Prepare To Celebrate Uniqueness This October With ADHD Awareness Month!

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adhd awareness month

October is ADHD Awareness Month!

Let’s kick it off by focusing on how you can live with more acceptance of ADHD — as an individual, as a family, or with society. As a person moves through life with ADHD, criticism from others and themselves, not only adds up over the years but also shifts to cement internalized negative beliefs.

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How to develop compassion during ADHD Awareness Month

This inner critic puts people down and makes it seem like they never measure up when compared to neurotypical peers, who seem as if they don’t make as many mistakes or struggle to the same extent.

The secret to reducing negative thought patterns and harsh self-judgments lies in turning down the volume of this negative self-critic and accepting the brain we're born with. Maybe it’s forgiving those moments where you or someone else forgot an appointment, or learning how to laugh when your daughter leaves her lunch on the counter again.

Acceptance begins by normalizing experiences and recognizing that no one is alone. It begins with self-compassion.

Embrace your ADHD with self-compassion! This reduces the isolation that inner critics thrive on and places individuals within a common humanity. Instead of feeling alone, unworthy, or damaged, people with ADHD are part of a larger whole — who also experiences disappointment, frustration, and low self-esteem at times.

Self-compassion means asking yourself, "What would help me now? What do I really need at this moment?" instead of, "What's wrong with me? Why can’t I get things right?”

It allows someone to stop fighting with themselves and start embracing a growth mindset instead. Accepting one's self depends on identifying strengths, talents, and interests while acknowledging and addressing shame.

I have been working with kids, teens, and adults with ADHD for nearly 30 years, and there's one sad constant that I've noticed; every single person has a deep-seated sense of shame about having ADHD and/or being "different" from their peers.

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Where there's ADHD, shame is close behind

Whether this shame is obvious or buried, many youngsters and adults living with ADHD just don’t feel good about how they manage school, work, life tasks, or social relationships in comparison to their peers.

Just like kids, adults may compare themselves to others and come up short. Engaging in “compare and despair” not only hurts but also makes it much harder to foster resilience and self-compassion that can actually change things.

When shame, doubt, and judgment rise to the surface, it's time to shift focus and talk back to the inner critic: “I don’t have to listen to you. I can pay attention to my inner coach instead.”

Amplify the voice of the inner coach. While individuals need to know where they struggle to create plans and programs for improvement, it’s equally very important to remember and understand where they succeed, where they're engaged, and what makes them feel good about themselves.

This inner coach is the other voice — another part of ourselves that's stronger and louder than shame. It comes from the parts of ourselves that we really like.

Questions to ask your inner coach during ADHD Awareness Month

1. What about myself am I proud of, and what do I do well?

2. What do I like about my ADHD?

3. Which activities do I really enjoy and wish I could engage in more?

Brainstorm answers to these questions with your kids, too! Maybe you’re a loyal friend or a talented artist; or maybe a skilled soccer player, delicious baker, or enthusiastic pianist.

Write down several of these positive aspects, and leave this list in a visible location like a bedroom, in the kitchen, or on your phone.

It's important to identify what ADHD means to the individual. One of my 10-year-old clients transformed the term ADHD into a colorful list of words he liked about himself: "I have 'Active, Determined, Heavenly, Dreamer Brain,' or I have 'Amazing, Desirable, Heartwarming, Delightful Brain.'"

What a great positive reframe from having a "disorder," which is a term that many people in the ADHD community don't actually agree is an accurate way to describe their ADHD neurotype.

According to Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, the ideal positivity ratio is 3 positives for every 1 negative. So, by having his list around, it cued him in to noticing the positive every day. He increased the volume of the voice of his inner coach while turning down the noise from his inner critic.

ADHD Awareness Month is about celebrating uniqueness. Celebrate by noticing what's working, what goes well, and what we like about ourselves. Let's help our kids do the same!

There are so many wonderful aspects of being a creative, outside-the-box thinker. Can your family name these or make a fun poster to hang in the kitchen during October?

People who live with ADHD make our world a much richer place. Take pride in the things you or your kids do that are unique, funny, artistic, athletic, and brilliant. Accepting yourself with self-compassion allows you to be good enough just as you are: a wonderful, perfectly imperfect human being, and unique — just like everybody else!

Enjoy this ADHD Awareness Month. 

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Sharon Saline, Psy.D., is an international lecturer and workshop facilitator and has focused her work on ADHD, anxiety, learning differences, and mental health challenges and their impact on school and family dynamics for over 30 years. For more information, visit her website.

This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.