I am not self centered! 9 reasons why.

There are many traits common to people with ADHD that can make them seem self centered or conceited. Learning about them can help loved ones understand behaviors and people with unintended behaviors work on having expected behaviors.

Many of the traits of ADHD can make a person seem self absorbed. Once you understand why you do what you do and how those actions are perceived by others, you can help others to recognize that your actions do not mean what they seem to mean. @adhdkcteen

Most people with ADHD are very empathetic and kind, but can come off as self centered and uncaring. Why is there this discrepancy? What can you do to help others realize that you really do care about them and not just yourself?

Many of the traits of ADHD can make a person seem self absorbed. Let’s go over a few of them. Once you understand why you do what you do and how those actions are perceived by others, can you think of ways that you can help others to recognize that your actions do not mean what they seem to mean?

1. Time management and awareness

Many people with ADHD have significant problems with time awareness. This makes it easy to run late. All. The. Time.

When you’re often late to meet ups with friends (or forget about them all together), they can see you as not caring.

Many traits of ADHD, such as poor time awareness, can make a person seem self absorbed. Learn how to make a better impression. @adhdkcteen

What to do about it…

Working on improving time management and organization might be a long process, but it’s worth it.

  • Use post it notes as reminders – put them where you’ll see them when you need them (a note on your backpack to remember your project or in the bathroom to remind you to brush your teeth)
  • Set your alarm to remind you to leave on time (have it go off when you should start putting on shoes and doing other getting ready to leave stuff, not just when you need to leave)
  • Look at your schedule each morning and on Sunday evenings
  • Don’t overschedule – anticipate more time than you’ll need for things so you’re not rushed
  • Ask for help – friends would be happy to help you stay on top of things if you ask

2. Planning

It might not be obvious to others how much mental preparation is needed to shift gears. If you’ve been planning to do something and plans change, it is disappointing. When your mind is finally in the zone and someone interrupts, it’s frustrating.

It’s hard for people to understand why a sudden change in plans is met with resistance. This is especially true when we often seem impulsive. Resistance to change in plans seems contradictory to the impulsiveness that often comes out.

There's a lot of mental preparation that goes into making plans, and for someone with executive functioning problems, changing gears suddenly can be overwhelming. @adhdkcteen

What to do about it…

If you tend to lash out at people when they alter plans, the first step to change the behavior is to recognize it. Learn to recognize triggers. Whenever you note a trigger, learn what you can do to help yourself have a positive reaction.

Have a talk with those close to you about why you don’t like to suddenly change plans. They won’t know how you feel if you don’t share it, and most people who care about you will help accommodate if you understand. You might need to remind them when you’re in the moment, but it’s best to have the first conversation at a time in advance.

3. In the zone

If you’re in the zone getting stuff done, it is really frustrating to be interrupted. You know that you’ll have to re-enter the zone, which can take a long time and a ton of energy.

Most of us know what it feels like to be deep in concentration only to have someone ask a question or make a noise that ruins it. The mental energy to get back into the zone is huge. How do you handle the situation?

Your reaction may not be appropriate – there’s that impulsivity at work. If you yell, blurt unkind words, or try to ignore the interruption, it will not be received well. You will seem self centered if you lash out.

Have you ever been deep in concentration, only to have someone ask a question or make a noise that ruins it? The mental energy to get back into the zone is huge. How do you do it? @adhdkcteen

What to do about it…

Learn to take a few big breaths before you react to a disruption.

Give your mind a chance to settle. You were able to get into the zone once, you can do it again.

A little break can help.

  • Exercise has been proven to help our focus, so if you can take a quick walk – even if just to the bathroom – it might help.
  • Mindfulness can really help here. It needs to be practiced, but it only takes a moment to help clarify your mind. For more mindfulness tips and several free apps to help guide your mindfulness, see my Pinterest Mindfulness board. If you use mindfulness regularly, you will notice less stress overall.
  • Healthy food can renew your energy. Just be careful to not overeat out of anger or boredom.

More tips to de-stress.

4. Working memory

Working memory is like the RAM in a computer. It’s where information is temporarily held while constructing a sentence or forming an idea, solving an equation, remembering where we put something. If the information is “valuable” we then store it in long term memory, like saving to a disk, from which we can pull the information later. Information that doesn’t seem valuable, such as names or dates, isn’t stored.

Many traits of ADHD, such as poor working memory, can make a person seem self absorbed. Learn how to make a better impression. @adhdkcteen

Forgetting details is common among people with ADHD.

When it comes to forgetting birthdays, anniversaries, and other important dates, it can make you appear uncaring.

Many people with working memory problems fear that their thought will be gone if they don’t blurt it out right away. Unfortunately, interrupting others is socially inappropriate. If you do it often, you come off as self absorbed.

If you struggle to recall your thoughts during an important conversation or lecture, jot stuff down quickly to trigger your memory when the time comes for you to talk. @adhdkcteen

What do do about it…

  • If you struggle to recall your thoughts, jot stuff down quickly to trigger your memory.
  • If you find yourself interrupting others, practice looking for pauses in a conversation. Use that pause to speak your mind.
  • Use reminders. Put important dates and events in your calendar. Look at your calendar daily.
  • Play games that help you practice short term memory.

For more on working memory, see Say Goodbye to “Oh, I forgot”

5. Communication

ADHD can lead to many problems with communication.

As mentioned above, working memory problems can lead to communication problems. If a thought pops into your head, you’re likely to share it right away. It doesn’t matter if someone else is talking. You don’t want to forget it, so you blurt it out.

It’s also common that if someone interrupts when you are talking, you get very upset because it breaks the line of concentration. That’s especially common among people with ADHD because it’s so hard to retain a line of thinking, but people might find it annoying that you interrupt them but won’t tolerate being interrupted.

Maintaining eye contact during a conversation might be really difficult. You might tend to look around the room or out the window when someone’s talking to you. This can be perceived as not paying attention.

A similar issue is found during class when you’re listening to the teacher, but doodling or playing with a button on your shirt. This can make it appear that you’re not paying attention, even when you are.

It’s also really easy for you to become bored with a conversation. This means you might suddenly change the topic to something unrelated. This can make others in the conversation feel that you don’t appreciate what they’re saying. Maybe you don’t. But there are social norms that others can follow that help them wait patiently for others to finish before changing the subject.

It can even be hard for you to keep on track with your own thoughts. You can be talking about one topic, then something leads you astray, leaving others confused. Your brain might be ahead of your words, so your sentences lose their meaning to others.

Eye contact. Distractions. Something triggers a thought. Boredom. Whatever the issue, conversation is hard! @adhdkcteen

What to do about it…

Practice.

It sounds silly, but practice does help. Sometimes we get frustrated with ourselves and just stop trying, but then we never get better at communicating.

Watch others in group settings to see how they interact and how others perceive what they say and do. Replicate the things that are well perceived and avoid doing the things that are not appreciated.

Mantra: don’t interrupt.

6. Sensitivity

It isn’t uncommon for people with ADHD to be overly sensitive. This happens after years of being told you’re doing things wrong, being too loud, forgetting stuff, and the million other ways you get negative feedback.

Rejection sensitivity can lead you to become upset at friends for no apparent reason from their point of view. They might feel like you push them away because they don’t understand that their response hurt your feelings.

Many traits of ADHD can make a person seem self absorbed. If you're overly sensitive, you can turn people away. Learn more @adhdkcteen

What to do about it…

If you’re overly sensitive, read about Rejection Sensitivity.

7. Life of the party?

People with ADHD often seem outgoing because of their unlimited energy and talkative nature, but they also can have trouble being around a lot of people. Too much input and stimulation can be distracting, especially to the ADHD brain.

When people perceive you as the “life of the party” type personality, it can make it difficult to explain why you don’t want to go to an outing or event that will have a lot of people. It might seem to others that you feel above everyone else so don’t want to participate.

Although many people with ADHD seem to be the life of the party due to their high energy and talkative nature, they often have trouble in big groups.  @adhdkcteen

What to do about it…

Have an escape plan to leave early if the crowd is too overwhelming.

If you turn down an invite, be sure to let your friend know why. For example, if the crowd is just too overwhelming, let them know you’d rather do something with a smaller group.

8. Humor

Impulsivity can get us in trouble in the humor department, making people with ADHD seem uncaring and downright mean.

Sometimes saying a “funny” thought that pops into our minds is not the right thing to do. It might feel good to make people laugh, but if that laughter is at the expense of others, you will not be perceived as a nice person.

Impulsively saying things while trying to be funny can make people with ADHD seem uncaring and downright mean. Learn how to be humorous without being hurtful. @adhdkcteen

What to do about it…

Watch for real reactions when people are laughing. Are some people uncomfortable or upset about the joke? Those are the types of jokes that you want to steer clear of.

One good rule of thumb: Don’t make fun of other people or groups of people. You might hurt someone’s feelings, and that is never funny. (Even if it makes some people laugh.)

If you are careful, you can make fun of something temporary or non-identifiable, such as bad drivers or people who fall. This is easier to do if you include yourself in the group, such as joking about a time you fell or walked into a wall.

9. Outside the box thinking: good for leaders, hard on kids

Society and school teach us to conform. We should act as expected. Clothing styles dictate what we should wear.

Many people with ADHD are non-conformists. This can be a great trait because it can lead to new ideas and change. Leaders and inventors are non-conformists. This trait can help you make a difference in the world.

But if the expectation is that you work a math problem showing your work in a specific way, you need to do it that way. If you’re supposed to dress for a formal dinner or a group function, you can come off as uncaring if you show up in attire that doesn’t fit expectations.

Many traits of ADHD can make a person seem self absorbed. Learn what they are and how to make a better impression. @adhdkcteen

What to do about it…

Keep being you!

Think outside the box and create as much as possible, but when a certain behavior is expected, try to conform.

This means if your teacher wants a project done a certain way, do it that way.

If you’re going to a location with a dress code, follow it as much as you can. Don’t wear something that will bring attention to you unless you’re supposed to be the center of attention, such as at your birthday party.

Remember to always stay in your role.

If your role is a student, let the teacher teach. When you earn the role of teacher, you can teach.

When you are the athlete, let the coach coach. If you earn the role of coach, you can coach.

When you hang out in a group, let others help to decide what to do. Take turns. Even if it’s not your choice, try to stay focused on the activity. Don’t let your friends think you think they are boring, even if the activity is boring to you. Find something in it that interests you.

If you’re motivated and learn knowledge as well as people skills along the way, one day you’ll be the leader. Then you can lead. Until then, you will be seen as bossy in a negative way if you try to take charge prematurely or inappropriately.

For more…

Check out what Jessica McCabe has to say about ADHD and relationships

And how to build social skills

Author: Kristen

Dr. Kristen Stuppy is a pediatrician who is passionate about sharing information to help others make informed decisions. She has a special interest in ADHD and has served on the board for ADHDKC.org since it began in 2012.

One thought on “I am not self centered! 9 reasons why.”

  1. This is an awesome article. I was just diagnosed recently as an adult. I resented this diagnosis at first. But the more I learned about ADHD, the more I had to compel myself to accept it. Thank you for sharing this and hope to read more from this blog.

Leave a Reply