ADHD AttitudeI hate to say it, but the vast majority of adults with ADHD who I come across are in need of an attitude adjustment. That’s because many adults with ADHD go through their lives as negative thinkers with low self-esteem.

We can understand why this happens. When you go through life feeling chronically overwhelmed and judging yourself for your differences, it makes sense that you might develop a bad attitude as a result. But that bad attitude has to change if you want to learn how to manage your ADHD and move forward in your life.

Adjusting your attitude involves two things:

  1. Improving your self-esteem.
  2. Developing a positive outlook on life.

Let’s start with self-esteem. Adults with ADHD have a bad habit of focusing on what’s wrong. We focus on differences that we think are bad, we focus on challenges, we focus on mistakes, and we get wrapped up in them. We spend so much time focusing on the things we think we need to fix that there’s no time left over to work on developing the strengths we have or the systems that are already working.

No one ever gets ahead in life by focusing on their weaknesses. Think about it: the only way to get ahead in life is to focus on your strengths—your talents, your skills, your passions, the things you do well—and to get even better at them.

And if you waste all your time trying to get good at the things you’re not naturally good at, then there’s no time to really hone and polish the skills and strengths and talents that you do have. Instead, what happens is that you spend your time feeling bad about yourself. Because the only things you’re thinking about are the ways in which you feel like you don’t measure up. And that’s not good for anyone’s self-esteem.

The next piece of the attitude adjustment puzzle is about your outlook on life. For all the reasons we’ve talked about so far, it’s easy for an adult with ADHD to become a negative thinker. Negative thinking will hold you back in life. You won’t see the opportunities that present themselves when you’re focused on the bad stuff. But even the most hardened negative thinker can turn things around. There are actually some simple and easy steps you can take to adopt a more positive attitude immediately. In fact, self-care alone can help you be a more positive thinker!

When you’re stressed or worried, your breathing becomes shallow, your heart rate increases, and your muscles tense up. Your mind stresses your body. And it’s very hard to be positive when your body is tense and uptight! However, when you’re calm and relaxed, your breathing becomes deeper, your heart rate decreases, and your muscles relax. In this calm and relaxed state, it’s much easier to think clearly and see a more positive side to things. So you can become a more positive thinker just by virtue of relaxation and self-care alone!

The bottom line is that it’s much easier to manage your ADHD when you have a healthy self-esteem and a positive outlook on life. And, in turn, life becomes much easier and more enjoyable.

You can learn more about developing this skill, and all 5 Essential Skills for Managing Adult ADHD, in my book, Odd One Out: The Maverick’s Guide to Adult ADD. (Also available for Kindle.)

Do you have a healthy self-esteem? Do you consider yourself a positive thinker? How could better self-esteem and a more positive attitude help move you forward in life? Please share your thoughts with other readers in the comments below!

See Also: ADHD in Adults: Shifting a Negative Mindset


Jennifer Koretsky About Jennifer Koretsky

Jennifer Koretsky, SCAC is the Managing Partner of the ADD Management Group, LLC and Chief Executive Officer of She is a Senior Certified ADHD Coach, and the author of Odd One Out: The Maverick's Guide to Adult ADD.


  1. Lisa Comingore says:

    I think this is right on target. It’s so easy to beat yourself up when you can never meet unrealistic expectations, which is why I’m trying to implement management solutions that work FOR me instead of AGAINST me. And when I feel like I’m making progress and being productive, I feel better about myself in general.

  2. You make a very good point. My self-esteem has always been poor for various reasons. I look at others with wonderful self-esteem, yet are what I call poor in spirit, and wonder why they succeed at various things. It’s the positive attitude.

  3. You’ve got my head nodding on this one as attitude is a key factor and sometimes it is necessary to have a jolting wake up from negative self hyperfocus. Yes, it is sad that for many ADHDers they grew up being told they were dumb, lazy, and always making a mess of their life. Those negative labels from family and other “trusted” people can echo back and haunt you making you the ghost of what you can be.

    Definitely appreciate the strategy that you shared of one way to change your attitude is simple self care with things like breathing fully and having good posture among other things. It’s just being able to remind yourself to take that one deep breath followed by the next one. Life generally has a way of improving when we let it. :)

    • Personally, Since we spend so much time at work, I find that being in an ill-fitting career can be a major stumbling block to changing my self-esteem. I am not interested in what I do and my work is very regimented and sedentary (You get tired of acting and pretending your interested). I make great money for what I do and that makes it difficult to leave (especially at 49). However, money is not everything and I intend on finding something different in 2013!

  4. Bronte Thomas says:

    A positive attitude to life is good wholesome advice, but I am left wondering “does Jennifer really understand ADHD?” If she did, wouldn’t she write with more insight to the daily hurdles which erode confidence, let alone the anxiety and depression that set in after years of criticism and failures.

    For example the article on CHADD’s website written by Thomas E. Brown PhD titled “Describing Six Aspects of a Complex Syndrome” is a compassionate and comprehensive explanation of ADHD which is far more helpful than the all too common criticism that we need to “adjust our attitude”.

    I also expect that some of your clients, who come for coaching but may be wanting to “unburden” their frustrations, should really be seeing a professional therapist, so they can resolve the issues affecting their attitude, rather than being told to “look on the bright side”.

    • Jennifer Koretsky Jennifer Koretsky says:

      Hi Bronte. Thanks for your comment, and I can assure you that as someone with ADHD, I absolutely do understand it. :) (You can view my story and credentials at Thom Brown is a psychologist and researcher. I am a coach. We have two completely different focuses. The article you read is a summary of just one of the 5 skills that I talk about in my book, and it’s absolutely an important piece of the puzzle for success. However, as you suggest, people who are at a point in their lives where they need to “unburden their frustrations” or process bad feelings about themselves or their ADHD will most like be better served by therapy than by coaching.

      • Bronte Thomas says:

        Hi Jennifer
        Thanks for your reply. I was surprised to read you had ADHD! I understand you have a different view of the issues.