How to Deal with Shame and ADHD

#adhd #adhdbra #self #selfcompassion #selflove #shame #well-being Jul 02, 2023

Sorry I’m late.

Sorry I lost your keys.

Sorry the dishes are in the sink again.

Sorry I misplaced the client’s file.

Sorry I forgot to email/text you back.

ADHD is one endless stream of SORRY.

Did you know that ADHDers receive 20,000 more negative messages by the age of 12 than neurotypical kids?

We fall short.

Really who decides that metric?

We’re called lazy, stupid, crazy, broken.

We don’t fit in, so we hide.

We cover up our light.

We mask.

We feel ashamed.

It has been engrained in us at home, at school, on the bus, on the playing field, in the studio.

Eventually we FEEL broken.

Is it any wonder we’re constantly apologizing for the very act of being differently wired?

Life in an ADHD brain can feel out of control.

Of course, we struggle.

And we don't win awards for our self-compassion.

Instead, we try to be perfect (or mask) to overcome the challenges and then we can spiral into anxiety.

Especially females because we're expected to be a certain way.

And sometimes ADHD doesn't fit that societal box.

We’re asked to fit in, not stand out.

Our survival instinct at the very fiber of our being is to be accepted by society.

Because if we're rejected by the tribe we'll die.

Our bodies have this memory stored at a cellular level.

And we're all hardwired this way, not just those of us with ADHD.

We needed people in the tribe to hunt and others to gather so we could eat today or at least some time this week.

Easy to see why we can have anxiety when we don't fit in with everyone else.

Pretty much everything I’ve accomplished in MY life was driven by anxiety.

Unfortunately, the ugly double-edged sword is anything I HAVEN'T accomplished in my life has also been driven by anxiety.

She’s a beast.

Ok enough on my anxiety.

Just please know if you're struggling with shame and anxiety you're not alone.


The Difference between Guilt and Shame

Guilt is fear of having committed an offense.

It's when you feel bad about doing something or not doing something.

Or saying something or not saying something.

You feel guilty because you forgot to pick up the dog food. And now your spouse has to get it on the way home from work.

Guilt is kind of good. It helps us remember to do a little better next time and/or be better people.

Shame is so much deeper.

Shame is a feeling of humiliation or distress but deep down in your bones.

Like there's something fundamentally WRONG with you.

The origin of the word shame means to hide or cover up.

Shame is you forgot to pick up the dog food and 65 other things again because ADHD and you heard 20,000 times as a kid that you're lazy or stupid for forgetting your schoolbook, number two pencil, lunchbox yet again and when will you ever just grow up and get your act together? AND WHY DO I SUCK SO MUCH THAT I ALWAYS FORGET THE D*MN DOG FOOD?

You feel broken and afraid.

Yeah, if that's the voice you hear in your head then that's shame.


I delegated the cat food buying to my husband by the way.

The cat doesn't starve.

And the world didn't end.

The very act of hiding our shame makes shame that much worse.

Thank goodness for Brene Brown who is on a mission to bring shame to light.

Check out any of her books - so good.

My favorite is ... who am I kidding? I can't pick a favorite.

But here's some of her brilliance on shame:

"Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is “I am bad.” Guilt is “I did something bad.” How many of you, if you did something that was hurtful to me, would be willing to say, “I’m sorry. I made a mistake?” How many of you would be willing to say that? Guilt: I’m sorry. I made a mistake. Shame: I’m sorry. I am a mistake."

"If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive,"

"Shame hates having words wrapped around it. If we speak shame, it begins to wither. Just the way exposure to light was deadly for the gremlins, language and story bring light to shame and destroy it."

Because when we shine a light on our shame, we discover we’re not the only ones carrying it and covering it up.

Yes, I get that it's so so hard to talk about what we truly feel ashamed of.

People are so Judgey McJudgerson.

Wouldn't hurt if we were all a wee bit kinder to one another again.

Empathy is the enemy of shame.


How to Deal with your Shame

  1. Talk with someone.

This is the A#1 best way to begin to unravel your shame.

It could be a dear friend, a confidante, a spiritual advisor, a coach, an ADHD support group, or a therapist.

It might not be your spouse or significant other or your parent or your sibling.

A third party is much much better.

The key is to find someone who isn't going to shame you more.

If you're in the anxiety and shame and ADHD spiral, you'll really want to start with a therapist. Because all those things can lead to depression which is no fun. Ask me how I know.

Brene Brown says shame can't survive when we speak of it.

Choose your confidante wisely then talk to that person about it.

  1. Figure out what triggers you.

We all have the ONE phrase or two or three that sets our hair on fire.

Figure out what it is and ask the people who care about you to never say that to you.

Get in touch with your body reactions. Does your chest tighten? Do you feel it deep in your gut? Knowing this can help you say, "oh hello tight chest shame trigger I see you."

Take a break - take a walk - cool off if you're triggered. It's ok to step away from a heated situation.

If triggers are at work, ask for accommodations if you can. Be sure to run this by a trusted advisor for the right wording before you ask.

  1. Focus on the positive.

There are things we ADHDers LOVE about our brains because frankly they're amazing!

Yes, we have challenges, but ADHD land is a veritable who's who of brilliant peeps.

You have gifts.

Keep a journal of great things about you. Seriously, I made a list of 50 things I like about myself.

Yeah, it's hard at first. But too bad. Do it anyway.

I promise you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Can't think of anything? Ask your trusted friends what qualities they love about you.

Write that shizz down.

Next level - read that list every day until you don't need to read it anymore.

Mine used to be posted in front of my desk - as in right in front of my face.

Because if it was in a drawer, I wouldn't remember it (hello ADHD!).

  1. Give yourself grace.

Last but not least you need a big heaping spoonful of self-compassion - right I know that's what we struggle with.

Once I realized (in my mid-50s) that I had ADHD I could stop beating myself up endlessly for something that's a freaking diagnosis.

This is how we're wired.

There's no shame in that.

So, find some other ADHD peeps and hang out with them.

They'll help you laugh about your quirks, because they've got them too!


Well, I don't know about you but that was a lot.

I'm on a freaking mission to help people embrace the best of their brains and kick the other crud to the curb.

If you're ready to kick your negative stories to the curb so you can live your best life with your uniquely wired brain, let's get together.

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