Why It’s Dangerous To Define Yourself By Your Job

When you meet people, particularly nowadays, a commonly asked question is what do you do? That is, what do you do for a living? I try to avoid this question to be honest, but it’s become a customary question that people ask one another. I have watched people stumble through this question. At times embarrassed or unsure because they know that people judge you by what you do. What you do, for some people is a big part of who you are. It’s a quick way for people to draw conclusions about you, make assumptions as to what kind of person you may be. Maybe, for you, what you do has become a big defining point in how you identify yourself. It’s something you have shaped your identity around; it’s really all you know. What happens if life throws this definition off it’s axis? What if you wake up one day and you lose your job? Your company is downsizing and you are no longer needed? Or they have decided to simply let you go for something new? A ‘fresh perspective’ they said. Then who are you now? Of course, you can go out there and find another job in your field, but depending on the field you are in, this might not be an easy feat. Sometimes, when change comes your way you can’t stop it.

Some people have compared losing their job to a tragic loss, a death, a heartbreak. In fact, many people go through the very same emotions; they grieve. It can be a life altering moment for many. But it can also be an eye-opening moment where you begin to analyze your life and how you identify with the roles and titles you play. I am a firm believer in living a life that’s full of passion and things that move you. If you are doing this, I applaud you. Finding fulfillment is something you should champion. One of the things, I have learned is that it’s important not to get lost in the confines of the definition of self. Who are you? What do you do? Rather, I think we should focus on what we believe. It’s what our hearts hold deeply, above anything else. What you do, and who you are, are not concrete and unchanging ideals. I guess the same can be said about our beliefs as well. All of these aspects are forever changing and never permanently the same. Which is why, I think your job is something that you do, but it is not YOU. Yes, your job is something that you love and you are passionate about but it is not you. In addition, your belief system shouldn’t be rooted in an external energy in which you define yourself. But something that is felt within. The belief that your purpose is boundless.

I was recently at an event talking to someone about my interests; the many things that I like to do. Her response was “oh you do so many things, it must be exhausting”. I thought about it for a minute. Then I realized, well it’s not exhausting at all. It’s actually quite enriching. Knowing that I can do and be many things at various times and moments has allowed me to jump out of the confines of one concrete definition of self. If I don’t have one, I still have the other and none of them define me. In addition, all of the many things that I have taken on have taught me that as humans we can truly do anything. The limits we place in front of ourselves are just mental illusions that can be broken down. Maybe you’re a doctor who paints on the weekends, and you sometimes put on a gallery show? Maybe you’re a mom, but also run your own business and teach yoga on the weekend? I encourage to explore every skill and talent you have. I encourage to see what you are capable of. I encourage you to do your job well, arrive with passion but in the midst of all this remember not to get lost in the role you play at work, the role you play at home or the role you play for your family and loved one’s for that matter. Because if this is all you think you are and what your life will be, you will be hit by the hardness of reality. The reality is, you may have to retire one day (athletes know this). You may have plans, but the company you work for has different plans and you aren’t included in these plans. You’re kids are off to college now and it’s suddenly hit you that you are an empty nester. What now?

Think of your life as a long road. It is kind like the poem by Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken, where he says, “two roads diverged in a wood and I, took the one less travelled by and that made all the difference”. The beauty of life is that you never know what’s going to happen; there’s no absolute. The beauty is also that you can change with the changing winds of time. Nothing has to remain stagnant. You are an energy force designed to tap into many great things. So try that something you have been putting off. It might transform your life, it might transform you. I know we cling onto our jobs a lot of the time for financial security; you need money to live right? Just don’t let the money and the need for it drive the desire and passion right out of your life. Work the job, but live the life you are intended to live. For lucky one’s, well those who figured this out quite quickly, they are doing this but they’re also able to make a living doing so. So if ever there is a time, when you have to re-shift and rethink your career path you will be okay because you know that there’s so much more to you than that one thing. There’s so much you can do. You can pick a new road, your own road. So when someone asks you what do you do? Tell them that you are here living the best life you can possibly live. By day you are a doctor who paints on a Saturday and owns a music school. You are a writer who also happens to be a lawyer and a mom of three. You are everything and anything you want to be and refuse to be defined by simply one job or role. Because you are more than that, you are an extraordinary dynamic being. Love your job, embrace the many roles you play, be the best you can be but never forget to explore your potential; don’t leave yourself behind.


Author Description

Hanifa Sekandi

Founder & Editor-in-Chief

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