Wednesday, January 09, 2013

ADHD and the Zen of Insecurity

Too Many Loud Voices
I have heard it said that one hallmark of ADHD in adults is insecurity. Then I thought, what's the point of writing about it? What would I have to offer on the subject? Sure, I'm insecure, but who likes what I write anyway? Does anybody even care? And do I really want to expose my dirty laundry in such a public way? I should pull the blog offline and delete the whole mess. I'm wasting my time here anyway.

Okay. I might be exaggerating—maybe just a bit—but I am an insecure person. Oh, I can put on a good face, but when it comes down to it, Fear & Worry are the two advisors I consult with the most. Sometimes Wouldn't-It-Be-Cool-If and What-Could-Possibly-Go-Wrong get my attention first, but as far as I can remember Fear & Worry have always helped me interpret the events of my life. Obviously, I'm incapable of doing it myself so I must constantly consult the world's most depressing duo of defeatists.

The question I ask myself now is this: Are we trained into being insecure by a lifetime of mistakes and failure, or was insecurity one of the symptoms of ADHD that helped cause a lifetime of mistakes and failure? My belief is that it was the former because not all adults with ADHD stop to take a breath, never mind stop long enough to doubt themselves. Still, many ADHD adults experience insecurity. So many so, in fact, that Hallowell & Ratey list insecurity as number fourteen of the twenty criteria for Adult ADHD. Therefore, it is likely a behavioral result of our individual childhoods. Go ahead. Blame your mother. She's not insecure enough.

As a young child with ADHD, I was different enough from my peers—out of step and distracted—that they ostracized me. Even teachers ostracized me. My second grade teacher would send me to the library whenever I was too fidgety. It was a walk-in closet, and I would be in there for hours. Fortunately, I loved to read. With the help of adults like her, I learned that I was bad because I didn't behave like everybody else, and that if I wanted to succeed, I had to stop being me. So, yes. I grew up very insecure.

Only as an adult have I started to celebrate the quirkiness that is me. Other adults with ADHD find their quirkiness to be an asset early on and quickly capitalize on it. I wasn't so clever, but it is never too late to start liking who you are and learning what your assets are. Insecurity isn't something that can be treated by meds or just a good night's sleep. It comes about when we allow fear of failure to become a loud voice in our minds. That voice might have been put there by a parent, teacher, or spouse, but fortunately, it isn't our voice. We can train ourselves to ignore it—one step at a time.

Last night I had a conversation with somebody who didn't see the point of social media or blogging. He thought it was all a waste of time. Maybe he was right. Maybe I should stop expressing myself in these mediums because of the criticism of one person who never reads what I write.

No? I will admit that I was a little down after our conversation, but then I had the urge to write yesterday's blog entry. Wouldn't-It-Be-Cool-If and What-Could-Possibly-Go-Wrong suddenly got my attention.

It turns out that expressing myself in words is one of my assets. I have no idea if what I write is important, but with insecurity comes low self-esteem and low expectations. If I listen to the nay-sayers in my head, I may never write. Then I would never know if I can write something important.

Maybe we are misfits. Maybe we are odd. Maybe we are dysfunctional in humorous ways. But if we let our downsides alone be our voice, we'll never be able to show off our upsides. It is our responsibility to learn how to manage the downsides of ADHD so we can let the upsides like creativity, boundless energy, tenacity, sensitivity, risk taking, and a good sense of humor speak loudly for us and shape our lives for the better. Then insecurity will be a thing of the past.