Why are we all working so hard to be good girls with ADHD?
Actually scratch that. Why are we trying to be good girls at all?
Don’t deny it, I have proof.
I asked this question on my business Facebook page, AND in a Facebook group.
You all confirmed you wanted to be a good girl from the time you were little.
We grow up believing it’s more important to be “good,” than it is to be real.
I learned when I was six.
Sitting on the floor in my plaid dress and tights, legs crossed, I stared at a spot on the mauve carpet in my stepmother’s house. My tights were itchy and hot, and there was a tiny hole above my right big toe.
I wanted to cry, but I just stared at the carpet knowing that crying would not be well received.
It was Christmas, and I wanted a doll I’d noticed advertised on television.
This was no cabbage patch doll. This was a realistic baby that cried and drank from a bottle.
I wasn’t permitted to carry toys between houses, so I figured telling both sets of parents was my best option for getting it.
On Christmas morning there was a pile of stuff at both houses, but no doll.
Someone noticed me, “pouting” and asked what was up. I told them I was sad about not getting the doll.
Can you guess what happened?
They told me to be grateful and think about all the little girls who didn’t have two Christmas’s like I did.
Never mind the fact that the two Christmas thing was NOT my choice.
So I went back to staring at the carpet and trying to be as quiet as possible until it was time to go home. I wanted to shrink, disappear into that ugly seventies paneling in that ugly family room in a house that was not my home.
This is what I learned:
People don’t like your feelings if those feelings make them uncomfortable. They might even shame you for it.
It’s not safe to ask for what you want. Nobody likes a demanding girl.
No matter what you should be nice.
Say please and thank you.
Be grateful when someone acknowledges you.
Don’t make too much noise, or attract too much attention to yourself.
You must be a GOOD GIRL.
I came across the concept of good girls in Glennon Doyle’s book Untamed. If you haven’t read it I highly recommend, ADHD or not. (affiliate link. See my full disclosure.)
Doyle’s research indicates that we absorb both explicit and implicit messages about who we are supposed to be by the age of ten.
Little girls with undiagnosed ADHD often start to overcompensate and people please at a very young age.
No matter how hard we try to deny it, we all want to be good girls with ADHD.
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good girls with Adhd
Lets unpack some of the messages we receive about what it means to be a female in our culture.
don’t show too much emotion
The art of hiding or repressing emotions is particularly important if the emotions you are feeling are negative or might make someone uncomfortable.
Girls aren’t supposed to ask for things. We’re not supposed to ask for tangible things like toys, or gifts. But we are also not supposed to ask for more intangible things like attention or love.
The word meek comes to mind.
Dictionary.com said it means, “quiet, gentle, and submissive.”
We are being trained to let people walk all over us.
When you feel sad, disappointed, lonely, or angry, you sure as hell aren’t supposed to speak it out loud.
Don’t use your voice at all unless you are using it to be kind and grateful.
In her book Daring Greatly, Brene’ Brown cites a US study on conformity to feminine norms.
“Listed the most important attributes associates with being feminine as being nice, pursuing a thin body ideal, showing modesty but not calling attention to one’s talents and abilities, being domestic, caring for children, investing in a romantic relationship, keeping sex contained within one committed relationship, and using our resources to invest in our appearance.”
Don’t do anything, or take any action that might make you appear demanding, displeased, or opinionated.
Children with ADHD are more likely to be bullied or abused. Source1
Girls with ADHD are more likely to be sexually abused. Source 2
This kind of pressure has massive implications for all girls, not just those of us with ADHD. And it doesn’t end with our emotions, even our bodies are not our own.
Your body should look like —
As the study referenced above shows us, our bodies should look a certain way. If your body doesn’t fit the ideal you should work to improve it.
Every woman remembers the first time someone commented on their body.
The women in my membership told me stories about boys in their classes, or adults in their lives commenting on their bodies.
In second grade when those bathing suits were popular that had cut outs on the belly and back, my mother told me that type of bathing suit wasn’t good for my body type.
A seven year-old doesn’t have a body type.
But this was the eighties, and every adult woman in my life was attending Weight Watchers meetings every week.
Girls know it’s important to be thin by the time they are in kindergarten. Some of the worst insults you could throw at a little girl are words like, “chubby” or “chunky.”
Don’t even get me started on body hair.
All of my friends can tell you the story of when and how they learned to shave their legs.
I’m not saying we should go around unshaven, but the obsession with hairlessness is crazy in our culture.
Body hair is a no-no for good girls. Body hair is natural, and we don’t want to look natural.
We want to look perfect so people like us. So WE like us.
ADHD women often have eating and body image issues.
So much of this stems from what we believe to be true about our place in the world.
Organized religion plays a huge role in our development.
Most of us are first exposed to beliefs in a religious settings. Religion itself is not the problem. The problem is that the messages we get about ourselves can be harmful.
We’ve been told what to believe about:
Things get dicey when you learn about evolution in school. It goes against what you were told to believe in church. But if you question it, you will get shut down.
We’re told to think for ourselves, but when we do, we are shamed for it.
If you’re anything like me, you believed what you were told for most of your life. Because that’s what good girls do.
You are taking action every day based on your beliefs.
Personal beliefs are not thought errors. You can’t just choose new thoughts.
Core beliefs are so deeply embedded they are a part of you.
Our beliefs often drive our life choices.
Glennon Doyle writes, “this is the life you are supposed to want.”
You wanted a husband, children, giant house, SUV, and a dog.
You never asked for a divorce, infertility, ADHD, and a dog who eats his own poop. Who would?
Some of us were made for something else.
Not every woman loves men.
Not every woman wants to be a mother.
Not every woman can contort herself into this narrow life plan.
Many of us follow the prescribed path, and find ourselves unable to sleep at night because of the simmering discontent that never goes away.
The thoughts won’t stop coming, so we stare at the ceiling night after night trying to figure out if we are building the life we want, or if we are just chicken sh-t and afraid to go for more.
Maybe you did choose some of the above.
But the things you didn’t choose still feel** mandatory. People will question your choices.
Your life, your choices. That’s how it should be. But it’s not that simple, and you know it.
Good girls with ADHD
The world holds expectations that are particularly damaging for ADHD women.
I’ve written extensively on what it’s like to be the original Real Housewife of ADHD.
It’s funny, but sometimes it gets embarrassing.
Someone asked me recently if they should put their throw rug at an angle, or straight. And did I think these end tables looked good with her new furniture?
I apologetically told her I know nothing about decorating.
She wasn’t offended, but yet I felt the need to apologize. My total disinterest all things domestic is not the norm in our culture for a married forty one year-old woman.
My lack of interest in typical things affects all of my relationships.
Romantic relationships are difficult. ADHD adults have higher rates of divorce and domestic violence.
Friendships are difficult. It’s hard to remember birthdays and anniversaries.
ADHD makes all of this even more complicated.
Women define themselves through personal connection, so failed relationships become a source of shame.
Parenting is downright grueling at times But yet your reproductive choices are questioned whether you are married or single, gay or straight.
The bottom line is this:
Maybe you aren’t like other women, but you are not less-than. You are not BAD.
You are a woman with ADHD.
You are strong enough to acknowledge your strengths and your struggles at the same time.
You and I are changing the narrative of our lives.
Setting our own expectations
Saying what we think
Asking for what we want
Applying our own rules
Forming our own beliefs
Building a better life for our daughters
It costs nothing to be REAL.
All it takes is a willingness to stop trying so hard to be GOOD.
Stop trying to be good girls with ADHD. And start being REAL grown ass women with ADHD.
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I bring together brilliant women to manage our emotions, tell our stories, and create the kind of changes that lead to more calm and satisfying lives with ADHD