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The Stories We Tell Ourselves – How Stigma Feels

Published on
November 04, 2021

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. DeDe Halfhill helps listeners access the work of Dr. Brene Brown from the lens of a military service member or spouse. One way she does this is by talking about the importance of writing (and owning) our own narrative.

“I think the first thing we have to do is we have to get really comfortable with identifying it, right? Not just brushing those shame experiences, those shame feelings, that feeling of stigma under the rug. We have to start bringing it into the light.” – Retired U.S. Air Force Col. DeDe Halfhill

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Writing our own Narrative

Whether we know it or not, we write our own narratives every day. If we feel self-conscious about our military-connected status it can significantly hold us back. If we believe school officials are out to get our children we may not be as effective at advocacy. Here is an example:

Negative Narrative

You want your child to receive a free and appropriate public education. You know that you will leave in two to three years. You remember how hard it was to get services for your child at your last school and how the military office you called couldn’t help. You feel overwhelmed and feel like giving up. So you take what you get or you brace for battle.

Positive Narrative

This school is a fresh start. Educators get into this field to help our kiddos. They just don’t know us yet, but I’m used to jumping into new situations. I may not have a degree in education, but I’m an expert on the needs of my child. I have legal protections I can rely upon. I did my research and am ready to take my seat at the table to advocate for my child.

While writing your own narrative will not erase negative experiences, it is essential to setting the stage for productive conversation. Ultimately learning more about how stigma feels will help uncover the stigma we have allowed to fester in our hearts.

More from the Episode

About Our Guest

Ret. Air Force Col. DeDe Halfhill

A retired colonel, who is described by bestselling author Dr. Brené Brown as a leadership hero and “a total badass,” talks about her work as a military leader and “Dare to Lead” facilitator, sharing examples of how she has helped people identify emotions and combat feelings of shame and stigma.

Retired U.S. Air Force Col. DeDe Halfhill brings her real-world perspective on leadership based on her accomplished 25-year career. During her time with the Air Force, DeDe became a trusted advisor to some of our highest-ranking military leaders, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense. Deployed twice during the Iraq war, DeDe has had first-hand experience as a leader and advisor when dealing with the most difficult circumstances, often when lives were at risk, and when there were no easy answers. She understands leadership, not just from studying it, but by actually living it. DeDe realized that despite cultural norms taught and embraced by the military, traditional leadership lacked the skills to navigate the often-overlooked area of emotions, like empathy and shame, which prevented leaders from having the difficult conversations that promoted organizational connection versus severing it. Whether it’s wholehearted discussions regarding mental health, racial injustice or gender inequality, DeDe believes these painful topics can be more effectively addressed by stepping into the arena of vulnerability, which is the path to true courage. DeDe became a certified “Dare to Lead” facilitator in 2019, and is also a senior executive coach certified through Georgetown University’s Executive Leadership Coaching Program.

Our Sponsor

The Modern Military Association of America (MMAA) is the nation’s largest and oldest non-profit organization for LGBTQIA+ service members, military spouses/partners, veterans, caregivers, and allies. Find out more at www.ModernMilitary.org

This episode has been sponsored by MMAA

Want to Share Your Disruptive Story?

Disruptive Storytelling with Military Changemakers is a bi-weekly podcast presented by Partners in PROMISE, a nonprofit dedicated to Protecting the Rights Of Military children In Special Education (P.R.O.M.I.S.E.). This season of the podcast is sponsored by the Modern Military Association of America with music by Stephen McDonough.

Want to sponsor a future episode? Email: info@thepromiseact.org

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