There is no “I” in Job

Posted on July 27, 2010

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“Happy women know that part of their identity is tied to what they do, but they never let what they do become their whole identity.” -From What Happy Women Know

Several years ago, I left my first career as a teacher to start a new one in the non-profit field. I didn’t go straight from one to the other; there was a fourth month lapse between them. And even though I knew I wanted to work in a certain field and was making plans to do just that, for a while I had no job.

In theory, this really shouldn’t have been a problem. I had saved up a nice chunk of cash to see me through my first paycheck and I had very few personal expenses. Money wasn’t the issue.

The issue was that I had placed my entire identity in my career. And when that career wasn’t there, I completely fell apart. I remember being gripped by this horrible sense of anxiety during that time. I would wake up in the middle of the night, absolutely terrified. Who was I? Who the hell was I?

If you’ve ever had a similar experience, you know that awful feeling of losing your identity. And career women aren’t the only ones who struggle with this, either. I know women who have totally fallen apart when their husbands divorce them and I’ve met more than my fair share of moms who have breakdowns when their children go off to college. If you wrap your identity up in what you do or who you’re with, when it’s gone, so is your sense of who you are.

That’s why it’s so important to stop living one-dimensionally and start living what Dan Baker calls a diversified life. This is what happy women do.

Sure, happy women have their 9-5’s and their kids’ soccer practice. But they also have their own individual and separate interests. That way, when they are laid off or when their kids grow up or when their men move on, they don’t a lose their sense of self. They also have a much bigger network on whom they can rely for support when big changes do occur.

If you constantly refer to yourself as so and so’s mom (rather than by your first name) or you are sure to announce your profession to people who haven’t even asked (because work is pretty much all you do), or you constantly find yourself deferring to your significant other’s interests, you are at risk for living a one-dimensional life. Which means you need to invest in some of your own hobbies.

Join a book club. Participate in a sport. Take a fun class. Volunteer. Take up a new hobby and then find people who share your passion for that hobby and meet with them regularly. Be your own person who does her own thing.

You only have one life. Shouldn’t you be living it in color?

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Posted in: Love 101