Why do we think we have to pretend we know it all, that we can do it all, that we don’t need help? The issue has surfaced recently in both ADHD support groups I run and seems to be a common trait among ADHDers. Here’s what Daniel shared with us. (Not his real name).
“Every time I start a new job, people are blown away by how I think, how I make things happen, how I motivate and lift up the team. I’m like a Maserati sportscar racing to get results and everyone thinks I am amazing. And secretly, my ego quite likes the feeling too”.
“Sadly, my colleagues don’t know what’s really happening behind closed doors. On the outside, I pretend to have everything under control, while internally I start losing my grip. There are too many details to process, too many projects initiated that now need to be managed, too many responsibilities to keep track of. As a result, panic starts to build, sleepless nights resume, and finally the inevitable happens. I crash and burn because I cannot keep up. Unfortunately, I have even lost jobs because of the chaotic mess I created”.
Daniel went on to explain what goes wrong for him. “The things that unravel me are the planning, staying organized and time management. I need help with all the boring, daily details that my ADHD brain can’t be bothered with. In addition to this, my short-term memory is weak, so I often forget appointments or key deadlines and it just becomes too much. A critical tipping point is reached where I desperately need help, but I feel like a failure if I admit this. Instead, I stumble along, trying to hide the fact that I am not coping. I don’t want them to see me as weak.”
Tears came to my eyes as I listened to his story and saw the other participants nodding their heads in recognition. For some reason, those with ADHD/ADD seem to think they have to figure everything out for themselves. They are the hardest working, most committed people I know and yet, instead of reaching out for help, they feel there is something wrong with them. There is a belief running that by asking for help, they are showing they are stupid and weak.
It reminded me of a piece of wisdom in the book, “The Boy, the mole the fox and the horse,” by Charlie Mackesy.
“What is the bravest thing you’ve ever said?” asked the Boy.
“Help”, said the Horse.
“When have you been at your strongest?” asked the Boy.
“When I have dared to show my weakness.” “Asking for help isn’t giving up”, said the Horse. “It’s refusing to give up.”
This hit me like a lightning bolt when I read it. Asking for help is not showing weakness, it shows strength. It shows that you are not ego-driven, you are intelligent, that you know how to use your talents to the best of your ability. By asking for help, you are demonstrating that you are efficient, productive and know how to move things along. Asking for help is what successful leaders do!
So, to all my ADHD/ADDers out there who are trying to juggle it all alone, I beg you to STOP IT! Clever people ask for help. Don’t waste your precious energy struggling on things that are not your forte, instead focus your energy on doing what you’re good at. As soon as you don’t know how to do something, or you have too much on your plate, get help.
In particular, for those of you in management positions like Daniel, you must not do all of the little things yourself. You are not paid to busy yourself with these tasks, you must delegate. Hire an assistant who is good at and loves doing all the planning and organizing. Every successful person has a great side-kick who helps them get the job done. So stop struggling and start blossoming.
Jacinta Noonan is an ADHD coach. If you feel you might have ADHD traits that are hindering your progress, why not book an exploration session to find out how coaching might help.