Esteem ADHD Needs: Self Compassion

Episode 152

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Cam and Asher continue to explore important ADHD distinctions around basic needs as they delve into esteem needs on Maslow’s Hierarchy. Maslow argued that people have a need for appreciation and a recognition of their efforts. The specific ADHD distinction of self-compassion addresses the efforting aspect here and the universal question those of us with ADHD ask – Why do I not do what I know I ought to do? To live with ADHD is to live with this disconnect between a desired intention and the efforts and actions that support that intention. Bringing empathy and self-compassion to our efforts can mitigate the intense emotions (and emotional dysregulation) of the judgment of our inner critic and judgment from others. Doing so opens the door to curious exploration and creative solutions – key to the strength-based coaching model.

Ash shares an excellent client example around keeping a guest room clean enough to be ready for house guests. When the client brought self compassion to herself and the situation, it opened the door for Ash and his client to develop creative solutions and helped his client connect to a positive motivator for addressing this dilemma. The hosts leave listeners with some practical exercises to bring more self-compassion to their efforts and actions.

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Episode Transcript:

[00:00:00] Ash: Hi, I’m Ash,

[00:00:01] Cam: And I’m Cam

[00:00:02] Ash: and this is translating ADHD. Quick Group Coaching notes: Agency begins Tuesday, January 17th, meets at 8:30 PM Eastern. And Purpose, which is just with me, begins Monday, January 30th. Also meets at 8:30 PM Eastern. To find out more about either course, including pricing and to apply, visit the website Click on the group coaching tab.

So Cam, this week we’re moving on up the ADHD hierarchy of needs. We’re almost to the top, but not quite.

[00:00:37] Cam: Yeah. So this week we’re looking at esteem and listeners, what we’ve been doing here, recognizing that we are. Highlighting significant ADHD distinctions, right? That needs are in play. And when we don’t address needs, they often become a stressor. And so we started with the physiological ADHD needs. Moving on to safety needs, on to last week was belongingness and love, and this week we’re looking at esteem.

So with Maslow’s esteem is around. So we all know what’s related to accomplishment is this doing. And this is where ADHD is the biggest challenge is being able to identify something we want to do and go ahead and do it. And Asher, this reminds me of your statement you say it cuz I can’t say it the way you’d say it.

[00:01:34] Ash: All right Cam, I’ll say it. With ADHD, the universal question is, why do I not do what I know I ought to do?

[00:01:43] Cam: Right. And so last week was about self-acceptance – accepting ourselves before we seek acceptance and validation from others around love and connection and belongingness with esteem. Esteem is about getting into action and getting out of action, and this is why people hire. This is why people come to coaching because they struggle with that universal question and often say to me, I can’t hold myself accountable.

And often there’s some very negative feelings that are associated with that. Last week you talked about the blame sponge. There can be a lot of shame here, and this is again where ADHD is different from other challenges. . It’s so hard to pin down cuz you look at somebody and they’re like, well you can do this over here. Why can’t you do that over there? You’re interested in this over here, but you can’t do your taxes cuz it’s not quote unquote interesting. Humans have this capacity to do this. Compare contrast. and when we look and we look for ADHD, it doesn’t reveal itself. So it’s very natural to be critical and we get it externally and internally.

So Ash, this morning, I was telling you before the episode, I was like, yep, today is double back Monday because I found myself doubling back all over the place. We have chickens, and I take the food out to the chickens and I need a glove to clean up after the chickens, and I pick up that glove every day. Most days I’m walking halfway across the yard and realize I don’t have a glove, double back, right? Going to take my dog for a walk, missing something, double back. I’m doubling back all over the place the key here is that I’m aware, I’m aware of, I’m doubling back.

There would’ve been a time in the past where there would’ve been a tremendous amount of frustration, shame, and the hammering from the inner critic of, why are you doing this? You shouldn’t be doing this. And so not letting myself off the hook. There was no self-compassion. So this week when we look at esteem and what we do with our clients getting into action, is that allowing for some empathy for self, some self-compassion as you move into taking action.

[00:04:23] Ash: So Cam, I’d actually like you to say more about that. Tell us about the self-compassion at play and the creative action, if there is any.

[00:04:31] Cam: With respect to Monday morning

[00:04:33] Ash: Yeah, with respect to this double back day,

[00:04:38] Cam: Yeah. So I think that just to go a little global here with that universal question of why don’t I do what I know I ought to do is this message that is so pervasive all around us, right? That we get it from our teachers, we get it from our parents, we get it from our employees, we get it from ourselves.

And just like we said last week with love and connection and belongingness, it starts with ourselves. This sense of self-acceptance. If we start to accept ourselves, then we make space for acceptance from others, right? There’s a grace. The same thing is happening here, Ash, is that we can bring that inner critic and not be aware of it. We talk about that. Pause, disrupt, pivot. Part of the pause, disrupt, pivot, is to recognize when we bring the hammer ourselves.

So this is an exercise that I’ve been practicing for some time, is to give myself some grace and to get some perspective here, recognizing we did a big travel weekend, we went down and, picked up my son from, school and did a couple other things. It was a big weekend away from home. Sleep was challenged and coming in Monday morning, I just didn’t have it fully right from the get-go. So having that perspective, number one, number two is having that grace, I’m just giving myself a break. Is this such a big deal? Right? To be walking across the yard and not have that chicken glove. And the key here is the awareness of just being aware, Hey, we don’t have it quite together right now. What I do need to have is to have it together with my first mentee and then this podcast.

So it’s sort of like circling the wagons to really kind of, okay, I gotta take it easy today and not try to do too much. There’s a part here about managing expectations.

[00:06:41] Ash: Cam, I really think that this is the point in the hierarchy of needs where we start to see clients more routinely put themselves in the picture. Without self-compassion, how do we show up? We show up one down, we show up in that defensive crouch or being the blame sponge, or as you said, sort of carrying what’s not going so well in our day with us in this self-judgment way. But when we’re able to put ourselves in the picture, we’re able to distinguish and here you did that this morning. What’s important and what’s not? The chicken glove? Frustrating, not important. You know what’s important today and you’re giving yourself some grace for the things that you can let go of.

[00:07:30] Cam: Yeah, and you can see how self-acceptance works with self-compassion, right? So again, self-acceptance from last week’s episode around connections and love and belongingness, that self-acceptance. Coupled together with self-compassion, they go hand in hand. And so with that self-compassion today, it’s this recognition of, yeah, accepting that, here’s the deal, here’s the situation. It’s not necessarily rolling out as planned, Asher. And that’s where we get into trouble. Right. That arcade claw, we grab onto our day and we have a sense of, okay, here’s our day, here’s our plan, and it should go according to plan, and we lock in, and then we’re surprised when it doesn’t go according to plan and we get frustrated.

Then we have that emotional dysregulation moment and frustration of why isn’t it going according to plan? So that ability to let – to release and pivot and shift to a different outcome. We gotta be careful there. We don’t want to be pivoting so much that we’re rationalizing any kind of behavior. Then I’d be okay with just crisscrossing my yard, still not having a chicken glove. Right? And, oh, sorry, Ash couldn’t make it today, I’m still dealing with this chicken thing. That becomes absurd.

But again, exercising this opportunity to just not bring the hammer. Right. Listeners, this is the opportunity today is to notice how often you bring the hammer. What do I mean? What do I mean by that is we have certain voices, narratives in our head that are talking all the time, and we often have this inner critic that just is constantly judging a situation, judging others and or judging self. I have not met an individual coming to coaching who doesn’t have this inner critic that is judging oneself. and they’ll often sort of put that individual in an important position like, well, I need that guy. That guy keeps me on the straight and narrow. That guy helps me get things done.

This is what we do in the group coaching classes, specifically agency and Project X. Those are our kind of group coaching classes. We were trying to have more agency in our day with Project X’s. Identifying the thing that only matters to us and how do we make it more tractable. We think that we need this, inner critic, this drill sergeant, that inner critic that’s saying, let’s go, go, go, go, go, go. We think we need that as a constant companion. That companion, we use that as a coping mechanism to activate that adrenaline system. And all the way back to episode number four of that adrenaline response.

[00:10:40] Ash: This self-compassion piece also makes way for creative action. We’ve discussed this exhaustively on this show, what works for one client is very different than what might work for another. And what works for neurodivergent brains in general is very different than what works for a neurotypical brain.

And so that critic can also be, this is how you should do it. This is how you’re supposed to do it. This is what this is supposed to look like. This is how you should be fulfilling this role, and it’s really hard to get curious about creative approaches and creative action when you’re holding on to shoulds, when you’re holding onto this idea of how you’re supposed to show up or how everyone else does it or how it’s easy for everyone else, and therefore it should be easy for you too.

[00:11:44] Cam: Right. There’s a desire or the propensity for us to look externally for models. And that’s another thing that our clients come with is this, I’m not doing it right and everyone else around me are doing it right. And so there’s that comparison and giant should I need to be doing it like others.

So we’re trying to do it and often like the neurotypical present. So part of this is this, embracing your wiring, the self-acceptance, self-compassion, and embracing this is embracing how your brain works and doesn’t work. And it goes right back to last week how we spoke about operating from our strengths and working from our strengths then really allows for creative activity that you just spoke of.

[00:12:35] Ash: Cam, there is this funny thing I do with my clients that I would have never done as a baby coach when I was still working on my own self-acceptance and self-compassion. What I’ll do is win one of my clients is being really hard on themselves about the state of their domestic life. I will go take a picture of whatever area in my house is currently a catastrophe and I will send it to them.

If it’s my desk, I’ll just pick up my webcam and show them, look, my desk is a mess too. It happens sometimes and it’s okay, and what I’m modeling there is, it’s okay to have the mess, or it’s okay to be disorganized, although it is, but I’m modeling that self-compassion.

I’m not afraid to show that to you. I would’ve been terrifying to show a client that a few years ago, how are, how are they gonna trust me to help them create a life that fits when I can’t even keep my desk clear. Whereas now it’s like, yeah, sometimes I can’t keep my desk clear and I can still help you find a life that fits.

This is that two things can be true. And so again, it’s not about modeling the normalizing of the symptoms of ADHD, it’s about modeling. And I’m okay showing this to you because I have compassion for myself and for whatever circumstances I’m in in this moment that have meant. , I have not been able to attend to X, whatever X is.

[00:14:10] Cam: There’s so many things that this brings up for me. One is just tethering back to these other levels of need, right? As we share and share with others, it has to be safe, right? So that sort of back to self-acceptance and acceptance from others. If we share a messy desk with somebody, I’m not talking about.

I’m talking about our listeners as if they go ahead and share and reveal some of their ADHD however, that mess may manifest. There’s a vulnerability there, but also making sure that where you share it matters, right? Are you sharing it with someone who is supportive and encouraging? Or are you sharing it where it’s gonna get judged and there’s another thing that we can do. It’s sort of like, well, I need that judgment in order to, set things straight I need that Drill Sergeant, whether it’s inside me or out. So we can just see how these need levels from the Maslows connect with each other all the way down to a sense of security, you have a safety now that you can share this regard.

[00:15:23] Ash: Cam, that is so well said. And that brings up another really important aspect of this is when we are designing actions from a place of self-compassion and taking care of the self, it’s amazing the difference that that can make. I had a client who had this struggle with her guest room. It was never ready for guests. They have overnight guests multiple times a year because most of their friends and family live out of town. And her struggle was that she would do the laundry and then lay it out on the guest bed, and then the guest room itself would start to become this catch. And then when a guest was coming into town, she’d find herself down a rabbit hole.

Organizing an underwear drawer or another space a guest is never going to see because of shame and embarrassment that it just had to be just right. It’s so wrong, and it has to be just right. Funnily enough, and luckily enough, it was so funny how this worked out. We were on this topic when this client had a surprise overnight guest, and so we had already sort of equalized the guest room and we were working on habits to maintain that.

And here’s this surprise overnight guest and that experience of calm and peace of looking forward to the guests coming, of even allowing the guests to come. There is another time in place where that client would’ve said to her husband, you cannot let this friend come stay here, or they can stay here, but they have to stay on the couch because I cannot make the guest room guest ready in two or three days.

So here’s this new experience where she’s looking forward to the guest happening in the middle of the week, no time to panic, clean, and it was fine. And guess what? Not only was it fine, it felt really good. So now here’s this positive motivation that this client can anchor back to, rooted in self-compassion and taking care of future self rather than rooted in, it has to be a certain way for guests.

The motivation is now coming internally. She loves having overnight guests. They purchased this property in part because they knew that they were at a distance from the people that mattered most to them, and they wanted to be able to frequently have people come and stay and now she can look forward to the staying and the visiting without the panic clean that precedes it.

She’s practicing self-compassion and creative action. Those little daily steps that we came up with to get the laundry out of the guest room and into a place that works for her. Which, by the way, is not hanging up in the closet. It’s in two baskets in the closet tops and bottoms. Because she works with children, everything she owns is wash and wear. It doesn’t wrinkle. And so solving for that also meant letting go of complete being hung up in the closet. What was it about laying it out on the guest bed? That worked. It was easy, so we took that same simplicity and just moved it to a different place.

[00:18:56] Cam: I love that story cuz that in a nutshell, really gives the listener a sense of what we do with our clients. What happens in coaching , there’s a vulnerability here, right? There’s a having to release from what you know, that inner critic is something, you know, it’s familiar and in a way comfortable.

So getting uncomfortable to start with that self-acceptance and self-compassion and get curious about the. right. You dug in and once you kind of cleared out the judgment, the shame, just sort of set it over here and let’s look at the dilemma for what it is. You got to a creative solution. You were just talking about creative and action, so to look at, okay, laying it out. What does that do for you client to re. What was working about that for her? That was such a, great, great story, Ash. Love it.

[00:19:56] Ash: Cam, I have to add, because this also speaks to self-compassion, that once she gave herself permission to use the baskets in the closet, I don’t have to hang up my daily wear clothes. I don’t only have to hang up the things that aren’t work wear. She had this really funny realization. So in her words, her husband is the neat one. I don’t know whether he is neurotypical or neurodivergent, but I’m pretty sure he does not have ADHD. And here we found this way that works.

She came back a couple of sessions later and had a laugh about it and said, you know what? My husband does the same thing in his closet. He doesn’t hang everything up. He’s got a basket too. So do you see how she was kind of blind to that before and judging herself as the messy one, and him is the neat one. Having this idea of how it should look. And here, when she gave herself permission to tackle it creatively, practicing that self-compassion, she was able to see, hey, here’s my partner doing it creatively too. And I was blind to that before I was judging myself against a standard he wasn’t upholding.

[00:21:07] Cam: The other thing I love about this client story is how it’s this shift from the negative motivators to the positive motivators Her seeing the benefit of the space working for her, and tethering to that, you’ll hear us talk about that. Part of the ADHD dilemma is orienting to the opportunity. This willingness to let go of those negative tethers of fear of when is someone gonna come and have that just sort of lurking in the background versus, oh, I can be capable and competent here in this area. And then we get to focus just on the visit and hosting someone and the space working for them so that working in their strengths, working in their creativity, giving them choice and tethering to positive motivators.

Now, listeners, here’s the thing you gotta be careful about. You might be sitting there and like taking copious notes around the system. Oh, that sounds familiar, let me go ahead and listen to this again and get a sense of what did Ash mean by that top and bottom basket? And let me break it down. The system is the It’s to come back to look at a dilemma where you are struggling, where there might be a lack of self-compassion and start with some self-compassion and look at a dilemma with curiosity. Look at it maybe with a friend, if you have a coach, to look at it with a coach, but to start to look at it in a way of, this is not working for me. And you alluded to distinguishing last week, and I wanna bring distinguishing back in here because again, that story illustrated, we can have this doing. It means doing it all right, having it, what do you wanna call it? Perfection. It’s like it’s very hard for us to distinguish and pick pieces to work on and not go down another rabbit hole.

But to pick an area and just focus on that, what is working, what is not. And as you look at how it’s not working to bring some grace, to bring some self-compassion, and if it feels luxurious or it feels like, oh, that, that just doesn’t feel right, let it happen. Let it be, you are deserving of your own love. So seeing yourself in the picture, loving oneself, exercising or practicing self-compassion. And as you look at it, you’ll start to see some opportunities for some positive outcomes.

[00:23:47] Ash: Cam, you said seeing oneself in the picture and loving oneself, which I agree with. I’m gonna add knowing yourself. The standards that my client had for overnight guests were not hers. They were coming from somewhere else, in part from the guest and the chronic challenges that that was creating, but also in part from other places. My house should be this clean, this decluttered, this quote unquote perfect. There’s absolutely an element of perfectionism there, and so that new experience wasn’t just important in solidifying the habits we built around keeping the laundry and the other things out of the guest room and the goal of keeping the guest room guest ready, but also in her being able to distinguish, okay, a guest is coming, what matters? What doesn’t matter? What am I not worried about? What do I know that this person that I care about enough to invite into my home who knows me and knows my ADHD, what can I let go of so that I can enjoy the time rather than killing myself to present this picture of me, my husband in our life that isn’t even real.

[00:25:19] Cam: That’s something that I’ve been looking at recently and got my attention, and I really appreciate you bringing that up. And as we head out here, the thing that happens with ADHD is it makes it difficult to get to what is real, so we can have all these ideas of, what our guest area is supposed to look like. I’m just imagining A, B, and B with a mint and a turndown service. Are we really trying to do that people? No. And coming back to what matters and what doesn’t, and to start to get a little discerning. getting a sense of what matters to me. What matters to us.

Oh, I know what it is. Back to this. What’s mine? What’s yours? What’s ours? I imagine that with that client, it was really what matters to me. What matters to my husband and myself as we host someone, It’s really about the visit. It’s not about the fact that it looks a certain way or a specific.

There’s one other thing I wanna say here. Asher, you used the word funny and funnily a couple times in describing this experience, and when I hear that, I hear that the client is allowing for a lightness. So if you’re sensing a heaviness, all about this stuff, listeners, part of self-compassion is allowing for lightness to release that heaviness. Maybe in your body, maybe in your thoughts. That’s what I had to do. Part of my self-acceptance and self-compassion was letting go of this extreme sense of responsibility I had for my clients and my students. And when a more of a playful Cam comes in, the learning, the change that we create is really amazing. That’s again, this knowing, as Asher just said, this knowing piece is part of being on the journey and allowing it be a journey process.

[00:27:18] Ash: Well said, Cam. And the last thing I’ll add about knowing is if we do have that listener out there, because I have a friend for whom this is true, who does do the b and b experience when people stay with you because you enjoy it, because hospitality is a thing for you, that’s part of knowing, too. And that’s okay.

So don’t hear Cam’s words as you have to let that go. It’s more about where’s it coming from? Is it coming from self-doubt and self-judgment? Or is it coming from self-compassion, enjoyment? What matters to you?

So I think that’s an awesome place for us to wrap for today and keeping the outros short and simple. The way you can help us out this week is to leave a review wherever you listen. That really helps the show. It helps other people find us. It helps other people know how and why we stand apart from other ADHD podcasts. So until next week, I’m Asher,

[00:28:19] Cam: And I’m Cam.

[00:28:20] Ash: and this was the Translating ADHD podcast. Thanks for listening.

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