Shame, Anxiety and Worthiness with ADHD


Shame, Anxiety ADHD

I am going through a Brene Brown phase. I know what you are thinking – “everybody likes Brene, Liz! You are not that special!”

And you are correct. Everyone loves her work, including Oprah.

But because I am always behind the curve I am just getting started. I picked up a copy of The Gifts of Imperfection a while back, and I have taken my time reading it.

This started out as a book review and then took a detour into ADHD land.

Call it whatever you want: This lady has something to offer for everyone. Including those of us living with ADHD.

Most of my life has been marked with this unending feeling of inadequacy. I have never been smart enough, fast enough, pretty enough, or thin enough. For whom? I don’t know – myself?

This inadequacy complex is aggravated by my ADHD symptoms and I am pretty sure (99%) that I am not alone. I get countless emails from women similar to myself who are struggling to live up to their own expectations.

And then there is the shame. This is where Brene Brown comes into the picture. I mean, I have shame and I have had the ADHD diagnosis for years.  What about those just diagnosed?

The shame never goes away. Whether you have ADHD or not.

I cannot lay it all out for you so I will highlight the sections I believe apply to my personal situation, as well as that of other women living with ADHD.

Setting Boundaries is a form of Compassion

Having ADHD means you are constantly trying not to disappoint people. This often leads to overcompensating. Overcompensating can take many forms, but the most common is a lack of personal boundaries.

How many of us fail to say “no” when we need to? <raises hand.>  Inevitably, I end up resentful and grouchy.  Or I blame other people for my own inability to set boundaries.

Brown argues that by holding people accountable for their behavior we are actually accepting them as they are – and in turn freeing ourselves from having to blame them for hurting us. The best way to hold someone accountable is to set a personal boundary.

Acceptance of ourselves (which is part of authenticity) and our needs forces us to be more accepting of others. Ultimately we become more compassionate. Brown writes, “the key is to separate people from their behaviors – to address what they are doing, not who they are.”

Lesson 1: Separate your ADHD behaviors and symptoms from who you are as a person. Set boundaries so that you can better accept yourself and others.

You Are Worthy of Putting Yourself First

You and I are both worthy of everything. Of love. Of belonging. Of our life and our happiness.

What is it about this ADHD thing that makes us feel so unworthy? (if you figure it out let me know please!)

Dr. Brown writes about “worthiness prerequisites.” I know that I have always had these prerequisites surrounding my life. As an adult I have prerequisites surrounding my ADHD and this website.

  • I’ll be worthy when I get 100k page views per month.

  • I’ll be worthy when I make money on my writing.

  • I’ll be worthy when I can quit my day job.

This is the thing – we all feel like we cannot be authentic about who we are. We all have our social face on, as Ms. Brown writes, we “chameleon” our way through life so that we feel like we belong.

I write about my flaws all the time, but I do it so that I can “fit in” with all of you.

You are my tribe. You, the readers, form my sense of belonging.

As I learned from this book, putting ourselves first, and accepting ourselves first is a revolutionary concept. But I am going to try it.

Lesson 2: Put yourself first. Don’t feel guilty about it. Know that you deserve it.


Anxiety Comes From Within

Most of you know that I take anxiety medication. I used to take ADHD medication. Maybe I should try them as a cocktail? Or not.

Ever considered the fact that most of the racing thoughts that keep us awake at night are coming from our own minds? I for one know that my expectations for myself are so much more demanding than anything someone else could ask of me.

In her book, Brene Brown defines shame as, “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”

I’m pretty sure all of the pressure I put on myself to start an online business, get my writing out there, and to look damn good while I do it is self imposed. I want so badly to appear neurotypical and NOT ADHD.

Maybe I need to get over it. Get over myself. I need to stop worrying about how people will react when I put myself out there as a mentor for women living with ADHD.

I need to lose my fear of “being perceived as unworthy.”

According to Dr. Brown, “shame happens between people, and it is healed between people.”

Lesson 3: Recognize how you are creating shame and anxiety in your own life.  Tell your shame stories to the people in your life. Like I said in my Emotional Management post, talk back to the negative thought patterns.

I do some work with this in my Program:


Shame is the Birthplace of Perfectionism

So yeah…I have written about perfectionism and ADHD before. Am I the only one seeing how shame, worthiness and ADHD are so interconnected?

Brown explains that perfectionism is focused outside of ourselves. It is about the way others see us. We are seeking external rewards, praise and acceptance.

Overcoming perfectionism is only possible through self-compassion. “Our imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we are all in this together. Imperfectly, but together.”

Lesson 4: Practice Self-Compassion. Focus less on external rewards and more on internal (instrinsic) rewards. Define yourself. Evolve.

It is OK to do Nothing

A while back I wrote this post about why I think being distracted is ok. Sometimes. At the time it was sort of a joke.

Brene Brown agrees with me! She cites the research of Dr. Stuart Brown in to the importance of play. She writes, “play shapes our brain, helps us foster empathy, helps us navigate complex social groups and is at the core of creativity and innovation.”

I have always felt that taking a “brain break” at some point in my day is essential to my well-being. I used to let my students take a brain break during long block periods at school. They were much more motivated and cooperative after a few minutes of down time.

I have never understood our society’s focus on productivity at all costs. We work longer daily hours and we have less weekly vacation than any other industrialized nation. And in the words of Ms. Brown, “we use our spare time to desperately search for joy and meaning in our lives.”

Lesson 5: Give yourself a break. Don’t measure your success by the size of your bank account or the car you drive. Rest is productive and it might even improve your brain function.

Want to work on your Emotional Management with ADHD? And maybe even feel better?

My new program deals with all of this. Everyone on the interest list gets a discount and a couple fun bonuses from me.

This is entirely too long for anyone with ADHD to read.

For more information on Brene Brown visit her site at:

You can purchase her books and support this site at the same time by using my links below. Thanks in advance! (See full disclosure)