When I first married my husband, I was very clear about my personal and professional identity, but over time, my life as a military spouse started impacting my career and I started questioning myself. Through all of our moving, I lost sight of who I was and I found myself struggling with what I now realize was an identity crisis. My greatest breakthrough came when I realized that a few fundamental aspects of my military life were causing my crisis.
Check out these three surprisingly simple aspects of military life that may be causing you to question your professional identity:
- We adapt… a lot. When our schedules or our plans are disrupted, we adapt and overcome. However, the unpredictability and inevitable change that comes with a military life can affect our ability to follow through with our desire to be irrefutably dependable and reliable in the way most employers expect and sometimes demand. Our ability to be loyal is also called into question because we are often unable to stay long-term with an employer whom invests in us. I use to consider myself very loyal and highly reliable but the more I adapted, the more I felt my professional identity slip away from me.
- We interact with a lot of different types of people. Military families are mobile. Even if a family stays put for several years, other military families in the community are probably coming and going so the community is constantly in flux. With a community that is constantly changing combined with moving to new locations and interacting with new people from the region, we encounter a wide range of people with different values, interests, goals, and perceptions. Most people outside of the military community don’t understand and can’t relate to my career and life journey. I rarely found other people within the military community who shared professional commonalities with me and I struggled to get understanding and support from those outside of the military community—I started questioning if I was misguided.
- We are mobile. Mobility not only exposes us to lots of different types of people but it also affects our ability to establish a foundation that we can build upon. The world is becoming more interconnected through enhanced communications and online networking but military spouses still struggle to get past the “paying dues” stage. Every move can feel like we are starting over. We have to constantly create new networks and new support systems, build credibility, and develop relationships, all of which take TIME. All of the momentum created before a move feels swept away—mobility can leave use feeling defeated and questioning our worth because we have to constantly prove it to gain access to new opportunities.
Once I realized the tremendous impact each of these had on my professional identity, I realized that my identity was actually very clear!