How This Aspect of ADHD Has Held Me Back in My Career

I am not here to dispel common myths about attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). There is plenty of literature geared to that. I would love to tell you what it feels like to be a 41-year-old who is often overlooked for leadership positions because of my youthful behavioral aura. I attribute this aura directly to having ADHD. It also doesn’t help that I look younger than I am but that is an entirely separate battle.

Dating back to elementary and high school, classmates would always introduce me as their “weird” friend. I was always pawned off as the token eccentric in their repertoire of friends. There was not one gathering of people I attended where I wasn’t referred to as a comedian or clown. At the time, I thought nothing of it. But at 41, it is frustrating to have co-workers (20 years my junior sometimes too) and managerial people in my life clearly continue to talk to me like this. It seems my professional capabilities and accomplishments are constantly being overshadowed by my lively persona. ADHD, in many I feel, nurtures a youthful zest for life. Many of us seem suspended in a hyper-youthful state and our curiosity and charismatic approach to living is often misread as arrested development. For many, like myself, the two are distinctly different. I have ADHD; I am not ADHD. But, unfortunately, navigating the fourth decade of my life, I feel the unconscious stigma of ADHD affect me. It seems to be directly impacting my quest to seek more challenging positions and leadership roles in various organizations. It bites. Hard.

For much of my 30s, I worked alone and for various agencies hiding my youthful persona behind the title “designer.” In retrospect, I believe I purposely picked this career partially to satisfy my love of all things creative and partially because I knew creative industries are forgiving of people emitting a “different color light.” But after closing up my design business in 2014, I decided to change careers to behavior therapy and focus on helping various kids who live in a variety of different color lights navigate life. ADHD is one of them.

I am hopeful that, in the next decade of my life, I can inspire kids about the unique strengths they have as a result of having ADHD. I also want to share with them the reality that as they grow through life, some people consciously and unconsciously will be blind to their abilities because they can’t see beyond their ADHD. In these instances, I will always remind them to hold their head up high and realize it is ultimately their loss.

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