NovaXyon Entrepreneurial How Overcoming Trauma Can Make You a Higher Chief

How Overcoming Trauma Can Make You a Higher Chief


In “Anthem,” Leonard Cohen sings, “There is a crack, a crack in everything; That’s how the light gets in.” The cult favorite from 1992 is a tribute to the power of imperfection and resilience. With a bit of brokenness, the lyrics imply, comes more magic, more wisdom, more understanding.

Trauma can instill in its survivors the ability to become more capable leaders, better mentors and more trusted friends. But first, it has to be overcome—which, for many, is no easy feat. No matter the trauma or how long ago it occurred, if it’s left unprocessed, it can cause a lot of damage.

Understanding the Psychological Impact of Trauma

Victims of conflict, abuse, medical trauma, war, violence or equally serious situations can develop many psychological and behavioral symptoms. These can include poor decision-making, self-destructive behaviors, difficulty concentrating and lack of motivation, among them. Survivors may also experience panic attacks, sleepless nights and other more physically oriented symptoms.

In some cases, the mental and/or physical symptoms of trauma are severe enough to be classified as PTSD or another mental health disorder. They may require medication or additional medical or psychological interventions. Other cases are milder but can still have serious and lasting consequences for leaders.

Business leaders with unprocessed trauma may eventually find that its emotional effects severely impact their leadership skills. Difficulties with trust, security and emotional regulation can lead to personal conflicts with fellow team members. Impaired decision-making skills, analysis paralysis and resistance to change can lead to poor choices for the business.

Fortunately, there is a way through, with therapy, meditation, or a combination of techniques for psychological healing. The good news is, a lot of people who’ve experienced serious traumas become highly adept problem-solvers. Many even go on to seek justice through important social missions. Leaders who work to overcome their past and their pain may become the strongest ones of all.

Rebuilding Confidence and Self-Esteem

Certain types of traumatic events can drastically lower an individual’s self-esteem in lasting ways. Abuse survivors, in particular, understand how an abuser can slowly, subtly chip away at one’s confidence and self-worth.

An abuser slowly gaslights you into believing you’re inept, incompetent and undeserving. But any trauma can have the same depleting impact on your self-confidence. Over time, you won’t think you’re entitled to much, let alone an important title or the responsibility of leading others. Even if you make it to a high-power position, you still might not believe you can do the job.

This is where the right therapy and tools can empower you to develop stronger confidence than your peers. Using techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy to challenge toxic, negative thoughts can, over time, enable you to cultivate positivity more effectively. Mindfulness meditation can bring your mind to a place of peace—a core state where you trust yourself to make wise decisions.

Most leaders who haven’t suffered trauma haven’t spent this kind of time deconstructing defeatist or pessimistic thoughts. They may not have the tools to work past the kinds of intense feelings and false beliefs that can hold them back from greatness. But trauma survivors have built these skills—along with a sureness that their actions can make a real difference.

Embracing Empathy and Openness

Leaders coping with unprocessed or stored trauma may be closed off with their team members. If they’ve been hurt or taken advantage in the past, they may be wary of people and push them away. They could find themselves micromanaging or making unilateral decisions behind closed office doors instead of getting valuable input from peers and subordinates.

Over time, this kind of isolation can lead to intense burnout and mismanagement. Leaders who can’t delegate or get help from their team end up with too many balls in the air. By attempting to handle everything on their own, they both overwork themselves and breed resentment in the team for their controlling ways.

Along with improved self-esteem and confidence, effectively processed trauma can also bring with it a healthy sense of humility. Leaders who have worked to overcome difficult pasts are likely to have more empathy for their team members. They may also find it easier to open up, be vulnerable and share their true selves with their colleagues.

The ability to cultivate authenticity and trust can create healthier, less toxic teams and workplaces. And leaders and supervisors who understand that life can be hard are more apt to cut their co-workers slack when needed. Communication flows more smoothly when team members feel truly comfortable and accepted when relating to one another.

Strength Through the Storm

Leaders who have worked through trauma and come out stronger are more resilient and adaptable to change and crisis. They’re better able to advocate for themselves and others and push harder for successful outcomes.

Still, the very best leaders know not to confuse trauma survival with perpetual victimhood. It’s not dwelling on your problems that makes you stronger; it’s knowing you have the strength to persevere and change your circumstances.


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