5 Things I Shared with Graduates Who Grew Up Facing Adversity in Childhood

Last week, I had a chance to speak with young men and women who just graduated; some from high school and some from college. They all had one thing in common — they grew up facing adversity in their childhood homes. They also shared one other common bond — they were not aware of, nor were they using, the unique gifts that experience left behind.

As the class of 2015 takes their next step in life — whether going to college, beginning their professional careers, or taking another path — I want to share with you what I shared with them.

Adversity faced in childhood is VERY different than adversity faced in adulthood

It’s extremely difficult AS AN ADULT to experience adversities in life such as physical abuse, sexual or emotional abuse, neglect, to have someone you love struggle with mental illness or addiction, lose someone to incarceration or divorce, or live with domestic violence. If it’s difficult as an adult, can you imagine how much more difficult it is for A CHILD?

As a child, you only have a child’s brain that hasn’t been fully formed. You have few life experiences to draw from, only a partial education, no real rights or freedoms and no financial means to escape the situation. You’re a child who was raised without having your basic needs met: to feel secure, important and loved. Adversity faced in childhood is VERY different than adversity faced in adulthood.

Most who experience adversity in childhood experience more than one

I shared in a previous blog the results of a study that showed of those in a sample group of 17,000 people, half had experienced at least one type of adverse childhood experience. And of those who experienced one, 90 percent experienced at least two types. So, it’s important to become aware because the more adversities you experienced, the greater the impact.

As you try to find one cause or reason why your life isn’t where you want it to be, it’s important to ask yourself the overarching question: Did I experience adversity in my childhood home?

Your brain was wired with a series of negative beliefs — beliefs that you can and must unlearn

Adversity faced in your childhood home encodes a series of negative beliefs in your developing brain. These negative beliefs, or lies, can often lead to harmful behaviors, challenges in your relationships, difficulties controlling your emotions, and problems with your physical and emotional health. The way the brain works, it seeks to find evidence for what it believes is true… whether true or not.

It’s not as simple as just “getting over it.“ But you can and must unlearn the lies and replace them with the truths

Being aware of these adversities and sharing your thoughts is the first step towards tapping into the unique gifts you possess

Once you’re aware of and understand the adversities you faced in your childhood home, sharing your story will not only help you transform the meaning of your experiences, but also realize and apply the unique strengths you have gained. Opening up and trusting someone with your story, while not always easy, can help free you from the lies you learned growing up with adversities.

After overcoming this obstacle in childhood, there are few obstacles you will face as an adult that will compare

The challenges you face as an adult pale in comparison to the adversities you experienced in childhood. You’re a stronger and more resilient person because of these experiences. When I think of this, I’m always reminded of what I was told by a 16-year-old whom I featured in my book INVINCIBLE: The 10 Lies You Learn Growing Up With Domestic Violence and the Truths to Set You Free.

“Because of the adversity I faced in childhood, there is nothing I can’t do!”

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