pay attention? Try harder? Thank you very much for the well-meaning advice, but when you take your car into the mechanic for a service, you don’t expect him to turn around and say to you “Your car needs a service”. That part is obvious. What you really want to know is: what needs to be done and how are you going to do it?

We are always trying harder. We are always paying attention. In fact, we overpay it. If attention was a currency, then we ADDers invest in so many different funds it would give the hardiest of accountants a stroke trying to keeping track of it all. We hemorrhage attention and have no innate ability to cauterize it. That’s why we can’t get our acts together.

So where does that leave us?

Usually, we just try harder. And hope that this time it will really work.

Like the latest business cliché, we don’t want to try harder. We want to try smarter. Most of us have this latent sense that we are capable of so much more than what we are doing right now. We sense that we could do great and wonderful things if a few habitual barriers would just get out of our way. And we tell ourselves that we will be truly happy with ourselves once we finally get our act together.

I hate to tell you this but it doesn’t work that way. That little piece of misinformation is what keeps you chasing your own tail in life’s revolving door of chaos.

The truth, in fact, is diametrically the opposite. You will get your act together in a much greater way once you become happier with yourself just the way you are.

It sounds crazy. Its feels counter-intuitive. How could being happier with how I am right now help me get more organized and on top of my game, if how I am right now is a complete mess?

I’ll tell you how in a minute, but first let me share with you a little analogy. When working as a Cognitive-Behavioural Therapist, I did a lot of work with people suffering from Panic Disorder. If you’ve ever suffered from a panic attack, you can appreciate how dreadful this condition can be. The question I was most often asked by clients at the beginning of therapy was:

“When will the panic attacks stop for good?”

My reply was always the same.

“When you stop being afraid of having them.”

This is the irony of Panic Disorder. It’s almost impossible to have a panic attack if you are totally comfortable with the experience of them. They’re never going to feel nice. But if you get to a place where they are reduced to the annoyance-level equivalent of a hiccup, they’ll pretty much disappear.

And so it is with ADHD. Not saying ADD will disappear once you learn to accept yourself with it. But the grip that ADD challenges have over your life will loosen. The less important they become in your mind, the less power they will have over you. New ways of being will finally feel free to manifest in your life when they no longer fear getting caught in the crossfire between you and your “old self”. When you open up your arms and embrace who you are right now, you are also welcoming the you that you are becoming. (Click to tweet)

When will you start getting your sh*t together?

When you stop being afraid of who you are with ADD.

This is what I am talking about…

Obviously, there is a lot more to getting your act together than this. But learning to embrace yourself as you are is the first and most crucial step in breaking through the glass ceiling of ADHD and moving up to the next level.

This post is the first in a series I intend to do on the topic of learning to be confident in yourself and flourishing with ADD. If you have any questions you would like addressed in this series, here’s your chance to let me know by leaving a comment below. If you are a blogger, don’t forget to sign in with Commentluv so you can promote your latest posts as well.

Growth

Seven Ways to Kick Chronic Self-Doubt in the Face

Everyone doubts themselves now and then. A moderate dose of doubt can be good for a person, as long as it doesn’t take over. However, the effects of growing up in an environment (i.e. school) whose infrastructure is in direct conflict with the way many an ADD brain works, make it not uncommon for ADDers to doubt their abilities and suffer low self-esteem because of these doubts.

The problem lies in the fact that many ADDers have come to conclusions about themselves that are not as true as they believe them to be. They may see themselves as stupid, incompetent or incapable of learning. They may believe themselves to be obnoxious, unruly, or just plain bad. These kinds of labels do nothing to help an ADDer “perform” better, and in fact can be debilitating. Never mind the fact that they are just plain wrong.

The problem is, these negative self-beliefs have become so ingrained by the time a person reaches adulthood, it feels impossible to shake them. It is at these times that you must go to war with your negative self. The steps to fighting it aren’t easy, but then again – neither is feeling bad about yourself.

 

1. Declare war

Decide right now that you will no longer submit to totalitarian rule and plan your coup against the “authority” that tells you can’t do it:

 

Until you declare outright war, you will never be sovereign from a limiting view of yourself. (Click to tweet)

 

2. Name your opponent

Imagine self-doubt (substitute self-loathing, self-criticism, low confidence) as a tangible opponent. Give it a face, a body and a name if possible. What would it look like or sound like? I see mine as Goliath, much larger and uglier than me, his arms are big and his voice is booming but he is Neanderthal-esque. He’s a brute but an idiot. I can be smarter than him. Know who it is you are fighting.

 

3. Get in the ring

Your opponent expects you to back down. Surprise him with hand-to-hand combat. This starts with a decision that no matter what that inner voice of treason tells you, you will swing your bat at every ball. Start by simply saying “No, I will not listen to you.”

 

 

4. Bring out the big guns

Daily affirmations and letters of gratitude may help when you’re feeling a bit low on yourself, but when your self-esteem has launched a full-blown assaultive, you need heavy artillery to win the battle. Decide that with each blow that inner voice delivers, you will throw a bigger punch. Bigger punches come in three different forms:

A. The lefthook: Undermine self-doubt by focusing on every piece of evidence that contradicts it, no matter how small that piece of evidence may seem. This means tit for tat. If you notice self-doubt telling you can’t do something or aren’t good enough, then you must deliberately look for evidence that says you can and are good enough. Every piece of evidence counts. If, at the beginning, your mind can’t focus on what’s good about you, then try a reverse tactic – focus on why your negative views are wrong.

B. The uppercut: If you can’t generate your own evidence, turn to others who can. What would your closest family member or best friend say about the negative thought you are having about yourself? If you can, seek out their advice directly. If the people in your life don’t know how to be supportive, think about what a trusted expert in the field of ADD or someone else you admire might say.

C. The low blow: Find the Achilles heal. Every point of view is just a view, a negative one is no more correct than a positive one. It only feels like it is because you have learned to judge yourself against faulty standards that tell you that you are wrong or not good enough. Find holes in the standards that fuel your low opinion of yourself. Are the standards too black and white? Do you apply these standards only to yourself and not other people? Do your views neglect key pieces of information? Is there another way of looking at things?

 

5. Change your tactics

In “How David Beats Goliath”, Malcolm Gladwell points out that the underdog actually has a bigger advantage than the titan when he employs unconventional tactics. David brought Goliath down with one stone. Think carefully about one thing in your life you could change. That thing might be the stone to throw your self-doubt off its feet. You may need to start doing something small that will give you even one more ounce confidence. Ounces added to ounces make up gallons, eventually. Think of yourself as a learner, rather than a master. Failure is okay, because each failure teaches you something. After all, “an ounce of action is worth a ton of theory. Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions.”(Ralph Waldo Emerson).

 

 

6. Strengthen your defenses

Get busy, surround yourself with things that make you feel good. Banish negative thoughts with the one thing they can’t argue with: the law of averages says that repeated efforts are those most likely to bring about success. Give yourself every opportunity to succeed starting with small efforts. Don’t allow that voice to negate your efforts by telling you small successes don’t count. Lots of little things contribute to the big picture.

7. Declare victory, but keep your guard up

Self-doubt never goes away completely, but you can quiet it significantly by closing the door on it, and being mindful when it starts to creep up again. Watch for it, but don’t let it in the door. A bouncer at a nightclub has the authority to decided who does or doesn’t get into the club. If someone looks like they are up for causing a bit of trouble, a bouncer doesn’t let him in and then wait to see if he’ll cause trouble. He knows it’s much easier to keep a trouble maker out in the first place than to try and get him out later. Guard your mind like a bouncer.

The war on chronic self-doubt can be an epic one, but the more battles you win, the more you stand the chance of claiming victory and ending the war.

The most important thing is that you never give up.

Share you strategies for overcoming self-doubt in the comments below!

Mindset

Fighting the Waves of ADD

 

I almost died and still – I just didn’t get it. I guess wake- up calls don’t always resonate the loudest rings.

Thirteen years ago, I was caught in a rip tide off the Eastern Coast of Australia, near a lovely little seaside resort called Byron Bay. Being from a landlocked Canadian prairie province, I was a virgin when it came to coastal aquatics. I leaped in to cool off in the effervescent waves, drunk on the beauty of the sea and alight with the energy of the glorious Australian sun. I was oblivious to the rip and its intent for me.

Thanks to my lack of attention, it took some time for me to realize I was in trouble. It wasn’t until I looked up and noticed my traveling partner half a mile down the beach from me, flailing her arms in desperate exhaustion, that I twigged to the fact that something wasn’t right. I started swimming mightily for the shoreline, getting nowhere but further out to sea. My dear friend remembers it as the most frightening experience of her life. I only remember intense frustration and the incredible urge to bitch-slap mother nature in the face.

Thankfully, after an eternal fifteen minutes or so, a couple of surfers showed up and rescued us like knights in shining board gear.

I later learned that rips have a tendency to suck swimmers further and further out, but never actually pull them under. The unfamiliar swimmer, if not rescued, drowns from exhaustion. What you are meant to do is to let the rip pull you out a bit, then swim casually across, perpendicular to the shore, until you find the spot where the rip ceases. And then swim in.

I had no idea.

Swimming straight to the shore, even though faced with a fierce rip, seemed intuitively right. I didn’t know what I was up against. And yet my determination to fight against the waves is the very thing that would have killed me had it not been for a nearby surf school.

I wish that incident had awoken me to the preciousness of life and the need to soak up every moment of it, knowing that at any minute it could be ripped away. It didn’t. I’m not always an apt pupil of life’s lessons. I never could pay attention in class, regardless of the teacher. At best, my near-death drowning experience became a good anecdote to share once and awhile when the beer was flowing and there was nothing else to brag about.

I had no idea what a metaphor for my life that moment had been. I fought those waves for several minutes, but I had been fighting against who I am for a lifetime. I wonder if this kind of fight sounds at all familiar to you?

Years later, a light bulb went off and I made a deliberate decision to stop swimming against my ADD. The light bulb was a lot subtler than the oppressive waves, yet hit me with much greater impact. I simply listened – and observed – as an ADD expert talked to a group of people about the challenges of ADD, and how the ethos of brokenness keeps them stuck. As I listened, I suddenly realized this man knew more about my angst than anyone else in the world, and he had never met me. And it got me thinking – what was this thing I had been fighting against all my life? And more importantly – where was this fight getting me? Maybe, this thing and I didn’t have to be enemies anymore. Maybe, letting this wave take me out a bit could lead me to calmer waters.

The fight against my ADD self was exhausting me and it never worked – the harder I fought it, the further I got from where I wanted to be. So I gave up the fight; I gave in. I let the rip of ADD take me. I accepted that it is a part of who I am and that the things I was fighting so hard against would always be with me. It didn’t happen overnight, but when I finally accepted ADD as a part of me instead of trying to “will it away”, my self-concept, and subsequently self-worth, started changing rapidly-  for the better.

Things started to shift. I had a clearer picture of what it was I was dealing with. I could accept my flaws as part of my brain-wiring, rather than berating myself for not trying hard enough. I could find a way to live with those flaws, but manage them better. That part, of course, is still a work in progress. But the most disastrous part of my ADD is no longer an issue – I don’t beat myself up for it. I am swimming across the rip and making my way to shore.

For what it’s worth, I consider it an endurance swim for leisure, not a race.

I don’t know where you are in relation to your ADD – it may be somewhere completely different than where I am. Or, we may be on the same course. What I do know is that as ADDers, our greatest opportunity for growth and learning is from each other, as we are all part of the same tribe. I would love for you to share your experience of the ADD path in the comments below, and let us know how you have (or haven’t yet) come to terms with it, so that we all benefit from your insight!