Today I was thinking about celebrating success and how challenging that can be for trauma survivors. This article will explore why celebrating success may be challenging for trauma survivors and why it is important.

Why is celebrating success so challenging?

Personal Safety. For those of us who grew up with a narcissistic parent, anything that took away their attention was unsafe. Some of us had to “dumb it down” so we were not seen as trying to compete with them.

Core Beliefs. Many of us are driven toward success by ghosts in our past that tell us we are not good enough, that we’ll never amount to anything, or that we are insignificant. These voices are so loud and constant that we often cannot enjoy our wins/successes when we experience them. The things we do achieve are not good enough to extinguish the voices driving us toward more.

Minimization. “It’s not a big deal.” Have you ever heard those words coming out of your mouth? This is related to feeling inadequate or not wanting to look proud (because, after all, “pride goes before a fall.”)

Fear. We can be afraid that if we celebrate the little wins, we will take our eyes off the prize and not achieve our big goals. We also might be afraid that others might put down or neutralize our success, so we keep it to ourselves.

Foreboding Joy. Brene Brown talks about this quite a bit. She says foreboding joy is when the feeling of joy is quickly followed by worry and dread. Joy can be a vulnerable emotion for people.

Why is celebrating success important?

It shows progress. The road to healing or success is long and often discouraging. We may feel like we are trudging through the mud and not progressing. This happened to me on more than one occasion and caused great discouragement. During times like that, my therapist is great about reviewing her notes and reminding me of the milestones and breakthroughs we’ve made together. It helps.

It motivates. There is nothing more motivating to me to keep moving forward than celebrating success. It’s like getting to the top of the first hill during a hike and looking back to see what you have achieved. It tells me, “If I made it up that hill, I can make it up the next hill.”

It encourages others. Sometimes those around us struggle to move forward in their journey, and they need to know that the fight is worth it. There is a reason I share the breakthroughs I’ve made in therapy with you…and it’s not to build myself up…it’s to encourage you. If I can do it…you can do it.

It changes our brain chemistry. Celebrating success gives us a dopamine hit, and who wouldn’t want the natural “feel good” drug? It literally sets off chemical changes in our brains that make us feel good.

It gives us the opportunity to show gratitude. Often when we’ve achieved something, there have been people who have helped and supported us. Celebrating our successes allows us to acknowledge the contribution they’ve made to our lives.

It provides momentum. The hardest part of achieving a goal is getting started. When we achieve that first milestone, we start to feel the momentum building, which plunges us forward at a greater pace.

It gives us confidence. So many times, we look at the challenge in front of us and think it is impossible, but when we celebrate our past successes, it gives us the confidence to say, “I did it then; I can do it now.” This happens to me in therapy a lot. There are a lot of obstacles from my past that I have the opportunity to overcome in therapy, but sometimes, they can seem insurmountable. That is when I look through my journal at other obstacles I’ve overcome and remind myself…”You’ve got this!”

Ways to celebrate success

Create a memorial. Whether you write the success in a journal (which is my personal favorite) or create some other visual representation (picture, tattoo, T-shirt, medal), make it something that will remind you of your achievement. Make it visible. Keep it close to you.

Share it with a friend. I personally love it when people share their breakthroughs and wins with me because I get to celebrate them and their accomplishments, and it encourages me. So, share away, my friends, and I will celebrate with you.

Reward yourself. Give yourself a gold star. Didn’t we all love to get gold stars as children? OK, it doesn’t have to be a gold star, but you know what I mean. Do something nice for yourself. Take some time off. Get a massage. I don’t know…fill in the blanks.

Be creative. I would love to hear about the ways you celebrate success. Send me a message or email and let me know.

Celebrating Success — A Case Study

I recently experienced two major accomplishments in my coaching business that I am celebrating today.

Celebration #1. The first accomplishment was getting down to one website. When I first started my coaching business a couple of years ago, I hired a marketing company to help me build my website. They were keen on taking my money (which was a lot when you consider I was not making any money at the time), but they actually did no work on my website. I ended up doing all the work on my website, and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, which is why I hired them in the first place. I was not a happy camper.

I did not get the support I needed and paid for. Has that ever happened to you? Yeah, it doesn’t feel good…so I determined that I was going to “fire” them…only I still needed a website, so I purchased one from Squarespace (carrying the monthly costs for two websites) and started building it. With everything else I had going on in my business, I had precious little time to work on developing a new website, but when I had time, I would chip away at it. It took me over a year to get it done, but this past weekend, I was able to publish my new website and kiss that other company goodbye. It feels so good to get that big monkey off my back.

Celebration #2. My second accomplishment is getting my first course set up and active. I have been working on it for almost two years now because I had to work through many limiting beliefs to make it visible to the world. Whew…talk about imposter syndrome! It has been a growing process that has helped me develop confidence in my work. I am so grateful for all the people who helped me and encouraged me along the way.

It is not perfect, but Jenna Kutcher says, “Done is better than perfect.” Every work has to have a first draft, and I will continue to improve it moving forward.

Reclaiming Your Power for Career Growth is a four-module online course that covers the four pillars that lay the foundation for career growth: Personal Safety, Threat Management, Empowerment, and Boundaries. The course is $49 and comes with a workbook to help deepen your learning.

As always, you do not have to walk this journey alone.

Contact me to schedule your free discovery call.

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