ADHD and Imposter Syndrome
So it’s been some time since I’ve written a newsletter. I’ve been pretty busy with my 9-5, speaking engagements, and binge-watching sex education/squid game on Netflix.
For the first time in a long time, I’m experiencing many highs in life. But of course, the ADHD/Anxiety in me is waiting for the ball to drop.
With opportunities come….. imposter syndrome!
Let’s start off with the definition of imposter syndrome:
“Imposter syndrome refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be.” - Arlin Cuncic, verywellmind
Examples of imposter syndrome include:
Feeling like you don’t deserve accolades or recognition for your accomplishments.
Feeling like a fraud even though you have the skills and expertise.
Feeling like you’re undeserving/unworthy of opportunities.
Raise your hand if you’ve experienced imposter syndrome 🖐🏻🖐🏿🖐🏾🖐🏽
I’m even feeling like an imposter writing this newsletter about imposter syndrome because there’s already a lot of useful information out there on imposter syndrome.
ADHD and Imposter Syndrome
I have struggled with imposter syndrome since receiving my ADHD diagnosis last year.
Let’s unpack this.
Many adults with ADHD mask their ADHD traits long before they’re diagnosed with ADHD and even after they have been diagnosed with ADHD.
I was great at masking my ADHD. I knew I had shortcomings in a few areas, but I was unaware that I had ADHD. I wasn’t too concerned with my poor executive functioning skills because I thought everyone struggled with that. Boy was I wrong.
I worked on bettering myself by watching motivational videos, reading self-development books, and adopting the ‘fake it til you make it’ way of life. Very neurotypical of me, I know.
Did I doubt myself at times, yes? Did I struggle with anxious thoughts, yes? But I didn’t feel like an imposter, even though I hid my difficulties from my professors, my managers, and the people around me.
So what changed?
My ADHD diagnosis is what changed. My diagnosis brought relief, but it also revealed everything that was wrong with me.
For me, imposter syndrome rears its ugly head when I have been set an important task at work and when I’m advocating for ADHD.
Opportunity: I was chosen to lead a new project at work, to demonstrate my leadership and communication skills. Leading this project meant that I’d need to work to tight deadlines, draft internal and external comms, and communicate with many stakeholders.
ADHD traits: I worried that the following ADHD traits would hinder my progress: procrastination, lack of attention to detail, poor organisation skills, and impatience.
Imposter syndrome: I felt unqualified because I had already disqualified myself by focusing on why I wouldn’t do a good job due to my ADHD traits. I was worried that I’d be found out and they’d regret putting me forward for this position. I hadn’t disclosed my ADHD diagnosis at the time, so I felt like the biggest imposter and fraud.
Result: I did it anyway. I’m a young Black woman, one of two in my wider team. I couldn’t let myself or people who looked like me down. So I led the project. I couldn’t afford to come across as ‘the lazy Black woman who flopped when we gave her the opportunity.’
“As a Black person, you’re going to have to work twice as hard”, how many of you were told this by your parents?
ADHD advocacy example:
I initially rejected the idea of being called an ‘ADHD advocate’. It just didn’t sit right with me. I felt uncomfortable with being put on a pedestal as a prominent voice in the community. I felt unqualified because I’m not an expert, and I was only diagnosed with ADHD Combined Type in 2020.
I still felt unqualified when people would tell me that they received their ADHD diagnosis because of my tweets and this newsletter.
But I am learning to focus on what’s true rather than focusing on how I feel.
“You’re the best person to lead this work” - I tell myself to believe it.
“You’ve helped me with my ADHD diagnosis” - I tell myself to believe it.
“You’re an important voice in the ADHD community” - I tell myself to believe it.
Overcoming imposter syndrome
I honestly don’t know if you can in fact ‘overcome’ imposter syndrome.
I don’t believe that imposter syndrome is a one-time thing. As we navigate life, we’ll change jobs, be presented with new opportunities, and experience success and failure. Imposter syndrome could creep up at any moment.
So how do we shut the door on imposter syndrome when it wants a seat at the table?
Here’s how I’ve tried:
Shifting my perspective - Focusing more on what could go right and the positive words people have said about me (not that toxic positivity crap).
Letting go of perfectionism - It has been suggested that imposter syndrome and perfectionism go hand in hand. Perfectionists are often rarely satisfied because they hold themselves to high standards. I previously wrote about the shared ADHD and perfectionist traits. You can read about it here.
Faith - Believing that all things will work out for my good.
Leaning on people around me - Asking my friends to share some encouraging words when my confidence is low.
How do you deal with imposter syndrome? Leave a comment, or share your thoughts with me on Twitter.
Rach, with ADHD.
Thanks, Rach. I finally got around to getting diagnosed at age 66! I have had several very successful careers as a paramedic, professor, physiologist (equine reproductive) and most recently pastor. All of my life I lived with the things you are describing. The term “imposter syndrome” is new to me, but it sure fits how I saw myself all of my life! No one close to me could understand what I was talking about….”you’re an awesome teacher” I would hear and still think I would be “found out”…..WOW, thanks for writing this as this now almost 69 year old Lutheran pastor keeps on keeping on! God bless you!
This post! So true. I feel like I entered adulthood with ADHD. I don't have the courage to go get diagnosed- big time imposter syndrome there too. The fear of 'what if its not ADHD and I'm actually just disorganised, lazy and procrastinate with no good cause.'