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Stop Guilt Attacks Now: My Four-Step Plan

A dad with ADHD describes his battle with insecurity – about his daughters’ hair – and how he has worked to overcome it.

Adults with ADHD have challenges with chronic insecurity. Perhaps it is from a lifetime of being reprimanded for “stupid” ADHD mistakes and behavior. I can’t relate. I’ve never had an English teacher mock my essay, which missed the point of the assignment, out loud in class-while standing next to me during the worst parts. I can’t relate to that hot feeling you get in your ears while trying to pull your head into your chest cavity like a turtle. But I hear it’s common.

We usually outgrow insecurity, but sometimes it is imprinted upon us, and we feel inadequate about everything. That feeling that we are behind and out of step with our peers can trigger anxiety and panic attacks, or it can inspire us to stop caring. I wish I was the type to stop caring, but I am the opposite. I care deeply.

As a stay-at-home dad, I remember many occasions when I felt so inadequate compared to the supermoms around me with their perfectly coiffed daughters. There would be my daughters, nicely dressed with clean faces and combed hair next to the entire cast of Toddlers & Tiaras. The braids. The buns. The exquisitely combed ponytails. The ponytails with braids. The buns with braids and streaming ribbons.

I realized that I didn’t have the time or inclination to put that much effort into my girls’ hair, so I asked some mothers for pointers on making simple pony tails. This helped me keep my insecurity in check. Then I came upon a BuzzFeed post making the rounds that featured 370 million creative hairstyles that a mother could do while frying eggs, cleaning the laundry, and balancing the budget. I recognized that many of these styles would require too much work for a school morning, but I still felt as if I came up short with my child-rearing peers.

But doesn’t everybody feel that way to some degree?

Yes. In fact, many mothers posted comments about how much work these “simple” hairstyles are. They weren’t fazed by the collection in the slightest. I had internalized guilt and inadequacy for so long that I felt I was less of a dad because I couldn’t make my daughters look like princesses every morning.

[Free Download: Parenting Guide for Moms & Dads with ADHD]

What was the difference?

I’d take a guess that ADHD’s lack of impulse control was at fault. First, we are used to picking up and abandoning projects before we achieve mastery. Sometimes that makes us feel guilty. Second, we don’t take enough time to reason with ourselves. I saw the hairstyles, then immediately assumed I was a failure because I could not do them. Non-ADHD mothers looked at the hairstyles, shook their heads, and thought “Yeah, right!”

Insecurity can become a prevalent thought process for adults too used to being labeled as failures. Instead of letting low self-esteem, fuel-injected with a lack of impulse control, run rampant, remember these four easy steps:

1. Take a moment to breathe slowly.

2. Get your thoughts under control.

3. Reconsider what pained you.

4. Remember what you are good at and focus on that.

You will see that you were over-reacting and had nothing to be insecure about. Even if you come up short in comparison, getting insecurity under control will help you cope better without any hits to your self-esteem. Whether it’s hair styling, investment banking, home improvement, sports, or whatever, nobody is expected to be good at everything — even dads raising daughters.

[Silence Your Harshest Critic — Yourself]