5 Myths About Confidence with ADHD (Debunked!)

If you don’t feel confident in who you are as a person with ADHD, then mastering any ADHD challenges you face is pointless.

Who would you be trying to master them for? Other people? Why? So they can be happier with you, even if you’re not going to be happy with yourself?

What would that say to other people? That you aren’t worth the effort, but they are? Sell yourself out, basically?

Confidence is an elusive and abstract concept. I happen to have an affinity for making the abstract more transparent and accessible. You don’t have to agree with my conceptualizations. I am so confident in my beliefs that I welcome objections.

Confidence is something that many people struggle with, and even more so when you have ADD. When the way the world is built, structured and organized is almost directly oppositional to the way your brain works – finding your confidence in that world can be a bit like looking for Waldo wearing kaleidoscope glasses.

At the same time, how confident you are with you ADHD all depends on how you choose to view it.

If you want to get truly confident in yourself, you need to know what this thing is you are striving for. There are a lot of fallacies about confidence that need to be exposed. These false beliefs about confidence may be the very things stopping you from actually getting it.


1. Confidence is something you’re born with.

The only traits we know, beyond doubt, that people are born with is their natural propensity towards having skin, teeth, organs, bones and hair (until middle age, anyway). Even eye colour changes around six months of age.

There are many diagnosable conditions that experts surmise are present from birth. Self-esteem and confidence are not any of these conditions.

Plenty of attentive and well-meaning parents breed non-confident children. Many children are born more introspective and shy. These two things do not exclude one from being confidant. Yes, you can be quiet and confident. On the other hand, I have known exuberant and outgoing children who have been reared by introverted parents. Again, confidence is not tied to your personality or style of relating to people.

It is certainly not tied to genetics.


2. Confidence is the result of achievement.

Achievement certainly adds kindling to the fire of self-confidence. Several studies indicate that ultimately the best way to foster a child’s self-esteem is not to bolster it with floods of praise, but to give them ample opportunities to achieve a feeling of self-efficacy. That is – give them opportunities to challenge themselves and succeed. Acknowledge their effort and dedication rather than an innate ability(being naturally good at something) that they have no control over. This gives them a feeling of mastery and develops their internal-locus of control – a phenomena closely linked to resilience in life.

However, if that sense of self-efficacy is lacking in adulthood, we lose the courage to challenge ourselves. Our history tells us it’s pointless. Experience of “failures” and criticisms prevent us from exposing ourselves to further humiliation and we tell ourselves that it is better not to try at all.

The irony is that we will never feel better about ourselves unless we try.

Sometimes we need to start with a bit of self-confidence, a little seed that can be sprouted with gentle care and nurturing, and planted to grow on its own against the elements once it is heartier. Confidence won’t grow out of nothing. Plant the seedling safe in your heart first. When it is stronger and ready to bud, you will be readier to challenge yourself again.

Seedlings of confidence start sprouting when you look for the small successes. No success is too small to overlook. The smallest of achievements, when focused on a celebrate, will combine and grow together into much bigger accomplishments.


 3. Confidence is fixed.

Once you are confident, you will never doubt yourself again right?

No. This is one of the most damaging falsehoods commonly perceived about this topic.

The truth is, confident people frequently lack confidence.

Huh? Yes, that is exactly it – confidence waxes and wanes in different times and situations in life.

However, intrinsically confident people consciously accept the ebb and flow of it. They know there are times they will doubt themselves. The difference is – they don’t endorse feelings of un-sureness as a truth or statement about themselves. They accept the feeling will go away and that feeling down about yourself is not the same as loathing yourself.

They don’t attach confidence to their identity.

They don’t say “I knew I was crap! I will never amount to anything.” They say “I am feeling like crap right now. But I have plenty of reasons to believe that I won’t feel this way forever.”

Why is this idea so damaging?

If you believed that ultimate confidence is something to be achieved as an end result, like winning The X Factor or becoming UFC’s next victor, you wouldn’t bother trying very hard for it. That ideal would be so incomprehensible to your psyche it would seem impossible.

The climb to that ideal would feel too hard to even bother trying. And even if you did pursue it, any little event that challenged you along the way would send you sailing back down the pit.

But knowing that confidence is something you can build upon, step by step, makes it feel so much more achievable. The path to confidence is not an elevator ride straight to the top. It is a slow-escalator ride, that perhaps does a little reverse every once in a while.

Little bursts of confidence then tap into that self-efficacy thing we talked about a minute ago. A positive cycle emerges…


4. Confidence is global.

Truly confident people feel confident in all situations.

If you believe that, then you’ve got a case of mistaken identity, like when you confuse actors who resemble each other or mix up the plots of two similar stories.

As in the point made in #3, truly confident people do not feel confident in all situations. But they accept themselves in all situations. They have a worth that is not threatened by holding their hand up and saying “I’m out of my depth here”.Confidence doesn’t mean being the best. It means being okay with not being good at something at all – and still feeling good about yourself. Its about knowing what is important for you to care about, and what isn’t. 


4. Confidence is arrogant.

Wrong answer. Arrogance is arrogance. Conceit is conceit. Confidence is neither of these things.

Confidence is an acceptance of yourself, as you are. It is the willingness to try, even when you may fail. It is being okay with the fact that you are flawed but not letting those flaws stand in the way of your happiness. It means not letting your flaws dictate how you feel about yourself, and maybe even celebrating some of your failures as wonderful learning experiences.

Confidence is also accepting that other people are flawed too, and that their flaws do not determine their worth or abilities.

Confident people make other people feel good about themselves just being around them. Boastful, egoistic and narcissistic people who appear confident, but annoy and intimidate other people, actually exemplify non-confidence in its most complicated form. Those elaborate defense mechanisms merely masque a highly vulnerable and fragile sense of self-worth at the core. The most dangerous form of non-confidence, these people aren’t even aware of it.

Truly confident people have no need to belittle others because how they feel about themselves and their abilities has absolutely no dependence on the attributes of others.


5. I don’t deserve to feel confident.

I saved this one for last because it is one of the most influential beliefs that keep people down. It’s a huge issue and we really need to talk about it.

So I ‘m not going to.

Until next week!

In the mean time, you may want to prepare yourself for the road to confidence by what knowing what kind of fight you are in for and what kind of steps you can start taking now. 

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6 comments on “5 Myths About Confidence with ADHD (Debunked!)

  1. I enjoyed reading this article about self-confidence. There are several sentences in this post that resonates with me. For example: “Confident people frequently lack confidence”. Nobody is an expert and masterful at everything; therefore there will always be some skills we lack confidence. The other aspect is that there are people who appear externally confident wearing a mask of confidence while internally lack confidence , and lack self-worth.

  2. “…about knowing what is important for you to care about, and what isn’t.” That has always been one of my problems! I don’t feel like I have an internal compass. I have spent 40 plus years of my 54 trying to please others and win their praise, from parents to bosses to friends. I just spin around in a circle. It’s like I am in the middle of a circle of people all holding up a mirror and I cant
    keep up with the reflections. I feel trapped inside myself and am still in the loathing ADHD (only diagnosed at 52) stage I guess. I have a very hard time seeing the positives of my condition.

    1. Nicely put – it is hard to keep up the reflections when everyone is holding up a mirror to you. That’s when your own mirror becomes the most important.

      Remember that everyone who holds up a mirror, also has a mirror reflecting back at them. Yep, we ADDers have a lot of challenges. But because they are so obvious, they become super easy for everyone to point them out to us. We don’t have any more faults than any other human being does (though it may feel like it) – ours are just a lot more obvious. But the reasons behind our “mistakes” aren’t so obvious. You can’t see an ADD brain. And if you don’t have ADD, you can’t truly understand what its like to try so hard and still have the same old challenges.

      What I do know is that no one TRIES harder than we do, and that is an attribute, not a fault.

      Its hard to see the positives of ADD when you are still dealing with the challenges of it, and losses because of those challenges. A good place to start is not to see the positives, but to start minimizing the negatives (making things less “bad” than you originally thought they were…) Here’s a link to another article I wrote on the truth about positive thinking. Hope it helps!

  3. “Confidence doesn’t mean being the best. It means being okay with not being good at something at all – and still feeling good about yourself” Loved this line. I do agree that a person has to feel that they have achieved success at some things in order to feel okay about not being successful at everything. I think the value that we put on other peoples opinions of our achievements can sometimes determine whether we feel good about ourselves. Where does that desire for constant approval and acceptance come from and especially in people with ADD/ADHD? Can’t wait to read next week’s blog!

    1. Hey Justin, I think that desire for approval and acceptance from others comes from the experience of knowing innately that you are built differently than other people, but not really understanding how or why. Feeling different, especially when you are young, can also leave you feeling awkward and isolated. I think we sometimes reach out for that feeling of acceptance because for someone else to say “You’re okay” would help us find solace in the fact that different does not mean wrong. Also, I think we have a hard time seeing ourselves for who we are, so we look to other people to hold mirrors up for us so we can get a view of ourselves. Always, we hope that we (and others) will like what they see in that mirror. If the person holding up that “mirror” is accepting, than we are more likely to see ourselves with that same point of view. That’s just my view of it anyway – don’t know what anyone else thinks?

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