Are you tying your sense of self and identity to your work?
How often when we meet someone for the first time do we ask, ‘so what do you do?’
Perhaps it’s become our default habitual response? A way of greeting one another to find common ground to connect on? In times where there is no obvious ‘class system’, a job can define a person. Even if we’re not aware at a conscious level, we make various assumptions about that person based on their reply, and they make various assumptions about us.
In today’s world with the blurring of work-home boundaries, and the constant 24/7 nature of many businesses, it’s easy to define your own sense of self with the job that you do. Your sense of self becomes dependent on how well you perform at work, and moves away from who you are within.
It’s easy to lose our balance
When we connect our sense of self with the job that we do, even minor disagreements or stressful periods can throw us off balance. We take it personally. You didn’t get the promotion, the client didn’t sign the new deal, you made an error somewhere…. And we can crumble inside. It knocks our confidence, we question if we’re ‘good enough’, we worry that we’re lacking in some way.
Long working hours, not switching off when you get home, and a drive for perfectionism are all ways we tie ourselves emotionally to our work. If you stripped away your own job title and the work you do, how would you define yourself? Who are you without your job? In a survey of 12,000 respondents by Wallace Inmen in the Globe and Mail, 30% reported that their personal identities are defined by their career. It’s little wonder therefore that when people we know lose their jobs, they can feel totally adrift, without purpose and depressed.
3 ways connect back to yourself
So how can we move away from defining ourselves by our career and our work achievements, to connecting back within?
1. Redefine who you really are. Sit with a journal and start exploring who you are. What do you value? What strengths do you have? How would your best friend describe you? Better yet, ask those around you. A beautiful exercise is to ask 3 people you love and trust to list 5 words they would use to describe you.
2. Redefine your work boundaries. Explore ways you can take a step back. For example, set expectations on when you will and won’t respond to emails after hours, or start a new hobby and schedule after the working day so you won’t be tempted to stay back late.
3. Reconnect with those around you. Building strong social connections satisfies the deep part of what makes us human. We’re by nature social animals, and strengthening the connection we have with our friends and family can help provide deeper meaning in our lives and bring our sense of identity back inside of us.
Life is always filled with ups and downs, and whilst we cannot change what comes our way, we can change our thoughts and behaviors to it. By reconnecting back to who you are, and not what you do, you are growing a strong foundation to weather any storm that passes. And the next time you meet someone new, why not ask them, ‘so what do you like to do?’
Jayne Corner is the founder of The Empowered Woman. Combining Wellness Coaching and Clinical Hypnotherapy, Jayne helps women manage their stress and get unstuck from unhealthy habits and negative thinking. With a background in the fast-paced world of advertising, she now bridges the gap for her clients between the corporate world and a more holistic approach to life.