Finding Self: How to Separate Your Identity from Your Career
Have you ever found yourself thinking of or describing yourself by what you do, rather than who you are?
There’s no denying that we live in a hustle culture, a society that tends to value its citizens by what they produce and bring in monetarily, over who they are as an individual. This fact alone can make it hard to separate your self-identity from your job.
In fact, the question, “What do you do?” is often one of the first things we inquire about when meeting someone new, almost as though what they do can help explain who they are. And while you can certainly glean some information from the answer, it just goes to show that we tend to feel defined by our career path rather than our beliefs, hobbies, and ideas.
And during a time when many people have lost their jobs, it can make finding and accepting your self-identity feel like even more of a foreign concept when not paired explicitly with your career. That’s why we’re here to take a deeper look into these preconceived notions and explore ways to separate who you are from what you do.
Why We Connect Career & Identity
In an article titled, “Workism Is Making Americans Miserable,” writer Derek Thompson explains that workism is “the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production, but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose, and the belief that any policy to promote human welfare must always encourage more work.”
While we currently live in a culture that seems to celebrate this notion, it was not always the ideal. In fact, in 1957, a New York Times article claimed that the increase of automated jobs would give people more time to participate in activities they loved, and therefore cause a shift towards identifying with hobbies rather than career. However, when asked the question, “What do you do?” one is most likely to answer with their job title rather than their favorite pastimes.
We live under the impression that great work requires sacrifice – the sacrifice, in this case, being our personal identity.
The Problem with Combining Career & Identity
Even if you’re proud of the work that you do, lumping your career into the category of self-identity can pose many problems. The first of which is that people sometimes get laid off for seemingly no reason, especially during times of economic turmoil. If your identity is heavily entwined with your career, losing your job can feel like you’ve lost a part of yourself. Many people may be struggling with these feelings right now, as the economy has seen challenges and struggles in the past months.
If you don’t find a way to establish a sense of self-identity outside of your job, you may struggle with deeper, more intense emotions when confronted with the idea of losing that job. And you might be the best employee in the entire world, but things sometimes happen that seem to rip the rug out from under us.
When you have a strong sense of self-identity outside of work, it’s easier to deal with any unforeseen circumstances.
How to Build an Identity Outside of Work
Make Time for Your Favorite Hobbies
Now that you’ve begun connecting mentally to the hobbies you love through affirmations, it’s time to indulge in them. You may not know what you like, and that’s okay. This is a perfect time to experiment with new hobbies and find what makes you happy.
Is there an old hobby you want to pick up? Do it! A new hobby you’ve always wanted to try? Try it! Not sure if you would like it at all but are curious? Today is the day to start!
Make time outside of work to enjoy your favorite activities, whether you like coloring or singing or drawing or running. This is the time to reconnect to you now that you are outside of your career.
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While positive affirmations can’t solve every problem in the world, they are excellent for beginning to “rebrand” yourself in a sense – shifting your personality from one that is heavily linked to a certain job or career into one that recognizes its talents outside of that job.
Start by making a list of the traits that you identify with, like creative, talented, curious, smart, reasonable, analytical, and compassionate. Visualize the identity you want to have and try to find the existing traits that fit into that visualization. Then make a list of the things you love to do outside of work, like drawing, writing, painting, learning about cars, coloring, or dancing.
When you begin to feel more connected to these dynamic parts of yourself, start creating affirmations that you can repeat to yourself throughout the day. Get creative and write down any phrase or mantra that makes you feel good. Here are a few ideas:
- I am someone who enjoys creative self-expression.
- I am a smart, talented individual.
- I care about the people around me.
- I am someone who wants to make the world a better place.
- I enjoy deep, intimate conversations with others.
- I like spending my free time reading a good book.
- I love challenging myself mentally with video games and puzzles.
It doesn’t matter what you choose to write, as long as it’s positive. This is about acknowledging each and every aspect of your personality that exists outside of work. Focus on things that you’re proud of, accomplishments you’ve made outside of the office, and the pastimes you most enjoy.
Any and all self-care practices are your best friend when you’re trying to rebuild your self-identity. It can be extremely difficult to focus on your positive traits when your nerves are shot and your body is worn down. Activities that bring more balance to the body and the mind will set you up for success in locating a self-identity outside of work.
Yoga is an excellent way to relax the body, helping you feel emotionally and physically flexible. Meditation is a practice that brings peace and clarity to the mind, allowing you to focus on positive traits that you adore about yourself. And balancing the chakras is always an excellent way to raise your vibrations and help you feel more confident.
Whatever celebrating yourself means to you, it’s time to do it. There is nothing that opens the doors of opportunity and abundance in the Universe more directly that celebrating who you are and your accomplishments. Write about what makes you proud of yourself in a new journal. Pour yourself a glass of wine if that’s what brings you joy. Make time for a movie night, complete with popcorn and pajamas.
You’ve accomplished many things, and likely in the face of great challenges. Take a big step towards a healthy self-identity by acknowledging those acts of kindness and bravery that you’ve brought into the Universe.
While your career may bring you a certain feeling of joy and pride, it will never fully tell the story of who you are.
Related Article: Is Your Career is Hurting Your Mental Health? Here’s What to Do Next