posted on November 05, 2012 14:21
Surviving Your Inner Critic: Self-Limiting
Beliefs and ADHD
by Terry M. Dickson, MD, ACG, CPCC
ADULTS WITH ADHD OFTEN
HAVE DISTORTED THINKING about themselves. Experiencing a
life of frequent failures and disappointment can lead to loss of
confidence, self-doubt, low self-esteem and feelings of personal
inadequacy. Adults with ADHD often have self-limiting beliefs that tend
to predict negative outcomes. These folks may describe their lives as a
constant train wreck and never even question certain assumptions and
beliefs that keep them going in a constant survival-mode pattern.
There is an "inner critic" (sometimes called a "gremlin" or
"saboteur") that keeps pounding self-limiting beliefs into our brains,
telling us: "There is no other way but the way things have always been."
"You might as well give up because you will fail." These assumptions and
beliefs can, with practice, be challenged daily and lead to thought
patterns in alignment with a more fulfilled life.
What is this
saboteur, gremlin, or inner critic? These terms embody thought processes
and feelings that maintain the status quo in our lives. "I know
I’m going to fail again. Things just can’t be any
different!" Even though this inner critic may appear to protect us at
times, it actually keeps us from moving forward and getting the very
things we truly want in life. It makes us feel like we can’t
really consciously choose the way we truly want to live. It keeps us
from being creative. The inner critic typically has the future already
predicted as a potential threat. Since the future is uncertain, the
inner critical voice tries to protect us from possible danger and fear
sets in. This inner critic can become a constant source of self-limiting
beliefs and assumptions that drive our lives.
you watch out for?
1. You can acknowledge that it is
Self-limiting talk. Self-limiting talk
creates a self-fulfilling prophecy, because you stop looking for
solutions and just assume defeat. Instead of looking for options, you
tell yourself that you can’t handle things you face and give up.
"I can’t finish anything I begin…" or "I am getting fatter
Jumping to conclusions. When
you experience a difficult situation, you interpret it in a negative way
rather than just stating the facts. "If I give this talk to the
community board, they’ll just laugh at me." "If I go to the gym,
people will make fun of my flab." When we jump to conclusions, we all
too often assume the worst-case scenario and make fact out of what might
Habits of speech. Often our speech patterns
are so automatic that we don’t even think about them. Even though
we may not mean what we say, our words can have a negative impact on how
we feel about ourselves. "I’m so stupid!" or "What do you expect
from someone as clumsy as I am." This habit shows up in the way we
discount ourselves to others. Sometimes these habits can be disguised as
humor, but it’s not really funny at all.
Others’ thoughts become our own. These
can be planted by external sources such as colleagues, friends, spouse,
or parents. These "well-meaning" voices can become part of our script
and self-talk. Though their thoughts often serve us, they can also be
quite detrimental when we are unable to distinguish their ideas from our
own. Look for speech such as "You really shouldn’t…" or "You
ought to…." When other people’s thoughts become our own, we
begin to act out of guilt rather than our own desires. This is also
known as social conditioning.
What can you do about your inner critic?
Give it a name. Whenever that voice pops up, say: "Is
that __________ speaking?" It is also important that you learn to
separate yourself from this gremlin. "Now that I've heard from
__________, this is what I really think."n
2. You can ignore it!
Just don’t give it a foothold. The gremlin is going to be
there lurking around but you don’t have to invite it
3. You can give ________ a job to do or you can send __________ to the
moon for a long vacation.
4. You can literally talk to __________ and move it out of the
You can say, "I’m in charge here, so BACK OFF!"
5. Make a list of your values.
What values are being honored or dishonored by what your inner
critic is saying to you? How does what the inner critic is saying align
with what you truly want in your life? How do your visions for the
future differ from what your inner critic is saying? Come up with a
definition of what true success would look like to you. What is your
6. List your goals, both for the present and the future.
Decide what steps you need to take to reach your goals. If taken in
small steps and planned out, you can see success along the way.
Celebrate often with each new success!
7. Don’t settle for second best.
It is better to have tried and failed than to not try at all.
Consider this: Failures are nothing more than learning
experiences. Go at your obstacles in full-throttle mode,
and don’t stop until you have achieved at what you set out to do.
If one door or opportunity closes, find another door to go through. When
you do fail, consider what you need to do differently next time.
Don’t let your inner critic tell you that your dream is
8. Find ways to keep yourself motivated.
What would it be like if you didn’t move forward
with your goals? What would you be giving up that is important to you?
What are you saying "yes" to that would lead to a more fulfilling life
by ignoring your inner critic and moving toward what matters most to
9. State a belief that you hold that keeps you from performing at
Now write down the self-talk that goes along with this belief. Ask
yourself what comfort zone this places you in. Now state the
opposite of your limiting belief and write down new and
positive self-talk that would go along with it. Describe the new and
expanded comfort zone that it places you in now. How are you behaving
with this new empowering belief?
10. Know that you cannot please your inner critic.
Often the harder you try to change, the stronger it gets. The secret
is to realize that it does not have to have power over you and that you
don’t have to play its game.
EVEN THOUGH YOUR INNER CRITIC may have had control of your
thoughts and beliefs for many years, know that you can conquer those
inner feelings and be the person you were meant to be. To your success
in following your dreams!
Terry M. Dickson, MD, ACG, CPCC, founder and
director of the Behavioral Medicine Clinic of NW Michigan, has been a
principal study investigator for several clinical ADHD medication
trials. Trained by the ADD Coach Academy and the Coaches Training
Institute, he is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC) and a
member of the ADHD Coaches Organization. His passion is how ADHD affects
relationships, especially marriage and parenting children with ADHD. He
has a special interest in how ADHD affects spouses who do not have the
disorder. He lives in Traverse City, Michigan, with his wife and two
children (who both have ADHD).
This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of
Attention magazine. Copyright © 2012 by Children and
Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). All rights
reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without written
permission from CHADD.