Farah Jamil and Healthy Boundaries

Farah Jamil had to work hard for her diagnosis. That struggle was one of the motivators behind her decision to become an ADHD life coach, as well her decision to embrace her role as a mental health advocate for the Muslim community. But once she received her diagnosis, that path of self-discovery led her to understand just how detrimental being a people-pleaser had been for her. 

Join us to hear more from Farah about her experience with ADHD and how she’s learned to embrace her external and internal neurodiversity, advocate for herself, and what she loves about serving the ADHD community as a coach. 

Refocused, Together is a collection of 31 stories told throughout the 31 days of October, a part of our commitment to ADHD Awareness Month. Make sure to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts so you don’t miss a single story this month! 

Read: FAST MINDS: How To Thrive If You Have ADHD (Or Think You Might)

Watch: Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Relics” 

Watch: Our America with Lisa Ling – The ADHD Explosion

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Farah Jamil (00:00):

Nobody’s a mind-reader. Nobody can know what my healthy boundaries are unless I tell them, but I have to figure it out first. And for me, those healthy boundaries include looking at my capacity. As much as I want to do something for someone, it has to be within my capacity as well. So I want to work with them, not just take the first suggestions that they throw at me.

Lindsay Guentzel (00:24):

You’re listening to Refocused, Together. And this is episode two, Farah Jamil and Healthy Boundaries.


Welcome back to Refocused, a podcast all about ADHD. I’m your host, Lindsay Guentzel, and today we’ve got another story in our Refocused, Together series. This special project we started last year as a part of our commitment to ADHD Awareness Month. The plan is to share the stories of 31 people with ADHD each day during the month of October. We created Refocused, Together as a way to raise awareness on just how complex ADHD is and the different ways it shows up in people’s lives.


You just heard today’s guest, Farah Jamil. Farah is someone who has always stood out, a woman of color, and a visible religious minority who grew up in the US and Canada. She embraced her external diversity, however, it wasn’t until she was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult and founded Muslim ADHDers that she learned to embrace her internal neurodiversity as well.


As a child, Farah could sit still in class and mostly pay attention, waiting until the last minute to do her homework and assignments, yet still excelled. She participated in countless activities both in and out of school and even graduated with two degrees, including a master’s from an Ivy League school and an executive coach certification.


As she got older, doing things at the last minute no longer did the trick for her. Feeling stuck, overwhelmed, and constantly dealing with fatigue and migraines, she sought help from doctors. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong until she saw a TV program about ADHD. Despite her psychologist’s initial dismissal of her ADHD hypothesis, Farah insisted they go through the ADHD assessment together. He was surprised to find out she had it, as was another psychiatrist who told her that she simply had too high expectations for life. Despite feeling dismissed and belittled, Farah didn’t give up. She became an ADHD life coach to serve the underserved, like herself. By adding her voice to the ADHD space, Farah hopes to help others fully embrace their external and internal neurodiversity.


You can learn more about Farah and her work on her website, muslimadhders.com, or over on Instagram, @muslimadhders.


Let’s hear more from Farah about her experience with ADHD, and how she’s learned to embrace her external and internal neurodiversity, advocate for herself, and what she loves about serving the ADHD community as a coach.


Well, I just have to tell you, I’m so excited to have you here. And what’s great about all of these interviews is that they all start the same. I start by asking. When were you diagnosed, and what was that process like, and what might have started or sparked those initial conversations?

Farah Jamil (03:50):

So I was diagnosed as an adult. And I hate to say it, but it was such an uphill battle. The only reason why I finally figured out is I caught a program. It was an interview between Lisa Ling in the US with I believe, a physician-scientist, and they happened to be talking about ADHD. And when he was describing some of the symptoms, I remember Lisa saying, “Hey, that sounds like me.” And I said back to the TV, “Hey, that sounds like me too.” And so at that time, I was actually seeing a psychologist about time management ’cause I kept feeling like, “Why am I having such a hard issue with time?” And so I actually thought, “Let me see if I can talk to someone about it.” And we’d been working for a little bit, but things just weren’t working like the… The things that we were trying to come up with it didn’t quite seem to work.


So I went to him and told him, “Hey, I think I have ADHD.” And he said, “No, you don’t.” And I said, “Why? Why do you say that?” And he’s a really great guy. I really liked him a lot. He just said very frankly, “You’re an Ivy League graduate. You have loving family and friends. You have a full-time job, and you’re very charming.” Those are the four things that he said to me. And I looked at him, and I’m like, “What do any of those things have to do with whether I have ADHD or not?” And he just wasn’t convinced. He said, “No, I don’t think you have ADHD.” And one of the things that I remember is for whatever reason, I usually go into people-pleasing mode. So I probably would’ve said, “Okay, fine. Let’s just move on.”


But for whatever reason in that moment, I said, “You know what? Let’s take down that DSM-5 manual and go through it together.” And the DSM is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for disorders that’s used by physicians and psychologists. And so he took it down very reluctantly. We went through it together, and he said, “Oh my goodness, you have ADHD.” I said, “Yeah, I know.” And he said, “I’m really sorry though. I’m not trained in this. I can’t help you.” I said, “That’s okay. I understand. I appreciate you being honest about that.”


So then, as any ADHD would do, we start the research. We start going down those rabbit holes. It’s like, “Aha, what can we find out about this?” And it wasn’t easy, but I did come across a couple of resources, but it was still really difficult because every time I would tentatively raise it with someone, they would dismiss me right away. They’re like, “No, Farah.” Maybe you’re just not trying hard enough. Maybe you’re just making excuses.


And when I talked to my GP about it, my general practitioner, she was great. She was like, “Okay, let’s see what we can do. How about we get you an appointment with a psychiatrist?” And at first, I was a bit reluctant. I’m like, “Oh, do I really have to see a psychiatrist?” Even though I’m a health executive, I couldn’t help but be caught up in that stigma. And then I caught myself. I’m like, “What am I thinking? Of course, I should go to a psychiatrist because they probably have this training.” So I agreed, waited for the referral, got the referral, and I was actually a little excited to finally talk to a psychiatrist because I knew it was not something that I initially thought of, but I’m like, “Hey, maybe this will be the person that can help me.”


So I told my story to the psychiatrist, and he said to me, “I don’t really believe in ADHD, and maybe even if you have it, you would have to be thoroughly tested,” Side note, I was thoroughly tested, “and I just think you have too high expectations in life.” Once again, I’m dismissed. And from there, my journey just kept going, not in the way that I hoped, but I think it made me mad enough to take things into my own hands. So that’s when I trained. I had already trained as an executive coach, so I already had that training. I knew the power of coaching, so I decided to train as an ADHD coach. I didn’t see anyone who looked like me talking about this. So I thought, “Hey, why didn’t I get the training? I’m tired of people dismissing me. Maybe there’s others who are like me feeling that same sense of just not being believed and being made to feel that guilt, blame, and shame thinking that we are just making excuses, and we’re not good enough.” And here we are today.

Lindsay Guentzel (08:44):

I’m wondering if you can go back to that Lisa Ling interview and that conversation you had with your referral, who tells you that he doesn’t believe in ADHD. What was your story? What were those connections you were hearing that made you think, “This is something that I might be dealing with?”

Farah Jamil (09:06):

So one of the things that I came across in my research before I saw the psychiatrist is a book called Fast Minds. It’s by two psychiatrists. And Fast Minds is a great acronym, and this book is for adults with ADHD. That’s how I came across it. And it’s these elements that really helped me understand that I think I have ADHD.


So Fast Minds, F is for forgetful. I live by my calendar. If it’s on my calendar, I’m probably going to forget it. And then there are other times where my memory is great. So it’s like, okay, there are times where I can be forgetful. Now, you don’t have to have all of these, but any element of them where it impacts you on a daily basis that’s the important thing.


So A is achieving below potential. I knew that I could be doing so much more, and I was always feeling really… Somehow, I felt behind, and I couldn’t figure out why. I felt like I was not where I could be.


S is stuck in a rut. And for me, yeah, I can get really comfortable and end up maybe staying in certain things that really, I should not be staying for that amount of time.


T is time challenged. I mean, yes, that’s what I was going to the psychologist for. So that’s Fast.


Minds, M is motivationally challenged, and this is where my brain knows exactly what it needs to do to succeed, but my body won’t cooperate. I call that brain-body disconnect. And I would think intellectually, I was motivated, yet I couldn’t quite do it in the moment that I wanted to or in the way that I wanted to. So motivationally challenged is something that I could relate to.


I is impulsive. I mean, there are times where I could be impulsive. For some people, it could be shopping to make themselves feel better. For others, it could be making impulsive decisions without really thinking it through. For me, I don’t think that was as much of an issue. Thinking back, I could see times when that would’ve been a factor.


N is novelty-seeking. So basically, you get bored very easily. Oh yeah, that is totally me. I have how many tabs open on my computer at eight times ’cause I’m working on one thing, and then I get bored. The next thing, et cetera.


D is distractible. “Oh, look, a squirrel,” all that fun stuff. And S is scattered. So that’s Fast Minds. And I could relate to all those. And also, under time challenged also the procrastination. So I include the procrastination under time challenged. So I talked about all of these things. So with the Fast Minds, and again, these are things that would impact a person not just once in a while, because one of my pet peeves is when people say, “Oh, well, everyone’s a little ADHA.” No, either you have it, or you don’t. So one of the things I’ve said in some presentations that I’ve done is when you say that “Oh, everyone’s a little bit ADHD.” That’s like saying, “Oh, everyone’s a little bit pregnant.” No, either you’re pregnant or you’re not.


So with Fast Minds as a guide, it’s really helped me to see what are the things that impact my life on a daily basis or on a regular basis in some shape or form. And so for me, some of those things do impact me more than others, but definitely the time challenged, that’s a big one. The procrastination, oh my gosh, that just kills me. That just kills me because there are all these things that I want to do, and it’s that pesky procrastination that gets in the way. So that’s a really big one.


But for whatever reason, when I highlighted these things with a psychiatrist, he interpreted that as saying or thinking that I have too high expectations in life. And I thought to myself, I work with executives. I work with some pretty phenomenal people. I wonder, if he were to say that to any of those leaders, how they would take that. If you said it to a CEO, or if you said it to someone who was an innovator or an athlete who is striving for the Olympics, would you just hear them talk for a few minutes and automatically say to them, “Oh, I think you have too high expectations in life without getting to really thoroughly know them.” Please, I don’t think any of those people would put up with being dismissed like that. And that’s how I felt. I felt totally dismissed.

Lindsay Guentzel (14:07):

And what’s wrong with that? Why can’t we have high expectations for life? There were areas that you saw room for improvement, that it was holding you back. And it’s like, that’s an amazing thing to want. It’s okay to want more and to want to do better for yourself.

Farah Jamil (14:26):

Absolutely. And how would we move forward in life in society if we are just content with mediocrity? And I think people have this assumption that, oh, if you’ve accomplished certain things in life, then you should just sit on your laurels. You should just say, “Oh, that’s good enough,” and just be satisfied. And that’s perfectly fine if that’s what you want to do. Sure. But for anyone who wants to do other things, or maybe who wants to continue progressing and really honing those skills or improving in any way that they would like to physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, why would you try to cut them down, or why would you want to get in their way? It makes me think of some famous folks who have ADHD. One example is Sir Richard Branson. So he’s the one who’s the head of Virgin Atlantic, and now people are going to space.


Could you imagine if this psychiatrist had said to him as he described his ADHD, “You know, Sir Richard, I think you just have too high expectations in life.” We would not accept that. I don’t think he would accept that. So I don’t know if it’s because, as a woman of color and as a visible religious minority, is that a factor? I can’t say. I really don’t know. But I couldn’t help but feel that. And the reason why I also say that is because one of the things I’ve talked about is how having external… So the D and DEI, so you’ve got diversity, equity, and inclusion, and sometimes you add B belonging as well, that D about diversity, that’s not just external diversity. For me, as someone who’s neurodivergent, that’s also internal diversity. So here I am already contending with all the things with external diversity, being a woman of color, and a visible religious minority.


I’m proud of who I am. That’s fine. I’ve had to navigate all of those things that come with it. And now I have to contend with the internal diversity. So here I am, being dismissed once again. And this time for my internal diversity. That’s not acceptable. And even though when I heard people, especially those who are clinicians, be so dismissive, it was just one of those moments where I didn’t people please, which I was really happy about ’cause I typically do, or I used to. I’m a recovering people pleaser. I advocated for myself. And I think for us, ADHDers, that is so important. And I’m hoping that we can do more of that for ourselves because we need to.

Lindsay Guentzel (17:19):

I’m wondering if you could expand a little bit on your Muslim faith and how it interconnects with your ADHD. And what you’ve learned about the community since you were diagnosed and put yourself out there.

Farah Jamil (17:35):

When I’ve been looking at my ADHD, I’ve been looking at it using different lenses. I’ve been looking at it from productivity lens. I’ve been looking at it from an executive lens. And yes, I’ve been looking at it from a faith lens. And in my particular case, from the Muslim lens. And one of the things that I discovered is how my faith is actually neurodiverse friendly. This is one of the things that I’ve said to my fellow Muslims. Islam is neurodiverse friendly. And they’re like, “What? What are you talking about?” Let me explain. So for many of us ADHDers, we don’t like structure, but we need some structure. And with that structure, having some flexibility built in can make things easier to do. So it just so happens that there are daily prayers that Muslims can do.


Now, for me, it’s five daily prayers. And here’s the thing, each prayer is short. It’s like five to 10 minutes. It does not take an exorbitant amount of time. And they are spread out throughout the day. So you’ve got this structure of the five daily prayers. You’ve got one that you do before sunrise, one in the afternoon, one in the mid-afternoon, one after sunset, and one before you go to bed. And like I said, they each take five to 10 minutes, and you have several hours in between each prayer to do them. So it’s not like you can only do it at 1:14 PM, right? You’ve got a block of time. You’ve got that flexibility built in. And it made me realize, wow, within my own faith, we’ve got a little bit of structure with built-in flexibility so that we remind ourselves that “Okay, it’s time to put your head up like if you’re going down a rabbit hole in something, lift your head up, and have that quality one-on-one time between you and God.”


It’s like for some people, you take that break, whether it’s a coffee break or whatever the case may be. So five times a day, we have these breaks where we remind ourselves that “Okay, yes. The world is a busy, crazy place, that’s fine, but you need to take some time out, some self-care, and have that quality time between you and your Lord.” And that was a huge moment for me when I realized that. I was like, “Wow, my own faith is actually there to support an ADHDer like me.”


Now, for many of us though, who are Muslims with ADHD, it can still be really challenging to get to that prayer mat. So we have this guilt, and blame, and shame when we miss our prayers because, hey, I procrastinate. I know I have this many hours, and I’ve got this time. And I’m like, “Okay, yes, I’ll do that prayer. Let’s just say the afternoon prayer. Okay, I still got time. Let me just do this real quick, and then I’ll go do it.” And how many times has that real quick thing ended up being a lot longer than I thought, and now I’ve missed that prayer? I’m like, “Yikes.” And so for us, because we have that time blindness for some of us, the procrastination, even something as important as prayer, can be very difficult for us to do. So I wanted to talk to fellow Muslim ADHDers about this. It’s like, “Listen, I get it.”


We see the neurotypical Muslims being able to what I call stop, drop, and pray and do their five daily prayers so easily. And for us, it’s so hard. What’s up with that? And it’s because we don’t have as much of the neurotransmitters in our brain, so I go back to the scientific lens, the health lens. We don’t have as much dopamine and norepinephrine in our brain, so it’s harder for us to have that focus and attention, and that task initiation going from one task to another, so you’re hyperfocused on something, and now suddenly you have to go for prayer.


And even though you have a couple of hours, that can still be really difficult for us. So I think for my fellow Muslim ADHDers, that’s what we’ve been trying to talk about is like, “Oh, okay. We beat ourselves up about not making our prayers sometimes. What can we do to help ourselves?” And so we talk about building the right structures and supports that work with our ADHD brain so that we can do all the things that we want to do, including our daily prayers. But we also have to remember that God is compassionate and merciful. So if we know that God is compassionate and merciful, we need to then be compassionate and merciful with ourselves. We still make the effort. We’re still doing everything we can to make those five daily prayers. We’re not trying to make excuses, but let’s use and work with our ADHD brains to find the right and structures and supports so that we can not only do our prayers, but do all the other things that we want to do.

Lindsay Guentzel (23:00):

Thank you for explaining that, because for someone who is not as familiar with Muslim faith, I would have thought that it would’ve just been so hard from the get-go, but to hear, it’s kind of a balancing act, which I think is kind of how it goes for a lot of people with ADHD. You have good days and you have bad days, but the problem is we don’t tend to talk about the emotions that come with ADHD. And so to hear you talk about the shame and the guilt that you carry around and how it is something that is just kind of across the board for all of us, I think it is so important, and how wonderful that you put yourself out there because what you’re doing is really important.

Farah Jamil (23:40):

Oh, thank you, Lindsay. I really appreciate that. It hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t, but at the same time, it’s also been so gratifying to have people reach out to me and say, “Thank you. We never saw anyone like us. And here you are. I found you somehow, and I feel less alone.” I feel like I can do this.


And it’s just nice to know there are others like us too, whereas they were suffering in silence, or they felt siloed, or they felt like nobody understood them because everyone around them would be like, “What is wrong with you? You’re such an accomplished person. Why can’t you just do the laundry? Why is there three weeks of laundry here? What’s going on? You’re a well-educated person, and you’re doing all these weird things that seem to be so easy.” And now that they have a bit of an explanation from the health side and having the support of the faith framework where they actually know that their faith is not against them, it’s for them, has been for many people who’ve reached out to me have said it made such a difference in their mindset.


Instead of feeling sorry for themselves, now they’re using that curiosity lens, ’cause that’s another lens I like to use, especially as a coach. Okay, let’s look at this from a curiosity lens. What would work for you? We know it doesn’t work for you, so what does work for you? And what’s one step you can take towards that and see where it takes them?

Lindsay Guentzel (25:12):

Well, that segues perfectly to my next question, which is what are some of the biggest struggles that you deal with with your ADHD? And then, what are you adding into your life to try and ease some of that?

Farah Jamil (25:28):

Yeah, great question. So one of my struggles is procrastination. Oh, that pesky procrastination gets me way too often. However, it’s interesting because, as I coach my ADHD clients, I learned so much from them. This is the beauty about coaching. It’s a two-way street. So I’m their coach, I’m their partner on this journey. They are in charge, and they’re looking to me to be that guide on the side, not that sage on the stage. So as their guide on the side, I’m doing what I can to stay with them to help them dig a little bit deeper into some of the things that they’re struggling with. And they teach me so much. The things that I hear from my clients, the way that they come up with these fantastic action plans that are within them, I’m like, “Wow, that is incredible. Now, how can I do that for myself? How can I coach myself?” And I’ve worked with coaches too, which has been great, but I also know the power of self-coaching. So I think with the procrastination, what has helped me is the model that I’ve come up with.


Now, it’s based on a saying from a Muslim scholar. His name is Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayya. And he has a saying that’s translated in English that says, “Make the sincere intention, and do the work.” Now, that’s great. Make that intention, what’s your goal, and do the work. Sure, that’s great. But as an ADHDer, there’s an element missing there. And this is where I came up with this model. So first, you make the sincere intention, plus find the right structure and support that works with your ADHD brain, so that you can do the work.


For me, as an ADHDer, and especially as a Muslim ADHDer, that’s the element that I have to add. Finding that right structure and support so that I can do my prayers. Finding the right structures and support so that I can have a clean space. I know it’s a Christian saying that cleanliness is next to godliness, but as Muslims, we believe the same thing. And for many of us, Muslim ADHDers, that’s another source of guilt, blame, and shame. Oh my goodness, our faith talks about the importance of having a clean home and clean surroundings. And for many of us ADHDers, that is so hard. But I say to my clients and to myself, “What structure and support do I need to help me with the cleaning, so that it doesn’t get overwhelming? And one of the biggest things that I think I had to realize after my diagnosis is the importance of asking for help and support.


Throughout my life, I’ve always been very proud of my independence. I’ve always been very proud of, “Oh, I don’t have to ask anyone for anything. I can do it myself.” Yet, I didn’t realize that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that support in asking for help. And if you think about it, some of the biggest innovators, some of the biggest leaders, they couldn’t get there on their own. They had a whole team behind them, right? And they had people supporting them so that they can focus on what they’re good at, so that they could be the leader with those great big ideas that many of us ADHDers have. We’re big-picture thinkers for many of us. And we need some people to help us with those pesky details. That entails asking for help getting that support. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do more of for myself in order to thrive, not survive. If I want to truly thrive, then I need to have the courage and the understanding to reach out when I need a little bit of help and not feel that guilt, blame, or shame about it.

Lindsay Guentzel (29:40):

You just keep setting me up here because my next question is where do you see yourself thriving right now?

Farah Jamil (29:47):

Where do I see myself thriving? I see myself thriving in, and I know I’ve mentioned this before about me being a recovering people pleaser. And I say that because I didn’t suddenly change my personality. So it’s not like I’m not going to continue helping people or being who I am, but I recognize that for me, one of my ADHD challenges is the people pleasing. I don’t like confrontation. I’m the diplomat. I want everyone to be happy and calm, and that can be one of my strengths where I can diffuse many situations that comes in really handy. But I ended up bending backwards for people so often that I figuratively broke my back. I was helping others at the expense of myself, and that’s not a good imbalance. So then I recognize the need for me to have priorities and healthy boundaries and to not apologize for that.


So what’s been helping me to thrive is to understand for myself, what are my healthy boundaries? Because nobody’s a mind reader. Nobody can know what my healthy boundaries are unless I tell them, but I have to figure it out first. And for me, those healthy boundaries include looking at my capacity. As much as I want to do something for someone, it has to be within my capacity as well. So I want to work with them, not just take the first suggestions that they throw at me. “Oh, Farah, can you do this?” Now, maybe I could. Sure. And I would normally, 99% of the time. Before, I used to say yes. I would say yes to everything because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I wanted to help everybody.


Now, when people ask me, and before I say yes or no, I check my capacity. “Okay, let me just check what are some other things I have right now.” So I go to my calendar. I see how much time and energy this thing is going to take. If I can’t do all of it, then I say, “I would love to help with this. This is the area that I can help with at this time. I won’t be able to help with this part. Let me know if that works for you,” and see how it goes.


So instead of me saying yes to the entire thing where I know I cannot do all of it, or it’s not something that I want to do, maybe I don’t want to do all of it, now I very confidently say, “I would love to help. This is what I can do. This is what I won’t be able to do.” And even if someone pushes back on me now, and if they say, “Oh, no, no, we need to do all of it,” then I’ll say, “Then I’m sorry. I won’t be able to help out this time, but please keep me in mind for the future, and hopefully we can coordinate.”


And I do that unapologetically in the sense where I don’t have that guilt, blame, or shame. I work with them, and I work with my brain. And if someone has a hard time understanding that, okay, they have that right to feel how they feel, I have the right to feel how I feel. But I still do that with, I hope. I hope with graciousness and with compassion. But I extend that graciousness and compassion not just to them but to myself as well. That’s what was missing. How can I help anyone else if I’m not helping myself as well? So I no longer have that figurative broken back. Now it’s healthier and stronger, and I can be upright and still be able to contribute and help people whom I love and adore. And now they are better understanding my boundaries, my healthy boundaries.


And that’s what led me to the creation of the PB and J model. So not peanut butter and jelly. It’s a great way to remember it because it’s very yummy. But PB and J is priorities plus, healthy boundaries equal joy. So by having better way to recognize my priorities and for me to have a clear understanding of my healthy boundaries has led to joy and has allowed me to thrive.

Lindsay Guentzel (34:10):

That is wonderful, PB and J. I need to write it on a big poster board like the Ted Lasso, Believe right above my bedroom door, so I see it all the time ’cause it is so perfect. I like what you touched on a little bit with the healthy boundaries, and I think there’s a point in life, hopefully most of us get to have this experience of realizing that we can’t control someone’s reaction. And also, hopefully, starting to get into the recovery of being a people pleaser. It’s very hard to sit in that when you disappoint someone, but when you realize that you have no control over how they are going to react to whatever you do, there’s a great gift in that. There’s a great release.

Farah Jamil (35:00):

Absolutely. Because there’s that fear, like you said. There’s that fear of disappointing someone. Whether you’re at work, or at home, or with your friends, we don’t want to disappoint people.

Lindsay Guentzel (35:13):

At least I think a lot of us don’t want to disappoint people. So I shouldn’t say everyone.

Farah Jamil (35:17):

Here’s the thing. I think we end up disappointing people when we overpromise and underdeliver. And I say this to my executive clients and my ADHD clients, “Don’t put yourself in a position where you’re overpromising and underdelivering because not only are you going to disappoint them, you’re going to disappoint yourself.” And one of the things that comes to me about this it’s really funny. So I’m a Star Trek fan, and I’m a Star Wars fan, which is one of the few reasons why my brothers think I’m cool, because I was one of the only people in their friends’ group where their sister actually loves Star Trek and Star Wars just like them. I remember this episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I don’t know the exact episode name, but it’s where you have the engineer from the original Star Trek, and I’m having an ADHD moment. What was his name? I know in the original Star Trek, the doctor’s name, the nickname was Bones. What was the name of the Star Trek engineer in the original one? But anyway, hopefully I’ll think of it.

Lindsay Guentzel (36:21):

I am no help for you. I am so sorry.

Farah Jamil (36:24):

That’s okay. My brothers are going to be so disappointed. They’re like, “How could you forget?” But I can see him clearly. I’m just having that ADHD moment. This is real life, folks. So there was an episode where the original Star Trek engineer came onto the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, and he’s seeing the ship. And he’s talking to Geordi La Forge, who is the Star Trek Next Generation engineer, and the two of them are talking. And so Captain Picard says to Geordi, “So how long is this thing going to take to fix? It’s something that had to be fixed on the ship,” or something along those lines. So Geordi told him, “I think something like a few hours. Let’s just say six hours.” He said, “Okay.”


So then the older engineer, he said to La Forge, “Okay, so how long is it really going to take?” And La Forge said, “It’s going to take six hours.” He said, “What? You told him the truth? Why would you tell him that?” And he’s like, “What do you mean?” And so the older engineer said, “You never tell them the actual time it’s going to take. You could tell them it’s going to take longer, so that you can do miracles, or it looks like you become a star, or things like that.


Now, he didn’t say those exact words, but basically his message was under promise and overdeliver so that you are always the star. I’ve kept that. I’m just funny. It’s just when you ask that, that’s what just popped into my head. And I have to say, in the workplace, that can be pretty true for some workplaces. It’s like you tell someone, you tell your boss, “Oh, this will take a week,” and then you get it done in two, three days. Oh my gosh, you’re a star. You’re a go-getter. If you tell your boss, you can get done in a week and then it takes you three weeks, oh, that’s not as good, right? Even though it’s probably the same quality of work, the same great work. But now, in one case, you’re seen as a star, and in the other case, it’s a disappointment. So it’s interesting how perception can play such a role.

Lindsay Guentzel (38:29):

I’m going to start using that. I’ve been setting myself up for failure by overpromising and under delivery.

Farah Jamil (38:37):

You’re not alone in that.

Lindsay Guentzel (38:38):

Yeah, I don’t doubt that I am alone in that. I’m curious, what is giving you hope right now, and kind of what is pushing you forward?

Farah Jamil (38:48):

What is giving me hope? I think what’s giving me hope is that I’m seeing that there’s less of a stigma when it comes to mental health. Now, we still have a ways to go, don’t get me wrong, but it is so encouraging to see other people talk about it. So you’ve got Sir Richard Branson talking about his ADHD, Trevor Noah, who was interviewed by CBS about his ADHD and depression, Emma Watson, who’s a fellow Ivy League graduate, Harry Potter actress and a UN Goodwill ambassador. We’re hearing more about people who have ADHD. Michael Phelps, one of the most decorated Olympians in history, has ADHD, and his mom has talked about what it was like with his ADHD and his swimming.


I think as more of us are hearing about the innovators, the entertainers, those who are accomplishing so many great things with having ADHD and other neurodivergent issues, it just goes to show that the stigma is not serving anyone. I like to say that we need to destigmatize and demystify. And I think for many people, there are those stigmas because there’s so much misinformation. And so seeing more and more people talk about it, having platforms like yours, talking about it, meeting with so many people, and giving others the chance to hear our voice and to see us is making a difference truly. So kudos to you and your team because you’re part of that.

Lindsay Guentzel (40:35):

Thank you.

Farah Jamil (40:36):

You’re part of that destigmatizing and demystifying. And even though I was so reluctant to do what I do publicly, and now everybody knows I have ADHD now, you can’t get away from it now, or at least I can’t get away from it. But now, I’m seeing that label, that ADHD label, not as something that’s negative because there may be some people who will try to use it against me, but guess what? With my external diversity, people could try to use that against me. Being a woman of color and a visible religious minority, I just won’t let them.


And I’ve been able to do a lot of really cool things in my career, even though there were people who did not want to see me succeed. But did I allow that to stop me? No. So why in the world would I allow my internal diversity, my ADHD? Why would I allow that to stop me? And I know there’s going to be people who will try to use it against me, but you know what? That’s their problem, not mine. I’m going to have my priorities and healthy boundaries and lead a life of joy, and hopefully I can help others do that too.

Lindsay Guentzel (41:59):

Farah, this was such an incredible conversation. I’m so grateful for your time today and for what you have put into not only the Muslim ADHD community, but the ADHD community as a whole. This was just a cup filler, for sure, and I learned so much from you. I’m going to go make my PB and J sign after we’re done here because…

Farah Jamil (42:24):


Lindsay Guentzel (42:24):

Let’s walk through it one more time. What was it again? The P is priorities.

Farah Jamil (42:31):


Lindsay Guentzel (42:31):

Priorities plus boundaries equals joy.

Farah Jamil (42:35):

You got it. Because when you have those priorities and boundaries and when you are confident in that, then the world for you lights up because now you know where the light is, and you can just ignore the things that maybe are a little dark or the things that are a little scary that you don’t want to do. Guess what? You get to prioritize, and have those healthy boundaries, and go forth, so to speak.

Lindsay Guentzel (43:03):

I know that that is a star… Is it a Star Trek that you just ended there with? Is that right? Go forth and conquer.

Farah Jamil (43:09):

I didn’t mean to. I actually didn’t mean to.

Lindsay Guentzel (43:12):

It was well done

Farah Jamil (43:14):

To boldly go where no one has gone before. I didn’t even… See, Lindsay? I love it. That was you. I can’t even take credit for that.

Lindsay Guentzel (43:28):

I’m so grateful to Farah for sharing her story here with us on Refocused, Together. My ears perked up with curiosity as she explained how her faith is neurodiverse-friendly and how it provides some structure and flexibility for ADHDers. Farah’s concept of PB and J of priorities plus healthy boundaries equal joy has allowed her to thrive. And by coming up with a method to remember it, one that works for her, it keeps it at the front of her mind when she’s making decisions. Acronyms are a great communication tool to get a concept across faster, so it can become more widely recognized and accepted over time. That’s exactly what Farah is doing. She’s communicating to get a concept across faster so there can be more awareness and acceptance of ADHD in her Muslim community.


When a child experiences mental health difficulties, it can be hard for parents. They can feel like they’ve not done a good job or that they’ve failed. For Muslim parents, there are even more layers to it since many families place such a big emphasis on the way the community views them and their children. All of it can lead to decisions not to seek help for the child who needs it. Farah is changing that. Families are feeling more supported with her resources. Providers and the bigger ADHD community are getting more familiar with the Muslim community. Thanks to our conversations about mental health and how ADHD can make an impression on faith and spiritual backgrounds.


You can pop over to that convo and learn more at interfaithadhders.com. We’ve shared all of the links you need to connect with Farah in the show notes. I’ve also added links to some of the resources she mentioned during our conversation, including more information on the book Fast Minds: How to Thrive If You Have ADHD (Or Think You Might). I’ve even added the appropriate links for that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation Farah was explaining. Relics season six, episode four, released October 12th, 1992, and the name Farah couldn’t come up with Scotty, the former Starfleet officer and engineer, Captain Montgomery Scott. She nailed the story, though. It’s a great example in showing the power and peace that can come with managing expectations.


Thank you all so much for joining us for day two of ADHD Awareness Month. Join us back here tomorrow as we pick up speed on this month-long series. We have so many incredible voices to share with you. To make sure you don’t miss a single one, subscribe to Refocused wherever you’re listening now and head to adhdonline.com/refocusedtogether to learn more about the project.


Support for Refocused comes from our partner, ADHD Online, a telemedicine mental healthcare company that provides affordable and accessible ADHD assessments and treatment plans. To learn how they can help you on your journey, head to adhdonline.com, and remember to use the promo code refocused20 to receive $20 off your ADHD online assessment right now.


The biggest thanks go out to our team at ADHD Online, Keith Boswell, Susanne Spruit, Melanie Meyrl, Claudia Gatti, and Tricia Merchandani, for their constant support in helping make Refocused, Together happen.


These 31 episodes were produced. Thanks to our managing editor, Sarah Platanitis, our production coordinator, Phil Rodeman, social media specialist and editor, Al Chaplin, and me, the host and executive producer of Refocused, Lindsay Guentzel.


To connect with the show on social media, you can find us online at Refocused Pod, and you can email the show directly [email protected]. That’s [email protected].

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