Characteristics of a Survivor

Ever wonder why some people seem to bounce back from tragic or difficult times while others never seem to recover? We all know individuals who have survived life-threatening illness, loss of a loved one, financial devastation, or all of these tragedies, who continue forward positively with a continued gratitude for life. What characteristics do these people possess, and can you learn to embrace and practice them?

Here are character traits that survivors tend to have in common. Consider how these characteristics describe your approach to life.

Love- Self-love and genuine love of others. Loving oneself and practicing habitual self-care, both emotional and physical, are key to surviving life’s travails. Habits that maintain physical health help survivors manage stress. Emotionally strong people can accept unexpected tragedy without letting it define them or their future. They can also accept their own mistakes, deal with self-disappointment, and move forward without lingering self-incrimination.  Loving and caring for oneself prepares one for genuinely loving others, unconditionally, with empathy. This leads to strong bonds and invaluable supportive relationships.

Adaptability- A combination of curiosity, strategic problem solving, and bravery. When faced with a difficulty, the survivor will be proactive in articulating the problem and set out to strategically find a solution. His or her mind must be curious enough to seek new, innovative answers and brave to enough welcome and embrace resulting change. A person with adaptability will avoid lingering in a depressed state and naturally seek activities and solutions that lead to positive outcomes.

Self-Possession / Self-Awareness – Recognizing, owning, and controlling one’s emotions.  Emotional control, particularly over anger, is key for surviving life’s difficulties with grace. Anger management preserves credibility and maintains the respect of others. Angry outbursts can leave a person feeling self-defeated through loss of control, and seen by others as churlish, inflexible or self-centered. Maintaining calm during stressful times leaves energy and resources for adaptability. Being self-aware means having a sense of one’s place and purpose in life, one’s value to society. A self-aware person follows a path of spiritual teaching, celebrating, and expressing gratitude.

Leadership- Natural ability to draw people together. Leaders find commonality with others and display genuine empathy. They leverage that commonality to create “win-win” scenarios. Leaders have excellent people skills and can communicate successfully with everyone, creating a natural attractiveness. Leadership involves investing in others, believing in them while sharing knowledge and offering support. Leadership also requires good communication skills and command of the language, being able to express oneself in an articulate manner, drawing in and connecting emotionally with other people.

Faith- Faith in oneself, in others and in a greater presence. Faith gives meaning to existence and generates hope. Hope drives motivation to survive and survive well. Hope means believing in possibilities. Vaclav Hovel, former President of the Czech Republic, defines it.  “Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” Believing that there is greater purpose to life, faith, and assurance in good intentions and possibilities is essential to surviving life’s tragedies with a continued will to move forward and embrace a positive future.

Do you know a survivor of tragedy who possesses these traits? Or maybe this describes you, rebuilding your life after great difficulty. Surviving tragedy with a positive outlook and continued gratitude for life calls for a set of strong characteristics: self-love and awareness, value of others, faith, and the ability to communicate with empathy.


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