5 Ways to Tame Your Inner Critic with Adult ADHD
It happened again. You swore it wouldn’t, but it did.
Impulsivity got the best of you, and you yelled at your manager…in front of all your co-workers. (He isn’t happy.)
You forgot to send in the mortgage check and now the bank is calling your spouse, who had no idea it hadn’t already been paid. (She isn’t happy.)
Every smoke detector in the house is going off because you got distracted playing video games and now your pizza is a pile of smoldering ash. (No one is happy.)
The voice in your head – henceforth known as your internal critic – is screaming at you. “How could you be so stupid? Didn’t you set reminders? Why can’t you just be a normal human being like everyone else? Your life is a trainwreck!”
For adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), our internal critic is often our worst enemy. And the louder and more often our critic shouts at us, the more we believe them – which can lead us down a very dangerous road.
There is already a proven link between ADHD and depression. Depression is thought to occur 2.7 times more often in adults with ADHD than among their neurotypical peers, and 30 percent of people with ADHD will experience a mood disorder or depressive episode. And our internal critics certainly don’t help the matter, often making us feel even worse about ourselves.
Fortunately, there are strategies you can put in place to protect yourself from that cruel negative self-talk. If your ADHD inner critic is taking over, here are some things you can do to take back control.
1. Create a Persona for Your ADHD Inner Critic
It may sound silly but creating a persona for your self-talk makes it easier to separate yourself from negative thoughts. Is your inner critic a crotchety old “get off my grass” man named Walter? Or perhaps she’s a “hair teased to the heavens” busybody named Karen?
When you build an absurd picture of your inner critic, you personify the internal voice. Then, when they start spouting nonsense, engage your mind in a mental confrontation to shut them down.
2. Set Up an “Early Warning System”
Houses have alarms to alert us when someone tries to break in, and you can set up your own internal alarm to keep your ADHD inner critic away. To do this, identify likely situations where your inner critic commonly shows up uninvited. Think of times when your personal defenses are down like when you’re tired, stressed or running late. Then pre-decide a response to your inner critic the next time it shows up. This way when your inner Karen is just around the corner, you can bar your mental doors. Practice inhibiting that internal voice. Push back, and you’ll prevent it (and the ensuing negative thoughts) from intruding and taking over.
3. Practice Mindfulness
At heart, mindfulness is simply sitting with yourself and experiencing your thoughts and feelings without interference or fear of being judged. You are shutting the rest of the world out – and that includes your inner critic. There’s no special equipment required, you can do it wherever you are. And mindfulness doesn’t require a big chunk of time. If your internal critic is being especially pernicious, a few minutes of mindfulness meditation can calm them (and you!) down.
4. Teach Your Inner Critic How to Treat You
None of us come into this world with a clear understanding of manners or social etiquette. Instead, we are taught norms by our parents, communities, and culture. In this way, learning evolves. And the same holds true for the inner critic inside your head. Have you ever considered that you could actively interrupt those thoughts, and redirect them?
In other words, in order to get your ADHD inner critic under control, you’ll need to teach it how you want to be treated. Help your ADHD inner critic reframe a thought. You can learn how to turn an inner critic thought like “You can never do anything right!” into “You sure struggled for a bit there, but you stuck with it long enough to work it out.” The more you practice turning negative self-talk into positive self-talk, the easier it will be to live with your inner critic.
5. Practice Positive Dialogue (And Thoughts)
Your inner critic is always present, it is the ‘voice’ assigned to your ongoing thoughts. And, your ADHD inner critic is usually more vocal when you’re failing than when you’re succeeding. Change that! Instead of listening to it, try pausing to inhibit that voice. Just by pausing, you’ll find a space to try to communicate with yourself. And, you’re going to need to practice, especially when you’ve done something great.
So just like you hear your inner critic beat you up, you can train it to be positive. Instead of focusing on the negative, try to pick a positive win like “I got to work on time every day this week, isn’t that awesome?” “I remembered to make cupcakes for the bake sale instead of grabbing them from the store on the way!” Teaching yourself (and your ADHD inner critic, by proxy) to celebrate success helps you practice more positive thinking.
Finally, Keep Your ADHD Inner Critic’s Personality In Check
We all have an inner critic – that little voice in the back of our heads that narrates our lives and isn’t at all shy to tell us what we’re doing wrong. For those with ADHD however, it’s harder to tune those intrusive thoughts out and much easier for us to believe everything they say. Embrace your inner self and awaken your strategies to shut down negative self-talk can help us build self-esteem and live our best lives!
Is your inner critic out of control? ADHD Coaching can help you to develop the skills and systems you need to turn their screams into whispers. Book a FREE Discovery Call with me today!