When a genuinely kind-hearted kid finds out that they’re “different” at school because of ADHD or Autism (usually undiagnosed at first), they quickly need to come up with a social strategy that will keep them safe from bullying and ostracism.
This is why, in my opinion, there is so much crossover – or “comorbidity” – between Nice Guy Syndrome, ADHD and autism spectrum disorders like Aspergers.
In this video, I talk about why this crossover often occurs, who it happens to, why it persists into becoming a social struggle in adulthood, and how to transform from being the weird kid who’s faking it into an authentic, shameless and socially skilled adult.
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Full transcript (unedited)
Now, let’s talk about nice guy autism and ADHD comorbidity. And that is the high correlation between nice guy syndrome and autism spectrum disorders. I have a suspicion again, none of this is scientific because nobody studies nice guys. But there’s a combination of being on the spectrum, the autism spectrum, the ADHD, autism spectrum, and the desire to be a good person leading to that combination leading to nice guy syndrome. Basically, if you take autism, plus a love of people, you get nice guy syndrome. So if we look at autism, what used to be called Asperger’s and now called I don’t know what autism spectrum disorder because the Asperger’s guy turned out to be an artsy or some shit. I still prefer Asperger’s. Autism usually means a difficulty understanding social cues, reading people socially social dynamics, understanding the game, especially when you’re a kid, the kid game The Lord of the Flies, thing that happens in primary school in the the cool rating system, the invisible rating system that happens in high school, you know that that’s, that’s just an invisible to somebody on the spectrum, they have no idea what’s going on, and they’re unable to figure out how to play this game, when they try to be themselves, it just seems to be the wrong thing to do in this environment, they get punished for it, or they see other people doing and seeing them get punished for when the fuck am I going to do that. And so they very early on through traumatic bullying, or just ostracism or just a sense of being different, they start hiding who they really are. And because the hiding of who they are and pretending to be someone, they’re not starts to get better results socially. And when you’re a kid, social status, and fitting in is the most important thing in the world. You know, it’s pretty tempting to develop the nice guy syndrome is a safe remedy to the social ostracism problem in ADHD, which I do think is just sort of comorbid with autism at any given time. It means you’ve got habits and behaviors that tend to get you ostracized in a place like school, in a struggle to concentrate to get bad grades, again, two bits of trouble, we do weird things, you get habits, you’re into, like hobbies and stuff that other people don’t understand or that they aren’t cool. You struggle to pay attention, all these things are going to make things difficult for you socially, at least, they’re going to make things difficult for you in the classroom, and then you’re going to be seen as a stupid kid are going to be seen as the weird kid, because the teachers are punishing you, and sort of isolating you and putting you under the spotlight and so on. Again, you’re going to feel the need to develop some sort of strategy to survive socially. You know, people with ADHD and autism tend to be fixated on things that aren’t popular or common. They’re like weird things, they’re not really interested in the popular stuff. They have odd habits. They’re hypersensitive, like I was the crybaby kid when I was, you know, in primary school and such and, you know, I just seem to feel pain more than others and be more sensitive to cold and so on like that. So when you get this comorbidity, you have these different types of merge. And from the extroverted type, you get the performer and the controller types, in my experience working with clients. So these are the ones the extroverts are able to figure out the game, and how it’s played there, I will see the rules that everyone else seems to follow. They don’t understand it, they think it’s stupid, but they can see it, they can figure out how to play the game, too. They kind of decode what it means to be cool and figure out how to fake it. And so if you’re the performer type, you might figure out the cool thing to do. Like you might play the cool sports or play in a band or do whatever you know, be a skateboarder, whatever it is, it’s cool in your school, you’ll figure out that that’s the quickest way to this, I’ll be good at that thing that automatically gets me in. It’s pretty simple and effective strategy. Whereas the controller type will learn to start manipulating people, they’ll start to see the game. And they’ll start to see how to use sort of gossip and innuendo and gameplay to put themselves at the center of things. Because people on the spectrum are hyper vigilant and often have like, kind of oversensitive empathy. They actually develop advanced people reading skills. And I think this actually contradicts popular belief around autism that people can’t read faces and so on. I’m sure there’s some people on the spectrum who that applies to, but the ones who have nice guy syndrome have actually figured it out. They know how to read people, they know how to at least calculate based on all the variables in a social situation, how everyone’s probably feeling about everyone else and everything, and be able to make moves based on this information, kind of like playing chess. Of course, this performer and controller type can only really connect by being fake. So they actually feel alone all the time. They might have a couple of good friends. I was lucky enough to have some real connections. But the problem is, is if you’re manipulating people into liking you, then they don’t actually like you. They like the thing you’re pretending to be so that thing’s having relationships with people while you’re sitting back by yourself watching it happen like it’s on a movie. I think it’s a movie about you, but you’re not in it. That’s actually what it feels like I’d be a party is watching myself, be liked by all these people. And yet I’m not myself, oh my, they wouldn’t like this guy, they like that guy, the guy pretend to be, but this guy buck that hate him, so they’re not going to meet him. But it works enough to get you by. It’s a pretty effective strategy to fake. And the problem is, it’s not fake it till you make it because there is no making it, there’s just faking it. And it all starts to fall apart when you’re an adult. So later in life, you become really lonely, you start to collapse, because the system that makes people like you it can be effective well into, you know, 40s and 50s. But the loneliness never gets cured by it. And you start to resent the world for saying like, this is how I have to socialize, I have to be alone all the time to look like I’m not, if you’re introverted, with the sort of comorbidity, you get the wallflower and the inner critic types. And I’ve talked about all these types on a separate podcast if you want to dive into that. So this way, it’s too hard to fake it, you don’t get it. So this might be the people on the spectrum who can’t read the faces and so on. Well, the people with ADHD whose habits and peculiarities are just too weird to hide, they’ve been called out for it, and they can’t sort of pull back, this can’t figure out the code, they might even be in a situation where the schools a bit odd or they went from one school to another with totally different cultures, and they just can’t adapt quick enough. And by the time they figure it out, it’s too late because they’re already the outsider. And they can’t get rid of that kind of stigma. So they’re either forced to be a loner, or to hang out in like the loser group where nobody really likes each other, but stick together for like herd security. Or they learn how to fly under the radar to kind of hang out at the edge be included by the kind of more compassionate social groups, but then already noticed, they never make the mark, it just kind of allowed to be there without too much pain. This is the wallflower type. Of course, that lack of experience, because they’re not interacting, they’re not part of the things they get further and further behind in their social development. They’re not learning all the stuff that everyone else learns from hours and hours of socializing. You know, they’re spending most of the time in their own head. And there’s no help in there. There’s no mentoring or support or practice going on in there. So while everyone else is racking up hours and hours of social skills, they’ve been left behind. And that’s when the self loathing will really start to escalate. There’s something wrong with me, I’m different, the universe has targeted me. And you start to think this, you know, I’m the problem. The idea that you just didn’t want to play a game that everyone else is playing, that’s completely fake anyway, it doesn’t occur to you doesn’t occur to you that you might be the one who’s in the right, and everybody else is doing it wrong. They just seem to be having a good time. But by the time you’re an adult, you know, the eventual solution is just to detach, isolate, keep your distance where people live inside your own head, how it’s in there. So the problem with all these co morbid nice guys is nobody grabbed them, set them down, told them and validated them enough to go look, just own it. Just be this be weird, be you. But be shameless about it and apologetic about it. Stand up for it. You still might might not be accepted in the earlier years, but just give it a minute. Because as an adult, you will be the one who’s got integrity. And as isn’t scared of being truthful. And goes for what they want and creates a life that built for them. And everybody else, we try to conform and everything and they’re going to be the ones who are miserable. You know, there’s an inverse ratio with like popularity and happiness and so on. Which is the kids who like crushed in in high school and stuff, they are the ones who are going to be depressed when they’re older. Right? I’ve seen this too many times to not believe it at this point. You know, basically the weird kids who had a tough time in high school, but sort of stuck to their guns and be like, This is who I am. Fuck you guys. I’m going to do it anyway. They’re the ones who crushed it as adults, you know, because they’ve signed up to integrity early, they don’t have to make a change that’s kept doing it. And integrity actually works pretty well. When you’re an adult. You struggle with integrity if you go to high school, but these people are comb over these nice guys who have autism and ADHD. Generally, they kind of get the worst of both worlds. I still suck for them. And then they’re still fake as adults, and so they don’t get to enjoy a win on either side of the fence. You got to understand that this is not a weakness. It’s actually a strength if you know how to exploit it, a few a shameless about it and use it to your advantage. There’s nothing you need to change. You don’t need to join in and play the game. You can actually win by not playing. For start, you’re unique and interesting. You start to notice that people become stereotypes and tropes as they get older and boring. It’s interesting, it’s unattractive. You don’t want to stay in a relationship with it. It’s superficial. Look are popular that guy recently who liked to do Trainspotting, you know you get all excited watching trains like are popular he was because who else is doing it almost Is no one to be unique in a world of a billion people is really quite an incredible feat. And when you’ve got ADHD and autism, you’re gonna be unique. And as long as you’re okay with it, other people will actually find it interesting, not everybody, but the right kind of people for you. You’ll be socially intuitive in a way that other people aren’t because you spent so much time trying to understand people so much time reading people. Whereas everybody else has got along thinking that they were being liked and thinking everything’s fine. They didn’t bother to learn to read other people. And this is why I think there’s so much autism and ADHD in the psychology arts. You know, because we’ve spent so much time worried what other people think that we actually figured out what they’re thinking, and now we can use it as a strength. A lot of you can be refreshingly honest and vulnerable and even brutal with your feedback. And there are certain people in certain situations that are desperate for that. We live in such a fake world now, don’t we? Everybody’s so full of shit. We can’t trust politicians. We can’t trust media, we can’t trust celebrities. We can’t trust our friends and family, everyone seems to be lying nonstop, then it is a fucking a waste a breath of fresh air to meet someone who can’t lie. When someone will you know what they’re thinking at all times. And you don’t have to guess or worry about it. As long as you learn to refine it and not be sort of judgmental and unfair and cruel. When you express it. You can become the person that everyone goes to when they need a break from the bullshit. And frankly, you’ll be hyper considerate of others, you’re going to have their victim empathy. You know, when you’re bullied and ostracized, even if it wasn’t particularly mean, you just couldn’t find a way to fit in, you’re gonna know what that feels like. And there are a lot of people who feel that way as adults. Even if they didn’t feel that way in high school, they do now, there are a lot of lonely people out there. And very few people seem to understand them. You can be the one who understands them. I mean, everything from social to business opportunities opens up for you. But in order to make it work for you, there are some weaknesses that you need to overcome or work around. Firstly, just the shame about who you are doesn’t matter that you have all these strengths, if you’re ashamed of them. If you’re apologetic, if you hide them, if when you talk about the mean defensive and huffy. If you own it all, then all work for you. But if you’re apologetic for it, then other people will think there’s something wrong with you as well. You may have become judgmental and harsh about others, either you’re just not very good at expressing honesty without being too brutal. Or after years of being ostracized, you become bitter and resentful. And you’ve got really like negative views of other people think they’re all bullies, and you think they’re all assholes, when actually that’s just not the case, you might need to get to know people a bit better. And find out that hey, there are some people who would have been nice to you, if you just talked to them might have spent your whole life trying to be fake, rather than trying to find your own communication style, might have learned to talk how everyone else talks, and lost your own voice. You got to be able to speak in your own voice you get you know, sort of cheesy as it sounds, but you stop trying to be cool. And sort of back yourself and say what you want to say the way you want to say it, let other people figure out whether they like it or not. And a lot of you in your desperate attempt to fit in will have bad fit connections. A lot of us will even be unconscious, you’ll be like man, everybody I work with is always toxic, not realizing you’re choosing those jobs because you’re choosing the type of people that you want to fit in with, even though they’re not great people might have a string of bad relationships. You might have friends that don’t treat you very well. You’ve got to learn to let go their desperation of fit and be willing to be alone and ostracized in order to create space for people who actually like you the way you are. And I kind of specialize in working with people who have this comorbidity and developing social skills that don’t compromise your integrity, but do actually work in the real world. So get in touch if I can help you, Dan@brojo.org