People who overcome difficult childhoods to find success usually have these 6 personality traits

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

When you’ve had a tough childhood, it can feel like a genuine handicap well into your adulthood.

This means that everyone else has a head start in life, while you constantly feel like you’re lagging behind.

It’s as if you’re in a hole, one that is legitimately hard to dig yourself out of.

Yet despite all this, recovering from a less-than-ideal upbringing and finding success in life is always a possibility… if you develop the right qualities.

In this article, I’ll take you through the personality traits of people who have overcome their difficult childhoods and found success. 

Let’s get to it! 

1) Resilience

It takes a special kind of strength and grit to overcome a turbulent past. 

While many might throw in the towel of life and effectively give up because they’re unmotivated to do otherwise, the resilient person has the innate capacity to bounce back from past wounds. 

I’ll be honest: Losing the will to succeed is sometimes the easiest way out. 

We can get so overcome by our past, that the toxicity can paralyze us–and we end up just coasting through the days, settling for mediocrity. 

When you have resilience though, you don’t readily accept this status quo. 

You recover, regroup, and move forward, stronger and wiser each day. 

I’d say that resilience is perhaps the most critical trait when overcoming childhood angst. 

When the going gets tough, the tough (and resilient) get going. 

2) Optimism

Some people are just naturally optimistic, regardless of circumstances. 

Having the ability to see the glass as consistently half full in an often dire world is an absolute asset in this life. 

So even after a rough childhood, when a person makes a regular effort to feel positive, the sky’s the limit for them. 

When you’re defeatist and self-loathing, you tend to give up, before even trying. 

But when you’re optimistic?

Even in the face of hardship, you tend to see well beyond your environment and envision a more hopeful future. 


3) Self-discipline

Like I said earlier, when you’re still carrying baggage from the past, it’s easy to give up. 

It’s like you’re down 30 in a basketball game. 

In your mind, you’re losing big, so you might as well call it a night and conserve energy. 

People with self-discipline don’t often share this sentiment. 

They can collect themselves amidst the storm. 

They remain in control and focused, motivating themselves to stay on track, rather than get swept away in pessimism and defeat. 

Sure, they might feel discouraged when encountering setbacks like most of us do, but this doesn’t stop them from moving forward. 

4) Empathy

When we have lived through trauma in life, the tendency for many is to become bitter and jaded; to become hardened. 

These people get stuck in a loop of negativity and anger–emotions that can only take them so far in life.

People who regularly succeed, however, have a different approach to hardship. 

Rather than be perpetually resentful of the world, their experiences actually increase their capacity for empathy, emotional intelligence, and understanding. 

They don’t stay burnt out. 

They channel their energy towards more fruitful pursuits–like helping others who might be suffering through similar challenges as they once did. 

Being empathetic can also be self-healing, particularly when it comes to childhood issues

For instance, my sister has yet to forgive my dad for being a neglectful, irresponsible father throughout her childhood, despite his regular pleas for reconciliation. 

She’s almost 40 now and still clings to the grudge she’s held against him for decades. 

It’s like a dark cloud is constantly hovering over her, still profoundly affecting her relationships.

If she chose the path of empathy and forgiveness, if she was more tolerant and accepted the fact that people make mistakes, I do not doubt that she would be in a better position emotionally. 

Hopefully, for her own sake, she’ll get there one day.

5) Adaptability

A troubled childhood can stunt one’s growth in many different ways. 

From my experience, many people who have lived through trauma often end up so fragile that they almost always opt to play it safe in life, unconsciously sticking to their comfort zone. 

But sometimes to remove yourself from a difficult situation, emotionally or otherwise, the best option is to bolt and head for a fresh setting. 

To thrive in unknown, novel circumstances takes adaptability, it takes the ability to change and adjust, despite the baggage of the past trying to bring you back down. 

6) Gratitude

People who have overcome a difficult childhood often have a greater perspective and wisdom than most. 

Rather than agonizing and wallowing in self-pity, they recognize and appreciate what they do have in life. 

They don’t sullenly long for what is lacking. 

They know that regardless of what they’ve had to live through, many have it just as bad, if not worse. 

Sure, you might not have grown up with the Brady Bunch, but if your basic needs and essentials in life are regularly met then that alone is something worth celebrating. 

Being grateful and appreciating what you have in life can foster a sense of happiness and fulfillment–non-negotiables for personal success. 

Whenever I feel like life is unfair, I mindfully try to put things into perspective, instead of getting caught up in emotion.

How, you ask? Easy. 

All I need to do is unlock my phone and briefly scroll through social media. 

Within minutes, I’m vigorously reminded of some of the heartbreaking situations many fellow human beings have to endure daily: genocide, starvation, gut-wrenching poverty, illness, etc. 

The world can be a grim place–and a humbling one too. 

Sure, I may not have had the most utopian upbringing, and I shouldn’t discredit that; but at the same time, I could be in, objectively, far worse circumstances. 

Life is precious, we shouldn’t waste all of our days dwelling on spilled milk 

Final words 

I know; it can be tough getting over the past. 

But at some point, if you want to make the most of your life and your potential, you have to start moving on. 

Recognize and appreciate what you’ve been through, but at the same time, take steps forward. 

Take it a day at a time. Celebrate your wins, both big and small. 

With enough commitment and focus, you’ll get to where you want to be, and success will be all but a foregone conclusion. 

You have it in you. You always did. Once you fully realize that, you’ll be unstoppable. 

Clifton Kopp

Welcome to my writings on Hack Spirit! I'm a bit of a "polymath" in that I like writing about many different things. Often I'm learning from the process of writing. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a comment on one of my articles.

9 habits of unsuccessful people who never move forward in life

9 habits of unsuccessful women who never find happiness in life