Closing the ADHD confidence gap

Someone said to me recently, "I can only imagine how your results will soar when your confidence rises to the level of your expertise." Confidence? Hm? I haven't thought of myself as lacking confidence for a long time. But he could be right.

There are still times when I procrastinate, or avoid doing something entirely, because of self doubt. For example calling a nationally renowned psychiatrist to introduce myself. Or  approaching the folks at ADDitude magazine about carrying my blog. I'm an expert in my field, with years of training and experience. I get accolades from nearly everyone I work with. How could I still be struggling with this? Confidence issues are so high school.

Hm, high school. Maybe that's the answer. I had severe undiagnosed ADHD (early '80s, rural Pennsylvania, we'd never heard of it). My nickname was "Dizzy" even though I had an IQ of... well I won't reveal that. My Mom was constantly asking me, "How can someone so smart be so STUPID?!?" Naturally I grew up believing I was completely inept.

Let's trace the confidence lifecycle of the typical ADHDer:

Infant: Doesn't do much besides eat, sleep, and poop. She's pretty confident she can handle those responsibilities.

Elementary school: Begins to take risks, begins to notice failures, begins to wonder why she's different than other kids.

Middle/high school: Hits the wall. "Other kids don't struggle like this, what's wrong with me?" If an ADHD diagnosis is made, now she has a label, probably an IEP, and maybe a behavior chart. If the disorder is not explained thoroughly and compassionately to her and everyone she interacts with, self esteem issues are compounded. But happily, when she starts getting the help she needs, her confidence improves.

College and early adulthood: Finds her niche, discovers something she excels at. Confidence soars. But early wounds may still lurk beneath the surface. How to improve confidence? I'm not a fan of avoiding the "f-word" (failure) to boost self esteem. There's huge pride in failing at something, trying again (perhaps repeatedly), and eventually succeeding. If you only do the easy stuff, you aren't going to feel very good about yourself in the long run. Here are some ways to boost your confidence as an ADHD adult:

* Set up situations where you can fail safely. A martial arts class, for example.

* Stretch. Do something that's just a little outside your comfort zone every day.

* Visualize your successes, past and future.

* Solicit and re-read testimonials and fan mail, even if they're from your mom.

* Fake it til you make it. Act like you're confident, and soon you will be.

* Dress the part. Wear clothes that make you feel powerful.

* Prepare. If it's information you need, get it. Practice.

Try some of these tips before going into situations that require confidence, such as public speaking. Also call on them to help you take the chances in life that will move you towards your goals.