Emotions & Shame

6 Tips To Mitigate Self-Compassion Deficit Disorder

Adults with ADHD tend to be self-critical. When you fail to follow through with what you had planned, or it didn’t work out the way you’d hoped, don’t be so hard on yourself! Try to think of it as a learning experience — and give yourself a pat on the back.

A young woman steps out of the cage. The female character is getting out of a confined space. Concept of freedom, mental rehabilitation and opening up new opportunities for personal development.Vector
A young woman steps out of the cage. The female character is getting out of a confined space. Concept of freedom, mental rehabilitation and opening up new opportunities for personal development.Vector

Most people with ADHD are hard on themselves. I was discussing this common challenge with a client, and we coined the term SCDD (Self-Compassion Deficit Disorder).

When we do (or don’t do) the things that are expected of us, we are critical of ourselves and our behavior. And if we fail to notice our glitches, there are usually others who will point them out! I found some ways to feel better about my missteps.

1. Don’t overlook what we do accomplish.

Often, it’s a lot, although not necessarily the things we prioritized. Sometimes it helps to keep a Did-Do list as a complement to your to-do list. My to-do list can be overwhelming, so I try to stick to a more realistic Daily Action list. I also remind myself what is important by creating a Do-Not-Do list! Most people with ADHD have a lot of ideas and interests, but not the time, energy, or stick-to-it-ness needed to bring them to life. So if we want to do something new, we need to take something else off our plate. Remember that time is finite—we can’t really manage it, we can only optimize our time and energy. That means being realistic about how much we can accomplish.

[Read: Silence Your Harshest Critic — Yourself]

2. Give yourself fewer reasons to be self-critical

If you are realistic about what you can accomplish, you’re less likely to feel frustrated. You will worry less about what you didn’t do, or about how long it takes to get things done (multiply your time estimate by three).

3. When you do fail to follow through with what you had planned, or it didn’t work out the way you’d hoped, think of it as a learning experience.

Identify what you might have done differently to produce different results. Don’t lump together everything you haven’t done, or succeeded at, and judge yourself a failure. Show yourself the compassion you would show to a friend. Remember your successes—if it will help, post a Feel Good list.

4. Stay aware of what you are not likely to do, or what you’d rather not be doing.

Consider whether you can delegate certain tasks, pay someone to do them (outsource), modify or streamline, delay (“I’ll revisit this in six months”), or just delete them from your list. It’s easier to be kind to yourself when you have fewer things that spur avoidance, conflict, or incompetence.

5. Remind yourself that ADHD is a brain-based disorder.

One of the most liberating things about an ADHD diagnosis is the shift from seeing challenges as moral failings (you are lazy, careless, inconsiderate) to seeing them as medical/neurological symptoms of a brain-based disorder. Know that there is a reason for your impulsivity and executive function challenges, like activation, organization, and poor short-term memory, and let go of judging yourself! You deserve some self-compassion.

[Download: Get a Grip on Tough Emotions]

6. It helps to have a sense of humor when things get screwed up.

Many individuals make financially painful errors. They have a store return but lose the receipt or miss the return deadline. They forget to pay a bill and get charged a late fee, or try to pay for something with an expired coupon.

They buy a course or service they never use, and pay premiums because they didn’t plan ahead. You have a choice to beat yourself up each time you waste money, or to create an “Oops Budget.” When forgetfulness or lack of planning winds up costing you money, attribute the expense to your Oops Budget. It’s imaginary, but it’s a good place to put your critical thoughts. I recently added line items to my Oops Budget when I missed the early-bird discount for a conference ($100), and when I found a bag of shoes that I’d planned to return to the store three years ago ($78). At first I was upset, but then I realized I’ve “budgeted” for these mishaps, so chalk it up to the Oops!

There are good reasons why ADHD is considered a disability, and if you have been diagnosed with it, you’ll have certain challenges. Self-acceptance is important. It is critical for happiness and productivity. A little positive self-talk goes a long way!

In many cases, our neuro-atypical ADHD brain either doesn’t get in the way or is actually helpful. We do have strengths to go with those challenges! But when things aren’t working, before seeing yourself as a failure, practice a little well-deserved forgiveness.

Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself: Next Steps


Susan Lasky, M.A., BCC, SCAC, is a productivity/ADHD coach and professional organizer with almost 25 years of experience helping adults, students, and business owners with ADHD succeed in life. Susan is co-founder of both The ADD Resource Center and CHADD of New York City.

SUPPORT ADDITUDE
Thank you for reading ADDitude. To support our mission of providing ADHD education and support, please consider subscribing. Your readership and support help make our content and outreach possible. Thank you.

Updated on April 26, 2021

Leave a Reply