Unhappy man at work
Do you define yourself by your work?

Since the dawn of time men have been guilty of incorporating what they do for a living into their own self identity.

Indeed, in the middle ages work occupations were often incorporated into surnames, a mark of the value that men placed on the work they did to feed their families.

The Smith toiling at the forge. The Taylor mending the clothes of his customers. The Cartwright fixing the carriages that took people from place to place. Occupations that branded men in a very literal way.

Yet, in modern times, while men are no longer literally taking the names of their work occupations men often continue to define their identity and self worth through work.

The major issue with the incorporation of work into your personal identify is the affect that can have on the relationships that you have with people in the real world. And of course, the impact that can have on you personally if something happens adversely in your career, which is so much more likely than in the age of the Smith, Taylor and Cartwright.

Symptoms of a pervasive work identity can include the following

  • Constantly talking about your work to people in social situations
  • A tendency to form negative opinions about people based on what they do
  • Priortisation of work above family and time for yourself
  • A lack of interests or hobbies outside of your profession
  • Obsession about your work title, remuneration or constant need for professional recognition

These warning signs are often indicators of an unhappy balance between work and real life.

While it’s understandable for men to strongly identity with what they do, given the amount of time we spend in our jobs, it’s important to recognise that the real value that we bring to the world is the impact we have on the people we love and care about.

Techniques for making sure that your work doesn’t define you include and make you unhappy

  • Clearly define work time and personal time. Personal time should not include any aspect of work.
  • Focus on making the pursuit of happiness, good relationships and leading a fulfilling life the priority above your career.
  • Constantly ask yourself whether what you do to earn income is making you happy. If the answer is ‘no’ then take action to make a change.
  • Recognise the importance of time away from work and be present in the moment with the people that you love and care about.
  • Make time for yourself and your interests and don’t feel guilty about that. Time for you tends to be under constant pressure from the demands of work and family, but your time is one of the most important aspects of strong mental health and avoiding being unhappy.
  • Identity is a complex topic which constantly evolves as we go through life and face new experiences like marriage, fatherhood and retirement. Yet through it all keeping a strong perspective on who we are and how we determine our value is one of the most important aspects to leading a happy and purposeful life.

Identity is a complex topic which constantly evolves as we go through life and face new experiences like marriage, fatherhood and retirement.

Yet keeping a strong perspective on who we are and how we determine our value is one of the most important aspects of leading a happy and purposeful life.

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