ADHD and Lessons from The Gifts of Imperfection


Gifts of Imperfection and Adult ADHD

A few weeks ago I joined a small group book club where we are going through The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W. I had originally read the book on my own over a year ago. I signed up for the OCourse on and lasted less than a week. I read through the book, but skipped the videos and the art journaling assignments. I had decided it wasn’t for me because I wasn’t ‘an artist’. I now know I missed out on a lot of learning and potential for personal growth.

This week’s Guidepost #3 is “Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting God of Numbing and Powerlessness”. Resilience is, “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change” (Webster’s Dictionary).

Levels of pain

Brown defines numbing as behaviours that we engage in to take, “the edge off of vulnerability, pain, and discomfort”. Numbing behaviour differs from person to person and can include doing things such as substance abuse, watching t.v., spending a lot of time on Facebook or other forms of social media, shopping, spending money, exercise, sex, and many other things.

As I was reading through this chapter, watching Brene’s video, and beginning the corresponding assignment, I began to wonder if some of the habits and behaviours we attribute exclusively to ADHD, might actually be a form of numbing. I wouldn’t say that this has to be either or, but sometimes it is easy to attribute certain emotionally based behaviours to ADHD when it might not actually be the case. Is watching hours of television per day a habit of ADHD, or could it be a result of numbing? I don’t have a medical answer, but I am curious about how numbing and ADHD effect our lives.

adhd and comorbid disorders

If you have a co-morbid diagnosis such as ADHD and an anxiety disorder or ADHD and depression, I think it is important to learn about and recognize which symptoms can be attributed to each disorder.

I personally know that when I procrastinate it is usually a combination of anxiety and ADHD. Thankfully, the anxiety increases enough to give me the kick in the pants that I need to do what needs to be done. Nothing gets me going more than a tight deadline. Of course, the down side to this is the depleted energy, the crash, the damaging self-criticism, and whatever numbing behaviour I am engaging in.

Brisk walking has always been a numbing activity for me, but I was not always conscious of this. Brisk walking gets my heart pumping, provides cardio exercise, and helps me to physically release built up tension. Numbing is not considered healthy, at least not according to Brene Brown, but for right now, I’m not ready to give that up. My doctor has stressed the importance of getting exercise for helping to manage anxiety, and so far it has been working. I look forward to the end of winter and the darkness that it brings so I can return to my daily 5k brisk walks free of ice and snow.

I’ll share with you the questions Brene Brown gave students for Guidepost 3. I think these are important things to consider and evaluate in your life. Take these questions a bit further by seeing how ADHD plays a role in these behaviours. Which of your behaviours are ADHD, which are numbing, and which may be both?

Part 1: Lesson 4/Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness

We can’t selectively numb just the bad and feel the joy at the same time. Think about the things you use to numb yourself when you’re feeling pain or sadness.” Brene Brown.

  • What leads you to numbing?
  • How do you numb?
  • Know the difference between numbing and comfort.
  • What brings you comfort (refuels you)?