How does my job relate to my identity?
Your job is a significant part of your life – in fact, it’s so significant that over your lifetime you may spend on average 90,000 hours at work. Thus, it’s a part of you. However, that doesn’t mean your job needs to be your entire identity. If you and your job are too closely connected, that can lead to enmeshment, which blurs the boundary between you and your work.
Here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re worried you’ve become enmeshed in your career:
- How much time do you spend thinking about your job outside of your office? Do you often find yourself bringing up work in conversations, or is it hard to have conversations about things other than your work?
- If you were asked to describe yourself, how much of your description would be related to your work or career?
- Where do you spend most of your time? Do you spend time working on the weekends or when you aren’t expected to be at the office?
- How would you feel if you had to discontinue your work? Would this be extremely distressing to you?
If these questions lead you to realize you may be enmeshed in your career, there are steps you can take to change this. For instance, leave work at work. Try not to spend time outside of work thinking about what you’ll need to do when you get to the office the next day. Try out a hobby or activity you’ve thought about starting but never felt you had the time for. Reach out to old social connections or plan time to spend with your family. Consider reframing the way you think about yourself if your job title is one of the first things you use to describe yourself to others. What are you truly passionate about? What values are important to you? What special characteristics are a part of your personality? If you’re having trouble answering any of these questions or if you need help exploring your identity outside of your career, talk to a loved one or schedule a session with a counselor here.
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