How’d She Turn Out So Well: Success Despite Hardships


Have you ever wondered how a person achieves success despite growing up in rough conditions?  This idea has completely astounded me for about 8 years now.  You run across someone who may have been abused, not had a mother, had a bad home life, had addiction in their family, dropped out of high school or even had a child at a very young age…and yet despite those stressful things – they have overcome them and achieved a very successful life.  Now, some people define success differently, but I say success is getting to where you want to be in life.  It doesn’t have to mean you’re filthy rich – maybe it  means you’ve gotten an education, raised a great family or gotten that cool job you always wanted.  More than just success, it seems like these people are even comfortable with sharing their hard times with others.  The point is that somehow, despite bad circumstances and stressors in their childhood and adolescence, they made good choices that brought them where they are.

Some research tells us that intelligence, attractiveness, personality and personal qualities can lead to success and better outcomes despite a rough upbringing.  Other research suggests that it’s your environment, your parents, grandparents and other role models that provide the outlet for successful development in light of difficult stressors.  Even further, and perhaps the most interesting research tells us that our relationships – both friendships and love relationships can help us cope with our hardships.  Best friendships and long term supportive partnerships provide the comfort and outlet for sharing that has been shown to help people become more adjusted despite their past or current circumstances.

So what do you say it is?  Is it inner strength?  Relationships? Intelligence?  What gets people to the point that they can overcome rough life circumstances?

I’ll leave you with a great example…but before I tell her name – I’ll describe her upbringing so you can make your own premature judgment of what she became:  This girl was born in small town Mississippi…with a weird name.  She was sexually molested as a child, her parents divorced before she was 6, she lived with her grandmother for 5 years, lived with  her mom only for 2 and later moved in with her very overbearing Dad.  She did drugs as a teenager and gave birth to a baby prematurely.

I know…you’re thinking – dang…this girl must be screwed up?  Who is she…did she live?  Or, if she did live…she’s still on drugs.  People, I’m talking about the only Billionaire woman in America – Oprah Winfrey?!

So how did she do it….how do “they” do it…how do you do it?  I’ll contest that Oprah’s key relationships – both with her best friend Gayle King…and her life partnership with Stedman have helped her to get to where she is.  Don’t get me wrong – those aren’t the only things that got her to where she is…certainly hard work, determination and personality helped, but those relationships most likely supported her in being able to see past the adversity to what she could become.

Charlsey Mahle

Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative


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