Overcome Your ADHD Inner Critic

negative self-talk

How ADHD Can Amplify Your Inner Critic

Many individuals with ADHD struggle with a poor self image fueled by negative self-talk. They harbor feelings of inadequacy, guilt or shame which can make work, home life and relationships more challenging.

We all have a little bit of the self-critic in us. So why is it so difficult to control it with ADHD? Part of the problem lies in the way  individuals with ADHD often substitute emotions for the normal activity of the prefrontal cortex e.g. as a way of reminding ourselves about where we need to be at a certain time, or motivating us to finish some task we need to complete.

Children with ADHD can be influenced by people such as teachers and parents who may use hurtful words as a way to control their behavior. And negative comments can be experienced in adulthood too, made by family members or people in the work environment. Feeling stigmatized by being labeled as “ADHD” or “disabled” can also fuel the negative self-talk.

Checking for Signs of the Negative Self Talk Habit

Negative self-talk can show up in several ways:

  • Feeling unworthy – This can take the form of feeling that any mistake means you are worthless. It goes well beyond a reasonable humility.
  • Being afraid – This can manifest in feeling like a fraud who is about to be discovered, or telling yourself that no matter what you do something will go wrong and you will be seen as not being very good at what you do.
  • Avoiding things – This shows up as staying away from anything that may cause emotional pain or not doing things that are important at work or in your personal life.
  • Feeling depressed – Negative self-talk can lead to strong feelings of depression which, if left unchecked, could be very damaging.

Steps You Can Take to Quiet the Inner Critic

Here are some tips recommended by experts to help you transcend the negative self-talk.

  • Develop awareness and perspective – Practice noticing when your inner critic is active. Then remember that those thoughts about yourself don’t necessarily represent reality.
  • Give your inner critic a nickname – Doing so externalizes the voice and makes it easier to discount what it is saying or challenge it.
  • Soften the language in your negative self-talk -for example, change “I hate…” to “I don’t like…”
  • Think like a friend – If you know you wouldn’t say it this way, think of how you’d share your thoughts with a good friend or what you’d like a good friend to say to you. This is a great way to shift your self-talk in general.
  • Say your negative thoughts out loud – This can remind you just how unreasonable they sound and that you should give yourself a break.
  • Do something to stop the thought – When you inner critic is going at it, do something physical – like snapping your fingers – or visualizing a stop sign.
  • Change your negative thoughts – Reformulate a negative thought into something encouraging (but accurate). This can help blunt the impact of repetitive negative thoughts.

Negative self-talk can undermine your self-image and confidence and impact your ability to reach your full potential. But there are straightforward strategies you can use to overcome your inner critic and believe in yourself again.


  1. https://www.verywellmind.com/negative-self-talk-and-how-it-affects-us-4161304
  2. https://www.additudemag.com/self-criticism-shame-in-adults-with-adhd/?src=embed_link
  3. https://health.usnews.com/health-care/patient-advice/articles/2017-09-22/how-to-overcome-your-negative-adhd-self-talk
  4. https://medium.com/the-establishment/how-to-combat-the-negative-self-talk-caused-by-adhd-52a62d865a7c

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