Are you self-aware? Or are you self-critical? And what does self-awareness have to do with ADHD?
Well…as it turns out those of us with ADHD are not always very self aware.
“Even though most people believe they are self-aware, self-awareness is a truly rare quality: We estimate that only 10%–15% of the people we studied actually fit the criteria.” -Tasha Eurich, PhD
Some of us are comfortable the idea of internal self-awareness- where we try to see ourselves as clearly as possible in terms of our personal values, thought patterns, behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses.
Unfortunately, it is sooooo much harder to work on external self-awareness, or how other people view us in terms of those same factors. Source
The other day I was talking with someone and I mentioned that I am “so flawed” as a human. My friend asked me what I meant and I rattled off a list of my personal shortcomings:
My friend looked at me and said, “Don’t be so self-critical. You have strengths too.” She was right.
Being self-critical is not the same as being self-aware.
Sitting around compiling a list of your faults does you no good. And it doesn’t help with the external self-awareness (and feedback) you need in order to be authentically self-aware.
Authentic self-awareness is crucial to work through the emotional challenges of life with ADHD.
The best way to build authentic self-awareness
Step 1 Ask what instead of why
How many times have you asked yourself, “Why?”
Why am I so stupid?
Why am I always late?
In her article for the Harvard Business Review, Tasha Eurich, PhD, explains that asking why is actually not productive. And it amps up our anxiety! (More on this in future articles)
Dr. Eurich suggests asking, “What” questions instead. She explains that these types of questions help us stay objective, future-focused, and empowered to act on our new insights.”
So how do we go about switching our mindset from why to what?
Catching ourselves in the moment is probably a good way to start. But it is also incredibly difficult.
Write down all those why questions the next time you start berating yourself, and then reframe them.
Why am I running late again? Becomes –> What can I do so this doesn’t keep happening?
Why did I say that I would (insert — )? Becomes –> What can I say next time that is more honest?
Changing our mindset from Why to What allows us to reframe in a less self-critical way.
Step 2 Ask trusted people for feedback.
I recently read an article where one of the researchers said, “Much research indicates that our nearest and dearest often see us better than we see ourselves.” Source
But there is a catch. Many of our behaviors are not obvious to us, and so we do not know how they affect other people.
For example, if I am talking to someone and my expression or my body language conveys that I am stressed, I may have no idea that others can see it. Unless I ask.
Often our own insecurities get in the way of us asking for real feedback or investing in ourselves and our personal growth. We need to get really brave here and start asking people we trust some questions.
I’ve got a few ideas for you. 🙂
Step 3 Analyze your values
A loooong time ago I wrote a post about prioritizing based on your personal values. I often ask my clients, “Is this behavior in line with your values?” Because it makes people stop and think.
Personal values are sometimes hard to pin down, but if you journal on it and think on it you will come up with some general traits that stand out to you.
Think about how you want to be remembered when you die. (Seriously, it works!)
Thinking about what you value tells you a lot about who you really are right now and who you wish to be in the future.
We all have an ego, so don’t be surprised if the things you value aren’t all in line with your idea of what you “should” care about. As long as you are aware of your ego, it’s ok to admit that it’s there.
Every single day, for better or worse, you embody your values.
Step 4 Understand how your mind works
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – living with ADHD is a little different.
Your mind doesn’t work exactly the same way as someone without ADHD. You have executive function challenges, and emotional challenges.
Talking to a therapist (Or a coach/support person) is one of the best things you can do for yourself. A well-trained therapist will observe not just the words you say, but your body language as well.
Therapists ask all sorts of tough questions that make you think. When you talk to a coach/consultant, you actually practice problem solving on your own so you learn more.
If we take the time to observe ourselves without judgment we gain so much insight. Which leads me to my last step.
Step 5 Learn about emotional management
Most of us are just going through the motions. Every day repeating the same behaviors over and over.
Going through life on autopilot is definitely not self-awareness.
You might have been diagnosed with ADHD, and you might even have a basic understanding of what it is. Or not.
But you feel so stuck and ashamed that you are confusing self-criticism with self- awareness.
My challenge to you is to build REAL, AUTHENTIC self-awareness.
Learn about you. Invest in you.
Real self-awareness is crucial to work through the emotional challenges of life with ADHD.
Do you every confuse self-criticism with self-awareness? Do you think self-awareness is important?