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The Day the Air Force Told Me I Wasn't Worth It

What’s the topic that -- when brought up -- causes your heart to hurt to a depth you didn’t realize was possible? Hurt you thought you’d moved past but feels as fresh as if it just happened yesterday?

It was supposed to be a day of celebration. The Majors promotion list was being published, and I’d find out if the Air Force saw the potential in me to move up. The truth about these lists is that the promotion rate hovers in the low to mid 70% range, so I wasn’t super worried about actually making rank. What I really wanted to know was if I’d get a school slot.

Every major career milestone comes with an opportunity to go to a leadership school -- these are paramount to the development of all military personnel. For my group, this announcement was extra special and nerve-wracking. Not everyone would get to go to this one; they’d only select the top 20%. Being selected meant you had been ceremoniously tapped by senior leaders to be groomed to make Colonel or even General…a 10 year projection, but a definitive nod. Everything I’d been working towards for the last decade would come down to this.

My records looked great. I’d always gotten one of the top stratifications on my annual evaluation - my promotion form was ridded with #1s, #2s, and top 10% consistently. The only time I’d ever received negative feedback from a boss was when I was a young lieutenant and my Mormon boss told me I cursed too much (guilty!) as he slid the #1 stratification across the desk. But still one never really knows if they’re going to get a school slot, and I was definitely anxious for the announcement.

But on that promotion day, I opened my email and discovered that -- although I had been selected to Major -- I had not been picked up for school. I did the only thing I could think to do: I went to Buffalo Wild Wings and proceeded to drink myself into numbness. My then-boyfriend quizzically stared at me double fisting long island ice teas while in uniform and asked, “Um…aren’t we supposed to be celebrating??” I stared back to the sweet, innocent civilian and explained that the Air Force had not deemed me worthy of a school slot which meant I wasn’t being groomed for senior leadership despite my top notch record.

What I didn’t realize was that it had been building for a long time. I had killed myself for over 10 years for this job. Insane hours, multiple stints in the desert, I think I’d spent maybe two Christmases home during that time period. I missed my little sister’s college graduation. But my parents had raised me to be excellent at everything I did just as our heavenly father calls us to excellence. I thought if I worked hard, served others, and stayed humble that things would work themselves out.

The thing about it was, I really didn’t have a problem being in the 21stpercentile. What I had issues with was that no one had told me why. I always made it clear to supervisors, peers, and subordinates alike that I was open to feedback; yet I’d received nothing but glowing remarks from my bosses. I would directly ask for ways I could improve and was told that there was nothing. So I drank myself stupid that night. Looking back, it was a major turning point in my career. There was a new voice in my head that said, “You’re not worth it.” A couple of years later, I obeyed God’s promptings and left active duty to serve others in a different capacity.

So why is this coming up now five years after the fact? God led me to start a business to empower Christian women to overcome their self-doubt, anxiety, and fear so they can live the lives of freedom, joy, and power they know in their BONES God called them to. Eight months into this journey, I am so blown away at what God does in my clients’ lives, and it is beyond humbling getting to not only watch it happen but to be the vessel through which it happens. There’s always a moment during every session where I just marvel at God’s goodness that I get to do this for a living, and I pray that every person gets to experience the feeling of absolutely loving their job and life like I do.

But the sales piece…I always get stuck on sales. I’ll see someone and feel the Holy Spirit nudge me. I know I’m supposed to help them, and it’s all going well until the sales pitch, and I hear that voice in the back of my head: “You’re not worth it.” In exploring this genesis of this idea recently with my own coach, we eventually fell on my painful Air Force memory. I had never gotten my ‘why’ and knew I never would. So where was the opportunity in the midst of this pain?

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” - Psalm 28:7

The truth is that if I’d gotten that school slot, my life would look much different today. I would’ve felt the short term elation of having the favor of the Air Force gods, but my long term would’ve involved at least another decade of an unsustainable work ethic. A sweet neuropsychologist friend got the courage one day to tell me that, when she met with her patients suffering from PTSD and traumatic brain injury, she saw me. People who sacrificed their bodies and mental health for their country and walked away with a chest full of medals but empty souls. I knew she was right.

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.” Gal 6:1a.

I would’ve had to go to Montgomery, Alabama again for that school I so desperately wanted (no thanks). I would’ve continued to ignore God’s command to rest. I wouldn’t have been released from the slavery of workaholism. I would never have entered the land of professional and personal milk and honey that God had waiting for me. As I gave myself permission to feel it all, I could hear God’s whisper -- “Alani, you are the #1 best and most qualified in the work I really created you to do.”

The world may say you’re not worth it either, but rest assured sister that you ARE.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” - Psalm 139:13-14

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” - Josh 1:9

Have you hit a wall in your life? Has God called you to do something that seems beyond scary and you have no idea how to get there? Do you know in your head that God is all-powerful and can move in your life but have a hard time getting your heart to follow suit? Do you feel frustrated that you aren’t where you’d thought you’d be by now? Book your FREE discovery call at www.mightysparrowcoaching.youcanbook.meto see if coaching is a good fit for you.

And rest assured that with God at your side, you are enough.

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