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Don’t Judge Me by My Inattentive Mistakes

People with ADHD often get underestimated.

That happens for various reasons, such as ADHDers being inconsistent in their ability to apply their skills and turn knowledge into results.

One of the most common ways it happens, though, is when people judge ADHDers based on their inattentive mistakes.

Careless MistakesIt’s easy to judge an inattentive error. Inattentive mistakes sometimes get chalked up to carelessness, and sometimes they’re taken to reflect someone’s overall competence.

I remember that happening to me starting in school. In math class for example, it’s one thing to know the correct sequence of steps to solve a problem, but in practice, inattention and impulsivity can mean you skip a step without realizing it, make a “careless” arithmetic error, or simply write down the wrong number.

Sometimes when I’d do these things, my teachers would just assume I didn’t understand how to solve the problem in the first place. It’s frustrating when you know how to do something, but your work doesn’t consistently show that knowledge.

This situation isn’t limited to classroom settings, of course. Inattentive mistakes can show up in the workplace, in organizing your day-to-day life – or in particularly inconvenient settings like job interviews.

And people can always take those mistakes to be representative of your overall competence. When someone makes an inattentive mistake, it’s doesn’t require much effort simply to assume that they don’t know what they’re doing.

But of course, ADHDers are much more than their inattentive mistakes. Being prone to those trivial errors that make you slap your forehead doesn’t mean you don’t have a lot to offer – fortunately, most things that matter are about much more than being able to avoid inattentive mistakes.

Part of having ADHD is probably just accepting that some portion of people are going to judge you for what are in some ways the least significant moments of your life – the seemingly obvious mistakes you make because you aren’t fully paying attention during tedious, repetitive or automatic tasks. However, that means it feels all the better when you surprise people by showing that you aren’t limited by the assumptions they make about you on the basis of your ADHD symptoms!

Image: Flickr/Galvin Sng

Don’t Judge Me by My Inattentive Mistakes

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on psychology, ADHD and education. In addition to ADHD Millennial, he writes about psychology at Psych Central's AllPsych blog and about ADHD at He can be found on Twitter at @ADaptHD_blog

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2020). Don’t Judge Me by My Inattentive Mistakes. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 1 Jul 2020
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