Recently I was waiting with three young boys for a table at a busy restaurant. The crowd had spilled outside during the long wait, and the boys inevitably got in trouble by throwing berries at the windows of the restaurant. When confronted by their mother, they each had a different excuse for their behavior: “I only did it once,” “He made me,” and “I didn’t do it.”
It’s easy to come up with excuses for letting your impulses get in your way. Everyone uses excuses to get out of a jam now and then. But you can end up fooling yourself into believing your own story. “I only did it once.” Doesn’t sound so bad does it? But sometimes only one time is all it takes to make an irreparable mistake. Consider drinking and driving. You might get away with it once. But on the other hand, you could end up killing someone.
“He made me.” It’s easy to fool ourselves into believing that someone else is responsible for our actions. But, short of having someone holding a gun to your head, the only person who makes you do something is yourself. Sure it might have been the first boy’s idea to throw the berries in the first place, but the second child threw that berry all by himself. Does, “he made me,” stand up as a defense for shoplifting?
Which brings us to “I didn’t do it.” Standing around and not acting when other people are doing the wrong thing, is doing the wrong thing. Each of us has the responsibility to take a stand and say stop. We call people heroes when they step in to help someone who is being victimized in a crime. “I didn’t do it” stands hand-in-hand with “it’s not my fault.” Taking personal responsibility is looking at ourselves honestly and owning our actions. If you know that a crime is going to occur and you do nothing about it, you can be held accountable in a court of law.
Everyone makes mistakes.Sure it’s hard to stand up to an angry mother and say, “It was my idea,” or “I felt embarrassed to say ‘no’.” It’s even harder to stand up to our friends and say, “I don’t want to do this; I’m outta here.” Thankfully, most of life your mother won’t be there to make excuses to. The only one you need to fess up to if yourself. Some days with ADHD can feel like a series of impulsive disasters. You don’t make them better by shoving mistakes under the carpet with lame excuses. The key to successfully living with ADHD is facing your mistakes and working to avoid them in the future.
What kind of mistakes do you use white lies to cover up for? Lateness? Forgetting to pay a bill? Missing appointments? Getting homework in on time? Most of the time the only person fooled by your excuses is yourself. Consider your friend who is always late. You know they just can’t get it together, regardless of their story.
If you’re in the habit of making excuses, it can be hard to change. Be easy on yourself, and pick one thing to practice being honest about. Next time you are late say, “I intended to be here on time, but I scheduled my appointments too close together.” Or, “I cut it too close when I left home this morning and didn’t allow for traffic.” When you start giving honest explanations for your behavior instead of excuses, you give yourself the information you need to avoid that problem in the future. Who’s more likely to be on time? The person who says, “I got stuck in traffic.” Or the person who says, “I didn’t allow time for traffic.”
You don’t have to make excuses for ADHD. You just need to be honest with yourself and work to keep on track. When you make mistakes, fess up, forgive yourself and move on. It’s what everyone else does, and you can too.