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“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

  1. 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.

[Take This Test: ADHD Symptoms in Women and Girls]

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

[Get This Free Download: 15 Ways to Disarm (and Understand) Explosive ADHD Emotions]

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

[Click to Read: 17 Happiness Rules When ADHD Emotions Go Awry]

3 Comments & Reviews

  1. Thank you for reminding me of the things that worked so well in my working life . At the beginning of the second half of a previous century i was fortunate to spend 5 years at a very young age in the Military and then Ten years working for a somewhat enlightened (for males only) employer who ran seminars for staff on many of the tools you have recommended . This combination worked extremely well and served my pecadillos and quantum leaps of logic i called them until my department director decided all of us would do our own filing.
    About a week later i began a job hunt. Recognizing my weaknesses and actively pursuing solutions was ingrained by then even though that was near 50 years before my first ADHD diagnosis. Receiving and accepting a generous offer to move to Spokane I was totally shaken when we found out my daughter was going to undergo a series of surgeries that would result in her spending 52 days in hospital. Meanwhile my employer of 5 years was offering me an alternative job w/0 filing and a substantial raise. For those of you not familiar with this behavior by an employer, that was typical of that era. It is the dream of many my age IMO of returning to that era, that has so many being seduced by political promises of same. (Where was i )
    Staying in a city that had tremendous family and friend support, that now had free medicare and Hospital insurance was a no brainer. I would suddenly leave the cocooned technical world for one which held many appointments and social interaction with others I thought I was well equipped to handle NOPE but
    I was introduced to the use of assistants who for the rest of my career filled in at these essential roles in my life. My reliance on them was essential as Consultant and later VP of a large employer. Ultimately founding my own consulting firm I was rarely without 20 to 30 clients who seldom fired you much less all at one time. Suddenly, Retirement 13 years ago because the inevitable problems of LFT low frustration tolerance had outlived my military gift of self discipline. I was blowing up often at suppliers of my clients. Retired at 60 to a world that was for the most part absent of assistants….2 ex wives, still unaware of my ADHD despite having had a son with it.
    Naively diving into it with another new wife, Retirement was a nightmare until the smart phone era a few years later ushered in a solution I use to distraction.
    My schedules and reminders that i could never maintain in a planner were suddenly having no trouble finding their way into my Ipad and Kindle Fire and Macbook. I had never been patient and disciplined enough to maintain a planner but this was addictive.

    Recognizing our issues and believing in oneself To solve them with effort, does work. Luck and we all have a little does help.
    In summary
    Problem: Expelled from high school for failure to do “home” work despite top class exam and test work. Baiting teachers with comments every time they made a mistake probably didnt help but it was my RSD response. Unable to get decent pay w/o better education though I Had a decent job with a large employer.
    Solution 9 months later Join Military where special education programs solved it. And the issue of LFT. And a dose of self confidence.
    Problem work rule changes that required new skills that were out of my Zone. Solution New Job with new circumstances that filled for my greatest weaknesses timeliness and detail.
    There were many other problems along the way but recognizing, planning to solve and acting on solutions even if it takes several repeats worked often enough. On things that we are not aware of that nevertheless are problems to others, accept that we may be somewhat self assessment color blind and try some solutions.
    Problem I quit smoking every Sunday night.. for years. Results that went past a day or two…..2 weeks, then 3 months, then 2years, next 5 years, next 10 years and finally permanently 35 years ago. Failure is just Limited success. …learned from it and used it for the next attempt on Sunday.
    Problem LFT and RSD took 10 years and a major depression but the SNRI that treated that ,and a lot of research by me and an ADHD Diagnosis (age 70) and treatment both drugs and choral singing, has brought light at the end of the tunnel.
    At 73 I am still working on the Exercise dilemma that many of us have at this age ….without much success but I will keep trying .
    Problem Timliness and organization. Solution Smart phone/ Ipad.
    And as to life, I have never enjoyed it more nor have i ever had more true friends and the loving gift that 3 children , 7 grandchildren (one ADHD) and one Great granddaughter brings. Balancing that against the loss due to death of 3 sisters and one brother, additionally A debilitating stroke of one brother and the loss to dementia of one sister. Very little can replace the loss of a large loving family and though we no longer number over 150 my siblings children, and I the youngest, make for some excellent gatherings around the continent.

  2. I find funny enough that a lot of the well meant articles here upset me. I find they just tie in to painful areas I have from a life long problem of ADHD. Such as setting goals and knowing what I want. Impossible I have never known and I run out of steam quickly as ADHD does to me. Even causes depression in mW.

  3. ya this one upset me too . I think it was the whole “use a planner” “plan you meals for the week” and “clean and organize your counter thing ….thats the problem ….if i could do it, i wouldnt have an issue . My advice, watch the ted talk with that red head chick. She made me feel better. No offense to the author of this article but ….you can organize , plan , have a husband , kids, and 2 careers. Just not someone i personally relate with but thats not saying there arent others here who do. I wonder how they choose the articles here though, sometimes i feel its more about quantity than quality. I mean some articles are downright insulting at times. Gotta ignore those and just go to the ones that can help/relate to you.
    Good luck. You arent alone. I promise.

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