5 Reasons Why Your Career Does Not Define Your Identity
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always associated my self-worth in conjunction with my job. Whether it was because of how our society views certain positions or because of my pride, I made sure to work hard enough to get a job that I (and my mom) would be proud to identify with. To say “I work for [employer]…” or “I am a [job title]…” made my heart fill with excitement. So when I finally accepted my dream position that was far from the involvement of serving tables, I felt like I earned the right to let those words slip off my tongue to show the world that I did, I made it. But even when my dream scenario came to fruition, I eventually realized that I was no longer in love with the job, which thus resulted in a life-changing moment.
I was eventually let go from the company that I was only holding onto because of its status. While I felt burnt out and lacked the enthusiasm to work for them, I didn’t listen to my gut and decided to hold onto the position because I loved how I felt accepted by others when I’d mention my position in conversations. It was an addiction I wasn’t willing to let go. I felt like my identity was closely tied to this job, and if I’d lose it, then I was a nobody and I would have no proof of all my hard work. However, when I was let go, a new high took over: relief. While one part of me wanted to hold on to something that wasn’t making me happy for prideful reasons, a weight was lifted off my shoulders because I was finally following my truth.
For most people, this experience would tear them apart: if they’re let go from a job, it means they’re incompetent and their self-worth has taken a nosedive into the pools of hell (yes, I’m being dramatic). However, while it did hurt a little to receive the news, I was more hurt that I didn’t initially follow my heart and, instead, allowed someone else to control my fate. I soon realized that my self-worth isn’t defined by a nice-sounding job, it’s defined by my values, my truth, and what happens beyond the typical nine-to-five timeframe. Yes, it was nice to be associated with a well-known company and, not going to lie, sometimes I miss that “accepted” feeling. But deep down I know that my career doesn’t define my identity, because the only approval I need is my own.
If you can relate to any of this, here are five reasons why you shouldn’t define yourself by your career or job — because, honestly, your self-love is totally worth way more than that paycheck or job title.
1. Because having a well-known job isn’t your only success.
Working for a renowned company does look good on your resume, but it’s not the only thing that you should consider to be successful. Success can be rarely measured by someone’s job or wealth. The true definition of success derives from the ability to do something that you truly love, to be able to care for others, to overcome your greatest fears, or to find blissful happiness. One person’s definition of success could look completely different than someone else’s. And that’s totally okay. Because in the end, you should always aim to be yourself and not replicate what you believe to be considered successful just because of someone else’s journey.
2. Because your truths and values are the only things you should be defined by.
Wouldn’t it be lovely to not be judged based on your profession? Immediately when we meet someone new, we want to know their name and what they do for a living. Why? Isn’t there another way to define a person? Yes, it’s great to know what they’re passionate about, but shouldn’t we just ask them that upfront?
Your identity should be defined by what you love, what you dream of, what you value, and who you cherish. Think about it: Your true friends and family don’t care about what kind of job you have or how much you make. All they care about is your happiness. Treat yourself as you would want your friends to treat you, because you should value your happiness before any job, paycheck, or boss. Period.
3. Because most jobs are a temporary state and can change at any moment.
While life is known to be filled with uncertainty, most of us believe we have complete control over our circumstances. Today you may identify yourself as a hardworking architect, but four years from now, you may want to be a dairy farmer, milking cows for a living. You just never know what kind of experiences you may go through and how they’ll change you. Essentially, nothing is permanent. Life is full of surprises, and there are more things that make an impact in your life than your career.
4. Because this is something you do and not something you are.
Whether you work as a cashier for a store or as an illustrator for an advertising company, these are things you do — they don’t define you as a person. There are plenty of ways to identify yourself, especially if you’re not in love with your job. For instance, in addition to your career, you could also be known as a mother, a lover of puppies, a video game enthusiast — anything you admire or hold value to is a part of you and your identity. At the end of the day, you should be known for the things you love to do and be, not for the type of positions you’ve held.
5. Because other people won’t remember you by the job you have, but by how you make them feel.
How you decide to treat others and express yourself is glued to your identity way more than your jobs ever will be. When other people talk or think about you, the thought of your career might come up, but your personality and character will resonate with them more. You’re on this earth for so many other reasons aside from having a job. Maybe you’re meant to help someone else through their own journey, or to make a difference in your town and inspire others to do the same. You’re doing yourself an injustice if you only identify yourself by your career. Try to open your world and help others to do the same. The more we realize we’re more than our jobs, the happier we all may be.