Everyone has a better life than I do

 ADHD Weekly 2017-03-09

“Does anyone else see other women on social media with the perfect springtime decorations and just ‘hate’ them?” asks a writer on a Facebook group for women affected by ADHD. “I have a friend who has a full-time job, has two little daughters, and every night she makes a different treat for their school lunches, and then posts pictures of them! I literally have my Christmas tree stuffed in the corner of the dining room and to get it put away, I have to completely rearrange piles of stuff. And I still haven’t gotten the laundry done!”

Social media can help you connect with friends and other people who have similar interests; it’s an easy forum to share the highlights of your life. Yet for many women like our writer above, who are struggling with ADHD symptoms, social media adds another layer of stress. They see the amazing posts of friends and strangers seeming to lead perfect lives and compare them to the difficulties they face on a daily basis. The result: feeling depressed and taking a hit to their self-esteem from the comparison.

ADHD challenges the “picture-perfect” life

ADHD symptoms in adults may hinder many aspects of day-to-day functioning, including:

  • organizational skills
  • planning and scheduling
  • time management
  • short-term memory

Frequently, adults affected by ADHD find their homes and office spaces disorganized, forget special events, arrive late for appointments, and feel as if their lives are simply chaotic. Treatment for ADHD can help, and many people opt to work with professional organizers and coaches to cope with their symptoms. These steps can be time-consuming and require a great deal of work to make daily life run smoothly. Facing these daily struggles may make some women feel inadequate when they see friends’ social media posts in which everything seems effortless and starred by achievement.

What many women don’t realize is the posts they see on social media are just the highlights: pictures and accomplishments their friends have arranged like a museum exhibit to show the best of their lives. The struggles and difficulties many of these women face never make it to Facebook.

“The big danger of Facebook is that you get a glimpse into other people’s lives and then feel bad about your own,” says Jacqueline Sinfield, author of Untapped Brilliance: How to Reach Your Full Potential as an Adult with Attention Deficit Disorder, when discussing social media. “When you have adult ADHD there is a tendency to feel you aren’t where you ‘should be’ in life, and when you compare yourself to people in your social circle or friends you went to school with, you feel even worse. Sites like Facebook give us the ability to peep into people’s lives. You see your friends looking happy and cute with their friends, partners, and children. Then you compare that to your life and you don’t feel like you are having as much fun as them, or do exciting things.”

Social media and you 

The Pew Research Center estimates 69 percent of the public uses some type of social media. The most popular website remains Facebook (68 percent), followed by Instagram (28 percent), and Pinterest (23 percent). In the United States, about 4.4 percent of adults are affected by ADHD; of those affected, 38 percent are women.

The TODAY Show surveyed 7,000 mothers with Pinterest accounts. Of those surveyed, 42 percent said they experience “Pinterest stress”―worrying that they don’t measure up to the expectations displayed on social media because they aren’t crafty or creative enough. Many of the women felt their own daily experiences weren’t “worthy” of being shared on social media because they didn’t appear “picture perfect.”

“We have a hard time enjoying our own experiences because we feel it’s not worthy of this invisible judge. It’s so easy to get depressed. You start to feel like your entire life has to be like a magazine all the time,” says Jenna Andersen. She created Pinterest Fail, one of the first websites that provided “a safe place where Pinterest lovers can share the projects they’ve tackled that didn’t turn out quite how they hoped.”

Many women affected by ADHD are coping with co-occurring depression and anxiety, along with a lifetime of experiences when they were told to just “try harder” in achieving their goals. For them, social media posts of beautiful crafts and happy families can make it seem that they continue to fall behind in successfully navigating the day-to-day. For some, it sets unrealistic expectations. Ms. Sinfield emphasizes the importance of keeping in mind that what you see on social media is likely only a limited slice of another person’s reality.

“Remember, people only share the stuff about themselves that they want to,” Ms. Sinfield says. “When you read their status updates, they don’t usually share that they had an argument with their significant other, or that they feel sad today. Instead they focus on the positive; there is always one thing to mention that is good―even on your worst day ever. When you look at friends’ pictures, all it tells you is that for that second they looked happy. However, unless you are close friends with them, you don’t know what is happening behind the scenes.”

Overcoming the social media effect

How can you fight “Pinterest stress” in your life?

  • Recognize that what you are seeing is not necessarily what life is actually like for the other person. What she chooses to share comes from her highlight reel, not the daily bloopers.
  • Keep in mind those perfect pictures on Pinterest and other websites are professional photos. They have been crafted to sell an idea of perfection, rather than show you the results most people will have.
  • When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s okay to unplug. Take a break from social media. Focus on your own interests, rather than browsing other people’s ideas. If you find yourself feeling anxious that you’re missing out, talk about it with a professional who can help you.
  • Curate your own life; focus on the parts of your day that go well. Start a journal or notebook where you keep track of these successes to boost your self-esteem.
  • Search “Pinterest fails” in your favorite browser or search engine for humor and reassurance that you’re not doing so badly, after all.

Learn more about ADHD in women and girls.