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Leaf Pattern Design

Over Extended Survivor Mode

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

Have you ever caught yourself singing “I’m a survivor!” along with the 2001 smash hit by Destiny’s Child? I definitely have. The reason for the song's great success is its ability to resonate with so many people. It translated the sentiments of individuals throughout the world of having the experience of surviving various tribulations of life. Whether an accident, financial hardship, abuse, divorce, relationship break up, job layoffs, whatever the adversity it can be said, "I overcame." The sure factor of overcoming is what gives us the title of ‘Survivor’.

My question becomes, have you truly overcome that which you’ve survived? Is there still residue you're carrying from the disappointing event that occurred in your life? Many of us have sought therapy to overcome the traumas we’ve experienced. We may have sought out spiritual leaders to walk us through an agonizing situation. Some have turned to a dear friend that can share in the same affliction. Not forgetting those of us who had to lean on our families to give us just the right amount of support. Despite of all the support, you still relied on your survival mentality to maintain self-preservation.

In your attempt to sustain yourself, coping mechanisms were most likely acquired to get through those hard times. However, coping mechanisms are not meant to sustain you. They can actually end up draining you, leaving one exhausted and disconnected from life. As you begin to pull further away from those events of grief, you may find you're still operating in those maladaptive stress responses or coping behaviors. Some may look like this, “I initially took this job to pay a few debts I owed, and I’m still working at this unfulfilling job 6 years later.” Or, “I never really enjoyed our time out together. Nonetheless, I decided to still see him because it helps me get over my ex. He helps fill that space.” Maybe you’ve even said, “I often binge TV and social media to help me get my mind off of things.” One may comeback with, “Well, what’s wrong with that? I did it and I’m just fine.” My reply as a Life Coach who is about forward trajectory, would be to ask the following. Your answers to these questions will convey whether you’re still in Survivor Mode.

  • Are you now where you expected to be 5 years ago?

  • Have you seen any forward progression in your life to the degree you hoped for?

  • Are there areas in your life where you are unfulfilled?

  • What could you allow yourself to put your mind towards?

  • Has this become your normalized way of dealing with difficult situations?

Survivor Mode is the mentality we take on just to get through the day, week, or even through life. They can be mind numbing tactics which allow us to get past a situation without really being aware of what’s existing around us. It causes one to act more impulsively than thoughtfully. These go-to behaviors may have helped you through a tough situation, but they were never meant to be a mainstay in your life. They helped make a tough situation more manageable, but they actually make prominent life goals less achievable.

We all have proven our resiliency many times over, as we have seen ourselves come out on the other side of those devastating events. Yet, many are still holding onto those coping mechanisms in great effort to use them as a way to navigate through life. I want to challenge you to take off your survival lenses. Try thriving lenses instead. You didn’t survive those tough situations to not be able to finally live life and thrive. Thriving is tapping into your full potential. Begin to live out of that potential, past mundanity. As Buzz Lightyear says, “To infinity and beyond!” I invite you to follow me as we delve more into what it means to thrive.


Turmaud, D. R. (2020, June 30). Why survival mode isn’t the best way to live. In Psychology Today. Retrieved from

Young, D. (2020, June 12). Trauma and the brain: signs you might be living in survival mode. In Child Guidance Resource Centers. Retrieved from

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Cheryl Matthews
Cheryl Matthews
Oct 12, 2023

This is definitely a call to action! I‘ve too often mistook the feeling of “coming out on the other side” or “figuring it out” with thriving. But as you put it, unlike thriving, those instances were not a result of me actually to tapping into my full potential. As I am slowly taking off my “survival lenses” I’m realizing that I have to learn how (and what it feels like) to thrive, since I’ve been in survival mode for so long.

Unknown member
Oct 15, 2023
Replying to

@Cheryl Matthews Thank you! Well Said 👏. There is victory in surviving which strengthens your resiliency. However, it is not the final step. The next step is thriving!

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