How Does Your Job Make You Feel About Yourself?

A portrait seemed appropriate for this post but still feels awkward.
A portrait seemed appropriate for this post but still feels awkward.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how much my job influences my self-image.

I’ve always known that my job influences how others see me. I’m sure this happens for everyone but because of what I do, I think it happens to me more. Because I work with kids with cancer, lots of assumptions are made about the type of person I am. That I’m compassionate, friendly, hopeful, tender-hearted yet somehow thick skinned, and most importantly, that I’m kind.

It’s easy to make those assumptions about someone who works with sick kids. The most common thing I hear when I tell people what I do is, “Wow, I couldn’t do what you do.”

And somehow over the past several years, I’ve grown accustomed to people viewing me that way. I like that this is how people see me. Without having to actually prove that I’m any of those things, people believe that I am. I hope that I am those things. I’m certainly not all the time but I try.

But then I wonder, how much of how I feel about myself is a result of my work?

When I worked in a cubicle job that was just a job, I didn’t feel at all like what I did was a part of who I was. Sure, I liked that it paid the bills but my confidence, my self-image had very little to do with it. Perhaps it’s because now my work is so much more than a job for me, I am no longer able to separate my sense of self from my work.

As I transition from my current job into a job in a similar field, I’ve wondered what would have happened if I’d been transitioning back to a cubicle. Back to “just a job”. There’s nothing wrong with “just a job”. In fact, I’d say there’s some joy in being able to leave work at work. Sometimes I miss that. Would I have had an identity crisis? Who knows? I’m grateful to be paid to do work that is making a difference. It’s obviously an incredible feeling and not one that I want to give up.

I’ve tried to figure out how much of my self-image comes from my work these days. Could I put a percent on it? I’m not sure. 40% maybe? If you asked me to describe myself, my work would undoubtably be in the first sentence or two. The way my mind wanders to N and Archie when I’m at work, it wanders to the kids when I’m at home.

My job and my self-image have become intertwined. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. Perhaps it’s true of all people with passion for what they do. But what I do know is that I like how others see me because of what I do, and I like how what I do makes me feel about myself. I’m 26 and I still want to change the world, just a little bit, if I can. I’m still that girl.

How much do you feel like your work is a part of you? Does it influence your self-image?

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