Overcompensating for our ADHD traits

whether consciously or unconsciously, many of us identify pretty early in our lives some of the ADHD trades that we would like to minimize or eliminate. It might be impulsivity, disorganization, being late, or any number of other things. Of course, there are trades that we can’t control. Otherwise ADHD wouldn’t be a legitimate diagnosis and we could just “try harder.”

but there are usually some things about ourselves which, through sheer force of our will or because of overwhelming anxiety, we can work very hard to get better at. But I think we often overcompensate. It can be helpful to recognize that it can be healthy to realize our achievements and our progress and come back to a constructive middle ground.

in an effort to be less esoteric, I’ll give you a couple examples. A prime example in the area of impulsivity is spending money. I think many of us have had issues with impulsive spending at some point in our lives. My dad used to tell me that money would burn a hole in my pocket when I was a kid. Not that I couldn’t delay gratification and save up for something if it was really important. But most of the time I’d spend it as soon as I got it.

as I got diagnosed in medicated, as I got older and more mature, as I recognized what I wanted to improve about myself, I worked hard to be less impulsive with my spending habits. I worked to delay gratification. I worked differentiate between want and need. But all that’s easier said than done. And to a certain extent, I developed a lot of anxiety about spending money. Of course this was some time ago when I realized it was an issue. I’m not sure we were fully in the buying everything online world. But I think my general vibe at that point would be describe best as perseverating while hovering over the buy button unable to decide what to do for way longer than I wanted. Thus, every purchase became an agonizing exercise in prose versus cons, regardless of how big or how small, how important or largely irrelevant.

now I think I’ve come back to moderation in my middle age. I rarely if ever buy impulsively. Sometimes I’ll research something for an extended period of time and decide, not worth it. Then I move on. Sometimes I spend a little more money on something that I want to and accept that that’s life. But I set limits on how long I’m going to research. And I’m confident enough in my decision making process that I’m not worried about having major regrets.

another way in which I feel many ADHD people overcompensate is in respect to not wanting to be the person who goes from one thing to another too quickly. Call it being a quitter. Call it giving up on things. Call it having that ADHD squirrel brain. Whatever. I think sometimes we get so locked in on not being the flake that moves on that we stick with things that clearly aren’t right for far too long. A lot of the time that’s not the only reason we stick with things. But it can be a big part of it. Ultimately, if something loses our interest what’s the incentive to stick with it?

I recognize that that’s an oversimplification. We can’t get a whole new wardrobe every year. We can’t change jobs every 6 months. We can’t trade in our family every two years. But, if we legitimately realize that we’ve chosen the wrong career or that our career was right for us at 25 but it’s not right for us at 35, there’s no shame in admitting that and changing course. It’s better than being miserable for the next 30 years until you retire. I’m on my second career. My first career was right for me at 23. It wasn’t right for me at 30. And there’s no way I could do what I do now at 23. But I definitely stuck with being a chef about 3 years too long because I didn’t want to be a quitter. Among other reasons.

I realize this is getting into an epic length post. So I’ll wrap it up with this. A lot of this comes down to concepts of identity. Who are you now and who were you way back when. If you’ve done the work and made the progress, you don’t have to be so hypervigilant. Your quality of life can be better if you dial back that vigilance and strive for moderation. Sometimes we make mistakes as humans. That’s okay. Not every mistake is a failing of your ADHD or a disaster that’s linked to every other mistake you’ve made in the past. Save your energy to work on the stuff that you still need to work on and give yourself a break on everything else.