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4 Reasons People With ADHD Underachieve

Things I've done ...
Really big things I’ve done …

We are constantly on the go, jammed into high gear, yet we get so little done. In any given day, we can list dozens of things that we didn’t do, but there’s no list of things we did do. We have the high test, formula one engine, but our tires are bald and we’re driving on ice.

And, as you can imagine, that’s a source of anxiety for us. We are hurtling toward the end of our days and worrying about judgment. Not judgment day, just day to day judgment by family, employers, colleagues, peers, spouse.

But how do we fix this?

I don’t have a cut and dried answer to that. But I do know that we can’t fix something we don’t understand. So let’s take a look at what causes this.

Two main categories

In my opinion, the causes can be divided into two groups. The first group is a list of effects or traits that our symptoms cause. These effects and traits impact our day’s efforts. Symptoms are what ADHD is all about, so that’s where we have to look for reasons for our problems, if we’re going to fix those problems. And the effects or traits I’ve found that cause me the most disruption are as follows:

  1. Starting too many jobs – we all do this, it’s what causes the piles of unfinished stuff.
  2. Getting distracted by small chores – These are the little things that are not related to our current task.
  3. Overwhelmed by our to-do lists – you know what I mean. There are days when making out a to-do list was our biggest accomplishment.
  4. Our inability to discern the next step – should I go on? Seriously, I need your help deciding here …


The second list

The second list is very short. It’s the list of things that skew our perception of our accomplishments. Even if we list them, take as long as we need to remember every one of them, we still don’t feel the accomplishment. Even if others rave about the things on that list, it’s often the best we can do to admire the list as the greatest of them.

And why is it that we don’t believe our accomplishments are that great? Read on:

  1. Low self esteem – ADHDers accomplish lots. We just don’t know it. We discount our accomplishments because of that low self esteem. Even when we are feeling good about ourselves, for however many seconds that might last, we can’t itemize our accomplishments because once done, they appear mundane. If we were the ones who accomplished them, they must be easily done.

” … we’re so good at negating ourselves, this is just icing on the bitter cake of discrediting self evaluation.”

That would be the end of the list in my opinion. It takes little to negate our deeds, and we’re so good at negating ourselves, this is just icing on the bitter cake of discrediting self evaluation.

There is an old saying in journalism, “You’re only as good as your last story.” If you have ADHD, your last accomplishment wasn’t your last “big” accomplishment, it was finding your car keys, if you were lucky. How are you supposed to feel good about that?

If I write a great article for some publication and get feedback from the publisher telling me it’s good, I’m happy. Then I’ll log on to twitter and put my foot in my mouth in 140 characters. There’s how good I am, that last tweet. I’ve committed twittercide and that’s what will be on my mind.

We get lots done, we just don’t get that it’s good.

4 Reasons People With ADHD Underachieve

Kelly Babcock

I was born in the city of Toronto in 1959, but moved when I was in my fourth year of life. I was raised and educated in a rural setting, growing up in a manner I like to refer to as free range. I live in an area where my family history stretches back 6 or more generations. I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 50 and have been both struggling with the new reality and using my discoveries to make my life better. I write two blogs here at Psych Central, one about having ADHD and one that is a daily positive affirmation that acts as an example of finding the good in as much of my life as I possibly can.

Find out more about me on my website: writeofway.

email me at ADHD Man

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APA Reference
Babcock, K. (2013). 4 Reasons People With ADHD Underachieve. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 20, 2019, from


Last updated: 16 Jan 2013
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