The origins of shame are different for everyone, there are ways in which ADHD inevitably contributes in some way to each person’s feelings of shame.
Well, no, not usually by name. But rather in the form of
“I should be able to…”
“I shouldn’t have…”
“I am so ?#@*&%!…”
And, if not addressed directly, these feelings hinder their ability to effectively learn to manage their ADHD. What is your experience dealing with shame related to your ADHD?
One way some have come to understand shame is to distinguish it from guilt.
Shame is a feeling of disappointment about our basic nature, “who we are.” It is a particularly insidious emotion, as a solution is often not readily apparent to those who are experiencing it.
Some may try to rid themselves of the feeling by trying to change their basic nature. If you have tried this, I’m sure you’ve found it is not an easy solution.
But there are better solutions! More on that below.
Whereas guilt is feeling ashamed about something we did. So, when we do something wrong, we may feel ashamed about it, even appropriately guilty. That is not a bad thing. And, if we choose to make amends, there are often constructive ways to do this.
What do you do when you feel shame, though?
When it comes to ADHD related shame, there are a few triggers I regularly see.
One common source of shame for adults with ADHD is their ADHD symptoms, such as:
No surprise to you, I bet.
If you also experience this, your feelings of shame due to your ADHD symptoms may be heightened by past or present external criticism from parents, colleagues, friends or partners.
Another source of shame for adults with ADHD is past perceived failures in their work or personal life, often due in part to untreated ADHD.
Unfortunately, this history leads some to experience shame triggers from every day missteps and mistakes. While everyday mishaps are unavoidable because… well, we are human, some feel these are indications they can’t do anything right.
So, they conclude, yes, that their very nature is flawed. At least it feels that way to them.
Have you felt this way?
And, if you experience these feelings of shame, you may respond in a variety of ways.
You may often engage in negative self-talk, such as
You may also try to be perfect in an attempt to prove to yourself and others that you are worthy. But you can’t be perfect, of course. Who can? So, when you inevitably end up falling short, your feelings of shame are further reinforced.
Alternatively, so you don’t feel shame, you may avoid situations where you predict, based on past experiences, you will fall short. So, you end up losing out on opportunities.
In some cases, in order to avoid shame, you may blame others when you make a mistake, rather than owning up to it.
You may also respond to shame by overcommitting, saying yes to everything, in order to try to please everyone and prove you are ok. But it does not work because you can’t please everyone, right?
What are other ways you respond to shame?
The first step in addressing your shame, especially as it relates to your ADHD, is to ask yourself:
Developing your awareness in this way will help you to take the next step, which is to consider your options for addressing your shame
As you ponder this, also consider where you are on your journey of accepting your ADHD.
Once you understand how shame operates in your life, you can start making informed decisions to deal with it.
Here are few options to help you get started: