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Self Compassion is Key for ADHD

by Dorsey McFadden

Self compassion. What is it? Why do we need it? How do we get it? These are all the questions we need to answer to grow as humans. In fact self compassion is at the start of many of our ADHD journeys.

Why is practicing self compassion so important? 

Did you know your own lack of self compassion can play a role in your mental health? Too often people confuse self compassion with self pity, which isn’t the same thing. 

“New research shows that practicing self-compassion allows individuals with ADHD to be more successful in managing symptoms and to flourish in ways they may not have believed possible.” ADDitude Magazine 

Reasons why you should practice self compassion:

  • Developing self compassion forces us to develop a concept of self.
  • It allows us to increase our openness to being part of the shared human experience 
  • Regular practice increases happiness and optimism
  • Builds resilience and mindfulness
  • Decreased self judgement
  • Increases motivation, self worth, and improves body image

To be human is to suffer, that’s the human condition, but it doesn’t have to be. 

What is it? 

Self compassion is more than being kind to yourself. It’s forgiving yourself of any perceived failures or mistakes. It’s forgiving yourself for thinking mean things about yourself. It may be forgiving yourself for using that as fuel. We really don’t treat ourselves the way we should mentally. We should be our biggest fans, strongest supporters. Instead we struggle internally with doubt, self criticism, negative thinking and fall into cognitive traps. 

Below I’m going to share how I learned to practice self compassion but this may not be the right method for you. I urge you to read other articles like the ones I’ve listed below to further develop your own understanding of self compassion.

How Do I Practice Self Compassion? 

Extending compassion to one’s self isn’t as easy for some people with ADHD. That can be due to the nature of ADHD and its impact in the development of the prefrontal cortex. Additionally, the aforementioned can delay the development of executive functioning skills which can affect the development of social skills among others. 

You can start by noticing what your inner critic is saying. Recognize the repeated messages. Notice how you treat others, is this the way you treat yourself? If not then you’ll gently start to redirect and reframe that self-talk. 

Here are some other ways to practice self compassion: 

  • Practice guided meditation 
  • Saying compassionate sayings or affirmations 
  • Giving yourself a hug or holding your own hand
  • Writing positively about yourself

Resilience is Key

Adopting any new habit, practice, or routine requires resilience. Even more so for those of us with ADHD. To build that we must be able to identify our strengths, and recognize our weaknesses. Learning to practice self compassion is no different than learning any other new skill but it will give you more insight into yourself and answer the strengths/weaknesses question. Practicing self compassion will also help you build your own resilience. 

How I Learned to Let Go

As the article above explains, many people with ADHD have difficulty with self-perceptions. The fact is you’ve probably been your worst critic and letting go of that can be really hard, if not downright impossible for some of us. This is where medication and cognitive behavioral therapy have helped me. I was suffering from high functioning anxiety and depression for years, completely unaware. From the outside everything looked ok. I couldn’t admit to myself how bad it was. But I recognized that I was just going through the motions and was having more than just trouble with emotions. So I took the first step which for me was finding the right practitioner for me to work with. 

Starting the Journey 

After that, and by her recommendation I started meditating. If you’re having trouble with that, I explain how I forced myself to meditate in this article. Basically I tied a self care practice to listening to guided meditation, making it a very enjoyable experience, that i want to do more often. This makes it more likely I’ll continue with the routine to create a habit. 

First I started with the Insight Timer app. You can listen to great guided meditations from teachers around the world and use filters to time the right length that fits your schedule. I’ve since created a list of my top meditation videos on YouTube. You can find that here. 

“Just the time sitting and thinking allowed me to grow my self compassion.”

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First I listened to meditations on how to have compassion for self and others, then moved on to self kindness meditations. Just the time sitting and thinking allowed me to grow my self compassion. Little by little I’ve seen a change. I’m back to the positive person I was in high school. That negativity is mostly gone. I’m more tolerant of time. I’m more tolerant of everything. 

Understand that this is just one tool you’ll use to grow. Yet after truely practicing self compassion you’ll see the world in a different way. Things might be clearer, you might have more work to do on yourself than you thought. It’s ok, we’re right there with you. Tell us what you think below!

Here are a few other sources that might help you learn to practice self compassion:

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