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Couch Conversations: Who am I Without My Job?


The current worldwide health pandemic has brought many changes to people’s lives. As you have probably seen by now, many people have had to change the circumstances around their work in one way or another. Perhaps some people are working from home, others have been forced to leave their jobs, and some people are still going into their workplace and may not have any other choice.


People who are struggling with changes in their work are likely also experiencing questions or possible confusion about who they are if they are not working. Spending more time at home has forced people to invest some time and thought into what they would do with their time if they are not working. This begs the question: Who am I without my job?


The real issue behind this question is what do you do with your time when you are not busy with work? And what does this say about your character or who you really are as a person? Do you like how you spend your time or do you want to make changes?


These questions are hard to look at sometimes because you may not like the answers. Our therapists at Couch Conversations believe that asking yourself: "Who am I without my work?" can provide a lot of clarity about the parts of your identity.


Work as your Identity


A person is composed of many different parts of themselves. Think about all of the different roles you might play in your life. For instance, a person is not just an employee, but they might also be a sibling, a spouse, a son or daughter, a friend, a parent, or a neighbor. There are many different roles that you hold in life and being an employee is not the only one.


But what happens when you start to identify most with who you are in your work setting? You may be an employee, a boss, a contractor, or even a CEO of your company. Regardless of your role at work, you may have noticed a strong identification with what you do at work. It is almost as though your work defines who you are and brings you meaning.


Some people might like to identify with being hard-working, committing extra time out of their day to work, going above and beyond, and putting a lot of stock in their evaluations. These components are critical to a person's work identity and they may not have an interest in changing that unless they are forced to change it (i.e., unemployment, switching roles, working from home). While these work identity qualities might be seen as a good thing, it is also important to look at other parts of your identity and see how work might be interfering with those parts.


The current pandemic may have forced you to look at other parts of your life if you have lost your job or are working primarily from home. When you come to terms with the other parts of your identity, you are examining yourself as a whole person instead of just one component that makes up who you are. The more you can find balance in the different parts of yourself, the less stock you will put into this one aspect of who you are.


What are the Other Parts of your Identity?


Let’s take a look at all of the different things that make up who you are as a person. People often define themselves by the relationships they have with others. You can be a mentor for others through a charity organization, you can be an adult child taking care of an ill parent, or you can be the friend who organizes all the trips for your friend group. There are many different roles that you have in your life. The question is can you harness those other roles and make them just as important as the role you have in the workplace?


→Your Role in Relationships


Consider the different relationships you have in your life. Now think about your role in that relationship. No matter what your role, you play an important part in these relationships and this makes up a part of your identity. Though people place a lot of importance on the role they have as an employee or boss, it is equally crucial to think about your role in your relationships outside of work. Think about the meaning you get when you identify with other aspects of your life and focus your time and attention on the relationships you have outside of work.


→Your Personal Characteristics


Another aspect that makes up a person's identity is his/her personal traits and personality. This could include components of oneself such as someone's strengths (i.e., hardworking, kind, caring, etc.) or personality (i.e., outgoing, timid, etc.). These personal traits comprise different parts of their identity and can inform who they are outside of work.


Perhaps you have yet to figure out your personal identity because you have only been focused on one identity: work identity. Reflecting on your personal identity traits could be useful in getting closer to understanding how to become the best version of yourself and putting time and attention toward something that could inform how you approach your life.


→Your Values


Think about the things that are most important to you in life. These important things are called values. Values are also who you aspire to be. When people think about their life in terms of what they value, they are taking on a different perspective and prioritizing differently. Coming to terms with what you value allows you to take a step back from other aspects of your life such as work (though work could also be a value for you), and focus on other things that are important to you.


Takeaways


You may identify strongly with your work identity and this part of your life is important. However, with recent changes we are seeing and experiencing in this world, it is essential to consider the other parts of your identity that are equally important in who you are as a person. Your identity could be made up of the relationships you are in, your identity based off of your traits and characteristics, as well as the things that are important to you in life. When people take a step back and think about who they are as a whole, they are less likely to put so much stock into one part of themselves alone.


If you are experiencing transitions in your work and have asked yourself “Who am I without my work?” think about how therapy could be helpful in your self-exploration process. Becoming the best version of yourself is something that our Couch Conversations Psychotherapy and Counseling, Inc. therapists focus on and exploration of the different parts of your identity is an important aspect of reaching that point. Fill out the “Contact Us” page below or give us a call to learn more about how therapy could be helpful in understanding your identity with and without work.