Why You Shouldn’t Tie Your Identity To Work

For the LONGEST time I tied a good 80%+ of my identity to my job. I lived that job. I worked 60 hour weeks. If I was doing well in other peoples’ eyes I was flying high and if I got negative feedback it wrecked me.

I cancelled plans with friends and family because I was too tired from working myself to the bone. An average day had me waking up early doors, Skype-ing with my husband in the U.K., getting to work before most others started and finishing when many had left (or working from home). In between there I fueled myself with mass amounts of caffeine to keep me going.

The only times that I really was able to let loose would be on my few trips back to the U.K. to see my hubby while we were long distance waiting for his residency to come through, and on multiple occasions my visits back resulted in me getting sick because I was so physically and emotionally drained.

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Looking back I’m not sure exactly what I thought was so great about this all, but that’s hindsight for you. If I dissect it, I was making A LOT of money for someone my age and fairly fresh out of university. I was getting accolades from my company by being deemed a high potential – their somewhat secret list of people who they see going far and perhaps even travelling to other company locations as expats. I also grew up in a family where my Dad prized work above all.

Here’s WHY you shouldn’t tie your identity to your job.

There are lots of reasons, actually, but we’ll start with this – you are more than one thing.

You are more than a worker. You are more than a job. You are more than a title.

If you tie your identity, your well-being and your emotional worth to your job, what happens when there are layoffs? What happens if you get very negative feedback? What happens if the job ends up not being what you thought it would be?

I wrote a blog post in 2015 back when I was still at that job and 36 weeks pregnant with my son. It was a letter to him about identity and how I was worried about what it would mean for me to take that year off. I was scared… and yet I had the perspective that there would be other jobs. It was a good perspective to have at the time, given how my company was going through mass layoffs and I put my hand up for a package.

Becoming a mum has changed everything and given me the kind of perspective I wish I’d had when I was younger (though I wouldn’t change the actual timeline of kids a bit!).

I am a Mum, an entrepreneur, a podcaster, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a writer, a creative, a DIY-er, a beginner-hiker, and a damn good coach. I’m actually many more things within this. They all make up a little piece of the pie that is Victoria.

When you tie your identity as closely to work as I once did, and as millions of people do, you’re making that chunk of your pie so extreme that if it’s taken away or tainted… you’re left reeling.

I’ve seen this happen to others as well. They don’t know who they are or what they stand for when they’re laid off. Their company goes under and they are left without their guiding post.

That guide post has to be internal to you. Have dreams, maybe even have a myriad of them, but let the greatest dream be about the PERSON you will become, not the title or the role or the salary you will have.

This past year I was laid off. It came out of nowhere. The organization that I was with lost a significant amount of funding and I was just one of many who were on their way out. It still stung, but not in the way I’d imagined.

That first week, perhaps it was fight or flight for my family’s livelihood, but I went full-force into starting Stress Less Ladies.

Yes, I am PASSIONATE about my business. But I’m also passionate about so many things, or at the very least I find joy and value from many things.

I’m passionate about my business, but not longer at the sake of time with friends and family. I’m passionate about my business, but not so much as to not prioritize time with my husband (just last week I took a work day off so we could hike in the mountains solo without kids). I’m passionate about my business, but I KNOW that at the end of the day it’s not the most important thing.

I love my clients, I love the work that I’m doing, but if I don’t love the person that I’m being or that I’m striving to be, then it’s all for naught.

Recently I attended a panel discussion for entrepreneurs and there was one guy who is doing very well for himself, and he made a comment about how he doesn’t believe in balance and that he should be allowed to dedicate everything to this business if he wants to. He talked about how he has very few friends and how his life is his work and his immediate family and he’s fine with that.

Here’s the thing, if you’re fine with that you’re fine with it, but for the majority of people, there are signs. There are little inclinations that you’re not being solely satisfied by your work. It could be that like I did you are constantly getting sick, or that you’re lonely, or that you’re riding this pendulum of intense highs and lows.

Just know above everything that YOU have the power to lead the kind of life that you want to. You are in the drivers’ seat of your own life, so get out the key and drive.

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