Tips for Maintaining a Positive Self-Image When You Have ADHD

Health Writer

Adults with ADHD often struggle with self-esteem. They might feel inferior or like a failure because they have to work harder just to get less work done. They might feel uncomfortable or awkward in social situations. Everything in life seems to be a struggle or fight.

It is possible to have ADHD and feel good about yourself. The following are tips that might help.

Focus on your behavior, not your character. It’s easy to automatically refer to yourself as lazy when you don’t get something done, or to call yourself stupid when you continue to get distracted. But you aren’t lazy or stupid. These are character flaws. You don’t have a character flaw, you have ADHD. Rephrase your thoughts to focus on the behavior, such as, “I do get distracted easily, especially when a project doesn’t hold my interest.” When you focus on behaviors, it is easier to look for solutions.

Keep a list of what you do right. Those who have low self-esteem tend to count their failures and ignore their accomplishments. Try to reverse this by keeping track of what you do right, your successes and your accomplishments. Write down every accomplishment, compliments other people give you, your successes. There is nothing too small or insignificant. You might write down that you cooked a great meal, handed in a project on time, gardened, remembered to stop at the store, or cleaned up a room. Review your list every day to remind youself that you are successful at many things.

Set yourself up for success. People with ADHD tend to become overwhelmed, procrastinate, or don’t know where to start. Whenever you are faced with a task, write down the steps it takes to complete it. View each step as a separate process and see completing each step as a success. This helps give you a sense of accomplishment as you go through the task and might motivate you to keep going.

Embrace something new. Sometimes you feel stuck or bored. Keep a list of things you want to do, e.g., learn to knit or visit a far-off friend. Use your list to add some adventure to your life. When you embrace something new, you feel good.

Focus on the positive aspects of ADHD. You often hear so much about the symptoms of ADHD that you allow these to define you. But people with ADHD often are creative, think outside the box, are empathetic, and energetic. Let the positive aspects of ADHD define you, instead.

Choose one thing to change. You might have a whole list of things you want to change about yourself. But you are never going to change everything at once. Instead, focus on one aspect that you want to improve. Create a plan of action, and remember, you don’t need to do it alone. You can work with your partner, a friend, a therapist, or an ADHD coach.

Remember that no one has it easy. When life is a struggle, you tend to think that things are easy for everyone else. That isn’t true. People without ADHD struggle every day, just not in the same ways that you do. Feeling like you are the only person struggling can lead to self-pity. Have patience, and remember that everyone, even those without ADHD, suffers setbacks.

Avoid comparing yourself to others. When feeling down about yourself, do you compare yourself to others and come up short? Maybe your neighbor is a better cook, your coworker is more organized and better at paperwork, your sister-in-law throws fabulous parties. There is always going to be someone better than you at something. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have strengths. Write down a list of yours, keep it with you, and when you are feeling down, review it.

Graciously accept compliments. People with low self-esteem often ignore compliments, brushing them aside as if they can't be taken seriously. Make a conscious effort to simply say, “Thank you.” People don’t normally give a compliment unless they mean it, so accept it as truth and write it down in your success journal.

Treat your ADHD. Go to the doctor, take medication if necessary, talk with a therapist, work with an ADHD coach. If you are already receiving treatment and are still struggling, let your doctor know so you can decide together if your treatment should be modified. Learning strategies to get your ADHD symptoms under control will help you feel better about yourself and let you start feeling in control of your life.

Exercise. Daily exercise can do wonders. Besides helping your overall health, it helps improve mood, reduces ADHD symptoms, and lowers anxiety. It makes you feel better. Exercise is a must for anyone dealing with ADHD, depression, anxiety, or low self esteem.

See more helpful articles:

10 Tips for the Newly Diagnosed Adult With ADHD

Workplace Accommodations With Adults with ADHD

How ADHD Symptoms Manifest in Adults

Strategies for Managing Adult ADHD

Beating Boredom When You Have Adult ADHD