It’s a nearly perfect feeling when you actually love your job and feel fulfilled by the way you earn your paycheck. But even when you love what you do, it’s still risky to have too much of yourself tied up in your job. In fact, it’s kind of a good thing if your job doesn’t totally define you. And it’s hard not to let your career entirely define you since our culture has a way of making everyone feel like what they do for living has something to do with their self worth or personality — but it doesn’t. It’s not easy to break out of that mindset, though, especially when you’re in social circles or settings that end up being all about your job.
For some reason, we’re always talking about work.
It makes total sense that some of us feel like we have to love our jobs and claim them as some sort of identity. Historically, the way social classes have always broken down make it so that people are often classified by what they do. You know, the whole “white collar” and “blue collar” job thing. But just because the economy’s changed and social classes are somewhat more malleable doesn’t mean that we aren’t putting each other into little tiny boxes based on their career experience all the freaking time.
It’s not just that people are constantly asking you what you “do” at parties or family holiday gatherings. We have to write little biographies of ourselves all the time, and when we do, people tend to focus on the work part. Every social media site wants you to list your place of work or some creative way to describe the drudgery that is paid labor. We even have to do it on dating apps.
Your work and self worth are not the same thing.
It’s not just that it’s dangerous to judge other people based on their jobs, but it’s awful to judge yourself about your job. It’s OK to love your work and even dedicate a ton of time to your career (seriously, if it feels good, go for it). But you only bring whatever you already are to your career, for better or worse.
When you love your job and are at the top of your game, it can be hard to remember that you have other interests and hobbies. That you’re not just a badass manager but a badass best friend. If you don’t like your job or are somehow unsatisfied with it, your self-esteem can go right down the toilet when you start to think about your day job. It can make you feel fully useless in every other aspect of your life, too. Which is almost certainly not true, but that’s not easy to remember when you’re clocking in for work you don’t feel proud of or really care about.
Letting our jobs dictate our entire lives is dangerous, especially because they don’t last forever.
If you measure your value as human being by your job, what happens when you get laid off or decide in 10 years that it’s actually not everything you want out of life. What happens when you retire?
Stanford Medical School’s Mark Cullen did a survey of retired executives who had been really successful in their careers. They had it all: Money, status, all that good stuff. But as soon as they stopped going into the office, they felt completely worthless. Cullen told HuffPost, “The minute they stop, 20 or 25 years of accomplishments leak out. They feel they are nothing. They had no leisure skills.”