Meeting new people for the first time is always interesting to me. Not just because I find people intriguing, but because after the initial introduction one of the first questions most of us are met with is “… so, what do you do?”
For me, answering with my automated response of “I’m a psychologist” is usually met with fascination. Actually, either that or the person runs in the other direction. That being said, it’s not uncommon for us to want to know, first off, what people we meet ‘do’ for a living.
Whether it be at a professional event or socialising at the neighbours BBQ, we’ve all been thrown that question. It’s not only enquired of us, but we automatically attach it to our persona. Our job is attached to our names on our professional social media accounts, but also listed high on the personal info section on a dating profile. What we ‘do’ for a living, is a defining part of our identity, and people seem to want to know about it.
With difficult economic times upon us, many people are finding themselves without an answer to this question. Whether the contract was not renewed, a redundancy was ordered or the phone just stopped ringing. The job, and the role that once took up someone’s day might suddenly not be there anymore.
When we’re young we have a dream of what we want to do with our lives, and by some socially defined default it seemed to involve getting a job and earning money. Little thought went into thinking of the importance of other parts of our life and how crucial they are to our identity. So we firmly focused our minds on our jobs, and when the job disappears, it often takes our self-worth along with it.
And there lies the problem.
Too many people base their self-worth on their jobs & careers. They become their job. Which sets them up for disappointment. Because for whatever reason, that job might not always be there.
Those who place all of their self worth on their work, suffer more than those who don’t, when they lose their job. They are more likely to get depressed and feel that they have less purpose in their lives. Without their job, the overwhelming sense of failure can be all consuming.
A career often helps many people feel worthwhile, and this is positive. But for many people their job isn’t what they do, but rather, it’s who they are.
The same mistake can be seen in others who wrap all of their self worth in other life baskets. Like by how much they earn, their material possessions, what they have achieved, who they know or their status in society. Others mistakenly place it on appearance. All of which can be gone over time, or for some, in an instant.
But life happens in and around our working life. We were someone before we started a particular working role, we are someone whilst we were performing it and we are still someone when it ends. Even when the change was imposed on us, and we weren’t quite ready for it to end.
The way we choose to measure our self worth affects the kind of life you’ll live, and how you will bounce back in times of trouble, or just adapt to changing times.
We need to not overlook the many other parts of our identities. Like how we are someone’s friend, confidante, mentor, teacher, and adviser. We are someone’s child or someone’s sibling. Some of us are mothers or fathers.
Some of us are volunteers, students, musicians, artists and fitness enthusiasts.
We are all something very important outside of our job.
We often lack the confidence in ourselves as well as the awareness of the crucial role we play in the world, the difference we make in peoples lives and the impact we have on the people around us.
All of these roles are as much a part of our identity as our job.
If you focus on who you really are outside of your work, and emphasise that more in your daily life, you’ll experience more of sense of peace with whatever life brings you. If you get promoted, demoted, fired, made redundant or retire from your job, you still remain you.
So the next time someone asks you what you do. Try telling them something other than your job, because after all, you are so much more.