The Breakup: Career + Identity
Like many others, I am one of those people who likes to be goo d at everything, even things that I simply “try.” Yes, it’s a bit unrealistic seeing as how people are rarely good at anything they’ve only just tried. It’s the perfectionist in me—to be a great performer.
Many of us have high standards for just about anything, especially things that we give time and attention to. In most cases, this has benefited us. It’s been the reason we’ve been president of student organizations, bought the cars of our dreams, been successful in amazing jobs, and made lifestyle advances in other areas that make us feel “we’ve made it.” Yet, lines may become blurred between our identity and what we know to be success.
With desires to perform well and get favored results, we may get caught up in ourselves and become lost. All of a sudden, who we are rises and falls , depending on our successes and failures. At what point should we stop allowing our performance to define who we are?
If you’re anything like me, the time is now. It’s time to breakup our identities from our career performances.
Some people may say, “You are what you do.” Well, what we do matters, but it does not have to sum up who we are as people, and who we can become. It doesn’t have to be the determining factor of how we live our lives. If our lives become centered around career-driven results entirely, we will never stop striving.
Not too long ago, I lost a job. I thought I was “killing it” (slang: doing great) in my position! But, I was terminated before my one-year anniversary. I combed through every detail, obsessing over what I could have done wrong to have cost me my job or what others did or did not do to help sav e it. Easily, I could blame someone else or say, “I just did not do ____ enough.” In this situation, I realized that my security and identity had become directly tied to how I handled the termination. I no longer saw myself as efficient, smart and goal-crushing. In that moment, I felt like a failure. The job did not turn out as I had planned, I had trouble accepting myself or being proud of the person I’d become.
You see, we all may have minimized our value for a moment of bad performance, or good. How many times have we actually let this happen?
Since then, I’ve learned that I can care about my work and what I do, while also maintaining some self-care. Career-driven results can add value without defining me, and failures are only lessons—not who I am as a person.
As 2018 carries on, examine yourself. We can sharpen our awareness of how we associate our identity with our work. When we do this, our lives become more about who we actually are more than what job we have. Words like, “improve this” are different than “you are this.” We should just do our very best and let that be enough. We can’t afford to continue allowing our successes and failures to be our finish lines.
Try not to get so lost in what you do or what is ahead that you lose who you are in the process. I am learning this every day. Right now, I encourage you to free yourself from career-driven stress that gives voice to who you are. It only does so, if you allow it.