You may be suffering from the ADHD Superman Complex
Last week I wrote about how so many people with ADD / ADHD were afraid to show their need to write down what they heard, even though doing so would be the logical thing to do. Often they said it was because they didn’t want to seem weak, or didn’t want it to look like they couldn’t remember.
Today I heard from two ADHD coaching clients in the same day the phrase, “I didn’t want to look stupid.” In both cases, they were referring to the reason they had for not asking for help on a project. In these cases, the kind of help they needed was NOT in an area where they could have reasonably been expected to know what to do.
Emily was a scientist who worked in an engineering laboratory, conducting experiments. Much of the experiments required using power tools and heavy machinery to build structures. Emily was a woman weighing 105 pounds. She was not an engineer, and her previous experience was in academia. She had never been taught how to use power tools.
She admitted that much of the procrastination and avoidance she showed regarding her projects had to do with fear of finding out all the parts of the projects that required massive lifting and construction. Although there is no way she could have carried out the physical aspects of the project by herself, she dreaded asking for help. Why? She was afraid of looking stupid.
- Is it “stupid” to not know how to operate powerful machinery that you’re unable to lift, when you’ve had no exposure to it?
Mark was an assistant pastor, asked to develop a youth service for his church. This was his first job in the ministry. He was given only vague direction from the senior pastor, and a seemingly conflicting set of expectations from the youth program committee chairman. Because of this ambiguity, Mark took a long time to show the senior pastor his recommendations, which turned out not to be what was wanted.
Why didn’t Mark clear up the ambiguity in the beginning instead of dragging his feet? He was afraid of looking stupid.
- Is it “stupid” to be unable to read your boss’s mind, or to figure out conflicting directions in your first job?
Unless you were born with super powers, you cannot be expected to operate heavy complex machinery without help. You cannot be expected to read people’s minds.
Were you born with super powers?
The belief that you “should” be able to do super feats on your own is a common pattern I’ve noticed with many ADD / ADHD Adults. Perhaps it comes from a history of feeling that we didn’t know what we should have, leaving us inclined to believe others always know more about what to do.
To persist in applying an irrational assumption of what you “should” know is dangerous to your career! When you avoid asking for help or asking questions, you are sabotaging your success in doing the work that counts, in the areas where you have skills and talent. If the fear of looking stupid is keeping you from moving forward in your work, then you risk the very real danger of looking lazy or incompetent!
HINT: When you’re avoiding asking for help, ask yourself WHY.
- Do you fear looking stupid? Ask yourself if someone in your position would REALLY look stupid for asking for clarification or assistance.
- Do you think it’s something you should know? Ask yourself WHY you should know it. You may find your assumption defies logic.
Emily was hired to be a scientist, not a construction worker. Mark was trained to be a minister, not a mind-reader.
What were YOU hired to do? Are you avoiding doing it well for fear of asking for help? Take off that Superman cape; it’s ok to be merely mortal.