Emotional Wellness Strategies for Women with ADHD: How to reduce self-criticism & build self-confidence

women smiling with raised armsMarch is Women’s History Month, a time to recognize and celebrate women’s strength, accomplishments and contributions. Women carry a lot on their shoulders–from family, community, school and work responsibilities to societal expectations around physical appearance and behavior. That’s a LOT of pressure. Women with ADHD, and women who care for neurodivergent children, must deal with yet another layer of stress, anxiety and self-doubt. And all too frequently, women lack much-needed support. Moreover, women are often their harshest and loudest critics, making it all that much harder to feel good and empowered. Emotional wellness for women begins with learning to quiet that negative inner-voice and make more space for confidence and resilience.

The critical feedback loop in women with ADHD

women holding head in her handsAll too often, women with ADHD find themselves in a cycle of negativity. This self-critical feedback loop is hard to shake because the negative messages come from within. Women are often socialized to please others and take care of them–emotionally, physically and psychologically. Their self-worth is often feels tied to what people think about them and how many friends (real or virtual) they have instead of the uniqueness of their innate talents and personal traits.

Women with ADHD, already sensitive to feedback or rejection, often interpret things more negatively and personally than the situation calls for. They are especially vulnerable to internalized low self-worth.

Change your relationship with the negative voice

smiley face yellow post-in note between two frownsWhile it’s unrealistic to completely eliminate negative thinking altogether, you can learn to reduce the power it holds. This is crucial for fostering self esteem and resilience–two key issues for women.

In order to reduce its power, you have to change your relationship to the negative voice. Point out that there is a difference between real life and the stories that you tell yourself about those events. These interpretations directly influence the way someone takes meaning from whatever occurred. Putting negativity outside of yourself reduces feeling wrong or bad. It also helps you acknowledge the critical feedback loops in your mind without being ruled by them.

Make space for confidence and resilience with a positive mindset

The most powerful tool women have to counter negative thinking is self-esteem. Confidence empowers you to make decisions, get through life’s ups and downs and recover after setbacks. So while you’re quieting your inner-critic, turn up the volume on the voice that nurtures you with kindness and support.

1. Identify limiting core beliefs and negative self-talk

Find evidence that contradicts or supports those beliefs. Remember that no one is judging you as harshly as you judge yourself. Talk to people in your life who love and know you best, and get their perspective on all your best qualities. Consider asking them:

  • “Which of my qualities are most meaningful to you?”
  • “What do you consider to be my greatest talents?”

2. Separate feelings from being

Feeling bad doesn’t mean you are ‘less than’ or unworthy. It may be tough, but don’t allow these negative feelings to define who you are. Use self-affirming phrases such as:

  • Mistakes are how people learn, and you’re learning.”
  • “Being wrong doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.”

3. Create a few helpful phrases to say to yourself

Positive self-talk counter-acts that negative voice so you don’t have to believe it. Build confidence and quiet your inner critic with reminders of your strengths. Sample statements might be:

  • “Everyone makes mistakes, including me. What can I do differently next time?”
  • “There’s no such thing as perfection. It’s okay to stumble, just keep trying.”

4. Use a growth mindset approach

Shift away from trying to prove your worth to others using false comparisons or judging yourself as ‘less than.’ Transition from seeing yourself in a negative light to practicing compassion and kindness toward yourself. This involves taking time for some self-reflection. We are all works in progress, learning and developing at our own speeds. Believe in the power of “YET.” Tell yourself:

  • “I may not be able to do this YET, but I am learning.”
  • “I might not feel ready YET, but that could change soon.”

5. Practice healing meditations

Picture yourself in your “happy place.” Visualize the face of someone whom you love and trust. What supportive words would this person say to you? How would these words comfort and encourage you? Write these down, and meditate on these images and words whenever you need to heal or empower yourself.

If you’ve been stuck in a pattern of knocking yourself down, learning to pull yourself back up takes A LOT of practice. Learning to control the volume on that negative voice is a life skill that sustains crucial resiliency and self-esteem. It’s one step at a time so stay patient and persistent!

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Harness GRIT and Get It Done! (Handout)

Shame: When You Are Embarrassed Of Who You Are (Handout)