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ADHD and Self - Concept

Self-concept is described as the self-constructed idea of who we are based on the beliefs we hold about ourselves as seen reflected in the responses of others.

We have all heard the occasional negative comments that most children, adolescents, or young adults are exposed to in the normal course of their maturing. They may be told that they are not up to task, not good enough, not clever enough, not fast enough, or skilled enough. These sometimes careless comments, potentially resulting from a commenter who is tired or stressed, can have profound impact on the individual and impact their belief in their own ability and value thereby impacting their confidence when undertaking new tasks and activities.

Self-concept is possibly one of the most challenging aspects of personal identity for any person, but it is even more difficult for someone who is also living with symptoms of ADHD.

The executive functioning difficulties associated with ADHD mean that the person who has ADHD is more at risk of receiving negative feedback about themselves from the people around them. Children, adolescents, and young adults who have ADHD are often incorrectly labelled as troublemakers, bad team players, disorganised, oversensitive, or oppositional - to name a few of the unfair criticisms. These comments, whether direct or indirect, well meaning or malicious, can sadly coalesce to form the basis for the beliefs they have of themselves and their abilities. These damaging misperceptions will leave the child, adolescent, or young adult with ADHD feeling isolated and misunderstood.

This cycle of being frequently misunderstood makes it hard for the person with ADHD to understand themselves and could lead to sense of inadequacy and a mistrust in their abilities, their understanding of their abilities and their willingness to insist on their abilities.

Other symptoms of ADHD, like hyper focusing or thought rumination, make it even more of a challenge to overcome hurtful labels. Their perception of self is rooted in memories from the past and the perceptions of others, making these children, adolescents, and young adults highly susceptible to having a poor self-concept. They may feel unworthy and incapable, and may be afraid to try new things because they doubt themselves. This is a sad underestimation of their wonderful creative problem solving abilities and can prove to be very limiting and a difficult hurdle to overcome without support.

Our self-concept is most malleable in our younger years when we are going through the process of self-discovery. Fortunately, however it continues to evolve over the course of our lives and with the correct input and support, social and emotional development will facilitate an alternative narrative, a more acute awareness of self and personal strengths. This personal growth can alter our perspective and allow us to reinterpret the memories that mould our beliefs about our abilities and limitations.

It is never too late to learn to manage the input we accept from others, the choices we make, how we spend our time, and to cultivate a healthy positive self-concept.

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