How to Separate Who You Are From What You Do

When you live in a status-and-money-obsessed culture as we do, it takes active effort to untie who you are from what you do. Easier said than done, amiright?

Personally, I feel if you read this blog, we’re all in agreement, but let’s review the importance of separating who we are from what we do.

Problems when linking yourself to your career

Self-worth = income
Likely the most pervasive killer of good feels is that it’s all too easy to equate your worth with income. We see ourselves as less-than if we are making less than our peers or do not continue to climb the income ladder. When asked point-blank you likely know that you are more than what you make, but be honest; do you feel the need to make up for what you lack in income elsewhere? Why is that?

Job defines who we are
A job can just be a job and that’s OK. But, when we link ourselves to our jobs, we put ourselves on the same moral plane. You work at a non-profit raising money for animal shelters so you are a good person, you work for a large corporation that manufactures phones so you aren’t as morally worthy. Not true!

Tunnel vision
When you pour everything of yourself into your job, you stop discovering who you are outside of it. Have you ever had the dumbfounding experience of meeting someone new who asks what you do for fun and you return with a blank stare? Yup, that’s what I’m talking about.

It’s great to truly love your job and have it not feel like work, however, if you ever want to (or are forced to) change your career, get ready for a lot of feels along with that. It’s easy to forget that we are people outside of our jobs when we so deeply tie ourselves to our work.

Yeah, but how do I change?

Here are a few starter points to begin separating yourself from what you do.

Be off the clock
The lines are super blurred now thanks to smartphones, laptops, and Covid didn’t do us a ton of favors here either, for when we are working and when we are not. The luxury of having a job you can do from home, owning a phone you can check email from, and the pull of entrepreneurship where you can set your own hours, has us spending more time working and less time living. And, when we are living there’s often a guilt trip to accompany it because, ya know, you could be working.

It’s up to you to be strict with your on and off hours and setting boundaries is a clear way to do that. Now, there are a ton of different approaches to this and it will likely take trial and error so don’t get discouraged if it takes you a few attempts to find your balance and tactics.

This could be as simple as time-blocking your week: 9-12 and 1-5 are working hours and that’s it. Or maybe you decide if you are at home you are not working. Maybe there is zero work on the weekends. Maybe you decide 2 evenings a week are clear to do work but the weekends and other 3 weeknights are a no-work zone. You could simply not check or send work emails from your phone.

Lot’s of things to play around with here but the main goal is to have clear times where you are working and clear times when you are not.

Foster friendships outside of your career
We get caught up in networking and socializing with people from our place of work or field, and leave less time for friendships that have nothing to do with what we do. Friendships take work and keeping the one’s you had before you started down your career path are a great way to keep you grounded.

Another benefit to having friends outside of work is that you won’t talk about work! Vice-versa, if you do have great friends from work, make the time you spend together outside of work a work-free zone, at least half of the time.

Read This: How to Make Friends as an Adult

Get to know yourself
Be able to answer someone when they ask what you do for fun! This actually stumps a lot of people. Where do you even start? In short, get curious. Think of what you did before you were working, even if it’s when you were a teenager.

Get out a piece of paper and write down anything and everything you would like to do if you had a day all to yourself. Then, do some of those things on the weekend and after work.

Take a class. There are some amazing classes out there, both in-person and online. Most local colleges offer classes to the public and sites like Skillshare and Masterclass offer inspiring classes on any and every topic. Search Meetup for local events and get into a new hobby or rediscover an old one. It’s OK, to get it wrong. I tried several crafts – jewelry making, knitting, crochet – until I found one that stuck; cross-stitch. There is a lot of fun in figuring out what you like as an adult.

Define success outside of your job
Success and career/income are synonymous. In order to dismantle this belief, you need to decide what makes a successful life outside of your job. This can take some soul-searching. Start thinking – and writing down – all of the things that make you a successful human. What do you like about yourself?

Everything you write should be outside of what you do. Think of things like; patience, happiness, laughter, friendships. You can do this in list form, or write a paragraph about what makes for a successful life. Personally, having close friends, laughing a lot, getting outside with my family, and exploring my creativity is what makes me feel successful in life, no matter what I bring in money-wise.

We looooooove talking about this in my free Facebook Group, Ambitious Women: Less Hustle, More Flow. Come join us for conversations around self-worth, self-confidence, balance, boundaries, and of course the weekly meme thread!

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