Now Presenting: ADHD


March 28, 2023 Jaye Lin Season 1 Episode 7
Now Presenting: ADHD
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Now Presenting: ADHD
Mar 28, 2023 Season 1 Episode 7
Jaye Lin

Is this something you resonate with? Identifying with qualities about yourself that may keep you boxed into them? Telling yourself that this is just who you are, and there’s nothing you can do about it? If you do, you’re not alone.

Now Presenting, ADHD, and overidentification.

If you have questions or would like to give suggestions for future episodes, send us an email at To listen to all episodes, view show notes and transcripts, or learn more about host Jaye Lin, visit our website at Follow us on Instagram @npadhdpodcast and @adhdjaye.

Show Notes Transcript

Is this something you resonate with? Identifying with qualities about yourself that may keep you boxed into them? Telling yourself that this is just who you are, and there’s nothing you can do about it? If you do, you’re not alone.

Now Presenting, ADHD, and overidentification.

If you have questions or would like to give suggestions for future episodes, send us an email at To listen to all episodes, view show notes and transcripts, or learn more about host Jaye Lin, visit our website at Follow us on Instagram @npadhdpodcast and @adhdjaye.

Hi. This is Now Presenting ADHD, where we look at common ways Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can present in individuals, explain what the root causes can be, and connect the experience to real humans. I’m your host, Jaye Lin. I’m an ADHD coach, instructor, and generally nice person.

My identity is something I’ve been grappling with recently. Who am I, exactly? There was the person I was prior to my ADHD diagnosis three years ago, the person I was before I decided to start getting mental health treatment for my Generalized Anxiety and panic disorders six years ago, and the person I was as a kid, before my ADHD symptoms exploded at puberty. 

And yet, throughout all this time, there have been ways I’ve identified that are extremely apparent, because I regularly mention them. The joke I’ve been making recently is that I don’t go outside. I don’t make friends, and I don’t do things. When my doctor apologized that I came in for an appointment on a Saturday and said he hoped I had fun plans for the rest of the weekend, my response was “you know I don’t”. When people ask me if I am going to start dating again, I tell them that would involve leaving my apartment.

Before that, there were other things I would associate with my identity. I don’t work well with others. Everything annoys me. There were even good things to identify with, like if I think I can do something, even if I’ve never done it before, I’ll probably crush it on the first try.

While those identifications may have been the reflection of true instances in my life, I’m recognizing that identifying with these things can have unintended effects.

When people invite me to things, even things I’m interested in doing, my regular response is to say no, because that means I have to go outside, and then I make a joke about how that’s just not me. By saying I don’t work well with others and do my best work alone, I might shy away from opportunities to work with others, which would prevent me from having any future good teamworking experiences to prove me wrong. By saying I can crush things on the first try, I create a lot of pressure about doing so, which influences what I actually want to try doing. And by identifying as being easily annoyed, I prevent myself from examining what I find annoying about what they’re saying, and why that annoys me. It keeps me in a constant state of annoyance, because that’s who I am.

Is this something you resonate with? Identifying with qualities about yourself that may keep you boxed into them? Telling yourself that this is just who you are, and there’s nothing you can do about it? If you do, you’re not alone.

Now Presenting, ADHD, and Overidentification

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There are a lot of ways self-identity is defined, but quite simply, it’s who we believe ourselves to be. Self-identity plays a huge part in how we navigate life, especially for those of us with ADHD, because we have lower working memory, so any simplification of any process and decision-making is incredibly helpful. Think of a food court where every food imaginable is available to purchase. That could be overwhelming if there weren’t parameters to follow, like “Sushi is my favorite food”, or “I like to have eggs for breakfast”. Creating preferences can be a great way for us to navigate the overwhelm that comes from making choices, something that can get taxing throughout the day.

But when does this get problematic? I would argue that it becomes a problem when it starts getting in the way of life. When restriction starts to happen.

There is a bit of irony to this, because we ADHD individuals tend not to love being restricted. We don’t like being told that we have to do things a specific way, which limits the creativity we have in being able to do it “our” way. We don’t like being told no, when the answer is “maybe”, and we don’t like routine if it means we lose the possibility for curiosity and novelty. 

Maybe you’ve noticed a pattern in what I just said. We don’t like when we are put in a box by others. But how often do we notice that we are the ones putting ourselves in the box? This is what I love about ADHD coaching, because often clients come in with certain self identities, but when I ask what makes them say that about themselves, the spool starts to unravel. Yes, there are instances in their lives where they behaved a certain way, but also, there are plenty of examples in their lives where that wasn’t the case. A narrative was created that this is “who they are”, and it’s not even always based on statistical truth.

So what makes this overidentification happen?

Well, we ADHD folk tend to have a lifetime of being scolded for doing things wrong, not doing things, blurting, and generally doing things that we would get scolded for, due to the way our brains work. We also have emotional dyregulation, which elevates the shame felt in those situations of being scolded, as well as in moments afterward when we think back to it. To mitigate those feelings of deep shame, we can develop coping methods. The following are common coping methods for this, and both result in overidentification. We can develop an extreme ownership of the quality, and we can overcorrect.

Let’s look at my example of not leaving the house. When COVID hit, I felt an extreme fear of what would happen when I left my apartment, so I actually didn’t for long stretches of time. It wasn’t quite the fear of getting COVID for me, although that was there as well, of course. It was that I heard a lot of experiences from friends and family where there was prejudice, overtly hateful remarks, and even unconscious avoidance toward people like me, a Taiwanese-American woman living in the bay area. I had grown up there, in a neighborhood that was majority Asian. I couldn’t really bear the thought of leaving my apartment and having someone tell or show me that I wasn’t welcome there, in the only home I’d ever known.

The people around me told me I was being crazy. Don’t you love that word? They said I lived in a very asian area, and that I was being irrational. They ordered me to go outside. They called me dramatic. They did all of the things I would advise not doing to a person with ADHD. My feelings and experiences were not validated, and instead, to motivate me, they resorted to name calling and orders. Later, when the stop asian hate hashtag became more widespread, they asked me how I was doing, because they wanted to tell me that it’s not safe. Not once did they address how my own experiences and feelings were discarded by them. Needless to say, I was not happy with that experience.

But while they were telling me I was crazy and irrational, I felt worse than I already did. I felt like there was something even more wrong with me. I felt isolated from the other people in my life, and that outside of my apartment, I truly didn’t belong.  Before anyone comments on this, I will state for the record that I know that their intentions were good, and they wanted to motivate me to feel comfortable leaving my apartment. But their intentions were not the same as the impact their words made. 

So, I sought solace in extreme ownership of my not going outside. I started announcing how many days it had been since I left my apartment, like a badge of honor. When people ordered me to go outside, I said no. That’s not who I am. I’m a stay-in person now. I cemented this identity for myself, and it soothed me in ways their words didn’t. After all, there was nothing wrong with me, this is just who I am. Eventually, I hit 63 days of not going outside. That didn’t bother me. I was a stay-in person.

And that’s an identity that I still have, because identities are hard to shake. So I’ve avoided going out and making friends in this Seattle suburb I moved to, because that requires going outside, and that’s not who I am. And just like a bomb shelter can easily be converted to a prison, the thing I did to keep me safe is now preventing me from living.

How often do we do that with our ADHD traits? I know a lot of ADHD individuals who identify as an “ideas person”, and state that they have the ideas but they aren’t good at the execution, so they don’t even try to do the work required to make their ideas happen. They rely on others to do the grunt work, and then get upset when those people don’t want to execute on their ideas, because they see their ideas as the only ways they can contribute.

This is especially problematic when they are forced to execute on their own ideas out of necessity. Oftentimes, it will crash and burn. And why wouldn’t it? They have no practice executing on ideas. It’s essentially starting a video game on “hard mode” without having any understanding of the fundamentals of the game. But that identity of only being an ideas person has prevented them from having the experience of the things that are more challenging, even if someone else could have done it better. Or it robbed them of the chance of crashing and burning on smaller, more insignificant projects, where it would be more possible to learn and grow than it would be on a large scale. When failures happen on a larger scale, it commonly results in the other coping method I mentioned: overcorrection.

Overcorrection is extremely common with ADHD, and it can happen when we get so fed up with ourselves that we swing in the opposite direction, hard. I have an ADHD learning program that approaches a lot of the different aspects of ADHD, and ways we can have deliberate action to manage those ADHD difficulties. One of the topics is being late to appointments and events. Without fail, at least one person in every cohort will state that they are never late. Lateness is not something they have to deal with. In fact, they are always early. Even to things where it’s completely acceptable, or even expected, to be late, like for a house party. It’s an ADHD quality that they don’t identify with. They will say all of that, and more. They will make it known to everyone in the cohort that they aren’t someone who is late. This has become a part of their identity that they need to protect, to the point where they can’t just silently think to themselves that this quality isn’t about them, they need to make it known. Commonly, we uncover that they feel so terrible about being late that they will put so much anxiety and pressure on themselves to be on time that it somewhat disrupts their life, and that the overidentification helps them keep to that anxiety and pressure.

Do you see where the lack of flexibility with overidentification becomes a problem? I’m not living my life outside of my apartment, and someone who has overcorrected on being late can’t allow themselves to go to a house party at a time when other guests would be arriving.

What can we do about this? Well, we can think things through, and make deliberate choices.

We can observe the positives that can come from identifying with a quality about ourselves. There is a lot that is harder for us due to our ADHD, and identifying can lead to personal acceptance. It can allow us to plan for things, by recognizing what we can do easily, and what will be more challenging. And it can be easy to find others who also identify in similar ways to us.

We can also identify the negatives. Identifying with certain qualities can hinder our growth in the things that challenge us, and make it harder for us to get better at the things we want to improve on. It can create resistance against change, because undoing our identity feels nebulous and damaging. And it can close us off to other people and opportunities.

Take a pause and examine where your self identities are positive forces for you, and where they are negative forces. They will most likely be a mixture of both, and recognizing the factors on both sides will allow you to determine what you would like to adjust.

Then, knowing all of that, there is a lot we can do to move forward in a way that is more productive and beneficial to us. 

We can be led by our values rather than our identities. For example, belonging is one of my core values. It is so important to me, that it is the driving force behind not only my overidentification during the pandemic, but also the solution to my current dilemma. I don’t currently belong anywhere outside of my apartment, and in order to find the places I belong, I’m going to have to leave the comfort of my home and explore where I would belong out there.

We can also try self compassion. We can accept the parts of us that find things challenging, and still try to grow and improve. Shame is not an effective motivator, for anyone, really, but especially for those of us with ADHD. Rather than shame for our mistakes and misgivings, self compassion allows us to acknowledge when things go awry, look at what happened, and make deliberate plans of actions going forward, so that we don’t have to identify with what we see as negative aspects about ourselves either.

We can also recognize that our identities aren’t static, and that it’s not so bad to change and evolve in our self identities. Something we identified with in the past doesn’t have to be what we identify with in the future, because we are growing and changing humans. Changing our self-identity does not have to be scary. In fact, it’s a normal part of life.

And we can view things outside of our comfort zone, out of our current identities, as important and exciting experiences. After all, we do love novelty and adventure. We often have a love of learning and exploration, and it can be important for us to view steps we take out of our comfort zones as exciting opportunities.

Most importantly, we can start slow. Start with situations that won’t create reactions that lead to overcorrection. For me, that was starting to have a beer and play trivia at my local indoor dog park slash beer counter. It was a low stakes introduction that allowed me to slowly and comfortably get used to the change. I didn’t attempt to have my first outing be a packed nightclub or crowd full of strangers.

It won’t always be easy, but as I always say, we are capable of doing hard things.

You’ve made it to the end of the episode on Overidentification. To recap, our self-identities can make it easier for us to make decisions in the world, even with our reduced working memory, but overidentifying with our ADHD qualities can also prevent us from experiencing growth, and valuable opportunities. While identification can lead to personal acceptance and easily identified communities of support, it can also lead to isolation and avoiding opportunities. We can overidentify due to the increased shame that comes with emotional dysregulation, and can develop extreme ownership of a quality to self soothe, as well as overcorrect. We can avoid overidentification by pausing to assess what we gain and lose from this identity, then determine how we would like to proceed, perhaps by being led by our values instead of identities, and by using self compassion to accept ourselves while still growing. We can recognize that our identities aren’t static, and view the things outside of our comfort zones as important and exciting experiences. And we can start small.

If you found this episode enjoyable or informative, please tell your friends and family members with ADHD, and/or give us a review wherever you get your podcasts. If you want to read transcripts or show notes, find out more about me, Jaye Lin, or give suggestions on future episodes, please go to our website, That’s the acronym for Now Presenting: ADHD, Or you can follow us on Instagram, at NPADHD. Thanks for listening, and we hope to see you again soon!