I feel like a failure, still don't know what to do, have a problem learning and not smart

Some times I don’t understand my self, I always need people approval which makes me feel normal.
I discovered my ADHD 2 years ago and now I’m 40.
Living in a new country, got married 5 years ago, and failed in the first job I got hear and failing in many interviews.
Now I feel that I just want to do something by myself so I don’t interact with a lot of people, one to one is the best situation for me.
I was always 1&2nd till I reached high school and my grades went down and I had problem studying and memorising and concentrating but I was considered stupid and weird.
What made me think I might have ADHD is my husband.
Specially because of forgetting and focusing.
I want to train my self to read and focus at the same time, I either read or focus and it’s never 60%.
I hate doing mistakes. I know it is stupid but I have a struggle learning the language now for almost 4 years.
My husband and daughter have Asperger and they are detailed oriented, organised and very very smart, which makes me feel very dam stupid.
when I watch a movie with them or I go to a presentation or even at work in a meeting usually I wave my head but the real thing is my brain is 30% with them and 70% is with there emotions and reactions, or thinking about stufff or a word in the presentation.
forgetting important meetings, I started putting or my appointments in different calendars, my phone calendar and another calendar at my home. It helped a lot but even though I forget imp meetings sometimes. Also for the shopping I always try to put a list in my board to remember, watering plants and when my daughter is supposed to do certain things. It really helped a bit.
Forgetting stuff, Jackets, mobiles, scarfs, bags…etc
what helped a bit is caring a small cross bag and never take it off, or placing everything in my jacket that I always wear.
I also have a bit of a social anxiety, not sure if it’s related to my ADHD. I was working in sales and now a days you have to sit with a lot of people in the same office all next to each other, no way I can focus in this environment and special when I feel that people around me are checking what I’m doing.
Best situation for me is one to one meeting and working in a separate office or with people who are similar like me and builders.
Admin work is the worst thing for me, I love exceeding targets not just achieving them.
When I had an admin and my own office that was the best situation for me but it is too hard now.
Please let me know if you have similar situations and how you improved it with your experience with ADHD.


I can relate to the social anxiety.


Hi Rico, and welcome to the community!

I’ve been in a similar situation - diagnosed only a couple of months ago and in my mid-thirties. I’ve since lost the job that I had at the time, and I’ve had plenty of time to figure out how my ADHD factored into my work and social lives.

It sounds like your self esteem has taken a bit of a battering over the years. Low self esteem seems to be a common issue among people with ADHD. When I was put through the big serious questionnaire, my hyperactivity was about that of a neurotypical, my inattentiveness was about as high as you can get, but my self esteem issues were quite literally off the chart!

No, seriously, there’s this little chart with dots and lines, and there wasn’t enough range in the chart for my “low self esteem” score.

I don’t know if the mechanisms that drive ADHD are in some way responsible for this low self esteem, but I do know that a big part of it came from my environment. You’ll see the same story over and over again in these forums, but my school years were categorised by getting in trouble for daydreaming, missing homework, failing to get work done on time and, worst of all, that dreaded phrase “failing to meet his potential.” University was a different kettle of fish, because I was actually engaged in what I was learning, but once I got into full-time work all that old stuff about missing deadlines and generally failing to live up to expectations came back big time.

You’ll note that the word “failing” crops up a lot in the above paragraph. We get told that a lot, because the things that seem easy to neurotypical people can be really hard for us. Meanwhile, nobody thinks about the fields in which our slightly off-kilter brains excel, like creative thinking, being able to hyperfocus, noticing all the things going on around us (even if they call it “distracted”) and so on, because our society isn’t very well structured to recognise the assets that these can be.

So we muddle along in a world designed for “normal” brains, and we struggle a bit with that, and then we get criticised for struggling for what other people don’t struggle with, and after thirty of forty years of that (especially without knowing why we struggle) we begin to internalise that criticism, and that undermines out sense of self-worth and our self esteem. We end up assuming that we’re failures, and that knocks us about in all sorts of ways, some predictable, others a bit surprising.

Think of it as being like driving a specialised racing car that can hurtle around the tracks at 300kph (or 200mph, for you crazy imperial measurement types!) and needs a bit of TLC to keep operating at it’s potential, but everyone keeps signing you up to compete in 4WD offroad challenges, and then criticises you for getting bogged when your racing suspension can’t clear mudholes.

If I were in your shoes, I’d seek out a counsellor or psychologist specialising in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (or CBT), which is all about unravelling those negative thought patterns that lead to low self esteem. You might even see an improvement in that social anxiety if your self esteem improves.

Also, I’d dig through the resources on this and other websites specifically for managing ADHD in the workplace. Regular productivity and time-management approaches are unlikely to be terribly effective for you, because they’re designed for neurotypical brains - they certainly never worked for me! I know at least one of Jessica’s videos is specifically on finding ADHD-friendly accommodations in the workplace, and some of those are specifically about managing the distraction of conversations and activity around you. I think it’s this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvRnhV5GnjU

Anyway, that’s my two cents worth. Although looking at the length of it, it might be closer to five bucks. I may have a slight tendency to get carried away…

Best of luck, and keep us posted on how you go!

1 Like

Thank you for your valuable reply, it really means a lot to me.
I am still waiting for a psychologist which unfortunitly takes a lot of time here.
Will try to check also CBT.
It’s always nice to hear that you are not alone, for sure I wish I knew that since I was a child it would’ve saved me a lot of why’s & being hard on my self and thinking that I’m a failure or stupid.
Since I know I went to the psychologist, did all type of tests and now I’m searching all over the internet till they connect me with a professional.


The big benefit of CBT is that it’s something you can practice outside therapy sessions (indeed, you absolutely should practice outside therapy for it to be useful!), making it effectively free of charge. Mind you, those therapy sessions are really useful for honing your skills and identifying the root cause of those negative thoughts.

A caveat, though: although a powerful tool, like every other management technique and therapy it’s not a silver bullet. Just like how the range of psychological medications out there are substantially less effective if not backed up by talking therapy and lifestyle adaptations.

Another caveat, too, and a particular one for us ADHDers: it takes time and patience, and that can be a right bugger for people wired to have a peculiar attention span. The reason it takes time, like any other form of what we’ll call “talking therapy” (ie, everything that takes place through discussion with a psychological professional and requires us to modify how we think), is that you are effectively trying to undo the mental habits of a lifetime. Repeated and habitual thoughts create pathways and shortcuts in the mind, and what you’re doing is trying to avoid going down that well-known and familiar path to carve out another one.

It’s not that hard, but it takes time and can feel like failure when we don’t achieve results immediately. It’s not failure, any more than me not being able to play Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto in C# Minor (reputedly the hardest piece of piano music ever) after a full five minutes of practice.

Actually, it wasn’t the Rach C, and it wasn’t five minutes, but it wasn’t that far off. Turns out it’s practically impossible to play the whole piano score of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue within six months of restarting piano practice. In the end, though, I might have “failed” in the sense that I wasn’t able to play the whole score, but I did become a better piano player.

Now that I think of it, that’s not a bad analogy. We might not be able to “be normal” - the equivalent of playing the hardest piano music ever written - but we can get better at managing our peculiarities with time and practice - get better at playing the instrument overall.

Hmm… I may have sidetracked myself when writing that. A side effect of being able to type nearly as fast as I can think.

Back to the main point - I do think CBT would be enormously helpful for you (although I’m not a psychologist - pay attention to what they have to say!) and that it is one of the battery of tools available to us.

1 Like