Do Traumatic Childhoods Create High-Achieving Adults?

Some people are grateful for the difficulties they had in early life: “Without them, I wouldn’t have learned to take care of myself.”

Other people feel that they made it out just by pure luck: “I shouldn’t be here, but I am.”

Can traumatic experiences have a silver lining? Or is looking on the bright side just another protective measure that people use to avoid being overwhelmed by their experiences?

I spoke with Amanda Kippert at, a great resource for topics ranging from healthy relationships, gaslighting, and the effects of trauma, to name a few. We spoke about a study of over 400 high-achieving individuals that found that 75% of them had something in common: Childhood trauma. (You can read the full article by clicking here.)

Were these people successful because of their painful experiences, or despite them? What makes some people thrive after trauma, and others shrink?

What often happens, is that the more successful people become, the less worthwhile they feel. Meaning, there is a need to chase achievement (validation, financial success, safety) that never really ends. When you get to one milestone, you’re already setting your sights on the next one.

One important factor is to get the support that you needed. And it’s never too late to start. If you went through something difficult many years ago, you might think your habits are set in stone. But support even later in life can go a long way in undoing the effects of trauma. This can be any type of healing experience, such as building a community or support group, participating in therapy, practicing expressive arts, or cultivating a spiritual practice.

I’ve written previously about how adverse childhood experiences can cause people to feel like the Black Sheep of their family. In your family, that might be a good thing. But it doesn’t mean you’re tied to that narrative.

If you’ve been feeling triggered by messages in the news recently, and are ready to heal from your past traumatic experiences, contact me to set up a free consultation to learn how therapy can help.

Prospect Therapy welcomes individuals and couples of all genders and orientations in Long Beach and Seal Beach. Call (562) 704-4736 or click below to set up your free consultation.