Stop Trying to Please the World Already, ADHDers

Acceptance from others won’t heal the scars and low self-esteem you may be carrying around. Therapy and honesty are the way out.
A Blessing and a Curse | posted by Jeff Emmerson

I’m starting to make breakthroughs by being honest with myself. Seeking therapy has been a life-changer for me.

— Jeff Emmerson

It started when I was a young boy, the desire to please others and be accepted. Many people feel this way when they’re growing up, but for young ADHDers, it seems to get worse due to the way we express our "symptoms." I became depressed when my parents split up, and because of my impulsive, self-destructive traits, I began to steal from classmates in the fourth grade. I was nine years old, and my ADHD symptoms were starting to emerge.

As I kept making mistakes, then showing promise as a student, then acting out in anger toward classmates in my teenage years, my self-esteem went downhill, and the cycle of trying to prove myself in the eyes of the public started. I wanted to be the best in others' eyes. I sought out my mother's approval through success in sports. I was determined to become a professional ice hockey goaltender until the age of 15, when I was kicked out of my mother's home because I nearly assaulted her. (As type-A personalities, we fought hard; she beat my sister and me when we were young, so I felt rage toward her.) I loved and hated my mom, and desired her approval, but as I continued to act out in impulsive ways -- being brought home by the police for stealing, for instance -- our relationship withered.

ADHD and the resulting symptoms I lived with began to tear my life apart. Not only did I try to please my mom, I clung to the idea that if I could make it at something, anything, I would feel better about myself. It started a life of anxiety, perfectionism, and obsession with trying to be successful in society’s eyes.

We often try to please others, to make them happy, even at the cost of our own wellbeing. We seek others' acceptance, instead of investing the time in healing our demons. We shouldn’t sacrifice our health and happiness to make others happy. We need balance, self-love, and confidence for us to be happy, fulfilled, and independent.

When you add co-existing conditions like anxiety and depression to ADHD, one’s self-esteem always seems under attack. The key, I’ve found, is to go back to the root of the events that took a toll on my sense of self. Identity challenges are rampant in adults with ADHD. How do I know that? I have waged this battle all my life, and I’m starting to make breakthroughs by being honest with myself. Seeking therapy has been a life-changer for me.

The sooner I accepted the fact that my life would always include adult ADHD, the sooner I started taking steps to change my life for the better. Now I’m worlds apart from the man who committed himself to the local psych ward in early 2013, after attempting suicide two years earlier.

One day at a time, my friends. One hour, even. Keep reaching, learning, and letting go of toxic behaviors in your life, whether it’s yours or someone else’s. The healing process starts with believing in yourself, learning to not just accept, but love, the new, wiser you.

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