Self-advocacy can give you the opportunity to speak for yourself regarding your needs and help to secure the necessary support at work or school and for your personal life. We don’t have to struggle so hard. Developing self-knowledge is the first step. ADD Coach Dana Rayburn reminds us, that, “When properly treated, ADHD loses much of its power over our lives. As adults, we can paint a new picture of who we are and what we contribute to the world…” (1)
The goal is to develop your strengths and delegate your weaknesses.
Don’t go it alone, feeling you have to prove yourself over and over again that you CAN persevere! The truth is, delegating the things you aren’t good at, or just plain don’t like, is a good idea for anyone. If you have ADHD, however, it can make the difference between constant struggle and an enjoyable, successful life.
Negotiate with other workers/family member/friends/employees for help in areas where you struggle. (Hint: Ask them for help in areas where they shine – or at least don’t mind doing with the right incentive). What can you offer or trade to make their lives easier? Make it a point of honor to follow through with your end of the deal.
1st Name your challenges both at home and at work. What are your weaknesses? When and where do they cause you the most problems? For basic challenges of ADHD, refer to any ADHD symptom checklist. The official DSMV diagnostic criteria or any of the ADHD screeners we list are good choices. You need to separate your ADHD from yourself. You are NOT the disorder. Your symptoms cause certain behaviors, like being late or missing deadlines, but they don’t define you.
It’s also important to identify the situations when problems are most likely to show up. Being in a hurry, under stress, and during times of transition between places or activities are common reasons. Certain environments can also bring out symptoms. Being unable to move about freely, noise levels and visual distractions are just a few. We often think of ADHD as involving “getting things done,” but don’t neglect to note emotional reactions and uncomfortable social interaction as challenging symptoms.
2nd Know exactly what your strengths are. Your values, talents, and skills are all contributing factors. You probably have a general idea, but the more specific you can be, the better. According to Myers-Briggs Type Indicator practitioner, Nila Nealy, “You don’t need someone else to tell you what your strengths are. Your heart knows them. Still, I believe that sometimes we take them for granted or are so sucked into the “you must be broken” viewpoint that using tools other people have created can be helpful.” (2) Don’t forget that you have friends and family that can also help you identify your strongest points. (After all, they know you, love you anyway and are probably your biggest fans)
“Give yourself permission to proceed with identifying, embracing and integrating your unique brain wiring into your life,” ~ ADD coach and trainer, David Giwerc. “The standardized ways of learning, processing information, and performing may not work for you…Your job is to discover the options that naturally work for you and integrate them into your daily life…Educating others in your life about what works best for you, can help you facilitate home, school and workplace environments that…serve you.” (3)
Another reason to utilize these tools is that self-esteem is a core issue of ADHD and you may not be comfortable “claiming” your strengths without outside verification. Don’t neglect to ask those who know you well what they think are your strongest points. Your friends and family are likely to be your biggest fans. Don’t let self-denigration get in the way of accepting their positive feedback
3rd You can’t wait until you ‘get over’ your ADHD before you start your life. Develop strategies that reshape how you approach life. Leading with your strengths rather than your weakness allows you to fully express yourself in new ways. It’s about accepting yourself and making good decisions based on what you do naturally, without the struggle. It is based on getting the help that you need to highlight your ability rather than simply shoring up your weaknesses.
As an adult with ADHD, focusing on what you can’t do may come so naturally that you cannot see the positive aspects of who you are and what you have managed to achieve. These few simple questions from Nancy Ratey’s The Disorganized Mind: COACHING YOUR ADHD BRAIN TO TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR TASKS, TIME, AND TALENTS may help get you started.
- What are my strengths?
- What seems to come naturally to me?
- I enjoy doing ________________________ most in life.
- What special skills or attributes do people notice about me?
- What kinds of positive feedback do I receive from others?
You can also reflect on these points from the ADDitude Magazine article by ADD Coach Robert Pal, “What are my Strengths? Repairing Self-Esteem after an ADHD Diagnosis.”
- What do people say you are really good at?
- What activity gives you energy?
- What’s working in your life?
- What do you think you’re good at?
- What do you enjoy doing?
- What’s important to you?
- What are you looking forward to in the next two to three weeks?
- What are you proud of?
There are also many Tools for Discovering your Strengths.
Discover your Strengths by assessing your values. – In recent years, some people have proposed that ADHD itself conveys certain strengths. In 2015, the VIA Institute on Character, in conjunction with the ADD Coach Academy, conducted a research study to identify whether there are indeed specific strengths of people who have been diagnosed with ADHD. (5) Instead, but not surprisingly, the study found that most people with ADHD had shared difficulties in areas related to impulsivity and sustaining attention. Their weakest ”Strengths” were Prudence, Self-regulation [self-control] and Perseverance. Although the qualities of Creativity, Humor, Kindness, and Teamwork did rank slightly higher in people with ADHD, their highest “Character Strengths” were uniquely individual.
What was a revelation, however, was that when individuals worked in accordance with their highest values, their weaknesses proved to be situational. That is, they were far less of a factor in getting things done when interest inspired action. As David Giwerc explains, “When you focus on what ignites your heart and your positive energy, you will always be able to self-regulate.” (6) That is why a “Strength-based” approach works so well. You can continue to struggle to “will” yourself to do work which does not inspire you, or create an environment where your interest and urgency based nervous system works with you to achieve what you desire. The eight-minute video at the bottom of the page explains more about character strengths and their place in creating a meaningful life.
VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire – FREE Well researched test (VIA stands for Values in Action -120 questions in 15 minutes)
VIA Youth Survey (Also FREE, but for ages 10-17) Takes approximately 10-15 minutes to complete.
VIA Reports – Take the VIA survey, but receive more in-depth reports of your personalized profile. Learn what your strengths mean and how they can help you reach a more optimal, positively fulfilled life, whether you are using for yourself or with others. ($10 for youth, $20 to $40 for adults)
The VIA survey is also available for free at Authentic Happiness at Penn State. Results are not as complete.
Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator Tests
MBTI is what it says it is, an indicator. It points you to the general area of preferences you have for interacting with the world, taking in information and making decisions. Some ways just may feel more natural than others. The MBTI assesses how you get energized as well as the ways you perceive and express yourself.
Official MBTI assessment with certified professionals ($50 or $150 with person-to-person feedback from a certified MBTI practitioner.
The Open Extended Jungian Type Scales was developed as an open source alternative to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. A statistical comparison of the OEJTS with three other on-line MBTI alternatives found that the OEJTS was the most accurate. 50 questions. 5 to 7 minutes.
16 Personalities – FREE Informal assessment of Types
If you want to investigate even further, I recommend the Gallup book and Strengths Finder 2.0 – Buy the book. ($12 to $16 (+ S&H) Use the code within to take the online test. *One use only. Your Goal? Identify your top 5 talents. (You can buy a version of the test only through another site, but the book provides great personal stories and ideas for using your strengths at work and in your social life.)
Remember, the first step towards advocating for yourself, for getting the help that you need, is getting to know yourself. Explore those areas where you struggle as well as those where you have competency and shine. You are so much more than your symptoms. Don’t battle endlessly with your challenges. Ask for help. Discover your strengths, your best self. Create a more positive future for yourself. You deserve it.
Another article that helps you define your strengths. Be the Best Version of Yourself: Explore your Strengths by Marla Cummins
The Science of Character – Values in Action – VIA Character Srengths
1) “What ADHD Awareness Really Means” by Dana Rayburn http://www.danarayburn.com/add-adhd-coaching-2/what-adhd-awareness-really-means/ (Harvested 9-12-2013) No longer online.
2) “On Self-Awareness” – Excerpt from the “Human Condition”- Blog by Nila Nealy –http://www.nilanealy.com/ Saturday, January 10, 2009 (Harvested 9/14/2010)
3) Excerpt from Permission to Proceed: Creating a Life of Passion, Purpose and Possibility for Adults with ADHD (pages 76-77) by David Giwerc, MCC, Founder and President, ADD Coach Academy (2011)
4) The Disorganized Mind: Coaching Your ADHD Brain to Take Control of Your Time, Tasks, and Talents by Nancy A. Ratey (2008)
(5) Character Strengths Classification http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths/VIA-Classification
(6) Podcast from the 2015 ADHD Awareness Expo – The Best Things about Adults with ADHD with David Giwerc
“Image courtesy of ponsulak/FreeDigitalPhoto.net” Modified on Canva.com