I spent years focusing on what was wrong with my days and the things I failed to accomplish. I constantly wondered what it was that I needed to change about myself. After all, society solely focused on what needed fixing and the challenges of life. This was a thought that had been ingrained in me incredibly early on and I did not believe otherwise until a few years ago.
Let me give you some context to see if you can relate in any way. When I attended job interviews in the past, recruiters were always quick to ask:
“What are your personal qualities?”, “What are your strengths?”, “What makes you, YOU?”.
All I can remember is sitting in my chair stone-faced, feeling like I had not responded for hours when in reality, only a few seconds had gone by. I was never able to say something positive about myself in response. It was not because I lacked self-confidence. It was merely because I did not know an answer! I was unaware of what I stood for and the strengths that defined me. But rather, I very clearly knew about all the things that were wrong with me and all the things that needed improving. This did not sit well with me as I am a very optimistic person deep down. I was able to see the good in everyone except myself.
Alan Brown says:
And he is so right. We spend our lives getting told that we need to do more. That we are doing things the wrong way. That we are this and that. It is hard to recall our accomplishments when the negatives outnumber them.
I remember the day I got diagnosed with ADHD. I was so excited to read the information I had received concerning my diagnosis. I finally had answers and the eighteen pages that outlined the challenges of ADHD were all hardships I had personally experienced. It was not until I started to strip back the pieces and, as ALAN puts it, “think about things differently” that I was finally able to recognize…
Along with our flaws, we all have strengths that are unique to us and make us who we are. Our strengths enable us to overcome obstacles. After all, it takes sunshine and rain to make a rainbow.
The question is, why are we so focused on the negatives when the positives are numerous? Yes, ADHD is so incredibly challenging; yet, there are several perks to having it as well.
It took me a long time to embrace my strengths and naturally begin to believe in them. It required a lot of work and self-affirmation to fully connect with them. I began by looking at what I was good at (performance strengths) and who I was (character strengths). This strategy helped me to formulate a vocabulary for the qualities I have.
After years of believing I was incorrect, ignorant, and worthless, it felt nice to finally start believing in myself, as many people do.
Most of us find it difficult to believe in our own strengths, let alone uncover them. It can also be a time-consuming process. Allow yourself to embark on the journey nonetheless, as you never know what you may come across. Realizing your finest attributes will help you not only appreciate yourself more but also manage the many challenges that come with ADHD.
Here are my top I’s to discovering and believing in your strengths:
Be an observer in your life: Just as you notice certain characteristics of others, it’s good to take note of your own too. While you’re at it, you need to ensure that your viewpoint is non-judgemental and unbiased. Building self-awareness of your strengths through observation is a wonderful first step towards identifying them. For instance, watch how you perform over a day, what makes you tick and how you are around others.
Find the concrete evidence: Seeking evidence before believing is common practice in today’s society. Speak with others or write in a journal to analyse how your strengths manifest during certain moments. The proof can give you a head start in believing that your strengths are real. The evidence can also help to overpower the negatives which you may have been dwelling on for years.
Find out what ADHD strengths are: Learn about the strengths that come with having ADHD. There are plenty of resources online that can give you a head start. Reading about them can help uncover certain attributes you could relate to as well. Here is an example of an article you can have a look at: https://www.additudemag.com/slideshows/benefits-of-adhd-to-love/
Explore options: Enrich your vocabulary by exploring all of the options out there. A useful resource that may help is VIA character strengths which is a short survey that assesses the character strengths of who you are. It takes into account scientifically proven twenty-four strengths an individual could have and provides you reports that explain your top 5-7 signature strengths, all for free: https://www.viacharacter.org/
Make a list of your key strengths: After narrowing down your best qualities, the next step is to make a clear list of them. You could try putting up the list on the wall as a reminder or record yourself saying self-affirmations while you emphasise your key strengths so that it becomes easier for you to embrace them. Here is a template I used to list mine down: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1dPOpVYl56GGL19-qNXLoIDPktzmyQQ2e/view?usp=sharing
Remind and reward yourself: Use a journal, self-affirmations, daily reminders and mindfulness on a regular to remember and realize what your strengths are! Reflect on your days and reward yourself for the positives. This can help you to believe in and embrace your strong points.
Finally, tap into them: Utilize your strengths while you try to counteract ADHD challenges. It’s far greater and more sustainable to focus on the strengths rather than dwelling on the challenges. After all, without our strengths, how can we possibly face challenges? Yes, this goes against the beliefs of society; however, when we have ADHD, we create our own rules!
Just remember, we all have strengths despite the flaws and challenges we face. Flip the switch and start to focus on what you have, what you are good at and who you are. This is far greater and much more powerful! Allow yourself to explore your strong points.
I will leave you with one more question:
Do you know what your ADHD strengths are?