Tech, impostor syndrome, and ADHD

CC’ing from Hi everyone. I'm a software engineer with ADHD:

ADHD may also lead to thinking that people think you’re incompetent, so you work extra-long hours to save face.

quote source

If you can relate, just wanted to encourage … You don’t have to overwork due to this!

What are your experiences/thoughts regarding impostor syndrome?


I know it well, right down to the overcompensating bit. Which can be a good thing in some situations, albeit overwhelming and petrifying in others. Public speaking comes to mind. As an introvert, I’m not one to seek center stage but I’m good if I can talk about stuff that’s not me. Whatever insecurities I have about that, I beat with preparation. Probably too much of it but as long as it makes me feel confident that nobody will regret putting me up on that stage, I’ll consider it a win.

Same for writing articles. You can bet I’ll double-check every claim and won’t waste any print space on filler lines. I’m more lenient in my own blog, naturally, that’s why it’s a blog. But recently I started digesting some of the articles into an ebook - and I’m back to double-checking and compressing.

The thing is, outside of a very small circle, I’m not so well-known. It’s very unlikely that I’ll win over readers or audiences or publishers, for that matter, by merit of my name. So I’m very self-conscious about making the thing itself worthwhile. And very perplexed and cautious whenever I get away with my stuff.


I never really thought about how editing while you’re writing can also be an ADHD thing, but it makes total sense. I do it all the time, mostly when I get stuck writing a line and my mind wanders up-page… That app wouldn’t be for me, though. I can’t spot an error and just let it stand! Must… correct…

1 Like

I constantly struggle with writing blurb for excited/senior level. My boss always rewrites it before I send it out as she has a standing order to proof everything. (it’s to help as she is a former friend before becoming a boss is aware of my dyslexia and ADHD so I am grateful for the oversight most of the time.) :slight_smile:

I work as project manager in the software industry, but that’s more of a title. I collect info make sense of it help people with Agile and the software we use (I’ve always been a bit split between IT admin/training and project management.) Former bosses have always been impressed with the way I take data from a project and help analyse it, so for example working out velocity of a team or setting up easy to use documentarion practices to aid Comms across multiple timezones.

But afrer writing that I realise I do a lot but I am always worried I don’t do enough or focus on the right thing enough. I have burned myself out pretty bad before to over compensate. The one thing I have found is to be with the right boss and not be afraid to ask for feedback, good and bad. As I really need to know what I am doing right and what I need to improve, although I often already know what I need to improve what I can’t see is what I’m doing well. I’m lucky to have a boss that understands that. It has helped but i don’t think I’ll ever shake the feeling of I don’t belong here and they will find me out. :laughing:


That makes so much sense. I do this all the time as well. Even something as “simple” as writing a post or comment to something (such as here…). I will go back and rewrite, revise, redo, etc. It may take me a couple hours… on and off… because I keep going back and changing things… get distracted, come back, write, edit, revise some more… Then, after I’ve hit “post” I’ll find myself going back and continuing to fix typos, add clarification, fix issues and redundancies and things that don’t quite make sense/flow that result from all of my rewrite and edits…

And then, if I’m trying to sound professional for work… It may take me several hours before I hit “Send” on what some might consider a “simple”/“short” email…


Yeah, I’m equally appalled and relieved that Twitter doesn’t have a ‘correct’ function or I’d spend even more time there. I’m pretty good at spotting an error in the second between hitting ‘send’ and the actual sending.

BTW, anybody else here who used to spend an occasional hour or two trying to get a tweet below 140 characters?


Yes, I think I have everything just right and as soon as I hit send I see something that needs correcting… Imagine a slow-motion “noooooooooo” and reach for any anything that might be able to cancel it, but of course it’s already too late.


I can totally Identify with this LizLansdown.

I’m in sales and was lucky enough to have a manager who went over all of my emails over and over again until I was able to produce extremely concise messages that got to the point quickly.

I think the ADHD brain looks at any given subject like some kind of a manic detective trying to solve a crime with 100 pieces of seemingly unrelated evidence all connected by little red strings. We want to communicate the importance of all those pieces and forget that the rest of the world wants, “Just the facts, Ma’am”


Oh my god you have put it into very sucscint words there. Exactly that! @Malapuptus

I often get lost in the thought of… well I only understand it because of all the little bits of information so therfore for anyone else to understand it they too must need all the bits of information and backstory and reasoning. I guess sometimes I feel like my mind runs at a mile a minute and people have a tough time understanding me so I then over explain how I got to said conclusion etc

For example see above! :laughing:


Yep. Slack is bad and good in equal measure. Just today I got lost in Excel. My acchilles heel, and worked I to the evening without realising the time at all…

1 Like

Oh god. This is why the documentation I write at works always elicits comments like, “so where’s the actual procedure?”

1 Like

As a programmer I find sometimes that I’m worthless and that is a matter of time before I get fired. Sometimes I find I’m too lazy and not committed enough to my work, especially when comparing with my coworkers. I’m aware that it’s impostor syndrome, but the voice in my head keeps talking louder that I’m just incompetent.

EDIT: sorry for my English, It’s not my native language.

1 Like

Well, I’m not a tech-employee, though I do understand the “settings” functions on your average computer more than most, and therefore I end up being expected to remember my bosses’ various passwords and fix their mistakes for them without getting any thanks and losing lot of time and not being paid for it and being fired when my own work doesn’t get done. So I can relate.

Har har … the first paragraph is a little bit of a joke … not entirely … anyway, more seriously …

More seriously, I personally have always ended up doing that thing in the first post, “work extra-long hours to save face,” and I think this is a HUGE problem for ADHD-ers. There are probably a lot of reasons why.

First, we don’t read social and subtle inter-personal cues very well. So, if someone doesn’t really mind if one or another project doesn’t get done, or if someone else hints that we really should get some sleep, we possibly miss the message. We aren’t capable of implementing the judgment necessary to decide what the priorities ought to be, or what the priorities in OTHER people’s minds are, so we do EVERYTHING and we feel like we’re being FORCED into doing EVERYTHING. This means we get lucky on a few occasions, like the broken clock which nevertheless displays the exactly correct time twice during every twenty-four hour cycle, and we end up over-working on exactly the pet project that will give us exactly the promotion or praise we deserve. But it also means we are very very unlucky for the rest of the time, like the broken clock which mostly doesn’t display anything even close to the right time most of the day … and night.

Second reason we work extra-long hours, is that we can be guilty of hyper-focus (duh!). A project “takes us over” and we end up not noticing that we’ve worked on it to the detriment of work-life balance, or even just to the detriment of other workplace projects that might deserve greater attention than they’re getting.

Third reason, as the “impostor syndrome” phrase in this thread’s title attests, we’re likely to believe we don’t deserve to be where we are. This stems partly from the mere fact of HAVING ADHD which, as in the first reason, helps us miss the subtle social cues which would otherwise indicate we were appreciated at the place where we worried that we didn’t deserve appreciation. But it also might stem from the CAUSES of our ADHD, which quite often comes from the parenting done to us by our genetically predisposed adult care-givers, who would likely be more distracted during our infancy and toddler-hood and therefore might fail to inform us of what being wanted actually means. If you’re familiar with Dr. Gabor Mate’s thesis, that distraction comes from distraction and perpetuates itself generation after generation, you know where I’m going with this: ADHD-ers don’t know how to value ourselves because we’ve always received signals that we were a burden, too much of a burden, during our own childhoods.

These, and many other reasons, lead us (in my own admittedly utterly unscientific opinion) to poor workplace “reading.” We are there, we are oppressed, we are humiliated, we buckle down and allow even greater oppression and humiliation … and by the end of the cycle, whether or not our boss is exactly and precisely an abusive bully or not, we end up absorbing the experiences of someone who has had a boss who acts like an abusive bully. We self-martyr at the hands of the workplace.

That’s been my experience a thousand times over (well, more like ten … twelve?). There’s never been such a thing as acceptance from others, or happiness, or decent treatment, at a workplace, for me. It’s always been, “You grubby little worm! How dare you believe you have a right to a paycheck?? I don’t see you SWEATING yet!” Mostly all of that is in my mind, I know. I’m sure there’s been a little bit of that actually going on – capitalism can’t function without at least partially humiliating its subjects, this is well attested (cf. Durkheim et al.). But I’m also sure there’s bee a great deal of my own misinterpretation of the situation, my own inability to figure out what’s going on, my own desire to be elsewhere, my own need to have a workplace that operates quite differently from what the workplace gives me.

In the long run, I think, this is all just a question of how the “standard” workplace operates. If only we ADHD-ers could simply make the demand, that the drone-apt people out there who DON’T have ADHD, would respect our needs as much as we respect and accommodate theirs … ah, one can dream. But the assumptions that the rest of the “standard” work world has, about the “right” or “wrong” way to do things! Those assumptions are SO pervasive! (And, I might add, so utterly counter-productive. Different issue?)

Can’t help but notice, the Covid-19 pandemic is doing a great job of helping those different assumptions force their ways into other people’s minds.