One aspect common to many adults with ADHD is low self-esteem. When you live your life making stupid mistakes, falling short of—or forgetting entirely—your goals, or being yelled at by figures of authority, you’ll likely be a mess when you reach adulthood. If you haven’t learned to laugh off the gaffes, you might either adopt an insouciant attitude over time, or internalize the criticisms. I was of the internalizing variety (Signs of Self-Stigma: Do You Stigmatize Yourself?).
I remember one job ages ago when I worked for a local newspaper as a paste-up artist. It was boring work, so I often found my attention wandering. I also had a very difficult time NOT reading all that wonderful news. I didn’t know at the time that I was an information junkie.
One time, I finished a batch of pages and there were no new ones to complete, so I took the opportunity to walk around the newsroom and become more familiar with it. When I got back to my desk a few minutes later, there were pages ready to be pasted up and the editor was so angry with me he shouted and yelled, spittle flying, face beet red.
I was so used to bosses losing their cool with me, I didn’t report the jerk to human resources. I thought it was my fault. This is where my ADHD induced low self-esteem reared its ugly head.
Low-Self Esteem Made Me Blame Myself
Other adults with ADHD see low self-esteem manifest itself in different ways, but my way was to blame myself. So low was my self-esteem that when I became disabled because of the side-effects of Desoxyn and Zoloft, I actually blamed myself then as well. If I hadn’t been so unique and rare—such a complete loser—I wouldn’t have experienced side-effects (The Pain of Self-Stigma Because of Mental Illness). I actually felt that way. It is obvious poppycock, but you can see what an insidious poison low self-esteem can be.
I wrote about my self-esteem issues on my own blog this week, but it’s an important enough subject to address here, too. As an adult of 43, I look back at the poor kid that I was and wish I could give him advice.
- I would tell him that just because he was distracted didn’t mean he deserved to be yelled at.
- Just because he makes mistakes doesn’t mean he has to put up with bosses being cruel to him.
- I would have told him to stand up for himself more often—he deserved it.
- I would have also told him that not all jobs were optimal for him, and that he should seek out jobs that didn’t expose his ADHD weaknesses.
- Lastly, I would have told him to learn how to like himself because that’s what I did later on to wrest control of my self-esteem away from the ADHD roller coaster of self-worth.
There’s a lot I would tell my 20 year old self that would have made a difference for me then (ADHD: Low Self-Esteem, But You’re OK). I can’t tell him, unfortunately, but I can tell my kids. I can also tell you if you need to hear it. Are you ready to believe that you shouldn’t blame yourself either?
Tell me below how ADHD-conditioned low self-esteem has affected you as an adult. How did you begin rebuilding your self-esteem or do you still struggle with this?