“I Feel Like a Fake”
…and eight other secrets of brilliant high-octane people with ADHD.
The other day I was at a meeting with a room full of accomplished women — CEO’s, entrepreneurs, business owners, and mothers—when I heard a comment that made my head snap up.
A woman said, “Some days I just sit on the couch in the morning, thinking about going to work, and I wonder… when are they going to find out I’m a fake.”
I couldn’t believe it. Not just because you would never believe a comment like this could come from this woman, who looked pulled together, competent, and held an excellent job.
I also couldn’t believe it because I had said the very same thing. Between my quirky brain, my ADHD/OCD, and my struggles with anxiety and mood disorders, I had often wondered, “When am I going to be found out?”
While working as a CEO and on my journey there, I looked like the epitome of the confident woman — smart, with good instincts, a willingness to work my butt off, and a genuine passion for any cause I represented. I’d always been a good strategist and able to sum up any situation, very quickly. I was told by people who knew me well, “You don’t get paid for your time; you get paid for your brain. You deserve it.”
But I didn’t believe them. I still felt like a fake. I felt like a fake because I certainly wasn’t “normal” and the things that seemed so easy for other people sure weren’t easy for me. I didn’t do things in a “normal” way — and that always felt wrong, no matter how much I accomplished.
Does any of this sound familiar?
1) You struggle to get up in the mornings.
You look like one of those people who hop out of bed and hit the yoga mat, with a green tea and acai berry smoothie in hand. But you’re not. Instead, you wake up with a head full of oatmeal and the first five minutes of your day is pure pain as you try to shake off the fog living between your ears.
2) The ideas in your head demand immediate attention.
Once awake, your head is popping! It feels like a tidal wave has moved in. You plunk down in front of your home computer to capture all the stuff that is whipping around inside your mind.
Your brain sees the forest, not the trees. As a result, you struggle to get any of the smaller tasks completed, and they heap up on the side of your desk.
3) You are late, once again, for work, but you have a good excuse.
Scrambling out the door, you jump behind the wheel and off you go fighting the traffic on your morning commute while downing a banana and a cup of coffee while driving. Once at the office, you see your colleagues staring up at the clock and want to shout, “But I was working!” Instead you slither to your desk and try to ignore them.
4) You skip lunch and keep pounding away at your work.
Once you are rolling, it’s impossible to stop. The ideas, strategies, and visions fill your brain. You feel you should take a break, be normal, be social, sit around the lunch table with colleagues and discuss the benefits of kale, and you feel you should take a walk…but you don’t. Truthfully? Small talk bores the heck out of you, so you graze on carrots and trail mix and keep going.
5) You avoid work-related get-togethers.
Despite the fact that you seem like an extrovert, you are really an introvert. But nobody knows it. Social gatherings, unless they are with good friends, stress you out. You would rather be home, cuddled under a blanket, resting your tired brain so you can get through the next day.
6) You feel like a fake while you smile through the strain.
With your supercharged mind, you are probably struggling with other things — ADHD, OCD, anxiety, or mood disorders. But you don’t want anyone to know because then how could you possibly be in charge of anything? Who wants someone “broken” to be at the helm?
7) You struggle with the mundane.
Sometimes you stare in wonder and listen to the minutiae that gets discussed. You don’t want to appear rude, you try to participate, but you can’t understand the relevance of any of it. Everything for you is big picture and life changing. Filling out a simple form is excruciating.
8) Sleep is your only escape.
You love your family, your kids, your friends, but by nighttime you are whipped. Anything planned for the evening is something to get done and feels like a to-do list. You need brain-numbing TV to get your mind to slow down. And sleep. Because you are so…very…tired.
If any of this sounds familiar, then know that you are not alone. Most brilliant people struggle with elements of “fake-dom.” So take the time to realize that you are among an exceptional group of achievers and believe that everything is exactly as it should be.
As Maya Angelou said, “I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to find me out now.” Even Albert Einstein suffered from feeling like a fake. A month before his death he reportedly confided in a friend “the exaggerated esteem in which my lifetime work is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.”
Realize that it is your struggle to be “normal” that drains you, not your supercharged mind. Believe that you are exceptional instead! Your brilliance makes you challenge the status quo and want to color outside the lines. This is your gift.
So embrace it — in all of your supercharged glory. Don’t suppress it. Make a decision to stop and savor those mental high points and forgive yourself your inability to comply with everyday norms. Understand that many people just won’t get you — and that is just fine. Learn to own all that is you and walk your truth.