Finding the Way Forward: How Young Adults with Learning Differences can Build Self-Esteem while Navigating Uncertainties.

Many young adults with learning differences manage uncertainties in employment, social life, and family responsibilities. Some ponder worrisome thoughts such as, “How should I prepare for a work meeting? How am I going to prioritize among different assignments? How do I get ready for a date?” These are valid questions. Sometimes, there may be no certain answers. However, tolerating uncertainty while also accepting and learning from mistakes with self-compassion is necessary for building a positive self-concept or self-understanding. Having a high self-esteem can help a young adult with learning differences to navigate the setbacks that they may experience.

            A research study from the United Kingdom of eight young adults with mild learning differences aimed to measure their self-concept. Many identified positive characteristics such as being “friendly and knowledgeable.” However, at least two also acknowledged feeling “anxious and slow” (Prestana, 2015). It concludes that that these young adults might benefit from working with practitioners who can help them to improve their self-esteem and self-concept, as well as their social skills. By building a positive self-image and interpersonal confidence, young adults can better manage an increasing amount of uncertainty.

            A primary anxiety that many of us face in our social lives is the possibility of rejection. Many young adults with learning differences are highly sensitive to this due to the fact that some may perceive themselves as operating on the outside of norms and expectations. In fact, the fear of being rejected may cause them to avoid socializing all together. However, by working with a therapist to manage the feelings associated with previous or anticipated rejection, they can overcome this anxiety. It is important to remember that no one is defined by those who reject him or her. Many people who do reject us do so out of their own ignorance and fear. We may want to be accepted, but as people who learn and process differently, not everyone will understand us. that’s ok. What matters is that we find the people who do. There are steps to wade through the uncertainty in the meantime. Getting to know a person gradually can help to manage the uncertainty of starting a new friendship. Also, building on one’s self-concept and self-esteem can help that person to manage the anxiety of getting to know someone new.

            There is also uncertainty in employment. What does my boss expect of me? When can I take a vacation? When can I bother a colleague? These are all sources of anxiety. However, by working with a therapist one can begin to build one’s self-esteem and self-confidence. The refrain of “I don’t know and that’s ok” holds true for many of us. As young adults with learning differences, we often feel overwhelmed in situations in which we are not sure of what to do. Perhaps we have faced similar situations before. Maybe we were criticized for being overwhelmed. However, by accepting that we are not sure of a specific protocol and or expectations, we may be better able to take the appropriate steps to manage this situation. This can take the form of asking colleagues or supervisors for clarification. It is also advisable  to read through a company handbook. However, sometimes by taking a step back and simply observing while reminding oneself at it may take time to integrate can be a significant step towards reducing your anxiety.

            The young adult years are filled with uncertainty. Individuals with learning differences face added challenges associated with navigating novel situations in their social and employment lives. Therefore, building a strong self-concept and self-esteem can help to navigate these uncertainties. Ultimately, by building social skills, accepting rejection, and observing and inquiring about protocols and expectations at work, young adults with learning differences can have success during an uncertain time in their lives.    

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