If I knew in my 20s and 30s what I know now, I could have had a healthy relationship with survival jobs and perhaps been much more successful commercially as an actor and playwright.  What I didn’t know then was that I was caught up in a vicious cycle of shame-grandiosity-envy-boredom and fear. 

As an ADHD Career coach, the identification of this cycle is the basis of my 5 Emotions methodology. Here, I will apply it to our working lives as creatives with ADHD, to explore how this model impacts our success and professionalism.

Shame is a debilitating state of affairs, and ADHD is a neurocircuitry that predisposes us to it. Being a creative with ADHD amplifies our predisposition to shame. We can’t get things done the way other people do. When we don’t accept that and get solution-focused on what will work for us, and instead hyper-focus on our ‘ineptitude’, we get fired. Again and again and again. 

Grandiosity is a place of false refuge that says ‘well, of course I can’t hack a corporate job, I’m too special for it. My greatness lies elsewhere and that’s what I should be doing!’ Grandiosity generates contempt for what we have to do to survive. It does not allow us to explore solutions to our rent problem effectively. For that, we need humility, which means taking the focus off of ourselves in order to find some solutions to our productivity and fiscal problems. Humility allows us to view our J.O.Bs as patrons of our art rather than that which defines us. If we can do that, we actually remain employable rather than sabotage our success at the job and again…get fired.

Envy is a misery-maker borne of compare-and-despair-induced shame. “If I were any good, I wouldn’t need a J.O.B. I’d be making money from my art like so and so..” “ I’d be earning a PhD and finding a cure for cancer like my cousin instead of doing office admin for this arrogant doctor.” 

Number four is Boredom. “Well, what could possibly be interesting about paper shuffling when I could be writing a book?  No wonder I’m always late. I don’t want to be here. I’ll just play video games or watch porno on my computer….”

And then get fired. But that’s the job’s fault, right? I was overqualified. My talents were wasted…

Are you beginning to see how these mindsets work together to keep us unemployed?

Fear completes the 5 Emotions cycle because it takes a great deal of courage to break it. Courage is the act of stepping into the unknown despite our anxiety in order to find a new way. It takes courage to leave familiar turf, and paradoxically that sometimes means staying right where you are…in a boring day job taking responsibility for your neurodivergent patterns and tendencies so that you can eventually leverage them into success at a J.O.B. 

How? By doing things like setting reminders and multiple alarms to get out the door on time. By seeking support. By asking for work accommodations, or staying a little later if things take longer…or body-doubling with a colleague to get the hard stuff done. That’s called professionalism. 

And guess what? It not only leads to workplace success, it’s needed in the creation and marketing of the work that  really matters to you: your art.

So I encourage you to get a handle on the Big 5: Shame, Grandiosity, Envy, Boredom and Fear. 

If you’d like to learn more about how to do that, I hope you’ll check out my book The Five Emotions That Stop Success .