Did everyone, including yourself think you were an underachiever in school, and maybe in life? Possibly it was something else. You can get a better understanding of yourself by starting with the free assessment test I took --just click here.
As I've been learning about Adult ADHD, several themes have been loud and clear. One of the loudest and clearest messages is that many people with Adult Attention Deficient Hyperactive Disorder were labeled underachievers in school.
I know in my own case it was true. I don't remember exactly when, but around the time teachers started assigning homework, I became an "underachiever."
I clearly remember homework was difficult and boring. I had a particularly tough time with reading assignments in subjects that didn't hold my interest - and I have always been an avid reader. A lot of kids (and adults) don't like to do homework, but I can remember feeling frustrated that I just couldn't concentrate and focus on subjects that didn't interest me. Even when I wanted to do the homework and knew I'd get in trouble with my parents if I didn't do well, I physically could not stick with it. It wasn't long before I stopped fighting the problem.
To clear up one common misconception about people with ADHD, whether children or adults, it wasn't that I couldn't concentrate. My problem was in choosing what I concentrated on. With me, it was all or nothing and that's what I'm hearing from others as their experience as well. I always loved to read, but I craved reading biographies or fiction. Not history, geography, or science. I remember being called into the Superintendent of Schools office when I was a Sophomore in high school and he suggested that I stop reading biographies so much and start reading sports stories -- that didn't happen.
I did very well in school until homework started being part of the routine. Then I started sliding. By junior high school, I began hearing that I was underachieving, and shortly after, that I was an "underachiever."
It didn't take long before I internalized the label. I thought of myself as an underachiever in life, for life. I remember joking about it, as a way to compensate for how bad it felt. My parents were both educators and I was embarrassed and even ashamed to be an underachiever. It wasn't long before I started acting out in junior high school, behavior that continued through college.
I understand ADHD isn't an excuse for any behavior, good or bad, nor is it likely a total explanation. Regarding my underachieving in school, however, I now firmly believe it was a substantial reason why I didn't perform to my ability.
Back in the day, when I was in school -- and I'm talking about the 1950s and 1960s -- ADHD wasn't a thing. I've been told that if I had been born 40 years later my ADHD would have been picked up early on because difficulty completing homework is only one sign of the disorder. I definitely had other behaviors that educators today would likely recognize as warning signs of ADHD.
Others I've heard from and read about in support groups who are now diagnosed with Adult ADHD have similar stories. Many weren't diagnosed until they were in their 50s. As kids, they were told they were underachievers and needed to work harder. But when they didn't perform better, because they just were not able to, they accepted the underachiever label and it became part of their reality and their identity.
So if you've been called an underachiever for most of your life, give it some thought. ADHD and Adult ADHD have nothing to do with intelligence. In fact, when people are called underachievers it's usually because they've already been recognized as pretty bright but they stand out because they're not performing up to their potential.
So who knows, maybe ADHD, or ADD -- Attention Deficit Disorder without the Hyperactivity component, is part of the explanation for many people who are called underachievers. Regardless of your age, it's worth checking out, because it can make a difference. Click here to get the free Adult ADHD assessment test.
We can't change our past. We can, however, change our futures. With new understanding and possibly with the help of effective treatment, we can take on tasks, jobs, careers, schooling, or even just interests that we always assumed would never be right for us.
And best of all, maybe we can finally quit our negative self-talk about being underachievers.
Please comment below and let me know how this post resonated with you. I read all comments.