You Are Not What You Do

I’ve learned through different media sites this concept of “what you do is not who you are” a little while ago. I have also heard it phrased “you are more than what you do”. Either way, the concept is pretty straightforward: Our identity should not be based on what we do.

My first thought upon hearing was “how dumb”. Finding identity in what you do is a powerful driver. How can someone be successful if they are not “all in” in what they do? The whole thing was weird to me. People who are passionate about what they do naturally make it personal. This is what pushes people to be extraordinary. I have told countless people in the past how much I love what I do and how it has become ingrained into my identity. 

What I do has allowed me to gain higher self-esteem and more confidence in myself. It drives everything that I do and how I interact with people. I have even told people “Don’t let me talk about what I do because I could talk about it all day”. I even felt bad for people that didn’t appear to have the same passion I do so I learned to stop bringing it up as much in social settings. It has been like this for the past 6 years.

In these past 6 years I have had the privilege of getting to develop myself. My word for 2022 was “awareness.” I wanted to become more aware of how I thought, felt and showed up in life. Through awareness I realized that something had actually changed for me when it came to what I do. I found myself having a negative physical and emotional response to ideas and feedback that I didn’t agree with more frequently. My heart rate would increase. My face would feel hot. My mind would start racing. 

At some point, care moved to frustration. Direct moved to blunt. Skeptical became critical. It was my way or the high way because I know what’s best. I was disagreeing with more than I was agreeing. 

The book “Spirituality for Badasses” made me aware that my ego has been behind the wheel for a while now and that there were things going on deep within me.

I realized that in tying my identity to what I do, I was working overtime to protect what I do through being critical and arrogant. I was protecting my ego. If I didn’t protect it, then something could happen that endangers my identity and how others see me. I made it so personal that I was taking everything as an attack against me.

Without this, who am I? What am I? Would the success I’ve found just disappear? Will I make a dent in this world before I exit? What initially built my confidence and self-esteem was now threatening it. I felt like a fraud in other aspects of my life so this is what I relied on.

All of the sudden it wasn’t “dumb”. It was quite real. This newfound realization has changed the context in which I experience myself, my purpose, and my work. 

My purpose is people development. My passion is leaving people better than when I found them. It powers everything that I do. Leadership development is what inspired me to get a degree in psychology.

It is clear to me now that I can still have passion for what I do without making it who I am. My career is certainly one way but should not be the only way. There is so much more I have to offer. I have strengths that I am not using and so much I can learn.

Entering my midlife has certainly influenced this as well. I find myself thinking a lot more about my remaining years and how I will spend them, what legacy I’ll leave, who I am, and how I can shine my light in this world. I have been thinking about my purpose a lot. If I left this world tomorrow, will I have left satisfied knowing that I did all that I could? 

True to the midlife process and picking up passion projects (according to lifespan development research), I have decided to start my own blog and to write LinkedIn articles. I’ve actually had this blog for a long time but never felt like I could offer anything. I’m now ready to push past my “imposter syndrome” and lean into my interests and strengths. I now have a stronger sense of self than I have before now that I realize I am the sum of all of my parts.

Ironically, I believe this will make a better team member and teammate. Making the work less about me will allow me open myself to differing perspectives than mine and allow me the opportunity for growth. In making what I do who I am, I struggled with vulnerability in allowing my peers to teach me new things or that I don’t know something (because I know everything!). 

I can still show up excited to do the work that I love while also understanding that is only one aspect of myself and not the only one. I can also stop taking things personal that were never meant to be about me. 

To anyone reading this who may find themselves where I am: Reconsider how you view the relationship to the work that you do to who you are. You are not your job. You are not your career. You are not defined as any one thing. You have interests and desires. You have strengths. You are a dynamic and multi-faceted person who has a multitude of ways to shine their light in this world. 

Originally posted on LinkedIn:


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