How we view ourselves (self-esteem) and those around us (esteem for others) impacts our emotional well-being, the choices we make in life, and how we interact with others. Esteem has two parts: the identities and characteristics we assign to ourselves (or others) and how we feel about those identities. Exploring these different parts of ourselves can help us identify our priorities, our strengths, and areas we would like to improve.
Continuing the Conversation
Continue thinking about topics raised in your local WoVeN group, or join a discussion with other women Veterans through our community discussion forum.
- What are the top one or two identities you would use to describe yourself right now (e.g., Veteran, employee, mother, friend, volunteer, etc.)? How has that changed over your life? What has caused your identities to shift over time?
- What identity do you want to develop further? What do you want to bring more to the foreground? Why is that important to you?
- Do you ever find yourself dismissing peoples’ positive attention? Why do you think we can be so quick to dismiss others’ positive attention? How might you better accept others’ compliments?
- How often do you tell people when they have done something that has made a positive impression on you? Why are we sometimes hesitant to do this? What are the risks? What are the benefits?
- How strongly do you identify as a woman Veteran? How did you come to that place? What are the benefits of a strong Veteran identity? What is difficult or challenging about it?
Dive deeper into this theme with these self help tools.
Cool Stuff We Found
Check out these recent articles, podcasts, and book recommendations handpicked by the WoVeN team.
- Meet the Women Fighting on the Front Lines of an American War
This TED talk focuses on a group of women service members who changed the way the military – and the country – looks at women in service.
- Invisibilia: True You
An interesting podcast about dealing with aspects of our identity that don’t fit with how we view ourselves.
WoVeN Book Recommendations: Our negative perceptions of ourselves can lead to negative emotions and get in the way of meeting our goals. These books use demonstrated techniques to help you better accept your body, reduce perfectionist tendencies, and be more compassionate with yourself.
- “The Body Image Workbook: An Eight-Step Program for Learning to Like Your Looks” by Thomas Cash
- “When Perfect Isn’t Good Enough: Strategies for Coping with Perfectionism” by Martin Antony & Richard Swinson
- “The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions” by Christopher Germer
What the Science Says
Learn about important research that relates to the lives of women Veterans.
How do women Veterans feel about their Veteran identity?
Although women comprise an ever-increasing percentage of service members and Veterans, little is known about women’s Veteran identity. This study sought to examine factors associated with different aspects of women’s Veteran identity, and the relationship between women’s Veterans identity and their use of VA health services.
- 407 female women Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan completed a mailed survey.
- Overall, women Veterans reported strong, positive connections to their Veteran identity.
- Older participants and those who spent more time in the service were more likely to feel positively about their Veteran identity.
- Those with PTSD or depression viewed their Veteran status as more central to their self-concept, but were less likely to have a positive view of their Veteran identity.
- Participants were more likely to use VA health services and feel a greater sense of belonging at the VA if their Veteran identity was central to their self-conceptualization.
Understanding and addressing women’s Veteran identities is important in encouraging women to take advantage of the benefits available to them (such as VA Healthcare) and may be important in treating PTSD and other mental health conditions resulting from military service.
Di Leone, B. A., Wang, J. M., Kressin, N., & Vogt, D. (2016). Women’s veteran identity and utilization of VA health services. Psychological Services, 13, 60 – 68.
How does identify impact readjustment after combat deployments?
The purpose of this study was to examine issues of identity that arise during Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans’ reintegration to civilian life. Researchers analyzed writing samples from 100 Veterans who participated in a larger study examining the effectiveness of expressive writing in helping Veterans with difficult reintegrations.
- About two-thirds of Veterans wrote about identity adjustment during their expressive writing sessions.
- Researchers identified five areas of identity adjustment difficulty:
- Feeling like one does not belong in civilian society
- Missing the military’s culture and structured lifestyle
- Holding negative views of civilian society
- Feeling left behind compared to civilian counterparts due to military service
- Having difficulty finding meaning in the civilian world.
- Women and men reported the same types of identity adjustment difficulties.
Identity adjustment is a critical part of Veterans’ reintegration into community life following a combat deployment.
Reintegration programs should address the changes in roles and sense of identity that individuals may face when they leave the military, with a specific focus on beliefs about the differences between military and civilian contexts.
Orazem, R. J., Frazier, P. A., Schnurr, P. P., Oleson, H. E., Carlson, K. F., Litz, B. T., & Sayer, N. A. (2017). Identity adjustment among Afghanistan and Iraq War Veterans with reintegration difficulty. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 9, 4-11.
Find More Info
Follow these links to find additional information about related topic areas.
A physical injury can challenge your self-image and your self-esteem. This fact sheet discusses strategies for adjusting after injury.
Serving the community is an important part of many Veterans’ self-identities – over 90% of Veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have said they want to serve their community. You can find information about volunteering with WoVeN by becoming a peer leader here.
Team Rubicon and Mission Continues are well-known organizations that help Veterans put their skills to use in their communities and around the world:
Or find another volunteer opportunity in your community at: www.volunteermatch.org