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Self-Esteem and ADHD

What exactly is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is a key concept in Western culture and thinking. Self-esteem has two very
important aspects in itself. To talk about the self we need to be aware of the complexity and
structure of that phenomenon. The self is a very complicated constellation of memories,
attitudes, values, representations and ideas. They are intertwined and interconnected and
define the wondrous thing we call human being. The second part of the definition is esteem,
which means respect, regard or evaluation.
The definition of the concept sees self-esteem as the evaluative component of self-knowledge.
Self-knowledge has naturally many more aspects as well, but for us they are less relevant
now. High self-esteem refers to a favorable evaluation of the self, while low levels of it refer
to an unfavorable definition of the self. (Baumeister et al, 2003)
As self-evaluation increases or decreases, strong emotional reactions can be observed. Selfesteem fluctuations also coincide with major life events, such as successes or failures. It is
also suspected that self-esteem might be not just the outcome, but the cause of life events as
well. (Baumeister et al, 2003)
According to the majority of theorists and researchers of the topic, self-esteem has nothing to
do with accuracy or reality, for example, high self-esteem can be an accurate and justified
valuation of ones values and talents, but it can also refer to an inflated, unwarranted and
grandiose superiority over others. Similarly, low self-esteem can be a real understanding of
the individuals shortcomings or a sense of inferiority or insecurity bordering pathology.
Therefore, self-esteem is perception rather than reality.
Why is it important for people with ADHD?
Individuals, who have ADHD, are often characterized by low levels of self-esteem. Their low
self-regard starts to cause the most severe problems during adolescence and difficulties
continue into adulthood as well. Adolescents and adults with ADHD often have
accompanying disorders, such as mood disorders, performance anxiety, oppositional defiant
disorder (ODD) or, quite often, deviant behavioral patterns.
After reaching an age and after facing several failures in their academic achievement and
social relationships, ADDers often give up the desire to meet the requirements of their
environment. They need positive feedback just like everybody else, but since they are unable
to find it where they normally should, they are likely to seek acceptance in deviant groups.
Low self-esteem can manifest in various forms:
You do not believe in yourself.
You are anticipating failure.
You are afraid to show your talent or creativity.
You are most likely not satisfied with the course of your life.
If your self-esteem is low, you have an increased chance to have mental health issues.
You are not regarding your positive characteristics.

You blame yourself, when something goes wrong.

It is not impossible to have a healthy and positive self-esteem, despite having ADHD. To be
honest with you, it is imperative. You should not be an arrogant bully with an inflated ego and
unfounded high self-regard. On the contrary, relatively low self-esteem can have some
positives as well. You can be aware of your difficulties and weaker sides and might actively
work on them to make you better.
People with high self-esteem usually think they are popular and others like them more than
they like individuals with lower self-regard. This is not true. Social relationships are
particularly important for ADDers as a method to gain positive feedback, respect and love.
Therefore, it is important to develop a good level of self-knowledge and build a healthy,
positive, but realistic self-esteem. It will do wonders for you:
Others will like you more.
You will have less chance to be involved in negative things, such as substance abuse
or criminality.
You will realize that you have positive characteristics, which others value as well.
You will treat yourself as a worthy and valuable individual, and this is exactly what
you are.

Baumeister, R. F., Campbell, J. D., Krueger, J. I., Vohs, K. D. (2003): Does High Self-Esteem
Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles?
Psychological Science in the Public Interest, Vol. 4, No. 1, May 2003