Emotions & Shame

“We Are Who We Are. There’s No Shame in That.”

“I have recently given myself permission to fidget without shame. I walk around, tap my feet, and bend my paperclips – ADHD behaviors that help my brain work properly, but that I hid or resisted for a long time… Today, I give myself permission to display my ADHD – my authentic self.” — Angeline Wang

Silhouette of a woman comes out of a dark room to freedom, the concept of hope, faith and achievement of goals
Silhouette of a woman comes out of a dark room to freedom, the concept of hope, faith and achievement of goals

Few kids want to feel or appear “different” from the pack. Instinctively, we want to fit in. And so, to avoid standing out in a sea of neurotypicals, we begin masking our ADHD symptoms at an early age. We develop perfectionistic tendencies to overcompensate for executive dysfunction. We fidget silently to release hyperactivity. We turn down social invitations to avoid awkward interactions. All this masking helps us fit in, but it’s also exhausting, isolating, and shame-inducing.

Educating others about ADHD can foster greater inclusivity and understanding, but self-acceptance is the key ingredient needed to stop masking and start embracing ADHD. Here, learn how ADDitude readers are working to unmask their ADHD traits; find courage in their comments below.

Being Yourself with ADHD

“Since learning I have ADHD as an adult, I’ve let so much happen. My husband says my symptoms have exploded. I think I’m just not hiding them because of shame as much anymore. We’ll work it out somehow.” — Sara

My diagnosis helped me finally unmask. It is so liberating. I whip my hair whenever I feel like it, I fidget, I bounce my leg and I think to myself: What was so shameful about it all that I needed to suppress that?” — Katarzyna

“This has been me the last few months while I waited to be evaluated and subsequently diagnosed. It felt good to just do what I needed to do. I spent too much of my life uptight, high strung, and anxious. It’s hard, but I’m enjoying the overall process of figuring out who I am, what I built to cope for so long, and what I can let go of now.— Jessica

[Download: Need Help Finding Your Passion? Use This ADHD “Brain Blueprint”]

“I’m pretty high up the food chain at a mid-sized tech company, and I share my diagnosis quite openly. I let people know what to expect when ADHD symptoms happen. Now when I randomly bring in a new thought, I excitedly interrupt someone’s train of thought to tell them how cool I think what they’re talking about is, or I forget what I’m saying mid-sentence and need someone to remind me, nobody’s bothered by it. Since I also give them permission to interrupt and bring me back on topic if necessary, nobody has to sit and seethe while I hunt for tangents.” — Chris

“I’m 34 and living authentically as much as possible. I’m better at my job and a lot happier.” — Chriss

“Yes and no. Hear me out. You do what you can to avoid masking… Yes, I’d like to sing out loud at work and have a shake-out dance when I need to move. That’s not considerate of others’ need for peace and quiet in work requiring concentration. So on go the headphones and I sing in my head. I go to the handicapped washroom and have a squiggle break. I’m still upfront about the ADHD and what I need, yet I get cooperation by being considerate, too.” — Anneke

“I’m unmasking for the first time at age 45! It’s scary but so freeing!” — Andreya

[Read: Why Women with ADHD Feel Disempowered — And What We Can Do About It]

“Let it out! We are who we are. There’s no shame in that. [There are] 8 billion humans worldwide, and an army of us ADHDers. We’ve got your back.” — Trev

“It’s actually kind of amazing that I did not realize I had ADHD my whole life, or recognize the habits and things I picked up along the way to help myself. Everyone used to give me such a hard time because I would chew my fingernails so bad that they would bleed, but I couldn’t stop. Now I’m really particular about keeping my fingernails nice and polished so I don’t chew them, but I constantly need something in my hands to fidget with. Otherwise, they’ll go straight to my mouth for stimulation.” — Erika

“I hate having to mask myself most of the time. It’s so liberating when you’re with people who you can be your authentic self around.— Ben

“I give others, whom I might annoy, permission to remove themselves from my life! No more hiding; no more not being myself!” — LocdSeñorita

“I sat in the window of my favorite café today. Staff were gathered outside at a table between shifts, chatting away. One of them didn’t stay still for long at all. They’ve worked together through COVID and are good mates, so I’m guessing he feels comfortable being himself with them and doesn’t need to suppress. It was so good to see.” — Pamela

“No one should be ashamed of who they are.” — Daniela

Comments were originally published on Instagram and can be found here.

Unmasking ADHD in Adulthood: Next Steps

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