By Dana Henry and Nancy Harter
Today you had an important
meeting. You were supposed to review the
materials beforehand but you woke up late.
After 15 minutes of shuffling through your wardrobe, you finally find
something to wear. Now you’re running
late, so you rush out the door. You
arrive out of breath, barely on time, only to realize that you’ve forgotten to
put on deodorant. Ugh! On top of that, yesterday was your sister’s birthday
and you forgot to call… again.
If you’ve got adult ADHD, this
story—or similar variations—probably sounds familiar. Despite our best intentions, we seem to repeat
the same mistakes, disappointing others and ourselves. We may be great at picking ourselves back up
and trying again, but after so many failed attempts, our habits can seem
Resist the urge to punish
yourself, even if you think you deserve it. Phrases such as, "I always screw up,” "I’m so
thoughtless,” or "I’m a mess,” are like recorded message that switch on and
play repeatedly in your head in times of stress: They provide no information
about why the problem happened—or how to solve it. They only serve to lower your morale.
Realize your brain is wired in its
own unique way and those people you envy—who always seem to have it all
together—have their own problems; you’re just not privy to their struggles and
insecurities. And even if it’s not
immediately visible to you, you do have aptitudes others admire.
You can’t change your life by
reinforcing your shortcomings; the greatest improvements always come when you focus
on your strengths, and they have the biggest impact at those dark moments when
you feel you have none. Turn off the recording
when you hear it, and forgive yourself for being you. Easier said than done? Perhaps, but it is possible all the
same. Here are some concrete steps you
can take to turn that automated critic in your head into a cheerleader.
1. Identify Problem Thoughts
Throughout the day, stop and take
notice of what you’re thinking. Maybe you’re
facing challenges in your relationship, having difficulty on the job or experiencing
trouble getting organized. If all you
think about are the problems, and your automated critic is harping that
everything is your fault, it’s robbing you of energy and motivation. If your comments would be hurtful to someone
else, don’t say them about yourself, even if you’re the only one who hears
Most negative thoughts are distortions. Challenge
yourself to replace the negative thoughts with pragmatic statements. Changing your
commentary aloud or on paper can help put things in perspective and reinforce
constructive thinking. As in these
examples, try swapping a negative message for a pragmatic one:
· Negative: "What’s wrong with
me? Why can’t I do this?”
"This is a difficult task. I may need
· Negative: "Why am I always
late? I can’t ever be on time.”
"I know I can improve my tardiness if use my organizer.”
· Negative: "I’m a lousy
listener, always interrupting a conversation.
I don’t know why anyone would want to be around me.”
"I have friends who accept me even though I sometimes interrupt their
Your feelings are not you; they
are only what you’re experiencing at the moment. Giving your negative emotions a name such as anger,
fear, sadness, or disappointment diminishes their power.
Positive self-talk deserves
praise. Every time you replace a negative
thought with a more pragmatic, positive or encouraging thought, give yourself
credit. Phrases such as "Good job” or
"I’m getting better at this,” can boost your mood and keep you on an
encouraging wavelength. And say it out
loud! Verbalizing positive self-talk
reinforces positive thinking.
Take Advice From Those Who Care About You
Choose supportive people you can
depend on to give you helpful advice and honest feedback. We often see ourselves differently than others
see us. The media, our coworkers, even
family members can give us confusing signals and make us feel as if we’re not
good enough. But ask those who know you
well and you may be surprised.
Give yourself permission to smile
or laugh, especially when you’re struggling. Recognize that being human means making
mistakes. Be able to laugh at yours.
New research suggests memories
are made of proteins that strengthen when we use them. The more we recall something, the more likely
we are to recall it again. So choose
memories of your best self and keep prompts in a thought journal, a photo
collection, or a sketchbook.
Choose Your Perspective
We can’t always control what
happens to us, but we can choose how we choose our viewpoint for what happens
to us. Most seemingly dismal situations
are lined with opportunity. Find a new
perspective and use it to hoist yourself from that dark place.