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Why I’m no longer comparing myself to Neurotypical standards
In the voice of Madonna, I’m a Neurodiverse girl living in a Neurotypical world.
We live in a capitalist society, which prioritises profit over social welfare. Because of this, we are required to work long hours, fit in with ‘corporate culture’, and are pressured into achieving unrealistic targets.
As ADHDers, the challenges we face with executive functioning skills are at odds with this system. However, some of us have been able to successfully mask our ADHD traits to adapt/thrive in this environment. I recently read a study on ‘Skills and compensation strategies in Adult ADHD’. The study found that participants used strategies to cope with ADHD symptoms before their diagnosis. The most common strategies used were reminder apps, physical activity, developing routines and special work arrangements. Masking is exhausting. Although masking is successful at times, some of us struggle with trying to keep a job, burnout, anxiety (an ADHD comorbidity), and imposter syndrome.
I don’t think there’s an actual definition of ‘Neurotypical standards’. I’m referring to the societal expectations that are not Neurodiverse friendly. Arguably, standards set by Neurotypicals.
Sticking with one career, specialising in one field, in the same company for 15+ years.
Looking, acting, and speaking in a manner that is deemed socially acceptable.
A cookie-cutter lifestyle of buying a house, getting married and having kids before the age of 30.
Productivity and hustle culture being rammed down our throats.
The expectation for individuals to be super organised and have it all together, all the time. (Although, I love Marie Kondo)
Sherly Sandberg’s (COO at Facebook) ‘LeanIn’ theory.
I’m sure you can think of many more examples to add to this list.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we ADHDers are incapable of achieving the examples I set out under Neurotypical standards. The point I am making is that those examples had me thinking I wasn’t good enough and was often a catalyst for anxiety.
The capitalist society we live in sets unrealistic expectations for individuals. This causes me to have unrealistic expectations for myself which is bad for my self-esteem.
Let’s not beat ourselves up by comparing ourselves to Neurotypical standards or our Neurotypical counterparts.
I think it’s safe to say that we all compare ourselves to people we know and complete strangers. It’s hard not to.
I scroll through Instagram pictures of couples who have been in long term relationships and wish that I could stay in a relationship long enough to have my ‘happy ever after’. But I have commitment issues. I get bored easily, and I freak out when things get too intense.
Here’s another example. I listen to podcasts and watch YouTube videos of young successful entrepreneurs who have managed to execute their ideas, growing it into a start-up. Whereas, I have endless lists of many different ideas, half-complete or abandoned.
Comparison is the thief of joy.
I’m going stop comparing myself because it makes me feel shit.
Now enough of me rambling. Here’s how I’m trying to rid myself of comparison, I’m hoping it can help you too.
Acknowledging that I’m Neurodiverse and not Neurotypical. Acknowledging that I have ADHD Combined Type. Acknowledging that I struggle with executive functioning skills and that’s ok.
I’ve realised that it doesn’t do me any good when I compare myself to Neurotypicals / Neurotypical standards. Owning my ADHD and the straits that I struggle with has enabled me to spend more time focusing on areas of self-development which matter to me.
I ask myself these three questions:
Why am I comparing myself?
Does it matter in the grand scheme of things?
What improvements do I need to work on within myself?
Think about the questions you should be asking yourself. When you have the answers, what’s the next step?
I procrastinate a lot. I’m also a victim of ‘analysis paralysis’. Procrastination, Analysis paralysis and lack of consistency make it harder for me to uphold facial hygiene routines, pay bills on time, and execute project ideas.
Even though this is still a big issue for me, setting Specific, Measurable Achievable, Realistic, and Timely (SMART) goals has helped. Because I’m so focused on my own self-development, I’m beginning to spend less time comparing myself to others.
In my view, measuring ourselves against Neurotypicals/Neurotypical is like comparing apples and oranges.
Go easy on yourself.
Rach, with ADHD.