How to Boost Self-Esteem in ADHD Adults

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Self-esteem is how you view yourself. It’s your personal evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses. People who have healthy self-esteem can appreciate their strengths and be compassionate for any limitations they have. They value themselves and expect others to treat them with respect. 

Why Do People With ADHD Have Low Self-Esteem?

ADHD symptoms such as low concentration, forgetfulness, and the need for immediate gratification results in people with ADHD having many negative experiences and life events.

For example, they may experience academic underachievement, problems in the workplace or social problems such as making and keeping friends and romantic relationships. These disappointing experiences and failures impact their self-esteem.

5 Ways to Improve Your Self-Esteem

You can do lots to increase your self-esteem, and best of all, it is all in your control. You don’t need to rely on other people. 

1. Believe in Yourself

Repeated negative experiences and failures affect your self-esteem. This leads to you mistrust and doubt your abilities and talents. To break the cycle and start improving your self-esteem, it is important to start believing in yourself. Believing in yourself might sound cliché, but if you can start to trust strengths and talents, it is a great first step to improving your self-esteem. Research found people with ADHD have a resilience and an ability to adapt constantly so no matter what your history is, change is possible.

2. Focus on Your Strengths

We are all born with unique talents and strengths. What are yours? if you aren’t sure, over the next week notice what tasks and activities are easy for you. Which ones do you enjoy doing, and which ones do you get compliments on? These are all clues! Spending time noticing these things is a fast track to improving your self-esteem.

Rather than trying to get good at tasks that are hard for you, spend the majority of your time doing things you are good at. Apply this rule to all areas of your life – work, home, hobbies, etc.

3. Develop Your Skills

In addition to focusing on your strengths, there are some basic skills you need to succeed in life and feel good about yourself. These skills might not come naturally to you because of how your ADHD brain works. However, it is possible to get good at them with time.

Learn to be an excellent…

  • time manager: arriving on time makes you feel reliable;
  • money manager: overspending or forgetting to pay your mortgage nibbles away at your self-esteem;
  • meal planner: it's hard to feel your best when you are hungry or eating junk food;
  • housekeeper: a dirty home full of clutter and funky smells erodes your self esteem.

These tasks are harder for you because they require skills that ADHD makes challenging. However, it is possible to become good at all of them. 

4. Give Yourself Positive Feedback

How you were praised and disciplined as a child affects how you saw yourself then and how you view yourself today.

Children with ADHD can receive more criticism than praise. As a grown up, you might focus on all the things you did ‘wrong’ or didn’t do well, because that has become your default mode. From now on, for every criticism you give yourself, acknowledge two things that went well. This will help rebalance things which will help improve your self-esteem. 

5. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

As a child you may have been in the habit of comparing yourself to others. Your siblings, friends and classmates probably could do things you found hard, like pay attention in class or sit still. When you measure yourself unfavourably with others, it lowers your self-esteem, as we rarely make comparisons where we fare better. Get out of the habit of comparing yourself today!


Harpin V, et al. Long-Term Outcomes of ADHD: A Systematic Review of Self-Esteem and Social FunctionJournal of Attention Disorders. 2016; 20: 295-305.

Young S and Brahmam J. Cogntive-Behavioural Therapy For ADHD in Adolescents and Adults: A Psychological Guide to Practice. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 2012.

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