Self-compassion is essential for adults with ADHD precisely because of the harsh judgments they have to face. Learn more about what self-compassion is and how you can practice it in your daily life.

What Is Self-Compassion?

Self-compassion is the act of empathizing with yourself. While that can sound a little convoluted, it’s actually quite simple in practice. A person who is self-compassionate understands that they are only human, and that if they make mistakes sometimes, it’s okay. They also recognize that they face unique challenges, so instead of being harsh and critical, they try to be supportive and encouraging toward themselves.

When you give yourself grace for errors and embarrassing moments, you treat yourself with the same love and care you would show a close friend. That’s the idea behind self-compassion. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have to try to be a good person or make positive changes in your life when needed. Instead, self-compassion makes you feel more empowered to do these things because you build yourself up in the process.

Self-Compassion and ADHD

People with ADHD tend to have lower levels of self-compassion and self-esteem. Compared to their neurotypical peers, they also have higher rates of stress, anxiety, and depression.

Why do people with ADHD struggle to be self-compassionate? The experience of having ADHD can alter an individual’s self-perception. They could face criticism or discrimination from others due to their ADHD symptoms, and they may have lacked the support they needed in dealing with their condition. Over time, these experiences can wear someone down and potentially lower their self-worth and heighten their feelings of isolation.

Think about how you react when your ADHD symptoms cause you to slip up, even when you have the best intentions. Maybe you made a social blunder, lost track of your personal belongings, or forgot to pay a bill. With these types of frustrations, it’s not uncommon for people with ADHD to experience negative self-talk. Your inner critic may come out and make you feel ashamed about your mistake and despondent about your perceived personal failings.

Practicing self-compassion could help to turn that around. In fact, it’s been found to boost mental health. Research has shown that being self-compassionate can help to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression while increasing happiness, optimism, and social connectedness.

Tips for Practicing Self-Compassion

If you have ADHD, practicing self-compassion can be a bit of a challenge at first. If you have a negative self-image, it will take time to change your thinking. It’s important to stick with it though, especially since the potential benefits are so worth it. Use the following strategies to implement self-compassion in your own life.

Work on being more mindful

Mindfulness is an important facet of self-compassion, so working on incorporating it into your habits can be powerful. When you are in the moment, you allow your feelings to pass without fixating on them. If you’re frustrated about a mistake you made, mindfulness allows you to recognize that emotion and then let it go.

This is one of the first steps in practicing self-compassion. You don’t ignore your mistakes or feelings. Instead, you accept your imperfections and learn to move past them.

Focus on common humanity

People with ADHD can fall into a trap of feeling isolated from others. After years of criticism from yourself and others, you might start to focus more on your own suffering and mistakes and see others as more deserving than you are. You start to see yourself as an outlier whose imperfections make you less worthy than others.

Self-compassion serves as a reminder of our common humanity. No one is without flaws, and we are all human. Making mistakes and feeling inadequate is something that each and every one of us goes through. This “big picture” view can help to put things in perspective and remind you to treat yourself with the same empathy you would give others.

Replace your inner critic

Your inner critic is one of the biggest obstacles to self-compassion. It wants to remind you of your failings and make you feel judged and ashamed. It can help to think of this inner critic as distinct from yourself and try to recognize when it appears.

Once you begin noticing this critic, replace that voice with one that focuses on confidence and self-love instead of insecurity and self-hate. Develop positive affirmations that you can focus on when your inner critic pipes up, such as “I’m trying my best and I’m worthy of love” or “Everyone has challenging moments, and I can get through this.” Think of what you would say to a good friend and use that to bolster yourself while drowning out the voice of your inner critic.

The more you practice self-compassion, the more resilient you’ll become. Much like with cognitive behavioral therapy, working on your self-compassion is a way to replace negative thinking with positive thoughts that benefit your mental health and make your ADHD more manageable.