“From Screw-Up to Awesome in Nine Steps ”
A mom and teacher learned how to feel great about herself and her ADHD.
I’m a late bloomer. I always have been. So, when I was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) at 42, it wasn’t a shocker. I thought, “So this was the reason my life and emotions always seemed a jumble? The lost wallet, the missing car keys, the messy room — or, should I say, rooms, now that I am an adult?” I should have adulting down by now, but it often feels as if I am an awkward adolescent at life.
As a wife, mom of a toddler, full-time teacher, and small business owner, my life can get crazy, sort of like a runaway train I want to get off of. I’ve always thought of myself as a creative person. My mind is always busy; I have a million ideas on how to improve my classroom, my life, myself. In the background, though, there is a negative tape telling me how worthless I am, that I am a screw-up and just no good.
Recently, though, there has been a big shift in my thinking, and it’s due to YouTube. Crazy, right? I have begun to change my inner dialogue by listening to positive, inspiring talks. I get a lot of momentum from listening to innovators, dreamers, and doers. Don’t get me wrong: I still have bad days, but not as many.
I want to share some other things that have helped me with my ADHD, and that might help you with yours.
9 Tips for How to Build Self Esteem in Adults
- Be gentle on yourself. Know that you are amazing, incredible, and one of a kind. You are different, and that should be celebrated. Wouldn’t it be boring if we were all the same? Become your own best friend, your own cheerleader. I’m still working on this at my age, but it’s worth the effort. Write positive affirmations about yourself, even if you don’t believe them — yet. Some affirmations might be: “I am organized and neat,” “I am worthy of love and respect,” and “I am a great leader.” Write down what you want to be, and put it in an “I am” statement, as if you already are that which you seek.
- Focus on your environment. If you’re anything like me, your ADHD brain is in the clouds thinking up brilliant new ideas. The act of mindfully paying attention to your environment can make a big difference in turning down the noise in your brain. Keep your counters and workspace clear in your home, and pick things up off the floor. I know it sounds crazy, but I find that neatening up reduces the noise in my brain and my anxiety. I have to make a conscious effort to do this, but I think of it as a discipline. See how it feels to you. My brain feels more centered when my space is clear.
- Exercise. OK, I don’t like doing this one, but it has amazing benefits, especially when I run or jog. It’s as if someone switched the light bulb on in my brain, which I especially need in the cold dark winter months. This one activity makes everything else in your life so much easier.
- Journal. Get clear on what your goals are. What do you want in your life? I like to write on paper and let my thoughts tumble out. Even writing once a week makes a difference. Make a plan to achieve what you want in bite-size chunks. If you want to make a career change, for instance, what can you do today to get a little bit closer to your dream? Maybe it’s reaching out to someone in the business or doing a Google search to find out how to begin your new journey. Perhaps create a vision board. Cut out pictures of what you want to do in your life. Do you want to travel, buy a new car, and/or start a new career? Allow yourself to dream! Put the vision board next to your bed or somewhere you can see it every day.
- Find time for yourself. I know you are busy and your life is hectic. You give to everyone. You need a few minutes each day to refocus and reconnect with yourself. Find a quiet spot in your house and grab your journal. Write down your goals and objectives for the day, week, or year. Even if it’s just a few minutes once a week, finding time for yourself can help you determine your wants, desires, and goals.
- Make a to-do list, and place it somewhere that’s visible. I like to brainstorm a list of things I’d like to achieve each day. Then I circle or star just three of those objectives. If you can, or feel like getting more done, that’s awesome. However, just be content if you achieve only three. Pat yourself on the back at night if you got those three things done. This technique is especially helpful when you are in a dark spot in your life and are struggling to get one thing accomplished. Building momentum is the goal, and one tiny step can get you headed in the right direction.
- Use a planner. Write down appointments. Write down your plan for the week. Pick a day when you will go to the grocery store and create a list of meals and what you need to purchase for those meals. Maybe you want to schedule those 20 minutes each evening to run through your house and pick things off the floor and clear counter space. Schedule your exercise into your ADHD planner and treat those scheduled items like a job that you must do. I love Erin Condren’s planners, but you can find less-pricey versions at Michael’s.
- Talk to family and friends about your struggles. I open up to my husband and tell him how I am feeling. He’s a great sounding board. Pick one person who you trust. If you don’t have someone like that in your life, find a great therapist. I have had one for years, and I love to hash out my life with her. I’m also blessed with a best friend whom I can talk to as well.
- Become your own best friend. Tell yourself that you are awesome! Write down some positive affirmations and stick them to the mirror. It sounds cheesy, but it works! Also talk with your doctor about taking a stimulant, such as Adderall. It may seem like a miracle pill in the beginning and it does really help, but ADHD is still a battle.
I haven’t mastered any of the activities I’ve mentioned, and I do fall off the wagon. The key is to get back up, dust yourself off, and try again. Remain compassionate with yourself. You are wonderful, unique, powerful, lovely, and amazing.