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ADHD, Shame and Stigma

ADHD, shame, and stigma should have nothing in common so why does the association persist?

Living with ADHD comes with its own set of challenges, from the daily struggles with focus and organization to the emotional rollercoaster of impulsivity and rejection sensitivity. But perhaps one of the heaviest burdens we carry is the weight of shame and the sting of stigma.

It's easy to internalise society's misconceptions about ADHD – that we're lazy, irresponsible, or simply not trying hard enough. These harmful stereotypes can seep into our self-perception, fuelling feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness. We may find ourselves questioning our abilities, second-guessing our decisions, and masking our true selves behind projected normalcy.

Most of us have been in a situation where we are enthusiastic about accomplishing a task but become daunted by difficulties with focusing and managing our time as our enthusiasm wanes and our momentum flags. As the deadline looms, shame and inadequacy intensify, worsened by fears of societal judgment. Despite our best efforts and our genuine desire to excel, we often miss the deadline and are not satisfied with the finished product. This outcome further fuels our negative self -belief as to how shameful and inadequate we are and how society is right to stigmatise us.

But the truth is that ADHD is neither a character flaw, nor is it a reflection of our worth as individuals. It's a neurodevelopmental condition, an interesting one and a part of who we are, but not all that we are. While the journey of self-acceptance may be fraught with setbacks and doubts, it's a journey worth starting.

To begin to dismantle the walls of shame and stigma surrounding ADHD, we start with getting to know ourselves. We cultivate Self-compassion, celebrate our strengths, revel in our creativity, leverage our resilience, our ability to think outside the box – and recognise that we are so much more than the sum of our struggles.

We can learn how to manage our time, productivity and energy, advocate for support and accommodations and by sharing our stories we will foster empathy, understanding, and inclusivity from others because we really are an asset on any team.

And finally, keeping community with supportive and understanding people who lift us up and cheer us on and who remind us that we are not alone on this adventure. By doing this we can replace shame and stigma with pride and resilience.

We are worthy, we are enough, and we are not alone.

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