How Trauma Impacts Our Self-Worth

In a world where a lot of people are talking about trauma, there are few people (and women of color) with a background in psychology, psychiatry, and behavioral neuroscience talking about the impact of trauma on self-worth. 

Dr. Candice Norcott, Ph.D. is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist at the University of Chicago in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience where she is an Assistant Professor, national consultant, and public speaker. Her work encompasses providing trauma-informed, reproductive health services to adolescent girls and young women, researching gender and trauma, and speaking internationally on issues related to trauma, gender, and race. 

Trauma disrupts your ability to trust and have confidence in yourself, discern what’s healthy and what’s unhealthy, and choose well for yourself. As a psychologist, Candice doesn’t have a concrete definition of trauma because trauma isn’t simple. It’s not black and white.

Generally, trauma can be thought of as “events or experiences that can completely overwhelm one’s ability to cope and adjust… Because of that, something that is traumatic to one person may not have any impact or little impact on somebody else, so it allows for diversity in experience.”

Trauma can be confusing and there are many aspects to conceptualizing the impact of it. Oftentimes, it stirs up so much within us that it requires a rebuilding and a rewriting of many of our narratives and belief systems, especially around self-worth. 

Common feelings surrounding trauma include helplessness, hopelessness, vulnerability, and lack of safety. Trauma impacts how we see ourselves and the world. 

After experiencing trauma, how do we accept the world as it is and free up space so that we can move about with agency and freedom again?  

“We don’t construct a fake story but we construct a real story together… When we accept the entirety of who we are and what we’ve experienced, we can see it for what it is and I think that there’s power in that, there’s realness in that,” Candice says. 

We may not be happier after working through trauma, but we do gain useful tools and skills that we didn’t have before. This added strength benefits the way we view ourselves. Owning your growth and what you’ve done to protect and advocate for yourself is very powerful. Oftentimes, people who have experienced trauma internalize feelings of low self-worth and shame and believe that it was their fault, they should have done something different, or that their trauma is a result of them not being worthy of love, respect, etc. 

Candice believes only you can put a value on your worth and your worth doesn’t change when you experience trauma.

Shame, trauma, and negative messages from society are obstacles we must work through on our journey to feeling worthy and safe, especially for women of color. This work is intentional, challenging, and painful, but most of all, this work is powerful and so, so worth it. 

The truth is, you don’t deserve the trauma you’ve experienced in your life. When you turn the corner to your recovery, having a strong foundation of self-worth will help you make healthy decisions, see clearly that you are not deserving of shame and trauma, and that your self-worth is untouchable by others. Candice says that trauma is just a thread of the tapestry that is your life. “How you weave it in is where you have autonomy and is where you have power.” You may feel stuck at times, but you just have to keep weaving.

What narratives have you held onto that aren’t serving you and your healing journey?

How do you want your trauma story to inspire the rest of your life?

Do you need help starting your recovery journey?

Remember, you deserve to recover, to reconnect, and to feel safe. You have everything you need within you to do those things. Talking and connecting is what’s going to encourage those wounds to heal. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us or to somebody you love and trust if you need help on your journey to recovery.

About Dr. Candice Norcott:

Candice Norcott, Ph.D. is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist at the University of Chicago in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience where she is an Assistant Professor, national consultant, and public speaker. A graduate of Brown University and the University of Connecticut, Dr. Norcott completed her pre- and post-doctoral work at Yale University’s Department of Psychiatry where her research focused on gender and trauma.

Dr. Norcott works as an Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago. In this role, her work encompasses providing trauma-informed, reproductive health services to adolescent girls and young women. She is also the Director of Graduate Medical Education Well-Being for the University of Chicago where she brings her trauma-informed approach to resident physician well-being.

Candice speaks internationally on issues related to trauma, gender and race. She was recently featured on the Lifetime docu-series “Surviving R. Kelly” and was a guest on Jada Pinkett Smith’s Red Table Talk as an expert discussing the impact of sexual abuse on girls and young women, and the intersection of race. Throughout her career, Dr. Norcott has been committed to trauma-informed and gender-responsive services for girls and women, minority advancement in psychology, and cultural responsiveness in the health field.

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To connect further with Dr. Candice Norcott:
Follow her on Instagram: www.instagram.com/DrNorcott 
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Connect with her on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/drcandicenorcott 
Subscribe to her YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/channel/UCBllDCbagaDkLFRQSEls9gw 

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