459@2x.jpg

ADHD & Self-Compassion: Learning to Speak to Ourselves with Love

We’re not always the friendliest narrators of our own lives. Sure, everyone makes mistakes. Everyone is late to a meeting or call from time to time. Everyone has rough days. But if you’re living with ADHD, there’s a good chance you’ve taken the practice of celebrating your perceived failures to an art form.

Episode Hosts: ,

Subscribe to Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere else you find your favorite podcasts!

Support The ADHD Podcast and get great perks by becoming a Patron • Learn More and Join Now!

We’re not always the friendliest narrators of our own lives. Sure, everyone makes mistakes. Everyone is late to a meeting or call from time to time. Everyone has rough days. But if you’re living with ADHD, there’s a good chance you’ve taken the practice of celebrating your perceived failures to an art form.

This week on the show, thanks to the inspiration of the work of Susan David and her writing in and around emotional agility, we’re talking all about ADHD and self-compassion. If we’re adept at speaking to ourselves with bile, how will we learn, change, and grow? It turns out, there are steps we can take… and we’re going to try and take a few of them today.

Links & Notes


Episode Transcript

Brought to you by The ADHD Podcast Community on Patreon

Pete Wright:
Hello everybody. And welcome to Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast on True Story FM. I’m Pete Wright, and I’m here with Nikki Kinzer.

Nikki Kinzer:
Hello everyone. Hello Pete Wright.

Pete Wright:
How’re you?

Nikki Kinzer:
I’m doing great. How are you?

Pete Wright:
I’m really good. Can I tell you, I did a podcast guest appearance this weekend.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, that’s fun.

Pete Wright:
I did. It was fun. I was nervous.

Nikki Kinzer:
Were you?

Pete Wright:
It was our friend Brett Terpstra of the Systematic Podcast. He’s written this [inaudible 00:00:36] and he wanted to do his [inaudible 00:00:38] separately. And I did mine on Saturday and it’ll go live this Thursday. So by the time you hear this, it should be the current episode. And we talked about it.

Nikki Kinzer:
Okay. Are you going to put in the show notes?

Pete Wright:
Yeah, sure. As soon as we have a link, I’ll put it in the show notes.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah. Good.

Pete Wright:
We talked about some of the stuff that we’ve talked about before, a lot of… We talked about it. I mean, it’s just… You can imagine two guys with ADHD and what their-

Nikki Kinzer:
What they could talk about-

Pete Wright:
…list of 9,000 things we wanted to talk about. And I think we talked about four, but it was fun. We had a really good time and I think we have fodder for future conversation. But I’m a huge fan of Brett and the software that he has developed, the tools that he has created that I use every day, and it was a real honor to be on his show. I was super nervous, weirdly nervous, about being a guest on a podcast because I’m such a fan.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, you’ll have to tell me how it went, offline. No, I’m kidding. Because I’m going… Let’s see, I’m scheduled to interview with him in just a couple of weeks actually. So I don’t know when that episode will go live, but you’ll have to prep me.

Pete Wright:
It’s very casual. He’s a casual dude, in a lot. We are talking about… This is why I bring this up because I found myself really worked up going into it and not being very nice to myself. And then over the weekend you say, “Hey, let’s talk about self-compassion today.” Very timely. The universe has gifted us with that bit of coincidence, and we’re going to talk about self-compassion and the ADHD impact on your compassionate voices. Before we do that head over to takecontroladhd.com to get to know us a little bit better. You can listen to the show right there on the website or subscribe to our mailing list each week, and we’ll send you an email each time a new episode is released.

Pete Wright:
You can connect with us on Twitter or Facebook at takecontroladhd, and if this show has ever touched you or helped you change the way you look at your ADHD and relate to your place in the universe as a result of your ADHD, we encourage you and invite you to check out patreon.com/theadhdpodcast. Patreon is a listener supported podcasting. For a few bucks a month, you get to join our community, you get to join our online various online members only channels, whether it’s our discord server, which is always active or our Facebook group. And you get to check out what people are talking about, living in supporting one another with ADHD.

Pete Wright:
We have couple of things to mention. Well, first of all, I want to give a real shout out to our new members, Azalea and Missy, and Oh my goodness. There are… It’s kind of a list and Catherine and Jessica and Sabrina and Laura and Oliver edited his pledge. Thank you, Oliver. And Jennifer also edited her pledge. Thank you so much. And James and Robert and Elise and Laura, and they just… It’s just really lovely over the past few weeks, all of you wonderful people have joined and continue to support what we do. And what’s really great about that is that it allows us to do new things. And one of the things we’ve been working on that people have asked for in the past, from us.

Pete Wright:
And let me start by saying this, one of the first things people asked for from us was transcripts. “Can you please do transcripts?” And it was you good people who joined and said, “Yes, we’re going to be a member of this community.” It is your contributions that allows everybody to have complete human-created transcripts on the show. So thank you so much for that. Our next here is a resource library, a searchable resource library of all the things that we’ve ever talked about, whether it’s links or apps or tools or articles. All of those things are available in this resource library we’ve been trying to build as a result of growing contribution. So we’ve got this new goal that as soon as we hit this new goal on the Patreon page, we’re going to release this fancy database resource that you can jump in and search and hopefully-

Nikki Kinzer:
I’m excited for it.

Pete Wright:
I know, right? I’m very excited about it.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah. Because it’s going back from old episodes too as long as the things are still current, right?

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
As long as the apps are still available or whatever.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. And in fact it’s Melissa, who has gone through, a discord mom, who’s been really spearheading this thing and building it. And she’s gone through every episode, she’s checked every link, links that don’t work anymore. In some cases, links that we still haven’t cleaned up on the website are updated and cleaned up in this database. And I think it should be hopefully very useful for the good people.

Nikki Kinzer:
I think so. That’s awesome.

Pete Wright:
That’s what we’re hoping. So if you have been on the fence, just know that you’re pushing us up toward being able to actually-

Nikki Kinzer:
Something really good.

Pete Wright:
… actually able to pay for this thing and hopefully be useful for everybody. So thank you. Thank you so much for that. And now queue the music. Nikki, we’re going to be nice to ourselves today.

Nikki Kinzer:
We are going to be nice to ourselves. That’s right.

Pete Wright:
What is it that inspired you this particular week?

Nikki Kinzer:
These last couple of weeks, I have been thinking about the topics more in the last minute. So just to be honest with everyone, so instead of a week ahead, a month ahead, it’s been more of, “What’s going on? How do I feel? How does Pete feel? What do we want to talk about?” And last week I really enjoyed our conversation around really dissecting what the ADHD challenge is and how to identify what’s going on so that you can take an action that’s relevant to the actual issue that’s going on. And we got great feedback from it.

Nikki Kinzer:
And this weekend I was thinking, “Well, what do we talk about next?” And I was struggling. I was really struggling. And I almost was going to say, “Pete, either you’re going to take this one or it’s going to be a show about nothing and we’re just going to talk to each other.” So I’m scrolling on social media and I come across this little post and it says, three steps to becoming more self-compassionate. And I read it and I read the three steps-

Pete Wright:
Sounds promising.

Nikki Kinzer:
And I’m like, “Yeah.” And I’m thinking, “This is it. This is it. This is our show.” So I did a little bit of more research on who actually put together these three steps. It was a post that came from Susan David. She is the author of Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life. Now I’ll be honest, I have not heard of her before and I’ve not read her book, but it definitely picked my interest when I saw her post. And then I went and watched her TED Talk and now I really like her. And I think I’m going to buy the book.

Pete Wright:
No, you should totally buy the book. And I love her accent. She’s from South Africa-

Nikki Kinzer:
I know.

Pete Wright:
And she’s very charming. And what’s particularly amusing is when you search for self-compassion after you’ve watched this, the number of people who use her words to frame and reframe their own perspectives on this as their own inspiration, you can tell where people writing about compassionate ADHD are getting their stuff. And it’s from her, and it’s from her TED Talk, unless she’s a noted plagiarist herself, which I doubt. She is a source for a lot of people who appear to be working on the same subject. So she was a delight to listen to and very bubbly.

Nikki Kinzer:
She definitely was. Yes. And the universe spoke and we listened. And this is what the show’s about. And I think it comes from… Or I think it’s really good timing. I think just where we’re at right now too, and ending the year and all of that. But anyway, the first step to becoming more self-compassionate is to speak to yourself in the third person. “So Nikki, what do you need right now?”

Pete Wright:
Oh Nikki. Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
It seems so silly to ask that, when I just don’t talk in a third person. But I do see the point because when you do put yourself and you ask your question and you’re speaking directly to yourself, it’s very pointed. You have to really get thinking about what you need emotionally at that moment. So maybe I need space. Maybe I do need to talk it out. Maybe I need to exercise or get away for a little while and get some fresh air. It makes you actually answer the question of what I need right now rather than just stewing in whatever it is that’s bothering you. Right?

Pete Wright:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. It’s funny. And this is a noted strategy that therapists, practitioners, psychologists, psychotherapists have used for ever, which is to anthropomorphize the stuff that you’re dealing with. And I’ve always struggled with… And I’ve heard this time and time again, and I’ve heard podcasts with people time and time again, they say, “You just pop out your inner child and visualize them sitting on a couch and talk to them.” And I really struggle with that.

Pete Wright:
And yet I do that with my ADHD, the shadow. He’s just running alongside guide vision. It’s easy for me to visualize my ADHD as a person, and it’s harder for me to visualize it when I think about it in terms of my inner child. But the whole concept, the conceit of this is to, I think, to provide that sort of distance gives you a bit more rationality. It gives you a bit more ability to see, because then we’re going to talk about this later, how would I talk to this person if he was sitting right here? Because I guarantee you, I would be nicer to him than I am to myself.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes, absolutely. That’s a very good point. And we’ll talk a little bit more about that too. Second step to becoming more self-compassionate is to keep your eyes on your own work.

Pete Wright:
This is what I think is really funny because I mean the whole idea, and we’ve heard about this before, is stay off of Instagram. Really. If you’re struggling to be nice to yourself, stay the hell off of Instagram. Social comparison is detrimental to self acceptance. As soon as you’re looking at someone else’s successes and that’s all you’re going to see on Instagram, is beautiful posh stuff and probably infinity pools, then you’re going to start judging yourself. And you’re going to be not very nice to yourself because you haven’t accomplished the infinity pool yet.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right. Right. And you can only be you. Right?

Pete Wright:
You do your Nikki Kinzer. That’s right.

Nikki Kinzer:
You can’t be anybody else. Yeah. Yeah. So it doesn’t do you any good to compare yourself to others with or without ADHD too. So this goes the same with other folks that you know with ADHD too. So definitely keeping your focus on you and what you need, I talk to my clients about that all the time. Just think about what you need and how this is going to work for you, and what kinds of adjustments do you need to make for yourself?

Pete Wright:
That’s right.

Nikki Kinzer:
Number three, own your story rather than it owning you. I think this is huge in the ADHD world, letting go of any narratives that no longer serve you.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. This one, this is where it connected for me to last week’s conversation. And we’ve had some great emails come through and comments from folks who really appreciated the whole aspect of introspection, really investigating what is it? Where is it that your systems break down? This is one that I think is super important and asks us to figure out what those narratives are. What are the narratives that no longer serve us? Every one of us has a different thing that we struggle with. So we tell ourselves stories and lies about all kinds of things that we feel shame about. So how do you diagnose your unique shame and turn that into compassion? ADHD is not a school disorder. ADHD is not a work disorder. Normal emotions are not good or bad as we learned from Susan’s talk. Right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Pete Wright:
And yet ADHD symptoms that spin off of our behaviors, those are things that we perceive as chronic. They push us toward a negative feedback loop that is anything but compassionate.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, for sure. Complete opposite.

Pete Wright:
Right. It’s complete opposite. So you got to figure out where does your shame live and call it out and figure out, because I guarantee you that while your ADHD isn’t going anywhere, the way you adapt around it can.

Nikki Kinzer:
Absolutely. So just to review, this is what I found on the post. Three steps to becoming more self-compassionate: speak to yourself in the third person, keep your eyes on your own work, own your story rather than it owning you. So going back to what you were talking about, looking at your inner child on the couch, you have to ask yourself, how do you respond to you when you make a mistake? Are you responding to yourself with love and compassion? Are you looking at it with judgment and resentment? Right?

Pete Wright:
Totally. Yeah. That’s a thing that… We’ve talked about this, it’s the kid that hangs on your neck and he’s dragging you back. Why is he so mean? Why does he not want me to succeed? Why does he not want me to be able to finish my work on time? Why is he dancing on a table while I’m trying to focus? Those kinds of questions. And the responses are invariably negative because I am, I am, I am. I am not able to do this. I can’t focus. I’m not a good student. I’m a terrible business owner. I’m a, I’m a, I am, I am. And it never comes with any grace without intention.

Nikki Kinzer:
Which is really interesting because when I ask clients about this and I’ll say, “So what would you say to somebody else who made that same mistake?” And rarely do they ever give themselves the same grace as they would give to somebody else, rarely ever. And it is definitely something to think about. So I encourage you guys to go and listen to the TED Talk. I actually got a lot out of it, and some of the things that I want to mention are things that she said.

Nikki Kinzer:
This has nothing to do with Pete and I, we did not write any of this. I just want to share it to our listeners and let you know how we perceived it, what we took away from it and hope that it resonates with you. One of the things that Pete said earlier is that with ADHD, we think that there are good emotions and bad emotions and normal emotions are not good or bad. Right? Go ahead.

Pete Wright:
Right. And I would just throw in there that it’s ADHD and the knock on other experiences, anxiety, depression. When you’re in a state of anxiety or depressive state, you are, I would suggest probably more likely to see your emotional state as negative. As bad. And that’s not helping you break that cycle.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right. Right. Well, and one of the things that she points out is that the bad emotions we tend to ignore and push aside. So we judge those feelings, we judge ourselves and in society and in the world, we feel like it’s better to have positive emotions to be that strong person. Like, “Oh, you’re going through something terrible, but you’re so strong.” That seems to be more valued when really we fail to see the other emotions as just as valuable when you need to grieve or if you’re angry or whatever it is that’s happening at the time.

Nikki Kinzer:
And she talks about these are really rigid responses. They are one way or the other, and rigid denial when you’re feeling upset or you’re feeling angry doesn’t work because, and we know this, that internal pain is still going to find you. It’s still going to come up and then it’s going to have a stronger hold on you than if you sat with it for a little while, or you went through it. And I think that’s a really important piece, especially when we tie into what we were talking about last week. Some of these challenges that we have to identify and really look at what’s going on, it’s going to feel uncomfortable. It’s going to feel bad. It’s not going to feel great.

Nikki Kinzer:
So being able to, I think, be in those emotions. And one of the things that she says is discomfort as the price of admission into a meaningful life. Tough emotions are a part of our life. And when we talked about joy at the ADHD conference, we talk about you experience joy and you can experience pain. When you live through the darkness, you can see the light. So there’s these appreciation factors too that when you get through this, there’s this resiliency that gets built.

Pete Wright:
There’s something really funny she said like the… I’m going to butcher the joke, but she set it up by asking people if they’ve not experienced pain. If they would rather just avoid pain and she says, “That’s fine. You all have the souls of dead people.” Right? Because only dead people can go through life not experiencing those highs and getting in partnership with those lows. It is a reality of being a living, breathing human, that you feel these experiences. That is normal. Not good or bad, just plain normal.

Nikki Kinzer:
One of the things that she said too that really hit me was the radical acceptance of all of our emotions is the cornerstone to resilience and thriving and also to true, authentic happiness. And again, I think it goes back to being able to see that we all survived 2020 as bad as it was and how awful it was. And a lot of people didn’t survive 2020. So there’s a lot of people who are grieving and are sad and are frustrated, but be able to see that and also see the resilience and being able to live through that says a lot for the people who are in this state of history, at this point of history.

Nikki Kinzer:
Acceptance and accuracy matters. And I thought this was a really interesting point because at first, I didn’t know what she meant when she was saying acceptance and accuracy. And what she was explaining is that most people will explain their emotions as stress. “I’m just really stressed,” but we’re not going deep enough because she’ll say, “Is it stress? Or is it disappointment? Is it stress or dread because you hate your job?” So there’s a difference between-

Pete Wright:
Or fear, because you have something you don’t have confidence in being able to do or-

Nikki Kinzer:
Right. Right. So there’s a difference between that. So figure out what the real cause is, and then you can take the right steps for whatever that might be to help you. So if it is dread, “Okay. What is really the issue then? Do I need to get a new job? Do I need to change careers?” Whatever it might be. That was one of the examples she used, but-

Pete Wright:
I think this is a really important lesson and it keeps coming up, which is the power of assigning the real words to our experiences. Words have power and going through the experience and not being specific, not naming the experience, I think is a sort of blindness. And it is a power that we all have. We just don’t practice. We don’t use normally. And I think stress is one of those comically large buckets that we use to-

Nikki Kinzer:
Those like asking somebody, “How are you?” “I’m fine.”

Pete Wright:
Fine, fine. I’m stressed. Okay. Right.

Nikki Kinzer:
I’m busy.

Pete Wright:
Those words carry so much weight, and they don’t really act to. If you can be a little bit more incisive with the words that you use to describe your experience, you might find a little bit easier path navigating your way through it.

Nikki Kinzer:
The other thing that she pointed out was that emotions are data, which I thought was really an interesting point, that when you notice yourself feeling really strong about something, this is showing you your values that maybe you don’t remember, and look at that. Look at what you feel really strongly about, and is there something that you can do to take your life into that direction? But one thing she thought said too with that was that these emotions are not directives. You can see their value without needing to listen to them.

Nikki Kinzer:
So the example that she was saying is that her son is angry at the little sister. Well, just because he’s angry at the little sister doesn’t mean that he gets to leave the little sister with the stranger at the mall. We don’t get to do that. So you don’t get to direct your anger onto somebody else and harm them. So I thought that was a good point, but also that we own our emotions. They don’t own us. And I think that’s really important, especially with ADHD, is that you are not your ADHD. You’re not your challenges of your ADHD. You are who you are. It’s just a piece of you. It’s just a part of your daily life that you have to manage, but you can manage it.

Nikki Kinzer:
So it’s all in the frame of how you say it. And you had said earlier, I am, I am, I am, I am. And she’s saying, “Avoid saying I am, because you are not that emotion. Notice the feeling.” And then, instead of saying, “I am angry,” I’m noticing that I’m feeling angry. And I think it’s just that little bit of space to say, “Okay, I’m noticing that I’m not as focused today as I would like to be.” Very different than saying, “I am unfocused all the time,” or whatever it might be.

Pete Wright:
We got some guidance from another therapist a while ago, he was talking about that experience of popping out your inner child, like pop out that emotion and name it, and then walk away from it. Physically move into another room, leave it there and see what happens. For people who have a particularly weighty, empathetic vibe, that can be an incredibly powerful, physical exercise that you can do to distance yourself from negative feelings and be able to observe them from the outside. Very powerful.

Nikki Kinzer:
So, one last thing I want to say is that I want to flip this a little bit because we’re talking about what we would consider to be negative emotions. We’re talking about anger, frustration, these things that maybe are making us feel bad, but I’ll tell you something else that I’ve noticed with clients that we also have to sit in. And that is when we get praise. That is when we get compliments. That is when somebody says, “You’re doing a great job,” and you believe them.

Nikki Kinzer:
So I want to flip this all the listeners and say, this isn’t just about those negative emotions, but I want you to sit with the uncomfortableness of when you have praise, when you do something good, when you are proud of yourself, you should be proud of yourself because that is also just as uncomfortable as sitting in a puddle of anger. It’s also really uncomfortable to sit in a puddle of praise.

Pete Wright:
That’s a great point. Acceptance is the holding hands with compassion.

Nikki Kinzer:
Absolutely.

Pete Wright:
I think a lot of people have to be compassionate themselves for not being able to accept a compliment. And that’s [inaudible 00:25:07].

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah. Sit in it for a minute. When you do get that compliment or you get that great job or whatever that positive praise is that’s coming to you, sit in it. Just sit in it, because it’s reinforcing things. It’s reinforcing that self-compassion. One last note that she says is that courage is not an absence of fear. Courage is fear walking. And I just think that’s a really important message to leave with today. And there you go. So then you read on social media, it stands out and now it becomes a show. That’s how we work around here.

Pete Wright:
[crosstalk 00:25:46] So I think this is our last. So we have one more episode that we’re doing and then we take a little break.

Nikki Kinzer:
We have one more episode, yes. And I think that what we’re going to do, Pete, is we’re just going to talk a little bit about the year and maybe some of the shows that really struck us and just do a recap. And if people have questions, they’re welcome to send them our way and we’ll do a Q&A too, whatever.

Pete Wright:
Love it. That would be perfect.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah. That really is probably going to be a show about, close to nothing, but something.

Pete Wright:
I’ll take it. I just enjoy talking to you, Nikki Kinzer. I’ll do that, even if it is about nothing. So there you go. Look for the show notes. Her website again is www.susandavid.com, and you can find her TED talks there. You can also search for her on YouTube because it’s also… All the TED talks are over there, and you can find a lot more stuff that she has done if you’d like, and it makes it nice and easy. susandavid.com. We appreciate you downloading and listening to this show.

Pete Wright:
Thank you all for your time and attention. Don’t forget if you have something to contribute, head over to the show talk channel and our discord server, and you can join us right there by becoming a supporter, the Deluxe level. On behalf of Nikki Kinzer, I’m Pete Wright. We’ll see you right back here next week on Taking Control: The ADHD Podcasts.

Through Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast, Nikki Kinzer and Pete Wright strive to help listeners with support, life management strategies, and time and technology tips, dedicated to anyone looking to take control of their lives in the face ADHD.