When Trauma Destroys Confidence- How Do We Rebuild?

After several years of intermittent work and jobs I lost for a multitude of reasons related to my damaged reputation, I have finally re-entered the professional workplace.

I always imagined that building the confidence and trust would be most difficult in the eyes of the employer who finally hired me, but I was wrong.

Instead, because of the trauma of a criminal conviction, the justice process, the bad press, and the destruction of self-worth, my largest challenge has been trusting and believing in me. I have quickly learned that before I can function at the highest level the employer deserves, I need a solid foundation.

During a recent White Collar Support Group meeting with Jeff Grant, the topic was the challenge of finding work. Many of us laid out the strategies we have used to face our story, take ownership, stop beating ourselves up for the past, and approach employers with confidence and self-esteem.

To the person, we stated that we left our conviction and punishment with an “empty tank” of self-worth and perceived value. The topic led us to a deep, long discussion on, how do you rebuild after experiencing professional trauma?

Because it’s a self-reflective group with vast experience in recovery, there were many strategies presented that are applicable to anyone’s story.

The first, and often overlooked, is volunteering. Many of us began by getting out in the community, at the lowest level of positions, to create an impact again. Much of job-related self-worth comes from being a part of something larger than ourselves, while having a peer group, and contributing to a cause. Volunteer work is key to begin the healing process and interact with others in a way that plants the seed of renewed confidence. For me, this came in the form of multiple opportunities available at my church.

For those of us fortunate to progress to our first, post-conviction, paid jobs, it was noted that any level of employment gives one a sense of purpose. The experience of being counted on and needed, starts refilling the tank of self-worth and confidence.

Although the hope for each of us is to return to a professional level job, those are difficult to find for our group. One after another we are turned down in interviews and it wears and beats down on your self-worth. To combat it, we separate our self-esteem form employability and focus on the other value we have to others.

Satisfaction must be gleaned from whatever position is available. Many of us described positive results from jobs that just got us out of the house, engaged and bringing some form of income. But is that enough to prepare for the time an employer finally gives us a second chance in a professional level position?

Because of the post Covid-19 economy, the relative advancement in Fair Chance hiring, and the persistence of job application efforts, more of us will soon be given a chance in a professional level position. As I have began my new role, I can look back and see the importance of the incremental steps I used to rebuild my confidence. Although I thought I was ready to return long ago, the first steps were key in where I am now.

When trauma comes, the largest enemy is eventually going to be yourself. Volunteering and incremental work opportunities are the building blocks for the day you get the professional level job and can look in the mirror and say, “I deserve to be hired and they can trust me, because I have faith in myself”.

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