ADHD And Self-Esteem. What Lowers It, What Raises It?

ADHD Self-Esteem

Here are notes from my nonprofit Vancouver Adult ADD Support Group September 6th 2016 Meeting on the topic of ADHD and self-esteem. In my experience, most adults with ADHD have problems with self-esteem, regardless of external accomplishments.

I’ve coached hundreds of ADHD entrepreneurs and people in the workplace (I don’t coach students), and some have been very externally successful by many measures. Yet in doing phone coaching of ADHD adults since 2003 and running an adult ADHD support group since 2004, I have rarely met any adults with ADHD who do not have problems with self-esteem.

See notes from other Vancouver Adult ADD Support Group meetings here.


ADHD And Self Esteem. What Lowers It, What Raises It?

Facilitator: Pete Quily

Thanks to Ed and Amy for taking notes.

Many people have problems with self-esteem, but adults and children with ADHD have much, much higher rates of problems with self-esteem than other people regardless of external achievement or status.




What is self-esteem?

Warm up exercise in pairs or threes. what has worked for you before in boosting your self esteem?

Consequences of low self-esteem

What things reduce self-esteem?

What things boost your self-esteem?

Practical self-esteem pair exercise


What is self-esteem?



  • builds the confidence you need to move forward with things
  • how you perceive yourself and your abilities to do things
  • how you respond and deal with failure
  • it is based on confidence not delusional arrogance or narcissism
  • it is how you feel about yourself
  • low self-esteem results in either shame, anxiety or depression or it is projected outwards
  • reflects on how you treat the world



Warm up exercise in pairs or threes. what has worked for you before in boosting your self-esteem?



  • a strict plan i am prepared for and know how to recover from
  • being clear on what i am and what i am not doing
  • being prepared and having a plan
  • dancing
  • do what i am supposed to do/knowing what i am supposed to do
  • gym – eating well
  • having another provide me with a plan/keep on course
  • helping others
  • music
  • read positive things about myself
  • remember that it is the heart that counts, remind myself about my faith
  • sticking to a healthy eating plan
  • way of measuring things to stay on track



Consequences of low self-esteem



  • affects every area of your life
  • afraid to try new things
  • anxiety
  • assertiveness problems
  • avoidance of relationships and socializing
  • codependency
  • depression
  • disengage – not caring
  • eating disorders
  • get into any kind of addictive pattern, behavioural or chemical, i.e., food, booze, drugs
  • have no boundaries –> what is the boundary? communicate it impose a consequence for violating it
  • higher rates of being bullied and sometimes being the bully
  • irritable
  • isolation
  • learned helplessness – no point
  • lower patience and tolerance
  • perfectionism
  • problems maintaining and creating relationships
  • social skills problems
  • unemployment/underemployment



What things reduce self-esteem?



book recommendation:

What does everybody else know that I don’t?: Social skills help for adults with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder by Michele Novotni


What things boost your self-esteem?



  • achievable goals
  • affirmations/positive self-talk
  • avoiding energy vampires
  • being helpful to others (boosts dopamine)
  • belonging to positive people and groups – that you resonate with – that do things you enjoy doing
  • breaking down a big project into smaller parts and getting it done
  • create something physical, making something with your hands
  • doing something creative, physically, artistically, emotionally, or intellectually creative ie, make a meal
  • exercise and meditation
  • faith
  • figure out a script with a problem you are having – start using it in front of the mirror
  • gratitude journal
  • groups that you resonate with, what you like
  • hang around people who appreciate you
  • help someone make something – use your strengths to help others
  • learn what gas lighting is and how to recognize and deal with it
  • learning a new skill
  • notice and celebrate your successes and get curious why –> how can i use that again?
  • recognize manipulation
  • rewarding yourself when deserved
  • short, doable routines
  • spend less time on web/social media
  • stepping outside your comfort zone
  • succeeding at a small goal
  • try something new or challenging
  • try, test, measure, evaluate and adapt



Practical self-esteem pair exercise


Get together in twos or threes and ask the other person to answer these questions with one or two, not ten, examples.


What is your consequence of low self-esteem?


What lowers your self-esteem?


What boosts your self-esteem?


What will you do/not do? To improve your self-esteem?


When will you do it? Pick a specific day and time?


How will you remember to do it then?

More notes from my Vancouver Adult ADD Support Group.
What has worked for you in boosting your self-esteem?

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