It’s easy for us to intertwine our self-worth with our jobs. After all, we spend so much time and energy devoted to our work. After a while, it might feel like our personality and sense of self are dissolving in our work personality.
How do you create an identity outside of your job? Start to explore the identity you desire to have and the core values that shape who you are. Then, reclaim work as a way to experiment and practice that identify as you continue to discover it. Your identity will be created through practice and patience.
I’m a worker. Any work I find myself in, I dive deep. Often, too deep. I consume myself with work and it can be difficult to turn down my work personality to find a softer, more vulnerable self hidden beneath my professional exterior I’ve work so hard to develop.
Through practice and patience, we can explore more of who we are: dimensional and complex people in search of something greater within our lives. Let’s explore!
What’s The Identity You Want To Have?
First, what is the identity you want to have? You know that you have the ability to create and develop yourself and your identity.
Often, the biggest struggle I face is that I desperately want to change aspects of my life, but I never define exactly what that looks like.
For us to change, we can just wish for change to occur. We have to develop a clear goal and a remarkable, insatiable desire for the reality to be created.
I remember in church it was always admirable to ask God to develop a character quality within you. So, I’d pray my “God would you help me become more helpful” prayer so people could see how pious I was.
What I eventually started to realize is that request is stupid. It’s like asking “are we there yet” while still sitting in the drive way. I had to change my perspective and begin asking God/Source/The Divine, “would you create opportunities for me to become more helpful”.
There it is.
We have to cast the vision of the goal we have and be will to see the steps through. No longer should the wish be for the goal. The wish should be for every opportunity of work that creates the goal.
So, first, what’s the identity you want to have? Are you looking to be more patient? Sensitive? Have more leadership?
Start to visualize the picture of the identity you’re working to develop. And write it down. Dwell on that image. If we don’t have a goal in mind we’re aimless and wandering. And then we begin to wonder why our life isn’t shaping out exactly like we had hoped.
Your Two Selves, Work and Personal
“Most social scientists would agree that major features of the physical and social environment affect the behavior of inhabitants. These environmental characteristics mediate not only the behavior of individuals but the behavior of subcultures and societies over long time periods”Career Choice And Development
Our environment shapes a large portion of who we are. Beyond the nature vs nurture debate, day-to-day environments stimulate different aspects of our personality based on our past experiences with related stimuli.
Work brings out different elements of who we are than home does. A different set of skills is required and expectations aren’t the same.
Almost all of us have at least two versions of our “identity”. Our work self and our personal self. I think a better way to think of these identities is as a mode of our true personality than actual, separate identities.
Simply, different environments foster different modes of our personality expressing itself.
At first, this might seem troubling and inconsistent. It seems like I must be incredibly unstable if I’m a wild range of emotions from the breakroom to the bedroom.
But, the very resistance to this range of emotions creates most of the problem. Rather than feeling like we are incongruent with ourselves, we have to realize that our varying range of emotions is exactly who we are.
Spread-sheet you and cold-calling you are the same as reheating-leftovers you and changing-the-diaper-once-again you.
Let’s embrace all of ourselves. Not just the parts of us we like the most, in the environments we like the most. Because no true healing starts with self-rejection.
Every environment you’re in is going to express a different mode of you. It’s all your identity.
Value Yourself Inside Of Work
Work is the easiest place to blame when something isn’t going right in our life.
We spend the most time there, and the problems we are required to professional deal with originate there.
And under stress, relationships, drama, and deadlines, we begin to uncover a lot about who we are and how we interact with others. Often, work begins to expose us too much.
We get glimpses into our issues with anger, hopeless, and fear. And it must be work causing the problems. After all, all the negative character experiences we’re feeling are work’s fault. They’re not part of who we are…
Trying and difficult experiences are usually the best teachers. Diligently exposing the untouched elements of who we are that are clawing at the first chance to be seen.
Sometimes, I don’t even think the phrase “I don’t like my job” is accurate. Sometimes, I think the truth is actually “I don’t like who I am when I’m at my job”.
Quick sidenote: your workplace might be unhealthy or unethical. You are absolutely allowed to leave any dangerous environment. We’re talking about what we can change within ourselves in this article, but your circumstance might be different and require you to leave your position. Don’t stay in an unsafe environment.
As we begin the practice of embracing every part of ourselves, realizing our work identity is not an identity we want to keep is a great start.
Understanding who we don’t want to be is a great place to begin understanding a clearer picture of who we do want to be.
So, start to reclaim your space at work. Allow all of the good and the bad experiences at work to inform your sense of self and identity.
Value and embrace the positive and negative traits work expresses in you. The more we can allow the full range of experiences in our life, the less suffering we have.
When you value every aspect of your work and slow your resistance to the negative, the more you begin to understand about yourself.
I used to think that my stress was caused by other people. They caused the problems, they were the ones who kept calling me late at night, they were the ones who didn’t solve their own problems.
Then, I started realizing exactly how much that experience was informing me about my personality. It started showing me exactly how much I value the opinion of others to prop up my ego. It showed me how difficult it is for me to be present and to slow down my time.
But, I had to cherish and value that negative aspect of my personality first so I could reclaim it. I couldn’t simply blame it on work.
Value Yourself Outside Of Work
Valuing your identity outside of work is the easiest to do… at first!
Usually, outside of work, we enjoy ourselves much more.
But, it’s easy to get stuck in a dopamine trap where we like ourselves more, but we don’t truly enjoy ourselves on a deeper level.
And then, it’s difficult to decipher if we truly enjoy our identify outside of work, or if we love the freedom for stimulation we have on our own.
After the demands and stress work can create, it’s easy to just watch Netflix and eat and do things that fees our dopamine-addicted minds instead of driving towards meaningful activities.
Again, this is the perfect place to begin. We get to embrace every aspect of our watching-Breaking-Bad-for-the-3rd-time selves while we explore more about ourselves.
Just as with work, allow yourself to embrace the good and the bad of outside of work you.
Outside of work, we have the freedom to create with direct intention. We can take our desire for our ideal self and implement it immediately.
Usually, the best way to do this is through projects. A project can be anything that involves some sort of time, plan, and commitment.
Projects are the focused moments of time we create to foster our ideal identity.
There’s really no easy way to work into this without directly starting.
You can’t wish to be more social without making a “project” out of asking some friends out to dinner.
Start planning small projects around the identity you’re looking to create.
You’ll never all of a sudden become the person you’re wishing to become. You have to take action and specify moments of time where you open yourself to opportunity.
Thinking about this in terms of a project helps me take the task lighter and with more spontaneity. And projects don’t require you to have it all together.
For example, when I started learning guitar I didn’t just wish to play guitar and wonder why it didn’t happen.
And I didn’t have to have the weight of really sucking at it in the beginning because I just started it as a fun project. My project was spending a hour each day trying to learn something new on the guitar.
We have to intentionally expose ourselves to opportunities to grow or risk never growing how we desire.
You know the identity you’re looking to create… If you spent 5 minutes in quiet, how do you want your life to feel and look like?
What are some small projects you can get involved in to support that identity? The goal isn’t to fully be that identity in those projects. You’re simply opening yourself up to the opportunity and your intention will guide you the rest of the way.
Make Your Personal And Work Identity Collide
Finally, allow your work and personal identity to mix and combine. Allow your full self to be you at ever moment. You at your worst and your best is fully you.
Take radical ownership of all of your thoughts and actions.
Much of Buddhist teaching revolves around self-acceptance. Buddhists believe the best place we can begin is through loving self-compassion.
The more we can embrace about ourselves, the lighter we become, and the softer we are to positive growth. Self-compassion relieves the rigidity of constant self-rejection and loathing.
And the more we resist ourselves, the more suffering we create in our lives.
At work, start to explore more of your identity by practicing some of those traits at work. If your ideal identity involves you being compassionate, start being compassionate at work when you’re feeling cold. This is the fundamental idea behind core values.
Outside of work, start to create projects and open space to expose yourself to opportunities to grow. We have to intentionally plan what we want to create. Otherwise, we fall into the cycle of frustration and self-rejection.