How My Neurodivergence Set Me Up For a Lifetime of “Fixing Myself”
“Dropping constant improvement as a goal doesn’t mean you don’t care about growth; it means you value growth from a compassionate, organic lens instead of a pressured, forced one.”-Lisa Olivera
“Can you please turn the TV down more?!” I screamed from the top of the stairs as I was trying desperately to get to sleep.
My parents grudgingly obliged, inching their face closer to the TV that they could already barely hear, even as they were right next to it.
The level of anxiety I felt within me hearing the muffled sounds of the TV as I was trying to sleep could only be described as terror.
I believe I was around eight years old at the time.
It all started around three years old, with the exclamation of, “Mommy, I’m not dry!” as I used up an entire roll of toilet paper when I went to the bathroom.
Throughout my childhood years there were many presentations of my neurodivergence and sensory processing disorder: the ticking of a clock or any repetitive sounds would send terror through me, the sound of my sister chewing gum would make me burst into hysterics, sleeping in the same room as someone snoring, hell, even breathing loud was the absolute worst of all. Let me tell you how much fun sleepovers were as a child (said with the highest level of sarcasm).
By the time I reached nine years old, my mother sat me down and explained that she was taking me to see a psychologist. I screamed and protested, sure that my parents thought something was wrong with me, and internalizing that I was a terrible bother to them with my unusual tendencies that I couldn’t control, and they couldn’t seem to understand.
How can a child who depends on their parents for survival conclude anything but this with their developing brain? I have so much compassion for that little one.
I received various different neurodivergence diagnoses over the years and remained in psychologist and therapists offices from nine years old onwards.
Yes, I’ve been in therapy for THIRTY YEARS at this point.
While I don’t regret my three decades in therapy, I want to share this with you because I don’t want it to take you decades to reach the point where you can do therapy and coaching work from a place of supporting yourself instead of fixing yourself like it did me.
When I was nine, neurodivergence wasn’t nearly as understood as it is today. I got put through the absolute hell of exposure therapy, which was nothing more than torture for someone with a sensory processing disorder to be consistently exposed to their triggers; it only made things worse.
Because so little was understood, I felt misunderstood, and I could sense that my parents didn’t understand either. It seemed like they just wished I could “get over it”, “snap out of it”, and make my brain function like a neurotypical person to be less of an inconvenience for them and our family.
I know they did the absolute best they could at the time, and yet it still felt like there was little to no effort to either understand me or accommodate me and my needs. My life was spent trying to fix myself to make myself less of a burden to them.
My neurodivergence was the foundation of me vowing to “fix myself”, to make myself less of an inconvenience to others, to “optimize” myself, and be “the best version of me” that I could be.
And trust me, all my life I was so earnest in trying to do just that. God, was I ever earnest.
If I sensed that my preferences, needs, or neurodivergence was the slightest bit of an inconvenience to anyone, I’d “work on myself” endlessly to try to change it.
It would take me literal YEARS of trying to change something about myself, doing absolutely everything I could, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at it before I came to a place of acceptance of it and asking for accommodation for me instead of me bending over backwards for the other person (thanks neurotypical world that expects neurodivergents to just “blend in”!).
You see, I had internalized that I am the problem, always.
As one does, I subconsciously carried these fixing tendencies forward into all other areas of my life:
In my career, I tried to convince myself for *years* that I *should* love physical therapy because I got a doctorate in it, and everyone else seemed to love it as a profession, even though it grated against every sensitivity I had.
When I was single, I endlessly picked myself apart and tried to “fix” the parts of myself that I thought were making it hard for me to find a partner, including hiding my neurodivergence.
When I started my business, I was in a place of constantly “optimizing” myself and thinking if I could just reach the place of having “perfect” thoughts, emotions, belief in myself and my offers, that then I’d be a better coach and be more successful in my business.
Perhaps, your tendency to try to “fix” yourself instead of relate to yourself didn’t begin with a neurodivergence diagnosis like me, but I believe that most all of us who are drawn to “doing the work” on ourselves likely go through a (potentially necessary) stage of pushing, striving, and trying to optimize ourselves in our pursuit of growth rather than relating to ourselves and learning to support ourselves.
*And*, at some point I think you wake up and realize that all the suppressing, denying, trying to “fix”, change and optimize yourself isn’t delivering the promised results.
In fact, it leaves you feeling more disconnected from yourself, from others, exhausted, and farther from the relationships, business, and career that you crave.
The promise that we unconsciously buy into is that if we can fix, optimize, or be the “best” version of ourselves, then we will be able to have the relationships, business, career, and life that we crave.
The type of relationship this creates with yourself is one of denial, suppression, hiding, eliminating, minimizing ourselves and our needs, perfectionism, people-pleasing, striving, hustling, and fixing, just to name a few.
I know that kind of relationship with myself all too well, and it’s exhausting. Not only is it exhausting, but it doesn’t allow for wholeness and well-being.
It was only when I shifted the relationship with myself to one of supporting myself and honoring myself that I began to experience the freedom, authentic self-expression, and sovereignty that I believe are our birthrights.
You, your triggers, your nervous system responses, your thoughts, your emotions, and yes, even the things that you think are *holding you back* from the things you want AREN’T A PROBLEM TO BE SOLVED.
You aren’t broken, and you don’t need fixing.
You and all of your humanity are GOOD; you need to be supported, honored, and related to rather than fixed.
Let me share a few examples of what that switch looks like:
Fixing Yourself Might Look Like:
- Thinking that something is wrong with you
- Thinking that your very natural, normal human responses that none of us get to escape as humans (emotions, thoughts, nervous system responses) are wrong and need to be changed/fixed
- Treating yourself like a problem to be solved
- Constantly feeling like you need to do more, be more, or be different, and pushing yourself hard to get there to the point of exhaustion
- Wanting to hide parts of yourself that you think are wrong/a problem
- Curating yourself so that other people only see the parts of you that you think are presentable
- Wanting to eliminate parts of yourself and feeling like if you did, your life would be better/you could finally have what you want
Supporting Yourself Might Look Like:
- Wanting to understand your responses and support yourself through them, and relate to them with compassion and care
- Knowing that your responses make so much sense
- Treating yourself like someone to relate to with care and compassion
- Using nervous system regulating tools and somatic tools to support yourself through your normal and natural human responses
- Knowing that there will always be challenges in life, but that you can learn to support yourself through them
- Knowing that ALL PARTS of you are valuable and have wisdom to offer if you take the time to listen to them and relate to them
- Realizing that the parts of you that you thought were “wrong” are actually your special sauce
- Allowing yourself to have your preferences and needs, and knowing that they aren’t wrong
This shift from fixing yourself to relating to yourself is at the very heart of my new offer, How To Be Human: Sovereign Self-Leadership Through Your Embodied Humanity.
This offer is for the ambitious woman leader who has a strong drive to continue to grow, expand, and evolve in her relationships, business, and career…and wants to do that through partnering with yourself and the fullness of your humanity instead of suppressing, denying, changing, or “fixing” yourself.
How To Be Human is the missing link of achieving the things you most desire by partnering with yourself rather than punishing yourself.
I couldn’t be more thrilled to extend the invitation to you for How To Be Human. It feels like my embodied magnum opus, the culmination of five years of coaching hundreds of people, and the very essence of my life and all my years of study.
Make sure to check out more about How To Be Human here!
“I refuse to spend a life fixing what’s not broken so that I can tend to the things that I want and desire. So that I can expand my capacity to be a part of the world, to be in relationship and to be well.”-Tami Sasson