“I’m not good enough.”
“I’m going to get found out.”
“This isn’t perfect, so what’s the point in even trying?”
“I don’t deserve success.”
What do all these quotes have in common? They’re things I used to say to myself before leaving for work, while at work, and on my way home from work — classic imposter syndrome speak. And if you struggle with imposter syndrome, you’ve probably had thoughts like these, too.
I’ve had a successful career as a teacher and more recently as an academic coach and business owner. But that hasn’t stopped me from feeling like an imposter.
I used to think this was just a “me problem.” Now I know that imposter syndrome is really common, especially in people who are perfectionists and have learning and thinking differences like ADHD — myself included.
I’ve learned strategies to help myself and others cope when these feelings pop up. But I needed to understand what was happening to get there.
How imposter syndrome made me feel at work
When my imposter syndrome started to get bad, I felt really alone. I thought I was the only person who’d ever felt this way. So instead of asking for help and talking about how I felt, I internalized my feelings — locked them deep down in my personal vault.
This just made things worse, though. My self-doubt skyrocketed. To compensate, I set impossible expectations for myself to cover up my insecurities and perceived shortcomings. This led to chronic exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed.
Around this time, I started a new job that I loved. And my imposter syndrome ramped up even more. I felt paranoid, always worrying that my new colleagues would discover I “wasn’t good enough.” I started to believe things about myself that weren’t true.
As a result, I made myself small and avoided taking risks. It felt safer to go through the motions at work and avoid any potential conflict or confrontation.
Imposter syndrome and ADHD
No matter how much people told me I was smart, motivated, and dedicated, I never saw myself that way. At least not until I understood where my imposter syndrome was coming from.
Imposter syndrome doesn’t just spring out of nowhere. It’s deeply rooted in all kinds of factors, including learning and thinking differences. People with differences like ADHD tend to experience low self-esteem and to feel inadequate. And we’re often our own harshest critics.
Like many people with ADHD, I have big emotions and reactions to things, and I dwell on them. A small mistake (real or imaginary) can balloon into a catastrophe in my mind.
It all makes sense. I’m a person with ADHD, and I’m a perfectionist. So of course I struggle with imposter syndrome. Naming it is what helped me see that I’m NOT a fraud. My self-worth is not tied to my work production. And no matter how hard I try, I can’t control how others perceive me.
As I talked to other people with ADHD and did my own research, things started to click. I’ve slowly stepped away from the sticky web of feeling like a fake. I’ve unlearned habits and ways of thinking that clearly no longer serve me.
Coping with imposter syndrome
Do I still feel like an imposter from time to time? Yes, of course I do. But here’s the catch: Now I know there’s nothing wrong with me. I may have different brain wiring or ways of thinking and doing things in the workplace, but that doesn’t make me less than. I’m valuable. And I’m allowed to make mistakes, just like everyone else.
My words of advice? Embrace a growth mindset. Ask for help. Know your worth. And remember that you’re not alone — I’m right there with you. Above all else, we are not imposters. We’re human beings who are simply doing our very best. And that’s more than enough.
Do you think ADHD might be contributing to your imposter syndrome? Check out the following resources to see if they resonate.