Masking Throughout the Years: A Reflection on Growing Up ADHD

Lived Experiences
Veronica Yao

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by Veronica Yao

When I was a kid, I remember thinking that life was like a play.

When I was at school, I felt like an actor on stage doing improv lines with my teacher and other students in my class. I would listen carefully to their words and read their body language, and come up with a carefully measured response so I could stay in their favour. I mirrored their body language and voice inflections so I could blend into the setting.

You could imagine my surprise growing up when I found out that most other people didn’t plan out every eventuality in their head, nor did they practice conversations in their head before having them. I thought this trait made me more prepared, and daresay, more professional than others. But the truth is, it was the only way I knew how to function.

It finally dawned on me in my early 30s when I received my ADHD diagnosis: I had been masking this whole time. And suddenly, it made sense why I burned out at almost every job I had throughout my 20s, despite being seriously good at it and wanting so badly to perform well. I was pouring energy into masking every single day, when others just had to show up as themselves.

It was a hard lesson to learn, but it was also incredibly validating. That’s precisely why I decided to start Atypical Careers – to help neurodivergent professionals like myself break the cycle of burnout and job hunting and find peace and sustainability in their careers.

Little Veronica did what she had to do to survive in a neurotypical world. Now I can honor her hard work by living my best life authentically and helping others do the same.

Are you neurodivergent and burnt out at work?

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