By: Chelsea Dade, Creator & Executive Director, Communicate For Health Justice (CFHJ)
I encountered the concept of “post-traumatic growth” during a webinar last summer. Initially, I paused, puzzled by how these two seemingly contradictory terms could coexist. The words "traumatic" and "growth" felt at odds on the surface. Stick with me as we delve deeper into this intriguing notion.
If you're a Black woman, especially one challenging the system, you've likely endured various forms of trauma. Safeguarding your peace as a Black woman has become increasingly important, given the constant reminders of past traumas alongside new ones. The idea of “post-traumatic growth” caught my attention because, in reality, we do not have the privilege of avoiding trauma. We can only develop internal responses to combat it when it resurfaces. Being someone who seeks purpose in all experiences, the concept of deriving growth from my experiences was worth exploring.
As the term suggests, post-traumatic growth involves recognizing and internalizing personal, spiritual, and emotional growth following traumatic experiences.
Signs of post-traumatic growth may include:
A shift in priorities driven by values
More meaningful relationships
Increased personal strength
A richer existential and spiritual life
Greater appreciation for people, experiences, and life
A positive attitude
Development of new beliefs
(Source: Forbes Health)
Let me be clear: I'm not suggesting that trauma is a positive experience. The purpose of reflecting on post-traumatic growth is to share how I've learned to live with my traumas without letting them define me. However, I must admit that the journey of learning this wasn't easy. To those who come across my article, I want to share a few lessons I've learned while growing from past experiences as an opinionated millennial Black woman navigating this world.
1. Recognize the importance and safety of surrounding myself with people who share similar values. While it might not come naturally, it's essential to distance yourself from those inadvertently causing harm to your authentic self. As Essence CEO Caroline A. Wanga often emphasizes, "If you can't be yourself where you are, change where you are, not who you are."
2. Reinforce your own values; don't depend solely on others to do so.
3. Embrace your unique identity, even if it means leaving behind people who don't align with your growth. Rest assured, you'll encounter others on your journey who contribute to your development.
4. Trust your intuition—it's a reliable guide.
5. Acknowledge where you've played a role in your decisions, and be gentle with yourself as you strive to move forward from that place. As Black women, we tend to be hard on ourselves. However, by "finding your people," as Producer and Actress Issa Rae often advises, you can strategize against inevitable obstacles.
6. Stay true to yourself, remembering that "those who matter don't mind, and those who mind don't matter." – Dr. Seuss
Reflecting on your personal growth, what's the most challenging lesson you've had to learn?
Understanding and accepting that many people dislike what they don't understand, including concepts, ideas, and individuals. We are all multifaceted, defying easy categorization. Consequently, I've had to learn effective communication of my identity and beliefs, tailored to the context and setting.
Have you ever felt like you were losing yourself while navigating through life's growth?
Millennials and Gen Z face significant pressures today, further compounded by misogynoir. Like countless young professionals, I've lost my sense of self amidst the turmoil of a global pandemic and political unrest, all while striving to establish myself. Amidst the barrage of challenges, it becomes challenging to discern what truly resonates. If I were to quantify it, I'd say I've lost my way about 3-5 times. This might involve pursuing a familiar path instead of embracing a challenging one or conforming to public opinion despite my internal convictions. As I approach my thirties, I'm increasingly committed to staying true to a path that aligns with my essence. Remember, the journey of personal growth is a marathon, not a sprint. Furthermore, it's absolutely acceptable to lose yourself on this journey. The pivotal aspect is finding your way back.