Now Presenting: ADHD

Difficulties with Self Promotion

August 08, 2023 Jaye Lin Season 1 Episode 14
Now Presenting: ADHD
Difficulties with Self Promotion
Show Notes Transcript

Is this something you resonate with? Not being able to articulate your worth to your organizations, families, friends, and the world? Feeling uncomfortable speaking favorably about yourself, even though you know others do it, and are rewarded for it? Not allowing yourself to receive credit for all of the work you are proud of doing, because it somehow doesn’t feel right? If you do resonate with this, you’re not alone.

Now Presenting, ADHD, and Difficulties with Self Promotion

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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.

As many of you know, a little over a year ago, I left my job at Google to start my own ADHD coaching practice, start doing talks on ADHD, and create a learning program for individuals to learn about their ADHD and how to thrive with it, which could be delivered within organizations in order for them to setup their own peer coaching structures.

In true ADHD fashion, I thought it would be an easy transition for me to start this new career helping other people. I already had a good reputation within the corporate world, and had lots of experience coaching other Googlers when I was the company’s first and only peer ADHD coach. Sales people always felt slimy to me, and I figured, my results and reputation speak for themselves. I resisted marketing myself, because it never felt good to do so, and a year later, the results show how detrimental that mindset has been.

Although I’m proud of the work I’ve done the past year, I’m starting to run low on my savings, because those clients and corporate contracts did not come fast and furiously, the way I was anticipating. Everyone around me has told me I need to market myself, and every time this is brought up, it makes me hugely uncomfortable.

In my head, I know why self promotion is important, not just for me in my current situation, but for others filling out their self assessments for performance reviews, asking for raises, interviewing for positions, and asking for accommodations. It’s important for us to show others what our value is to the organization and to other people. But it can be hard for us ADHD folk to do so for a wide range of reasons. How do we get past this discomfort and allow others to see us for who we really are?

Is this something you resonate with? Not being able to articulate your worth to your organizations, families, friends, and the world? Feeling uncomfortable speaking favorably about yourself, even though you know others do it, and are rewarded for it? Not allowing yourself to receive credit for all of the work you are proud of doing, because it somehow doesn’t feel right? If you do resonate with this, you’re not alone.

Now Presenting, ADHD, and Difficulties with Self Promotion

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When I was an employee at Google, we had to fill out self assessments twice a year, which served as evidence of our productivity, so our managers and a small committee of our peers could determine our performance rating. For those who were trying to go up for promotion, those self assessment promo packets were even longer and more fleshed out, and were used to prove that we were already functioning successfully at the criteria for a higher job level.

Almost everyone I knew at Google dreaded filling out those self assessments, and within the ADHD community, it seemed to be a debilitating task. Some people even opted not to fill out a self assessment on performance cycles where it was optional to do so, even though not filling out a self assessment meant that those deciding their performance rating may not have had a full picture of the work they’d done, and would possibly give them a performance rating lower than what they deserved.

When I asked other ADHD folk what made them dread filling out promo packets and self assessments, their responses reflected my own attitudes toward the task. It was something tedious that took time, something they already didn’t have much of, due to a packed workload. It was hard for them to determine what tasks were important to list and which weren’t, which made it difficult to stay within the character limits and put forward the best self assessment possible. And, it felt uncomfortable for everyone to talk themselves up for many reasons. One was because they knew it was a team effort, and they didn’t want to take credit for something everyone did as a team. They also were reminded of people who overstated their value toward a project, and didn’t want to feel or be seen as one of those people. And they weren’t positive they did a great job on that task or project.

Like all things ADHD related, this is a human dilemma. But again, like all things ADHD related, the impact is higher, due to emotional dysregulation, executive dysfunction, and past experiences.

Many of us have encountered situations where we are proud of the work we did. We came up with an optimized solution, great ideas, and then executed them. Afterward, it’s common for people to tell us that we aren’t team players, that we only work on things we want to work on, and that the optimized solution we came up with isn’t actually what the team wanted. That feels pretty bad, you know. And when this happens enough times, our reactions to the work we do becomes affected. Maybe we’re still proud of the work we’re doing, but we don’t want to tell others about it, because we are afraid they will give us that negative feedback. Maybe we have internalized that feedback, and we aren’t even proud of the work we’re doing anymore, because we’ve been accustomed to finding out others don’t think it’s that great. With emotional dysregulation, our feedback loop, especially with a negativity bias, makes us question our self worth, and how good our work is.

We are also highly justice sensitive, and react negatively to people who get credit for something we don’t feel they deserve. Maybe someone took credit for their team’s work, even though they weren’t responsible for any of the reasons for success. This can affect how much we question whether the work we are doing is impactful, even in the face of success.

Google has always encouraged employees to fill out their promo packets ahead of time, so they can be reviewed by supervisors and mentors, and revised in order for them to put their best foots forward. With ADHD and executive dysfunction, this can sometimes mean those packets are done close to deadline, and there isn’t a lot of time to review, which creates a huge amount of stress that puts us in an emotional state when feedback is given on them.

Two years ago, I filled out a promo packet, and I got the promotion. That’s the long story short. But the long story long was that filling out the promo packet almost broke me, and I fell into a bit of a depression during the process that took me a few months to get out of. After filling out a draft of my promo packet, which, let’s be real, was more like a final promo packet, because that’s how a lot of us neurodivergent folk operate, my supervisor and other trusted peers started marking it up. Comments in the doc like “why is this impactful?” or “what are the numbers?”, or “this is part of your core job duties” made me spin out in ways I’m not proud of. It wasn’t serving the purpose they were trying to do, which was to get me to add more data to support my argument. It felt like a judgment on their part that the work I was doing wasn’t impactful or worthy. This was likely due to emotional dysregulation, but also a bit of my past little T trauma of being told I’m actually not excelling in the work I should be doing.

But after this experience, and after I was able to claw myself out into a better mental state, I started thinking about how to change my perspective on these self assessments. And, I started talking to other ADHD folk during performance review time to make sure they don’t fall into the same hole that I did. Here’s how I started approaching it, by asking a series of questions.

First, why is it important to self promote?

The self assessment, just like anything else we are self promoting, functions to let others know what we know. It’s nice for people to notice everything we’re doing, but rarely do they have the time to do so. And honestly, it would be a little creepy for anyone to be watching me that closely. Real micromanaging territory. 

Benefits we get from self promotion is getting credit for the work we complete and the ideas or proposals we’re successful with executing. It also lets others know what we’re good at doing, so they can consider us for future projects and initiatives. If I am open about the successful corporate speaking gigs I’ve done, including testimonials and topics, it’s more likely for someone seeking an ADHD speaker to find me and hire me to speak for their organization. Likewise, someone can only register for my Now Presenting: ADHD learning program if they know about it.

We also get to reflect on the work we did that we don’t always count in our memories. Lots of times, my clients will say that they weren’t productive at all, but then in recalling what they did that day or week, realize they actually did a whole lot. Going over what we’ve done reminds us of success we may be overlooking. 

What happens when we don’t self promote? 

Well, we might not always get credit for the work we do, and that can be detrimental in many ways. This can make us feel like we’re not doing a good job, especially if our performance ratings are lower than what we deserve. With ADHD, feeling like we’re behind or not doing enough can lead to more anxiety, which even more so decreases the productivity we have to get things done. Furthermore, getting a lower performance rating than we think we deserve can lead to negative feelings toward our managers and superiors, which might only be because they aren’t aware of the full extent of the work we’re doing. Not self promoting can also mean we lose out on opportunities to grow our strengths, and lead new projects, because people aren’t always aware that we are capable of doing those things. And when people don’t know what we’re capable of, or who we are, well, opportunities are lost. In my case, learning programs have lower registration levels. My client load is not at a rate sustainable to support myself on coaching.

What consequences could we face from self promotion?

Well, trolls. Those always exist, I’m not going to lie to you and say otherwise. There will always be someone ready to say that we’re not worthy. But the thing is, those trolls will exist even if we’re the top authorities on every subject, so it’s not always an indication of our abilities.

Maybe there aren’t trolls, but there is feedback about how we’re not ready, yet. The “yet” is very important. I’ve heard from a lot of people who have turned in promo packets only for them to be rejected for a promotion, that they don’t think they’re going to turn one in ever again. That experience was so painful for them that they don’t want to chance feeling that way again. This is amplified with ADHD, as emotional dysregulation makes it feel like we aren’t good enough. But when a promo packet is rejected, it usually comes with feedback on how we can get to that next level, and it’s more likely that we’ll get that promo sooner if we submit that packet, than if we shied away from doing it altogether.

So maybe someone will give us feedback when we self promote. Like say that there were multiple technical difficulties in that event we put together. Or that communications around that initiative we led were confusing and offputting. I know that can bring up all kinds of negative feelings, and self compassion goes a long way here. We don’t know what we don’t know. That feedback, even negative feedback, allows us to improve and grow. If we’re able to look at it as a growth opportunity, negative feedback is a great tool that allows us to be more successful in the long run. Even feedback about how other people did the meat of the project and people don’t think we’re right to take credit for it. It’s a data point that allows us to see where we can pick up more work in the future to make our contributions more impactful.

So how do we make it easier for us to self promote?

I like to say, instead of casting judgment on ourselves and our character, to look at the work we are doing, and how we feel about the objective. The verbiage others used to get me to flesh out my self assessment was “Why is this impactful?”, and that can be a question that creates insecurity, making it difficult to answer. When other Googlers struggling with this talked about their projects, and that question was asked, it was common for them to clam up, shut down, and sputter. Sometimes, they proactively admitted there wasn’t much impact, in an attempt to stop someone from saying that to them. This was really hard to watch.

Instead, I ask the question, “Why did you decide to work on this?”, or a similar “Why was this a priority for you?”. This is usually answered very quickly and confidently, and the answer is usually identical to the question about why it’s impactful.

For example, maybe one of my fellow admins planned a party for their team after a successful product launch. When asked why it’s impactful, common answers were that maybe it wasn’t, because all they did was put an event on the calendar and secure space and catering for them. But when asked why they chose to take hours out of their work week to plan this party instead of just saying “great job with the launch”, they will adamantly answer that the team worked hard on this launch, going up against uncertainty, harsh deadlines, and weeks of intense work. This party signals that their hard work is appreciated, and allows them to reset their stress levels before continuing onto other projects. That, my friends, is the impact of the work they did to put on the party.

Likewise, instead of saying the learning program I made is really great, I’m a fantastic facilitator, I’m good at teaching things, which I’m hugely uncomfortable saying, knowing how subjective that is, I can say something else. I can say why I made this learning program. I created a way for ADHD folk to learn about the different ways their ADHD can present, and find practical strategies to manage this based on what works for them, using a framework that’s effective for ADHD brains; emotional resonance to the subject matter, constant interaction, and with the power of community. I wanted to condense all of the massive amounts of ADHD learning I’ve gone through into 15 hours of learning that focuses on how someone can effectively move forward, instead of fixating on how they are broken. I’m proud of the work I’ve done on that learning program. I don’t need to be humble about that.

If you’re still on the fence about self promotion, here’s another question to ask yourself. What is your ideal outcome for your current situation? In the case of self assessments, maybe it’s to get a promotion. Maybe it’s to get a good performance rating. Maybe it’s to do so well that you can jump to another job ladder. In my case, my ideal outcome is to allow myself to keep doing work in the ADHD community, and change the lives of people who are struggling to thrive with their ADHD. I want to be doing this work indefinitely. It’s obvious that this can’t happen unless people know what they’re getting from hiring me as a coach, speaker, learning program instructor, etc. It’s not showing off, it’s allowing them to find me and make an educated choice. I need to be able to support myself and pay my rent. Self promotion allows me to live while simultaneously helping others. It’s a good thing to do, for everyone.

You’ve made it to the end of the episode on Difficulties with Self Promotion. To recap, while self promotion is something that is hard for many humans, it can be especially hard for people with ADHD, due to emotional dysregulation, executive dysfunction, painful past experiences of being told we aren’t enough, and justice sensitivity. But self promotion allows us to get credit for the work we do, which leads to a more productive mindset, and also, more positive relationships with our managers and superiors. Self promotion can also lead to more opportunities to learn and grow, because others know what we’re capable of. We might get negative feedback after self promoting, but other than trolls, who would exist for us anyway, we would also get insight on how we can improve in the future. Instead of asking yourself why the work you are doing is impactful, you can ask yourself why you do it, which detaches your self worth from the equation, and effectively points toward your impact. And before you write off self promotion, ask yourself what you want your outcome to be, and how self promotion factors into being able to reach those results.

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 NPADHDpodcast. Thanks for listening, and we hope to see you again soon!