Success and productivity are measured in a way that’s inaccessible to neurodiverse individuals, to say the least. I’m the first to admit to being guilty of falling into the trap of comparing myself to my NT peers. Although I’ve come to accept and understand my diagnosis of autism and ADHD, I’ve found it very challenging to come to terms with the fact that I always have to work harder in certain areas in order to be ‘up to scratch’. Naturally, we compare ourselves to the people around us, whether that be friends, family, work colleagues or the image of ‘success’ portrayed by the modern world. According to these standards, success is defined by professional ascension, salary, getting a mortgage and settling down with a partner and family. However, being neurodiverse can bring significant challenges in these areas, but that absolutely doesn’t mean we’re less successful!
I constantly find myself comparing myself to my peers and work colleagues, especially in the following areas:
- Productivity – I often feel as though my output is not as high as theirs or as if I’m falling behind and I’m being judged for it.
- Being vocal – I’m not one for voicing my opinion out loud in meetings. In fact, I find it incredibly difficult.
- Relationships – I feel as though I’m the only team member who struggles with professional relationships.
- Social norms – I don’t dress or speak like everyone else. I feel like a complete outsider and as if I’m looked down upon for being unique.
- Being ‘useful’ – My colleagues adapt a lot quicker than I do and have no issues taking on different tasks.
I may have learned the hard way, but I’m slowly but surely realising that comparing myself to NT’s not only makes me feel inferior and inadequate, but it also impacts my all round performance. Every time I find myself comparing myself to them, negatively, I’ve started jotting down something I’m actually very good at. I guess it’s a way of counteracting the negative with a positive in the hope of stopping myself from spiralling into a complex hole filled with unproductive and automatic thoughts which do me no good at all. I’m a serial overthinker and catch myself analysing things I do and say, even weeks later! I now stop and ask myself WHY i’m comparing myself to others, WHAT would be a more productive way of thinking and HOW can I achieve it. I sometimes write the answers down, which also helps.
I’ve started to set myself Specific, Measurable Achievable, Realistic, and Timely (SMART) goals to ensure I’m achieving things along the way. Breaking things down into more bitesize tasks and goals makes me feel significantly more productive and has proven rather motivational. I’m incredibly visual, so writing these goals down and then ticking them off one by one helps me to stay focused and see my progress.
Comparison can be incredibly damaging and really isn’t worth it. NT’s and ND’s simply cannot be compared. Our minds work totally differently and we have different skills, abilities, ways of thinking and processing, just to name a few! I think it’s so important we stop trying to adapt our way of seeing the world in an attempt to fit the mold that’s essentially forced upon us in all aspects of our life.
Don’t punish yourself if you don’t work in the same way as your peers or don’t process things in the same way or as fast as they do. Be kind to yourself and do things your way!