As well as experiencing typical symptoms of attention deficit disorder such as being distracted, forgetful, overwhelmed, and stressed, another trait women with ADD/ADHD share is the tendency to beat themselves up. “What’s wrong with me?” “How can I be so stupid?” “Why can’t I be like other people who do everything right? And on time too!”
When we are feeling inadequate, stressed, or putting ourselves down, there is a gift we can give ourselves. It’s called self-compassion. We hear about self-esteem all the time, but that is very different from self-compassion. Self-esteem is when we feel good about ourselves because of our accomplishments, our looks, our friends, or our talents. It can fluctuate, depending on our latest success or failure and is based on our sense of self-worth. Unfortunately, because most of us criticize ourselves when we make mistakes or don’t live up to expectations, our self-worth can suffer.
Self-compassion, on the other hand, is the act of being kind to ourselves. It is not based on how we judge or evaluate ourselves. We deserve caring and kindness not because we are talented, attractive, popular, or successful but because we are human beings doing the best we can. We don’t have to compare ourselves to others. Expressing self-compassion means realizing that all human beings make mistakes and we are not supposed to be perfect. Although it may feel like it sometimes, we are not alone in our struggles. We are all a work in progress.
For those who believe in being hard on themselves, research has proven that self-criticism elevates stress hormones which inhibit learning and resilience. Self-compassion soothes us instead and leads to greater strength and well-being.
Dr. Kristin Neff, a professor at the University of Texas, researches, writes and lectures about self-compassion. When I learned about it, my first thought was that I wanted to share it with my clients who are women with ADD. (And my second thought was that I needed to practice it on myself!)
Dr. Neff suggests that we treat ourselves as we would a good friend when we are stressed or in a difficult situation. What would you say to someone you cared about who was beating herself up because of something she did or didn’t do even though she had the best intentions? Could you talk to yourself in the same caring way? It might be worth an experiment to see how it feels. We can also ask ourselves, “What do I need to hear right now to express kindness to myself?”
I know how hard it can be to live the life you want when you are struggling with the symptoms of adult ADD/ADHD. I wish all of us who are doing the best we can more inner peace, self-acceptance, and self-compassion. If you would like to work with a coach who is non-judgmental, understanding, and caring, please contact me below for a free consultation. I would love to talk with you.