Emotions & Shame

How to Regain Your Confidence: Life-Changing Strategies for Adults with ADHD

Self-confidence fades for many adults with ADHD as they approach middle age and retirement — times of life when self-esteem is known to plummet. To build life-long self-confidence, follow these steps and strategies.

Self-confidence and self-esteem undergo chronological patterns of change and variability. Self-esteem, research shows, rises steadily over time, with a peak at around age 60. There are many reasons for this trend: gaining expertise and professional success, achieving long-term goals, and enjoying more financial security. With age comes a greater sense of succeeding in life.

This generality does not hold true for all adults with ADHD, for whom self-confidence and self-esteem actually decrease as they grow into middle age and approach retirement. These aging adults experience a sense of frustration and underachievement, and they see themselves as failing in comparison to their peers. Many feel hopeless after years of efforts at behavior change that never worked out. They may feel financially insecure because their money management was erratic at best, and long-term financial planning simply did not get done.

The good news is that adults with ADHD can repair their self-esteem and regain self-confidence as they age. The key to this work is two-fold – it involves managing ADHD as best as possible, and stopping negative thoughts from clouding self-perception.

How to Regain Confidence: Effective Strategies

Manage ADHD Symptoms

The core beliefs that shape self-esteem are determined by whether a person appreciates and likes who they are.

ADHD, especially if not managed well, can lead to constant frustration and self-criticism. The cumulative impact of these frustrations, criticisms, real and perceived failures, self-blaming, and guilt turn self-esteem into rubble. Over time, very low self-esteem can lead to anxiety, substance abuse, mood disorders, and other serious problems.

[Get This Free Download: 9 Truths About ADHD and Intense Emotions]

When ADHD is managed well, this erosion of self-esteem can be prevented. Any emotional damage can also be repaired and reversed. Remember: None of us is a prisoner of our past, and it is never too late to change.

A strong program of treatment and ADHD management gives a person a fighting chance to manage their ADHD biology and behaviors reasonably (not perfectly) well. This is critical to ending a cycle of frustration and sense of failure.

An effective treatment program may include:

Stop Negative Thinking

One of the harmful aspects of low self-esteem is the loss of self-confidence and belief that you can change and grow. This feeling can be overcome, but it takes work and persistence. To get “unstuck,” adults with ADHD have to recognize, challenge, and dismiss the negative thinking that comes with and contributes to low self-esteem.

[Read: How to Banish Negative Thoughts & Feelings]

Even when these negative messages feel natural, they must not be accepted as normal or healthy. View these messages as cognitive distortions instead. The battle for stronger self-esteem will be long, but it is a battle that can be won. Here are 11 ways to curb negative thinking and reclaim self-confidence:

1. Understand and accept your ADHD biology, and focus on changing your behavior. Do not think of ADHD as a negative label that means you are “broken.” When ADHD becomes a stigma applied to you or to any other person with ADHD, it is destructive to self-esteem and self-worth.

2. ADHD is not a character defect. Nor is it a disease that can be “cured.” It is a set of neurobiogical symptoms that can be managed.

3. It is never too late to learn to manage ADHD better. Don’t adopt the excuse that “I’ve tried everything.” That is never true.

4. Identify and appreciate your accomplishments. If you have difficulty doing this, ask two or three people who know you well for their honest opinions.

5. Assess your strengths and weaknesses. Again, if this is hard, seek outside opinions. Appreciate your strengths. Set realistic and healthy goals, and work on areas of weakness (we all have them).

6. Identify, monitor, challenge, and dismiss your critical self-talk. Treat it as an ongoing battle to be waged as long as it takes. It will get easier over time, with practice and persistence.

7. Don’t compare yourself to other people. This is always a bad idea, and most of the time it leads to a negative scenario. People with low self-esteem almost always see themselves as inferior.

8. Focus on solutions, not problems. Once you identify a problem, the next question should be “What can I do about it?”

9. Get past the “could have done, should have done, would have done” scripts. Forget about the things you haven’t done. Focus on the things you can do day by day.

10. Seek out positive relationships. Do not isolate socially or emotionally. Spend time with people who “get” who you are and accept you.

11. Take good care of your body. Sleep, exercise, nutrition — each will impact your mood dramatically.

How to Regain Self-Confidence with ADHD: Next Steps


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Updated on July 22, 2021

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