Do you struggle with abusive ADHD self-talk? Do you find yourself at war with yourself – only to realize you’re lost in your own thoughts inside your head? Read ahead to learn more effective strategies to deal with your abusive inner critic.
“You never do anything right.”
“You’re so weird.”
“Why can’t you just act normal for once?”
If you saw a child on the playground being talked to this way, you’d probably intervene on their behalf. Or at least you’d try to alert someone else to intervene on that child’s behalf who was in a position to do it for you.
If your best friend’s partner was talking to them this way, you’d probably encourage them to stand up for themselves, seek marriage counseling, or end the relationship.
But what if the abusive bully isn’t the big kid on the playground or partner screaming at your friend, but the abusive ADHD self-talk voice inside your very own head?
What’s the deal with abusive self-talk and ADHD?
As an adult living with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), you’re probably no stranger to harsh criticisms, negative interactions with others, and harmful comments.
People put labels on you early on. “Stupid.” “Dumb.” “Weird.” “Bad.” And those labels followed you into adulthood. You internalized them. You made them part of your story. And now it’s not others speaking to you this way – it’s you speaking to yourself this way.
Adults with ADHD often struggle with their inner critic. This is the voice in your head that screams at you when you forget to pay a bill, interrupt someone at work, or run late to a doctor’s appointment. It insists that everything negative anyone ever said about you is completely spot on and that you’ll never overcome your challenges.
But your inner critic can’t talk to you that way unless you allow it. It’s time to stop the negative self-talk once and for all.
Why Do We Abuse Ourselves?
Let’s call negative self-talk what it really is: Abuse, and more appropriately, abusive ADHD self-talk. It’s emotionally and mentally abusive behavior. And in our rational minds, we know that.
So why do we do it?
For some of us, it stems from our childhood. As children, our sphere of influence is comprised of parents, extended family, and teachers. These are the largest players in our worldview. So when children are continuously put down, neglected, yelled at, or otherwise degraded, it makes sense that they internalize those feelings and lack coping skills to work through those thoughts. Therefore, with inadequate coping skills, we collapse and give those thoughts too much power.
Past relationships can be another emotional trigger for abusive self-talk. When a romantic partner or close friend is emotionally or verbally abusive, ADHD adults tend to absorb those comments and allow them to become their self-talk. After all, if someone we love says negative things about us, they must be true. With this inability to differentiate between others’ comments, observations, opinions, or judgments, it is easy to believe everything you hear.
Additionally, ADHD adults tend to really struggle with negative feedback. Rejection sensitivity (or simply emotional sensitivity) makes ADHD children and adults more prone to dwell on off comments without reflection or inhibition.
Another reason abusive self-talk floods into an ADHD brain is that ADHDers can struggle with perfectionism, we’re awesome at catastrophizing any situation that doesn’t go 100% according to plan. And when we feel like we’re constantly letting ourselves down, it’s easier than ever to believe the worst about ourselves.
Comorbid mental health conditions like anxiety and depression also play a big role in negative self-talk, as does low self-esteem.
How to Reframe Your Negative Self-Talk
When you’re in the thick of it, you may not even realize that you’re struggling with negative self-talk. By now, it’s a habit. So the trick becomes trying to “catch” yourself doing it and then reframing it in a more positive light.
Consider the following scenarios:
You’re having a conversation with a friend of a friend at a dinner party. You don’t know them well and you’re trying to play it cool, but before you know it, you’ve been droning on about anime for 20 minutes and they’re making pointed glances at their watch.
- Negative self-talk: “I have just made an idiot of myself…again. I don’t know why I even bother trying to make new friends.”
- Positive self-talk: “I got carried away talking about something I was really interested in, but it’s not the end of the world. I just need to be more mindful next time.”
You applied for a promotion at work, but it went to a colleague instead.
- Negative self-talk: “I knew I wouldn’t get it. I probably embarrassed myself just by trying. I’m going to be stuck in my current position forever.”
- Positive self-talk: “Paul got the promotion because he has more seniority. But my manager said that I interviewed well and that he’d keep me in mind the next time something opens up, so I just need to keep working hard and be patient.”
You’re on a tight budget, but your favorite band is in town, and you bought non-refundable tickets on a whim.
- Negative self-talk: “What is wrong with me? Now I’m going to be short on rent and probably end up living in a cardboard box under a bridge.”
- Positive self-talk: “That was not my best life choice, but if I pinch pennies, I’ll be able to swing it. I need to find a better impulse control strategy so that this doesn’t happen again.”
Your gym membership auto-renews tomorrow, and you realize that you haven’t been at all this month.
- Negative self-talk: “I may as well just cancel it. I’m going to be a fat, lazy slob forever, so I’m just throwing money down the drain.”
- Positive self-talk: “My health is important to me, so I am going to make working out a priority. I’ll set a weekly reminder in my calendar right now while I’m thinking about it.”
The less focus you give to your abusive ADHD self-talk, and the more attention you pay to your self-talk, the easier it will become to change that bad habit. And while it won’t happen overnight, being more mindful of the way you allow your inner critic to address you can only lead to positive results!
Conquering the Biggest Bully: Yourself!
If you are in a constant internal struggle with the ADHD inner critic, it’s time to stop! As children, most of us were taught that if we ignored our bullies, they’d get bored and go away. But when the abusive ADHD self-talk bully is within your own thoughts, you must learn to fight back with everything you have! It’s time to stop allowing your abusive self-talk and inner critic to call the shots and take back control!
As a certified ADHD coach, I know that it’s not always easy to build yourself up when you’ve spent a lifetime being torn down. But help is out there! Book your FREE Discovery Call with me today and allow me to show you a better way.
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