COMMENTARY: Not afraid, thanks to you

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Lillian Miller
  • 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

“Sir, I messed up” was something I said frequently in the early stages of my career. As a person with social anxiety who was petrified of authority, it took a lot of courage to admit to my leadership that I had messed up.

I had great difficulty starting my career and getting my feet on the ground in the first few months. I was not very productive and I didn’t know how to prioritize things properly. I was often given too much advice and it contradicted itself. I was confused and things were beginning to snowball.

I put myself on the same level as those who had been doing this job for years and this made me very frustrated. I was doing my best but it never felt like it was enough.

I went to mental health and worked on coping mechanisms for my overwhelming self doubt. After a few months of therapy, medication and building a social support system, I was released from mental health with a revitalized mind.

Then someone I could confide in arrived and I had an outlet at work that I could go to for anything. Our new superintendent often sought out Airmen who might have something they needed to get off their chest. He made an effort to make sure that we felt supported and gave us a voice.

A new staff sergeant taught me that as long as I master my craft, I could do anything. I could stay in or get out of the Air Force, as long as I put my best into each day. He reminded me why I joined: to learn. I asked him many questions, learning as much as I could while he was here. He introduced me to my passion, graphic design, and I would never be the same.

He reminded me of who I wanted to be and pointed me in the right direction.

My team lead didn’t fully understand what was happening to me or why. He just knew I was going through a lot. He didn’t need me to open up to him about my hardships, but he was just there if I chose to. There was no judgment and he respected me as a person. He was also there to help with all of my questions about work. Some days it felt as if there was too much and I couldn’t seem to get anything right. He helped me focus on each problem individually.

My team lead saw me as a professional and didn’t treat me any different when I was going through a tough time.

Our recent public affairs chief was the epitome of a leader. He trusted us to run our shop the best way we, the Airmen, saw fit. He gave us the space we needed to make mistakes and to grow. I never wanted to let him down and he knew that. He often saw me cry and was consistently supportive and kind.

Our public affairs chief saw us fail, responded professionally and gave us space to grow.

There was only one female non-commissioned officer in our shop. She held me accountable to deadlines and asked me what’s wrong when I failed to meet them. She could snap us in half with the technicalities of our job, but let us know that we were capable of more.

She challenged me to be better and motivated me to try harder.

The office has diminished in numbers as most have moved on to new parts of their lives, which meant we all had more roles to juggle.

With these added jobs, my team saw that I was overwhelmed and redistributed some of my responsibilities temporarily. I was able to focus on more important deadlines. The people who took on my taskers understood I was burning out and managed them wonderfully. In a week or two, I was back at the wheel with a refreshed state of mind.

Because of my incredibly talented and responsible team and leadership, I have been able to fail correctly. I have been counseled in a positive way and I am as strong as my team pushes me to be. I am excessively proud of the team I have grown up with and thanks to them, I will continue to grow. After being molded into a better person, I would encourage everyone to be a supportive, unbiased, thoughtful and motivational individual.